London FRFI says: ‘Isolate the Zionist state – sanctions now!’

FRFI rally at SOAS with banner reading 'Isolate the Zionist state - sanctions now!'

On Sunday 12 May at SOAS University of London, London branches of the Revolutionary Communist Group and FRFI supporter groups called for solidarity with Palestine to be based around a central demand to isolate the Israeli state through comprehensive sanctions. Our meeting called on groups, individuals, and communities to unite in a necessary democratic, grassroots campaign using this demand to end Britain’s ties with Israel and Zionism. These ties are long-established and myriad but, as the two RCG speakers explained, any movement that claims solidarity with Palestinian resistance must focus on breaking each connection between the imperialist ruling class of Britain and its Zionist outpost in the Middle East.

Cat Alison, from the editorial board of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, laid out in precise detail the financial, military, political, academic and cultural links between imperialist Britain and the Zionist state. ‘Imperialism is driven first and foremost by the expansionary economic logic of capitalism. Israel was created as a client state in the Middle East, an outpost from which Britain could exert its control over a region of the oil-rich world crucial to the functioning of global capitalism. The British economy is completely enmeshed with that of the Israeli State.’

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The comrade contrasted the surge in direct actions, local protests and student occupations against assets of the Israeli and British arms industry with the steadfast refusal of Britain’s trade unions and established leadership of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to break from the imperialist Labour Party which has always supported Zionism. The Unite union and its General Secretary Sharon Graham, representing workers in factories producing the arms used in the genocidal assault on Gaza, has been especially vociferous in attacking actions taken against these factories. These arms companies have been backed through loans and financing deals by Britain’s leading banks, namely Barclays and HSBC. Actions by Palestine Action meant that Elbit’s facilities in Britain were reduced to nine, and the Shut Down Rafael campaign supported by FRFI continues to campaign to shut down an Israeli arms factory in Newcastle; while the growing number of student encampments in Britain, 20 at time of writing, challenge the complicity of British universities with repression, genocide and occupation. Growing solidarity is proving problematic for Britain’s political establishment, it now needs to grow into a movement that challenges the core of that establishment.

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Our final speaker, Kotsai Sigauke, a supporter of FRFI in London, asked how our solidarity in Britain could be escalated to provide such a challenge, while the Palestinians continue steadfast in their resistance to imperialism. It highlighted how the examples of Palestine, Yemen and historically in South Africa contrasted the narrow demands of the PSC and Labour-affiliated organisations, showing that: ‘the oppressed, the poor and the powerless see and understand that they have more in common with the people of Palestine than the brutal Zionist.’

The demand for sanctions must be central to the movement, which must escalate the struggle even if a ceasefire or suspension of arms sales is achieved. A grassroots, democratic coalition around the demand for comprehensive sanctions from Britain against Israel would bring a direct challenge to the British state. It can be the demand to collectively organise an anti-imperialist movement in Britain worthy of calling itself in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance.

As Kotsai said in closing his speech, ‘Fred Hampton once said, if you dare to struggle you dare to win... the people of Palestine have learned that lesson and they are applying that lesson today. In Britain, we have to do the same: end British support for Zionism and victory to the Palestinian people!’