York’s technology fair shame

This October, the Careers department will be holding its Technology Fair, where a wide variety of companies “strut their stuff” in an attempt to recruit students.

These events can be vital for students wanting to get their foot on the hyper-competitive career ladder. However, some employers develop products whose only purpose is the destruction of human life. Three such companies will be participating in this year’s Technology Fair, namely BAE Systems, Thales and Qinetiq.

BAE Systems is the UK’s biggest and the world’s 3rd largest arms producer. Thales is a French company in a joint project with Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems. Both traded with the Israeli state, whose army commits war crimes against civilian populations in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.

BAE Systems manufactures systems installed in the Israeli air force’s F16s. These fighter jets have been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in the last few years, including the murder of entire families in single missile strikes.

Thales and Elbit are collaborating on the Watchkeeper drone, based on the Elbit-designed Hermes 450 drone which is used on a regular basis in Gaza to direct helicopter, jet and missile strikes. During the 2012 attack on Gaza (Operation Pillar of Defence), 23 per cent of total Palestinian deaths were due to drone strikes. In December 2008, 12 Palestinian civilians were killed by a drone strike outside the Gaza Technical College while waiting for a bus. Nine of them were students.

Qinetiq operates the UK Drones testing centre in Wales (using Israeli technology) and supplies arms and explosives to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia. The Islamic kingdom is considered to be one of the least democratic countries in the world, ranking lower than Iran and Burma in the 2012 democracy index.

These are a few examples from a long list of operations in which BAE and Thales products were used to deadly effect. Not all of these crimes make use of drones and F16s, but they are an integral part of the occupying army’s arsenal.

The economic context in which occupation occurs cannot be ignored. Israeli companies benefit from increased sales after each military operation as their products get “battle-tested” on Palestinian populations. Last year, the Israeli arms industry made a massive $5.6 billion in revenues.

Arms exports make up a very large chunk of Israel’s overall exports, which account for 40 per cent of its annual GDP. The economic cycle we see here is that Israel produces weapons, tests them on civilian populations in highly-publicised “wars,” and profits from subsequent sales increase.

These profits go into expanding research and development and manufacturing even more weapons. As one report explains, “As long as Israel benefits from the business of war and occupation in foreign markets like the UK, it has little incentive to stop its unlawful acts.”
Israel’s imports of weapons from the UK are extremely profitable, however many argue that they are unethical and illegal.

UK government regulations state that companies may not be given export licences if there is “clear risk” that they will be used for internal repression, “provoke or prolong armed conflicts” or where the buyer will use the weapons “aggressively against another country or to assert territorial claims.”

Despite Israeli military actions falling under this purview, the value of licences awarded to UK companies exporting to Israel amounted to £53.2 million (for military use) between 2010 and 2014.

The University shouldn’t allow companies such as these to advertise jobs at campus career fairs. As students, scholars and scientists, our role in global society should be one of education, enlightenment, and productive enterprise, not destruction, killing and occupation.



  1. The University has a responsibility to enable students to work all this out for themselves. When you leave university you will realise the vigour with which you approach restricting free speech breeds contempt, fosters racism, xenophobia and limits debate – primarily by leaving ‘the other side’ out of the equation.

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    • There’s a difference between restricting free speech and not allowing companies acting against EU law to recruit on campus. Students are not going to be stopped from working for these companies, but the university won’t be promoting them.

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    • free speech is a human right, granted to human individuals, not to companies. theres a different between advertising jobs and letting a human person say what they want. this article doesnt mention stopping people from talking about arms.

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