Building solidarity with Palestine –despite Labour attacks

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Recent protests for Palestine have produced new forces that are keeping up the pressure against support for Israel in Britain. These new forces have been forced to organise outside the structures of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) because its leadership will not organise the mass direct action that is needed. The PSC values its friends in the Labour Party above all else.

Round up of protests

In Newcastle, FRFI supporters have consolidated Palestine Action Group (PAG) and are working alongside a new organisation, Response North East. On 16 August activists from PAG, FRFI and Response staged an all day picket of the local branch of HSBC, which underwrites the Israeli state budget. Despite a violent counter-protest by the EDL, the picket forced the bank to close its doors two hours early. FRFI, PAG, and Response have collaborated in other actions, including pickets of Marks and Spencer (M&S).

Liverpool Rise for Palestine (LRFP) was established by activists frustrated with the failure of their local PSC associate, Liverpool Friends of Palestine, to launch any serious boycott campaign. For two months, LRFP have organised pickets of businesses involved with the Zionist state. It also door-stepped Labour mayor Joe Anderson for prevaricating over council contracts with G4S which works for Israel – getting front-page coverage in the Liverpool Echo. Anderson tried to protect himself by making claims of thuggery and intimidation against LRFP, but the response was simple: the real thuggery and intimidation in Liverpool are his cuts in local services and jobs.

In London, FRFI campaign Victory to the Intifada (VTI), has attracted lots of new people to its weekly pickets of the M&S flagship store on Oxford Street. Unison – Britain’s biggest trade union – has identified M&S as a key boycott target on its current Palestine campaign leaflet. Once again Zionists have mobilised to defend M&S – evidence of its strong links with Israel. Within weeks the Zionists backed off in the face of a dynamic VTI picket.

Manchester: Labour council and police attack protests

Manchester has recently seen some very effective Palestine solidarity actions, and campaigners have suffered determined attacks. New activists have joined FRFI and others in building consistent protests. On 16 August, four protesters were violently arrested outside Barclays. A day later, five more were arrested outside Israeli cosmetics shop Kedem. There have been more arrests since, with police using bail conditions to ban protesters from the city centre. Defence solicitors had these conditions thrown out. A political defence campaign has begun.

This harassment is part of a premeditated political attack by Labour councillors. From 26 July Labour councillor Pat Karney led a smear campaign in the Manchester Evening News accusing the protests of anti-Semitism and calling demonstrators ‘extremists and revolutionaries’. Karney organised a Market Street ‘assembly’ to ‘defend shop workers’ from what he said was intimidation. Seven people turned up, all managers and supervisors. His true concern for workers is clear – more than 3,000 council workers have lost their jobs through cuts imposed by the council.

At least another five people are being forced to appear in court on Public Order Act charges as a result of further protests. Police have served a Section 14 Public Order Act notice on the Boycott Kedem campaign, limiting numbers to 15 people in a police pen. We urge all supporters of democratic rights and Palestine to help build the defence campaign. If Manchester Labour council and their police get away with this, there will be consequences for all campaign groups.

Defend the right to demonstrate!

See report on Palestine, p16, and Events on p15 for dates

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014