28 March 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters occupy Government department over ‘arming of Israel’

28 March 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters have occupied the entrance to a Government department in Whitehall over its perceived links to the supply of arms to Israel.

London for a Free Palestine targeted the Department for Business and Trade early on Thursday.

The protesters staged a distraction involving a cyclist crashing into a pedestrian, before forcing their way past a security guard and sitting on the floor in the entrance to the Government building, chanting the contentious slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Zak Suffee, 37, who works as a charity campaigner, said the department was “where the arms contracts are agreed for Israel”.

She called on the Government to halt arms deals with Israel, saying that “stopping sales to Israel and calling for a ceasefire are big steps that could really help, and by not doing that means that they are actually enabling genocide”.

Once the protesters had been removed by police from inside the building, they unfurled a banner which read “stop arming Israel” while wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the same message.

“We have been seeing the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians”, Ms Suffee said, adding: “It’s really time for the UK Government to actually do something. And this is one very concrete thing that will enable the killing to stop.

“It’s possible that the UK’s hands will be tied because they prefer to stay in good favour with America, but I think the right thing to do is call for an arms embargo, make sure that no sales to Israel happen and ideally shut down the arms factories.”

Maria, a 35-year-old student from London who withheld her surname, said at the protests: “We are going here today to the Department for Business and Trade because that’s where the licences for arms exports to Israel from the UK are signed and approved.

“The UK has been giving Israel diplomatic, military and economic support, which has enabled it to carry out and continue its genocide and long-term colonisation of Palestine.”

She said Britain is a “massive player in the arms industry” and the Government should rein in British-based arms companies.

“It is a fallacy to say that we live in a free market where governments have absolutely no power. The Government can make these decisions and can enforce these decisions on the companies.

“We understand that the UK is deeply complicit in the arms trade”, she said, before calling on Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to “stop arming Israel and end all arms export licences to Israel”.

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable to harass civil servants as they go about their jobs and the attempt to enter the department by force cannot be justified in any way.

“We are grateful to the police for their response and swift action.

“We take our defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operate one of the most robust export licensing controls in the world.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox