- Created: Wednesday, 29 April 2009 15:46
- Written by FRFI
It is now four years since the second Intifada erupted in Palestine in response to Israeli oppression, occupation and provocation. It is also four years since RCG/Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) help set up the boycott pickets of Marks and Spencer (M&S) and the Victory to the Intifada group (VTI). M&S has supported the Zionist project since the 1920s.
Zionists claim that the foundation of Israel was a necessary measure against racism and ethnic cleansing. However, in 1941, when the Nazis introduced their final solution for extermination of the Jewish people, Lord Marcus Sieff, M&S Chairman, advocated ethnic cleansing of the Arab population of Palestine. This racist hypocrisy has always been at the heart of the Zionist project and remains so today, as protesters from VTI and FRFI have recently seen across the country.
Over the summer in Manchester, groups of Zionist thugs and British fascists who support them, attempted to intimidate VTI protesters off the streets. These attacks followed attempts by the local council and police to harass picketers into giving up. In late July, two Manchester picketers lost an appeal against trumped up charges of highway obstruction and have to pay costs of £1,100. We were also forced to move our campaign stall from outside M&S where it has been for four years.
Two days after the court case, on 31 July, police imposed conditions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act to limit the number of protesters and to serve the Zionists by moving us out of view of M&S. For the next five weeks our Saturday pickets continued with a good turnout, while a small rabble of Zionists stood around hurling racist insults, provocative abuse and taking photos, all to no avail. Our determination forced concessions from the police and an almost full return to the front of M&S.
On 11 September, right-wing extremists again mobilised a 70-strong turnout against us, opportunistically using the anniversary of the US tragedy for their own racist ends, blaming the Muslim population of Britain for the terrorist attacks in Madrid and the school massacre in Beslan, and linking the VTI picket with terrorism. With police supervision, they had set up a stall in the place where we had been forbidden by court to do so!
Our own regular stall was trapped in a police cordon allowing the fascists to surround us. We faced more racist abuse (see letters, page 15) against both black and Jewish comrades who were picked out for harassment. A Jewish picketer was threatened with physical violence against him and his family. The police showed their loyalties, threatening to arrest us for ‘racism’ when handing out our leaflets and threatening to impose Section 14 conditions. The picketers unanimously refused to abide by the order. We staged a sit down with linked arms to resist and the police backed down.
The following Saturday a small group of Zionists turned out to celebrate the atrocious acts committed against Palestinian refugees 22 years ago at Sabra and Shatilla.
In London, police have shown the same pro-Zionist attitude, ignoring provocation by the fascist counter-picketers, who chant ‘Nazi scum off our streets’ at us! On 19 August, police arrested a long-standing Palestinian campaigner. Exposing the systemic racism of the British police, the comrade was thrown to the pavement and sat on by six police officers, among them the Inspector who covered the comrade’s mouth. Angry protesters and passers-by surrounded the police, demanding our comrade be allowed to breathe and chanting ‘racist police off our streets’. The picket then marched to the police station and protested for his release. The comrade will appear in court in late October.
The Thursday evening pickets in London have sustained a good turnout, lively atmosphere and receive a positive response from the public. Nearly every Saturday there are stalls outside local M&S stores around London, also demanding imperialist hands off the Middle East and an end to the occupation of Iraq and Palestine. Every month the LSE FRFI student society hosts an educational meeting which alternates between discussions of Palestine and the Middle East, and Cuba and Latin America. September’s talk and discussion was about the second Intifada. There are also monthly campaign meetings for VTI. The next project is a VTI information pack, covering issues from M&S links to Zionism to the life under occupation in Palestine.
Regular stalls of M&S continue on Saturday’s in Dundee and Glasgow and FRFI joined the Big Blockade of Faslane Naval Base in early August, to point out where the weapons of mass destruction are really held. FRFI held a meeting about the Venezuela Bolivarian Revolution, with the documentary The revolution will not be televised, followed by a lively discussion. Elsewhere in the country, in August FRFI comrades in Canterbury held a stall outside M&S followed by a meeting to discuss imperialism and capitalism. In Durham comrades supported a protest against deaths of women prisoners outside Durham’s Newton Hall prison.
FRFI university student societies now exist at LSE and North London Metropolitan in London, Salford in Manchester and Strathclyde in Glasgow.
FRFI 181 October / November 2004