Elbit Systems Ltd is an international defense and electronics company headquartered in Israel. It is one of the primary suppliers of weapons (including UAV military drones) and surveillance systems to the Israeli army, including maintenance and support.
The company has developed systems for the F-16 fighter jet (such as the central mission computer, display, and helmet systems), the AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter, the Merkava tank, and several other platforms used in combat by the Israeli military. It has also been contracted to supply the Israeli army with a new command-and-control system for ground troops as well as training modules for weapons systems.
Elbit is also one of the main suppliers of surveillance technology to the Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank, specifically the Jerusalem, Ariel, and A-Ram segments of the wall.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall was illegal and demanded that Israel “stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure of the Armistice Line of 1949 and is in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law.”
Elbit is one of the largest producers of UAV military drones in the world, specifically the Skylark and the Hermes 450 and 900 drones, which are used by NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Hermes 450 has been routinely used in attacks against civilians in Gaza, particularly during Operation Cast Lead (2008-09), which was ruled by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission as a violation of international human rights law, a possible war crime, or even a crime against humanity. According to reports by leading human rights organizations and UN bodies, the strikes during Cast Lead targeted civilian homes, hospitals, and shops, killing 1398 Palestinian men and women, including 345 minors. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, during the Israeli attack on Gaza of November 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense), at least seven civilians, of whom four were minors, were killed by such drones. Versions of Elbit drones are sold in the U.S. by a joint venture with General Dynamics.
Other unmanned combat vehicles developed by the company include the Guardium Unmanned Ground Vehicle, in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The Guardium is an autonomous, armed patrol robot used by the Israeli military for patrols in the occupied territory.
Elbit was recently contracted to supply the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with border surveillance technology for the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Elbit's 2010 Annual Report disclosed that a subsidiary of the company produces white phosphorus ammunition. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the deployment of white phosphorus against humans is illegal and constitutes a war crime. In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed the use of white phosphorus bombs in Israel's attacks on Gaza.
In 2010 Elbit bought Soltam Systems Ltd, an Israeli defense contractor which provides artillery, mortars, and ammunition to the Israeli Defense Forces, the United States, and NATO countries. Soltam provides 120 mm mortars to the IDF, which were used in Israel's 2014 attack on Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge.
Many of Elbit's other weapons and military systems were also used in the same attack, including numerous UAVs, the Guardium armed ground robot, aerial platforms, smart helmets, and tank visualization systems. In its report on Operaton Protective Edge, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the destruction to both property and civilian life as the result of tank shelling, could "amount to a violation of the principle of distinction...[and] may also constitute a direct attack against civilian objects or civilians, a war crime under international criminal law." The report documented specific cases of attacks on civilian property and life by tank shelling. Israeli soldiers also reported the purposeful destruction of Palestinian agricultural land with tanks.
Defense for Children International documented that during Operation Protective Edge, UAVs were responsible for the deaths of at least 164 children, while artillery and tank shelling killed at least 81 children.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 2192 Palestinians were killed during the 50 days of Operation Protective Edge, including numerous whole families. More than 20,000 housing units were destroyed, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless.
In the month of July 2014 alone, during the peak of the assault on the Gaza, Elbit’s profits increased by 6.1%, the highest level of increase since 2010. According to economic analysts, Elbit's Haifa-based company is expected to see increasing demand for its products from both the Israeli and foreign governments.
Economic Activism Highlights
- In November 2015, the University of California Santa Cruz student government reinstated a divestment resolution against Elbit that had originally passed in 2014, but was suspended pending an appeals process. The resolution calls on the university to drop its investments in any company that "profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
- Northwestern University students voted to divest from Elbit in February 2015, citing its involvement in border militarization.
- The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sol revoked a contract with Elbit to develop a major aerospace center in December 2014, stating that the decision was a "logical consequence" of "the demands of the social movements and important voices that need to be heard."
- Danish pension fund PKA Ltd. divested from Elbit Systems in 2014 over its “involvement in the construction and maintenance of the [Separation] Wall.”
- UC Santa Cruz's student government passed a resolution in 2014 stating that Elbit is “involved in the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank [and] Elbit's Hermes 450 and 900 [drones], equipped with two Spike MR missiles, were used to conduct attacks in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties.”
- The Wesleyan University student senate voted in 2014 to divest its student endowment from Elbit, stating it is “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- In 2014, the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association voted to divest from Elbit, citing its “surveillance systems for the Separation Wall which runs through occupied Palestinian land.”
- Loyola University in Chicago passed a 2014 divestment resolution against Elbit, which stated Elbit “play active roles in the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government.”
- In 2013, the Luxembourg national pension fund excluded Elbit from its list of investments because it “provid[es] security systems for illegal separation barrier on occupied territories (State of Palestine).”
- The Oberlin College student senate voted to divest from Elbit in May 2013, due to “injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel.”
- Dutch pension fund PFZW excluded Elbit in 2012, citing its role in providing surveillance systems for Israel’s wall in the West Bank, which is deemed illegal under international law.
- As of 2012, Swedish AP pension funds 1-4 had excluded Elbit due to its support of the Separation Wall and settlements, which are “contrary to international public law.”
- The Danish pension fund PKA Ltd., one of the largest funds administering workers’ pension funds in Denmark, divested from Elbit in 2010, citing ICJ decision that the wall "violates Palestinian human rights.”
- Danske Bank excluded Elbit in 2010 because of its “[involvement] in construction activities in conflict with international humanitarian law.”
- In 2010, Sweden’s largest asset manager Folksam confirmed that it did not have holdings in Elbit because of its “strict policy regarding activity on occupied land.”
- A Norwegian pension fund excluded Elbit in 2009, citing “the company’s integral involvement in Israel’s construction of a separation barrier on occupied territory.”
- Sweden’s AP 7 pension fund blacklisted Elbit in 2009.