On the streets (and in M&S) in support of Gaza

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

19 July, Manchester: Marks & Spencer invaded by protesters

FRFI has always stood in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and has held numerous pickets, public meetings and film showings since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000. From the start of the current onslaught on Gaza, FRFI has been joining with others in mobilising support across the country for the people of Gaza.

On the national march to the Israeli embassy in London on 19 July, FRFI supporters ran an open mic on a mobile sound system throughout the march, allowing anybody who wished to speak to do so. In Manchester, successive Saturdays have seen FRFI mobilise 2-300 people for rolling pickets of stores selling Israeli goods. On 19 July protesters took over a Barclays Bank in the centre of the city, and then stormed into Marks & Spencer at the bottom of Market Street to occupy its second floor. In Liverpool, FRFI joined with others determined to see some real action for Gaza and organised a 150-strong march and rolling picket down Church Street. Newcastle FRFI has worked with others in the Palestine Action Group (PAG), set up in 2009 by FRFI and independent activists frustrated by the inactivity of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), organising a 100-strong protest in the city centre both inside and outside shops and banks that support Israel. A week later, PAG overturned police restrictions on a protest against the BBC, to demonstrate immediately outside the entrance to the building.

Because the British ruling class depends on Israel to protect its interests in the Middle East, mass direct action is needed to break the link with Zionism– moral appeals and passive vigils will never be enough. We need to target the critical links between British capitalism and the Israeli state: banks like HSBC, which underwrites the Israeli state budget; Barclays, which profits from arms sales to Israel; and companies like M&S, which sells £250m of Israeli goods each year.

Labour politicians have been challenged over the party’s support for Israel. In Glasgow on 19 July, Anas Sarawar, Labour MP and deputy leader of the party in Scotland, was on the platform at a Stop the War demonstration, where he was met with boos and shouts of ‘hypocrite!’ from the crowd, and eventually forced off the platform to chants of ‘Off, off, off!’.

New forces are driving the movement forward, and are bypassing local PSC groups if they are not prepared to lead militant solidarity actions. On 12 July an independently-organised mobilisation across Lancashire and West Yorkshire brought around 4,000 people to converge on the BBC in Manchester in a ‘Drive for Justice’, and many smaller actions have been taking place across Britain. The task now is to organise all those who see the need for an independent, democratic and sustained movement. FRFI is committed to that and we have shown that our approach brings results – join us!

22 July, at the BBC in Newcastle