Activists across the country are launching actions targeting corporations, industries, and the U.S. government for arming the occupation State of Israel, trying to make it as difficult as possible for them to continue aiding the decimation of Gaza.
The aerospace and weapons sector saw a 7% jump in value in the immediate aftermath of Israel declaring war on Hamas. As President Joe Biden’s request for $14 billion in military spending for Israel waits for congressional approval, companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing stand to profit from increased demand from the Department of Defense. Organizers are aiming to directly target these companies in hopes of stigmatizing and slowing their work.
“No one action can have a noticeable difference in the cause of events, but collectively it does,” said Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, an organizer with the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance. “The most important aspect of this action is it is building a resistance movement. We have seen, unlike other times before, the growing number of this resistance movement and the larger participation of young people in it, which is really how change is brought about.”
At Raytheon’s Oct. 24 earnings call, Kristine Liwag, the head of aerospace and defense equity research at Morgan Stanley, and Greg Hayes, the CEO of Raytheon, discussed the potential profit opportunities from Biden’s supplemental spending proposal.
“Looking at this request, you’ve got equipment for Ukraine, air and missile defense for Israel, and replenishment of stockpile for both,” Liwag said. “And this seems to fit quite nicely with the Raytheon Defense portfolio.”
“I think really across the entire Raytheon portfolio, you’re going to see a benefit of this restocking,” Hayes said. “On top of what we think is going to be an increase in DOD top line.”
As Raytheon anticipates its profits, activists have organized targeted actions against the corporation. On Nov. 2, about 120 protesters staged a die-in protest at one of the entrances to U.S. Air Force Plant 44 in Tucson, Arizona, which is operated by Raytheon. On Nov. 8, six activists were arrested after holding a die-in protest outside Raytheon’s offices in Arlington, Virginia. Then a few days later on Nov. 13, pro-Palestinian protestors targeted a Raytheon facility in El Segundo, California, pouring red paint on a Raytheon sign and blocking entrances.
“The bombs and the rockets and all those weapons of mass destruction are made in the U.S., so everybody needs to be held accountable who participates in this genocide, either directly or indirectly,” said Abdulaziz, whose organization participated in the Tucson die-in.
On Nov. 17, activists in Pittsburgh will march from Sen. John Fetterman’s office to the headquarters of Arconic, an aircraft engine company that supplies components for Israel fighter jets. Stephanie Pavlick, an organizer with the Pittsburgh Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Coalition (BDS), said she hopes that the rally raises awareness that local companies are involved in the production of weapons being used to carry out atrocities.
“These companies, they aren’t somewhere else, they’re not all the way over in Palestine,” said Pavlick. “It’s right in our neighborhood that this company is operating. [We want to raise awareness] not just to people who live in Pittsburgh, but also the people who work there. You have a voice in demanding that this company divests from these operations that prop up this genocide.”
Similar actions have taken place against other defense contractors. On Nov. 6, about 75 pro-Palestinian activists in St. Charles, Missouri blocked entrances for four hours at a Boeing plant that produces weaponry for Israel. On Nov. 9, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the San Diego headquarters of Northrop Grumman, another company that supplies weapons and missile systems to Israel, to demand a ceasefire. Protesters have also targeted Lockheed Martin and Elbit Systems, which have both seen their stock rise in value since Oct. 7.
Student activists are also strengthening their efforts to push back against college recruitment efforts by weapons manufacturers. More than 100 organizers from Pittsburgh, including members of Against Carceral Tech (ACT); Pittsburgh BDS; and Students for Justice in Palestine Pittsburgh rallied outside of a Lockheed Martin networking event at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) on Nov. 7, giving students information about Lockheed Martin’s role in the Palestinian genocide.
“We’ve seen in the past that a lot of the students who are targeted for recruitment from these companies don’t know what these companies actually do,” said Bonnie Fan, an organizer with ACT and a PhD student at CMU. “Just increasing the visibility of that information is a part of giving students more information about where they actually dedicate their lives and labor to.”
Actions targeting the defense contractor industry have a powerful role in raising awareness to employees and the general public about how these companies are complicit in the ongoing atrocities in Gaza and occupied Palestinian territories. Companies like Boeing and Arconic are known for producing airplanes and aluminum, respectively, but many people do not know that they also supply components for weapons of war.
Activists have also been trying to block U.S. government efforts to ship arms to Israel. On Nov. 3, activists affiliated with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center blocked the entrance to Berth 20 at the Port of Oakland, California, where a U.S. military supply vessel bound for Israel was set to depart. Three protesters locked themselves onto a ladder leading onto the ship to try to prevent it from leaving the port. When the ship eventually managed to vacate the port and docked at the Port of Tacoma, Washington, it was again met with AROC protesters picketing outside and blocking roads leading to the port. While the ship still managed to leave the port, organizers considered the action a success.
“The weapons are on the boat now, but guess what? Our comrades across the world are going to be showing up at the next place this boat goes,” an organizer of the Tacoma action told participants after the demonstration. “Another really important thing that happened today was we showed solidarity with the workers on that boat, and because of that, one of the workers on the boat stepped off and said, ‘I will not be complicit in this genocide.’”
On Nov. 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm Van der Hout, LLP, filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for abetting Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people with military, financial, and diplomatic support. The lawsuit argues that through its provision of weapons to Israel as it carries out a campaign of collective punishment in Gaza, the U.S. is guilty of violating Article 1 of the Geneva Convention, which requires the U.S. to prevent and punish acts of genocide.
“The United States must fulfill its obligations under the Genocide Convention and international law to prevent escalating atrocities in Gaza,” said Marc Van Der Hout of Van der Hout, LLP. “The killings and kidnappings perpetrated by Hamas on Oct. 7, horrendous as they were, in no conceivable way justify the massacres now being perpetrated by the State of Israel with the unconditional support and acquiescence of the United States. The courts must now force the U.S. to comply with its obligations under the law.”
Individual lawmakers have also been targeted. Activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached Sen. Elizabeth Warren while she was having dinner, calling on her to support a ceasefire. On the weekend of Nov. 11 and 12, Families for Ceasefire organized family-friendly local actions in dozens of communities, including at the homes of Sen. Chuck Schumer in New York and President Biden’s home in Delaware.
“The children of Brooklyn like myself are fighting for [Palestinian kids]. We will work hard to not let you die,” said Frida Fries-Valerio, a 7-year-old from Brooklyn who participated in one of the Families for Ceasefire marches on Nov. 12. “Schumer and Biden, you should do better, you need to call for a ceasefire and not send more money to Israel to kill children.”
While Biden has still not called for a ceasefire, the deafening pressure has pushed the U.S. government to pressure Israel restore Internet access in Gaza and allow daily four-hour humanitarian pauses. This week, Rep. Ilhan Omar plans to introduce a resolution of disapproval to prevent a $320 million sale of precision-guided bomb equipment from going to Israel. The activism happening around the country is crucial to keeping up the momentum of pressure necessary to curbing the sale of arms to Israel and getting President Biden to call for a ceasefire before Israel kills more Palestinians.