- Created: Saturday, 21 May 2011 12:35
- Written by FRFI
On 14 May supporters of Palestine Action Group (PAG) and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in Newcastle staged a vibrant demonstration outside Marks & Spencer in commemoration of the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948, when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled as the state of Israel was brought into being.
The protest focused on the continuing theft of Palestinian land, through the construction of the ‘apartheid wall’, and violence by armed Israeli settlers and the Israeli military. The state violence of the Israeli Defence Force, who demolish homes and bomb civilian areas, and the violence of armed fascist setters cannot be separated. Both aim to make life so difficult for the Palestinian people that they choose to leave their land.
A mock ‘apartheid wall’ was used to highlight the link between M&S, Britain’s largest corporate sponsor of Israel, and the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. Throughout the picket, the wall was surrounded by people reading information about the disastrous impact of Zionism on the Palestinians. An open microphone was also in constant use, with speakers (including some who had never spoken in public before) talking about the political connections between the Nakba, British support for Israel, and public service cuts in Britain.
The protest also drew less welcome attention from several quarters. Firstly, from council officers, who took copious notes of what was being said on the megaphone, but couldn’t find anything to actually complain about other than the placing of some unused flags in a cage around a tree. The previous week Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters had been cautioned for temporarily fixing an anti-cuts banner to a railing. Newcastle activists have become accustomed to petty harassment from the City Council and Northumbria Police, both of whom have a political agenda of clamping down on political dissent. (See http://defencecampaign.wordpress.com about the case of HSBC3 defence campaign for three activists arrested for protesting against public sector cuts.)
Secondly, as the protest finished, around ten English Defence League (EDL) supporters appeared and attempted to provoke a reaction by jeering at PAG demonstrators who were preparing to leave and following them for about ten minutes. Local newspapers report that earlier that day a racist rally had taken place in Teeside and that 30 EDL supporters had gone on to target a mosque in Darlington.
Annie Richards from Palestine Action Group said, ‘Although the harassment we are facing can’t be compared to the oppression and violence faced by the Palestinian people, who daily have to confront Zionist thugs - both in and out of uniform - it does help us to empathise with their situation. We draw inspiration from the determination and dignity of the Palestinians as we embark on our own struggles against unemployment and cuts to our welfare system’.