Now Reading: L3Harris: Engineering for a Genocide

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L3Harris: Engineering for a Genocide

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[This speech was given by Sarah Brownell at the L3Harris Purim Rally/Protest held Sunday, March 24, 2024 at the University Ave. L3 Harris location in Rochester, NY.]

I am Sarah Brownell, a Rochestarian, a mother, a Catholic Worker and an Engineering Professor.

I come before you today as a fellow traveler in the journey of faith to stand in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters as they celebrate Purim, when Esther used her favor with a misogynist king and risked her own life to stop the brutal annihilation of her people.   Like Esther, we are here today to raise our voices against the annihilation of a people, the people of Gaza.

I come before you today as a US citizen to say “shame” on our country for supporting Israeli genocide in Gaza. “Shame” on our leaders for not calling for a ceasefire, for blocking UN resolutions, for not denouncing the blockade of the basic supplies of life that has brought Palestine over the brink of hunger to famine.  “Shame” on our country for our complicity in funding and supplying the weapons that have killed more than 30,000 people, civilians, journalists, doctors, EMTs, children (people like us).  All this is done against international laws and agreements…and against our very own laws.

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits the US from providing aid to any country “when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance [1].”

The US Arms Export Control Act governs the export and end-use of weapons shipped from the US.  But it only applies to shipments of a certain value.  So at least 100 smaller package shipments have occurred without any public record or scrutiny [2].

And under the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, states are legally bound to prevent genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity [3].  The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in January that genocide may plausibly be under way in Gaza…[4]

And I come before you today specifically as an engineer to say “shame” on L3 Harris for profiting off death, for using science and technology which should be used or the good of all humanity, instead to support a genocide.

Since WWII, the US has sent more military support and aid to Israel than we have sent to any other country and in the first 20 years of this century Israel received more military aid from the US than all other nations combined [5]!

Now, can you picture 10,000 tons of weapons on 244 cargo planes and 20 ships?

15,000 bombs

57,000 shells

200 kamikaze drones

This is what was received by Israel from the US (that we know of) in just the last few months of 2023 [6, 7]. Annually Israel receives almost $4 billion dollars in military aid from the US and now $14 billion more in aid is potentially on the way [5].  All these funds must be spent on US made weapons…weapons like those made here at L3 Harris.

So now, US weapons make up a good portion of the Israeli arsenal.  It is US jets that have launched the airstrikes responsible for most of the deaths and destruction in Gaza.  L3 Harris has boasted that it is a top supplier for the Lockheed Martin F-35—the most advanced fighter jet in the world—that makes up much of Israel’s air force [8,9].  L3 Harris contributes more than 1600 components to each F35 jet [9].  L3 Harris also makes parts for Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) guidance kit, a harness that turns ordinary air-to-ground bombs into smart bombs, which are then dropped from those same F-35 jets [10,11].  JDAMs were used in Gaza on apartment buildings in residential areas even before Oct 7, resulting in 166 civilian deaths including 89 children in 2014 and 44 civilians on al-Wahda street in 2021 [10].  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have labeled these attacks as war crimes.  Shame on L3 Harris for continuing to participate.  In October, JDAM fragments were found in the rubble of airstrikes south of Wadi Gaza, where Palestinians had been told to relocate. These strikes killed 22 people at the al-Najjar family home and 24 at the Abu Mu’eileq family home [12].

L3 Harris, the blood of these families is on your hands.  Similar strikes continue daily.  It will be years before we know all the horrors.

L3 Harris also makes management systems for the Israeli warships that have blocked aid, food, and medical supplies from entering Gaza by sea, against international law.  This blockade went on for years prior to Oct. 7 and now continues to contribute to the starvation of 2 million Gazans [11].

My profession of engineering is complicit in these atrocities.  My colleagues do research to support it. My students go on to work at L3 Harris.  My students might have helped make the very systems that guide the bombs that now fall on homes and hospitals.  So I am complicit in this.

But do my students go to the Military Industrial Complex because they want to work on war?  No, they mostly want to work on sustainable systems, renewable energy, and health.  But the funding priorities are so skewed in our country that they still get funneled to war.  It has been estimated that 2/3 of engineers work in defense in one way or another [13].  The Dept of Defense is Rochester Institute of Technology’s second biggest research funder, contributing $14.5 million last fiscal year [14]. 

Most egregiously, the military industrial complex targets our marginalized students for hiring through their debt. Black, Brown, and first generation students are specifically recruited and their talents exploited to reap destruction on the global south.  Many of my students, mired in debt, struggling to support family members with chronic illness, go to work in war simply so that their own families can survive.

L3 Harris has research collaborations with RIT around quantum computing [15] and advanced manufacturing [16] and funded the Computer Engineering Senior Design Lab.  This makes sense, since L3 Harris is a top employer for engineering RIT grads, likely the #1 employer of Electrical engineering grads, #2 for computer engineers, #3 for mechanical engineers, and #8 for Industrial engineering [17].  

We have six L3 Harris facilities here in Rochester

The Jefferson Road Operations Center, the Humboldt Street facility and this University Avenue facility are part of the Communications Systems division of L3 Harris which is Headquartered here in Rochester and specializes in tactical communications, night vision and public safety [17].

The Lee Road and Manitou Road facilities are part of the Space and Airborne systems division which makes things like sensors for missile defense, ground systems for command and control of space based systems, defense avionics, and  electronic warfare countermeasures [17].  I was not able to confirm, but it makes me wonder if JDAM parts are made here.

Our obsession with war has many tangled tentacles…

If we care about poverty we should care about militarism; at least a quarter of our taxes are spent on war, averaging about $3,450 per American taxpayer [19]!

If Black Lives Matter to us we should care about militarism, because the military targets people of color both to be physical and moral cannon fodder in its wars and internationally to be the ones in the crosshairs.  These same military technologies come home to roost in our police forces [20]. We should also look at how this plays out internationally as Palestinians, Haitians and the Sudanese are treated as somehow less than human.

If we care about immigration, we should care about militarism.  Refugees come fleeing situations we created.  Haiti is a current case in point. Also surveillance equipment made by L3 Harris is used not only to enforce the blockade of Gaza but also to track and target immigrants.  The Stingray cell site simulators mimic cell phone towers to make cell phones connect to them in order to pinpoint the location of migrants and identify their phone numbers [10,11].

Each night when I see the stories from Gaza, I can’t help but think that if it was happening here, it would be my child, my disabled husband who is not able to travel well, who would be killed in our home…in our beds, or while trying to get some food, or while trying to find missing loved ones. I cannot bear that our country, our elected leaders, our tax dollars that are supporting it.  We cannot turn our eyes from the people of Gaza in this critical moment.   We are called to be like Esther.

In addition to calling upon our leaders to end complicity in genocide and work for ceasefire, I call on the engineering schools to study war no more, and instead to prepare and direct the talent and creativity of our youth toward addressing climate change and preserving the wellbeing of humanity.  I call on my fellow engineering professors to refuse to take blood money for research.  I call on the administrations to stop filling our career fairs with military contractors and to give students better opportunities. I call on engineering students to commit to not working for the MIC.

I also call on the 3,700 L3 Harris employees in Rochester and more than 46,000 worldwide, to stop working for war.  Like workers at Lucas Aerospace did in the 1970s, I call upon L3 Harris employees and managers to consider how to pivot to using their skills, resources and facilities toward socially useful products [21].

As Martin Luther King Jr said shortly before he was killed, we must resist the triple evils of racism, excessive consumerism and militarism.  Weapons and imparting fear on others does not make us safer.  We cannot be free until everyone is free.

Free Palestine.

[1] USAID. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.  July 2002. Accessed April 2, 2024, https://www.usaid.gov/document/foreign-assistance-act-1961-amended 

[2] Times of Israel Staff and Reuters, Report: US quietly approved more than 100 arms sales to Israel since October 7. Times of Israel.  March 7, 2024. Accessed March 28, 2024, https://www.timesofisrael.com/report-us-quietly-approved-more-than-100-arms-sales-to-israel-since-october-7/#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20has%20approved,Washington%20Post%20report%20on%20Wednesday  

[3] United Nations.  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Accessed April 2, 2024. https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/atrocity-crimes/Doc.1_Convention%20on%20the%20Prevention%20and%20Punishment%20of%20the%20Crime%20of%20Genocide.pdf 

[4] Has Israel complied with the ICJ order in Gaza genocide case?  Al Jazeera. February 26, 2024.  Accessed April 2, 2024. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/2/26/has-israel-complied-with-icj-order-in-gaza-genocide-case 

[5]  Relman, Eliza. How US tax dollars have supported Israel and its military for 75 years — and what’s next for American aid. Business Insider. October 13, 2023 .https://www.businessinsider.com/us-aid-spending-israel-military-defense-gaza-war-2023-10 

[6] AFSC Action Center for Corporate Accountability. The Companies Profiting from Israel’s 2023-2024 Attacks on Gaza.  n.d. Accessed 3/28/24 https://afsc.org/companies-2023-attack-gaza#:~:text=By%20Dec.%2025%2C%20Israel%20received,first%20month%20and%20a%20half

[7] Times of Israel. December 25, 2023. 244 US Cargo planes, 20 ships deliver over 10000 tons of military equipment to israel–report. Live Blog. Accessed on April 2, 2024 at https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/244-us-cargo-planes-20-ships-deliver-over-10000-tons-of-military-equipment-to-israel-report/ 

[8] Frias, Lauren.  The 3 US-Made Fighter Jets Israel is using in its air war over Gaza. Business Insider. January 6, 2024. https://www.businessinsider.com/us-fighter-jets-israel-air-war-gaza-2024-1#f-15-i-1

[9] L3Harris Technologies, Inc.  F35 Mission Partner Highlights infographic.  https://www.l3harris.com/sites/default/files/2020-12/L3Harris-F-35-Mission-Partner-Highlights-Infographic-sas.pdf 

[10]  American Friends Service Committee.  L3Harris Technologies, Inc. Investigate.  Accessed 3/28/24.https://investigate.info/company/l3harris-technologies 

[11] World Beyond War. 200 Workers Block Access to Toronto Weapons Maker L3Harris. Columbus Free Press.  Nov. 10, 2023. https://columbusfreepress.com/article/200-workers-block-access-toronto-weapons-maker-l3harris 

[12] Al Najjar family:  https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/12/israel-opt-us-made-munitions-killed-43-civilians-in-two-documented-israeli-air-strikes-in-gaza-new-investigation/ 

[13] Papadopoulos, C. and Andrew Hable. 2008.  Including Questions of Military and Defense Technology in Engineering Ethics Education. 2008 American Society of Engineering Education Conference.

[14] Cometa, Michelle.  October 4, 2023. RIT surpasses $94 Million in new research awards.  RIT News. Accessed April 2, 2024 at https://www.rit.edu/news/rit-surpasses-94-million-new-research-awards#:~:text=RIT%20reached%20another%20record%20year,from%20the%20previous%20fiscal%20year

[15] Auburn, Luke. October 14, 2020.  L3Harris becomes industry partner for RIT’s Future Photon Initiative. RIT News.  Accessed April 2, 2024 at https://www.rit.edu/news/l3harris-becomes-industry-partner-rits-future-photon-initiative 

[16] L3Harris Press Release. March 14, 2023.  L3Harris and RIT Certified partner to develop advanced manufacturing training curriculum. Accessed April 2, 2024 at https://www.l3harris.com/newsroom/press-release/2023/03/l3harris-and-rochester-institute-technology-certified-partner 

[17] Assumed based off RIT Career Services websites for each discipline under “Select Hiring Partners”.  They are not listed alphabetically, so I assumed they were listed by number of hires, i.e. https://www.rit.edu/careerservices/study/mechanical-engineering-bs 

[18] L3Harris Investor Overview Calendar 2021 Q4 Results Reported January 31, 2022. Accessed April 2, 2024 at: https://www.l3harris.com/sites/default/files/2022-02/L3Harris_InvestorOverview_Feb2022.pdf

[19] National Priorities Project. April 11, 2019. Where your tax dollar was spent in 2018.  https://www.nationalpriorities.org/analysis/2019/tax-day-2019/where-your-tax-dollar-was-spent-2018/ 

[20] Ray, Rashawn. September 9, 2021. How 9/11 helped militarize American law enforcement. Brookings.  Accessed April 2, 2024 at https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-9-11-helped-to-militarize-american-law-enforcement/ 

[21] King, Dave. The Lucas Plan – An idea whose time has come?  Science for the People.  Volume 22, No. 2.  Accessed April 2, 2024 at https://magazine.scienceforthepeople.org/vol22-2/the-new-lucas-plan/ 

Other general…

Airforce JDAM fact sheet:  https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104572/joint-direct-attack-munition-gbu-313238/ 

Forum on the Arms Trade: https://www.forumarmstrade.org/bidenarmsisrael.html 

Boston surveillance

https://columbusfreepress.com/article/200-workers-block-access-toronto-weapons-maker-l3harris

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2024/2/13/israels-war-on-gaza-live-jordans-king-urges-ceasefire-in-biden-meeting?update=2705985

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    L3Harris: Engineering for a Genocide