Ronnie Barkan is currently under house arrest in the UK, having been arrested on May 15th 2022 for direct action. This was an initiative by Palestine Action, PAL Action, against the Elbit Systems Headquarters in Bristol. Elbit has been supplying weapons to Israel since 1948. It is the largest manufacturer of arms to Israel. These include assault rifles, high tech weaponry, white phosphorus and cluster munitions, which are illegal, and should not be used against a civilian population. They were, however, used in Gaza and Lebanon.
In 2014 Elbit supplied a premature drone that wasn’t yet available on the market, a killer drone called the Hermes 900. This was used during the massacre in Gaza that year. Elbit drones are hovering over the heads of Palestinians in Gaza day and night. These drones act alone without the need for any jets. The bombs are dropped at will while hovering over the heads of Palestinians , recording, monitoring and terrorising them. These weapons are used every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Elbit staff are there on the ground supporting the Israelis during the bombing of occupied territories. These drones, as well as the Airforce, are responsible for targeting and dropping bombs on civilians, including many children.
Drones may also work in tandem with other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or jets, but drones are far superior in many respects. Drones are used because they are easier to deploy and are cheaper. Fighter jets are extremely expensive to maintain and deploy and their killer missions last for only minutes or an hour at a time.
May 15th is Nakba Day, Nakba which means catastrophe, which commemorates the atrocities perpetrated by Zionist militia against Palestinians during the establishment of Israel in 1948. The Nakba is not merely a historical event but an ongoing process which is maintained, since the foundation of the Zionist state/State of Israel, to maintain the internal displacement of Palestinians and exiled refugees, permanently in exile and away from their lands. Elbit is a key player in maintaining the ongoing Nakba of Palestine, and that is why this date was chosen for the action.
Ronnie is tagged, which means he has to abide by a curfew. In addition he must report to a police station twice a week. Ronnie describes himself as a dissident; he is charged, along with eight co-defendants, with burglary and criminal damage.
Something I admire about Ronnie is his passion for educating people regarding the plight of the Palestinians, and even more remarkable is that he is an Israeli and is Jewish. Ronnie prefers to be called and to call himself a Humanitarian rather than by his origins or religion.
Ronnie grew up in a suburb about 30 minutes from Tel Aviv in Israel. He describes his parents as liberal Zionists. His family weren’t political or religious, they didn’t really speak about Palestine, certainly not in a negative way. He remembers being groomed for military service from kindergarten, and, if you didn’t become a soldier, you were regarded as a traitor. During his early school life there was very little discussion about Palestine, he only heard left-leaning ideas and talk of peace. Ronnie went to a very prestigious High School which was for the most talented children. There were also Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, at the school. Ronnie’s best friend was a Palestinian. Schools had no formal segregation; Ronnie was more concerned about human rights. When he left school he went to university to study physics. Usually people were conscripted to go in the army before university but he was lucky to go to university first. He always knew he didn’t want to be a soldier, so he was absolutely determined he would not go into the army and tried his best not to. He spoke to his father who said that, if he didn’t join the military, he could leave home.
After he got his degree, he had to go into the army; he was sure in his mind that he wouldn’t complete the three years’ mandatory service. He didn’t think like a soldier, he said he stopped being Israeli and became a human being. He fought the system for one and a half years. The military wanted him to work on the anti-tank missile project because he had studied physics.
During his attempts to leave the army he met a commander who liked him, and she tried to assist him in getting an exemption from military service. He had tried to get out for so long , he would turn up at the base twice a week in civvies, which was against the rules, but he was allowed to go and work in the Commander’s office, and she kept him out of military jail. He tried to leave on so many grounds, including mental health. In the end his parents, who were extremely worried about him, went to see someone in the military to express their worries. This helped him leave on mental health grounds with a diagnosis of ‘immature personality’.
Ronnie describes Israel as a very polarised society, with many different groups. The revival of Hebrew was for political reasons. He states the only thing that holds Israel together is their hatred of Palestinians.
He decided to become an activist.