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labor Toronto Picketers at Pratt and Whitney

The picket of Pratt & Whitney Canada answers the global call issued by 32 Palestinian trade unions to stop arming Israel. In recent weeks, workers from Australia to Italy, the UK and the US have responded.

On Tuesday morning of December 12, more than two hundred workers and union members from across the Toronto area picketed the Mississauga manufacturing plant of defence contractor Pratt & Whitney Canada. As Israel pursues its deadly assault on Gaza for a third month, the picket lines interrupted business as usual at an aerospace giant that makes engines for aircrafts that the Israeli military is using to carry out its bombing campaign against Palestinian lives and infrastructure. Encountering banners that read “Stop Arming Apartheid” and “Arms Embargo on Israel Now” as they arrived for morning shift, cars were turned away from the entrance to the factory.

“It’s despicable that Canada continues to send weapons to the Israeli military, which has killed more than 8,000 infants and children in Gaza over the last two months” said Rachel Small, organiser with World BEYOND War. “As a parent, how can I ignore that companies like Pratt and Whitney right here in my city are shamelessly supporting and profiting from the mass murder of Palestinian children? If the Canadian government won’t stop the flow of weapons to Israel and stop companies like Pratt & Whitney Canada from exporting weapons used in Israeli war crimes, then those of us with a moral conscience are forced to take whatever actions we can to stop a genocide.”

In publicity materials, Pratt & Whitney have boasted that their relationship with the Israeli military dates back to 1947, before Israel was established. Today, the company manufactures the engines for the F-15, F-16, and F-35 warplanes that the Israeli Air Force is using to bomb Palestinians in Gaza. Pratt & Whitney Canada makes the engines that power IAI’s Heron TP (Eitan) UAVs. Israel uses the drones for airstrikes, surveillance, and target acquisition.

In 2015, Pratt & Whitney announced a 15-year contract to service the Israeli Air Force’s full fleet of F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, which it called their “longest-term, most comprehensive performance-based logistics contract.”

“Pratt & Whitney has been directly supporting Israel’s apartheid and military occupation for over 75 years,” said Hind Awwad, a spokesperson for Labour For Palestine. “With a 15 year contract to service the fleet of fighter jets carrying out the genocide in Gaza, it is profiting from Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians, using mass killing to fuel a new, longer-term business model.”

Picketers demanded that the Canadian government call for an immediate ceasefire; impose an arms embargo on Israel; and end its support for Pratt & Whitney and other arms companies complicit in Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza.

“Labour unions across Canada have called for a ceasefire and many have called for an arms embargo on Israel. As trade unionists, we are putting these calls into action and encouraging union members across the country to do the same. We have the power to stop the flow of weapons to the Israeli war machine,” said Simon Black of Labour Against the Arms Trade.

“There can be no business as usual while Canada provides interest-free loans and other subsidies to arms manufacturers profiting off of Israel’s assault on Palestinians in Gaza,” added Dalia Awwad, an organiser with the Palestinian Youth Movement. The Canadian government has given Pratt & Whitney Canada at least $600-million in interest-free loans since 2010. “Canada must impose an arms embargo on Israel now.”

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“We, the Tamil Freedom Coalition, fully condemn Pratt & Whitney because their 75 year-long support for Israeli crimes have rendered thousands of our Palestinian brothers and sisters refugees of genocide,” said Thanu Subendran of Tamil Freedom Coalition. “Tamils know what it’s like to face decades of displacement, exile, and structural genocide. We draw the parallels because the Tamil & Palestinian refugee experience is one and the same.”

The morning’s picket of Pratt & Whitney Canada answers the global call issued by 32 Palestinian trade unions to stop arming Israel. In recent weeks, workers from Australia to Italy, the UK and the US have responded. In Canada, companies involved in arming Israel, including INKAS, L3 Harris, Lockheed Martin, ZIM and Elbit subsidiary Geo-Spectrum Technologies, have all seen their operations disrupted. •

More Information About Pratt & Whitney

Pratt & Whitney Canada is the Canadian arm of Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies). It is headquartered in Longueuil, Quebec. Pratt & Whitney has profited from a decades-long relationship with Israel’s Ministry of Defense. Its public relations materials boast that the Israeli Air Force has flown planes powered by Pratt & Whitney engines since 1947 – the year before Israel was established. The Israeli government is proud of the “decades-long relationship” they have enjoyed with Pratt & Whitney.

The Israeli Air Force currently operates Pratt & Whitney F100-powered F-15 & F-16 fighters, and Pratt & Whitney PT6-powered trainers. Indeed, Pratt & Whitney currently has a 15-year contract with Israel’s Ministry of Defense to service the entire fleet of IAF F-15s and F-16s – the latter being the IAF’s most important fighter jet. The contract ends in 2031, and when it was announced in 2015, Pratt & Whitney called it their “longest-term, most comprehensive performance-based logistics contract,” which “sets a new benchmark for our military customers.”

Additionally, Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine powers the Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jet. The modified Israeli versions, known as F35I Adirs, as well as the fleets of F-15 and F-16s are being used by the Israeli Air Force to carry out its deadly bombing campaign of Gaza.

In public relations materials from 2015 announcing the 15-year contract to service the IAF’s F-15 and F-16s, Pratt & Whitney said that they are “honored by the confidence Israeli leadership has placed” in them and looked forward to providing “long-term support to the Israeli warfighter.” The company expressed pride at giving “the Israeli Air Force the means to perform all of its needed missions.”

Pratt & Whitney Canada manufactures the PT6A turboprop engines used in Heron TP (Eitan) drones. These combat drones can be armed and used to carry out airstrikes, surveillance, intelligence gathering and target acquisition. The Israeli military has deployed them in past wars on Gaza as well as the current one.

The Canadian government has provided Pratt & Whitney Canada with at least $600-million in interest-free loans since 2010.

A Genocide In The Making

Since October 7, Israel’s air and ground attack on Gaza has killed more than 18,000 Palestinians, at least 7,870 of them children, and displaced 85 percent of the population. The death toll has risen dramatically as Israel resumed carrying out airstrikes after a weeklong pause in fighting that ended on December 1.

UN experts last month sounded the alarm about “a genocide in the making” and pointed to Israel’s use of “powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll” and the resulting destruction of more than half of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, among other factors. “The international community, including not only States but also non-State actors such as businesses, must do everything it can to immediately end the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people, and ultimately end Israeli apartheid and occupation of the Palestinian territory,” the experts said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that there is a “high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza,” and called for a permanent ceasefire.

Canada’s Role

Canada awarded 315 permits for a total of $21.3-million worth of military goods and technology exported to Israel in 2022. Including $3.2-million in bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, and other explosive devices. The list of companies arming the Israeli military is not released by the Canadian government, but antiwar organization World BEYOND War has released a map listing dozens of companies across Canada involved in providing weapons and military technology to Israel.

The Arms Trade Treaty, of which Canada is a signatory, stresses the importance of respecting international humanitarian law, human rights, and regulating the global arms trade. Article 6.3 prohibits arms transfers by state parties if they know the arms could be used in genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, attacks directed against civilians, or other war crimes. There is ample evidence that arms are currently being used by Israel in precisely these ways. •

Labour Against the Arms Trade is a coalition of peace and labour activists working to end Canada's participation in the international arms trade. Follow them at LAATCanada.

World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. Follow at @wbwCanada.

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