One of three pro-Palestinian activists released without charge after breaking into a factory in Oldham has spoken out.
The factory is owned by Elbit Systems, which is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer with ten sites across the UK. According to Palestine Action, the activists dismantled machinery used for the production of military equipment and components.
Istasham Ali, 30, a law graduate from Halifax was one of the activists. He is passionate about the Palestinian and Kashmiri causes. He is British-born but his family originates from Pakistani- controlled Kashmir.
He said: “I am an activist and am not part of any organization, I campaign against the Israeli arms firms Elbit Systems which is the parent company of Elbit Ferranti in Oldham.
“Direct action is effective because for too long we have been trying to raise awareness by attending protests and writing to our MPs but are faced with empty words and condemnation but no action or change happens, so we decided to use unconventional methods to lobby against companies like Elbit. Direct action allows us to inflict inconvenience and disruption to their weapon-building capabilities.
“If our elected representatives are not doing anything it is up to us to stand up against injustice which is why we go above and beyond to instigate change.”
He added: “Direct action is very effective as we occupy roofs of factories and shut them down, sometimes even after activists are arrested or removed, the factories remain inoperative. This results in a smaller amount of children being murdered, there are fewer bombings, and fewer drones and weapons being made and tested on civilian populations.
“We haven’t been charged with anything, no-one is facing time in prison, but there is the allegation that there has been £500,000 in damages.”
He said he had been bailed pending an investigation.
Istasham, a Huddersfield University graduate added: “Our leadership is failing, they talk about the importance of the Al-Aqsa mosque and its history but no one talks about the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people who are indigenous to the area.
“British Muslims can take advantage of their passport and visit Palestine, cancel your tickets to Dubai, Turkey or Egypt and visit the holy land instead and speak to the Palestinian people. This will fire up your passion. Walk through Palestine and witness the segregation and Apartheid and imagine facing that on a daily basis.
“Visit the refugees in the West Bank – you will come back a changed person, every normal person can do this.
“I believe the cause of the Middle Eastern conflict is Zionism- the ideology which advocated for the creation and development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Yes, everyone has the right to have a home but the question is – Don’t the Palestinians deserve a home of their own? Are they not humans? Are their lives not equal? Do they not have the right to return to their ancestral homeland?
“Illegal settlements, bombings and torture, police brutality, and ethnic cleansing are all ongoing right now in Palestine. We’ve had enough of the occupation and oppression.”
Istasham has visited Palestine on four different occasions because he wanted to do more than share and like on social media so he booked a ticket and went there. He met victims from the bombing of Gaza and stayed with a host family.
He added: “On one occasion I was attacked by the Israeli forces while staying in the Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan. The IDF (Israeli Defence Force) raided the mosque in the early morning and you could hear sound bombs exploding and rubber bullets being fired at worshippers.
“I will continue to raise my voice and raise awareness about the Palestinian cause.”