The last couple of years have seen Palestinian activists focus on Max Brenner Chocolate Shop, as a subsidiary of the Strauss Group who supply and support the Israeli army. This year however, cross-campus activist based group Students for Palestine have decided on a new target.
Meet BAE Systems (British Aerospace Engineering).
BAE Systems is a defence company with assets worth $US38 billion. They make everything from assault rifles, missiles, tanks, drones, nuclear weapons, and even the shackles used in Guantanamo Bay. BAE has been targeted because of the horrifying weapons systems it sells to Israel.
Israel has been making good use of the destructive products it gets from the likes of BAE Systems. On 8 November 2012 an Israeli Occupation Forces helicopter began indiscriminately shooting on a field where children were playing soccer in the village of Abassan in the Gaza strip,. Thirteen-year-old Ahmed Abu Daqqa was killed by a shot to the abdomen. In the following days Israel began Operation Pillar of Cloud, only the latest military assault on Gaza’s civilian population. The assault lasted eight days and killed over 160 Palestinians including 30 children and injuring hundreds more.
Background check: BAE Systems
Between 2000 and 2009 BAE had contracts with the US Government worth US$460 million. BAE supplies components for major US weapons systems that are then sold to Israel including F-16 fighter jets. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) used this aircraft when bombing Lebanon in 2006, and during the last two attacks on Gaza. BAE also supplied the “Suter” airborne attack system Israel used when bombing Syria in 2007. BAE fit F-16 jets with “Head-Up Displays”, which are transparent data displays in front of the windscreen to allow a pilot to lock onto a ‘target’ without having to look down at the cockpit instruments. The ‘target’ they refer to has been Lebanese and Palestinian villages that have been reduced to rubble.
Another home market for BAE Systems is Saudi Arabia, who used those weapons against pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. BAE has an Israeli subsidiary, BAE Rokar International that manufactures three main products; (1) “Combat-proven” electronic warfare systems for helicopters and warplanes, Rokar being the sole supplier of these to the Israeli military, (2) global positioning systems and their accompanying rockets, and (3) unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).
Elbit Systems (also a BDS target) is an Israeli owned weapons manufacturer with a $315 million contract with the Israeli army. Elbit Systems also has huge contracts with the Australian military. BAE Systems Australia in Adelaide has a $4.9 million subcontract with Elbit Systems to fit Australian Defence Force vehicles with communications systems. These are just a few million reasons why Gillard won’t be condemning Israel any time soon.
Where does RMIT fit into all of this?
RMIT through its Aerospace Engineering Department does research and development in collaboration with BAE Systems under the research body DMTC (Defence Materials Technology Centre). DMTC research is conducted for the Australian army and the weapons industry, which BAE Systems then sells on to Israel.
The DMTCs Board of Directors includes a Professor in RMIT’s Engineering Department. Also the CEO of DMTC sits on the Advisory Board of RMIT’s Sir Lawrence Wackett Centre. The Lawrence Wackett Centre at RMIT’s Bundoora campus is where research on drones is conducted. RMIT undergraduate students can even take the subject AERO 2464 Engineering Principles of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles!
In January of this year RMIT held a public forum on drones. Professor Kevin Massey of the school of Aerospace Engineering said while drones have mostly been used in combat situations, they are presently being adopted for civilian law enforcement and border security agencies.
The irony of RMIT being a place where students receive an education to help prepare them for the rest of their life, also being a place that is researching more efficient weapons of death and destruction has not been lost on Students For Palestine. As part of the BDS campaign Students For Palestine have arranged a protest at RMIT’s City Campus to demand RMIT sever ties with BAE Systems. RMIT’s complicity in the continuing hell of Palestinians must be challenged.
Join the protest: Wednesday 20 March, Victorian State Library at midday, and will involve a march through RMIT’s city campus.