Protestors demonstrated outside Hamleys yesterday (1 June), as the London store prepared to sell the latest toys range produced for the UK firm JCB, whose equipment, they say, has been used in Israel’s crimes against Palestinian children and communities.
The protestors cite the use of JCB bulldozers to demolish the only Palestinian children’s playground in the district of Silwan in East Jerusalem and the part played by JCB equipment in the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall, Israeli settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes.
The charity War on Want wrote to JCB after the playground was demolished. But JCB has failed to respond to its request for the company to investigate the use of its equipment in Silwan and to ensure that it will not be used in illegal demolitions.
The demonstration comes as War on Want launches a new report which it says exposes JCB’s direct sale of military equipment for the Israeli army which is used in the abuse of Palestinian human rights.The report claims that JCB is entering a new phase of complicity with Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
The report reveals that the company has supplied its armoured bulldozer, the High Mobility Engineer Excavator, for use by paratroopers in the Israeli army’s central command unit. The armoured bulldozers are as tall as a double decker bus, weigh up to 16 tons and have a top speed of 60 miles an hour.
Kat Hobbs, War on Want’s Save Silwan campaigner, said: “JCB is trying to corner the kids’ market with the My First JCB range of toys and clothes. Yet for Palestinian children, their first JCB experience is when a digger is destroying their home and playground. JCB needs to stop its bulldozers being used as weapons against the Palestinian people.”
War on Want’s report also exposes JCB’s close links to senior British government figures. Before taking up office in 2010, Foreign Secretary William Hague was paid £50,000 a year to act as a parliamentary advisor to the company.
British foreign office minister Alistair Burt has confirmed the government knew about claims that equipment manufactured by a UK construction equipment company “may have been used in demolitions”. But, despite branding the demolition of the playground “contrary to Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law” the Foreign Office has taken no further action.
Over 1,000 Palestinians in Silwan face the threat of their homes being destroyed to make way for a theme park, in the largest mass demolition since 1967, the year Israel took control of east Jerusalem.