Glasgow stand up to Israeli genocide and Zionism! Sanctions now! 16 March

Glasgow FRFI march in solidarity with Palestine, March 2024

On 16 March, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporters and other anti-Zionist activists held a protest at the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) campaign’s annual march in Glasgow for a fifth year (2018, 2019 [cancelled due to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021], 2022, 2023, 2024). These protests have been in response to SUTR’s refusal to exclude the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS) and its member organisation Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI) from participating in the SUTR march, which they have joined since 2017.

The annual march marks the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorating the Sharpeville massacre in Apartheid South Africa. FRFI and other grassroots anti-Zionist activists, working under a Zionism is Racism (ZIR) coalition, have protested the SUTR march every year to demand COFIS / GFI are excluded (see links to last year’s report and footage here).

This year, with the imperialist backed Israeli genocide in Gaza ongoing and pro-Palestine protests taking place every weekend against this, SUTR was under added pressure to publicly exclude the Zionists. In the weeks before the march, the Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee (GGEC), which has been organising weekly protests of thousands of people, released a statement calling for a boycott of the SUTR event, pointing to SUTR’s silence on Palestine for five months, since the Israeli onslaught began, and stating: ‘SUTR marches and events that include CoFIS/GFI are contributing to the normalisation of Israel’s apartheid regime and genocidal crimes’ (see the full GGEC statement here).

SUTR / STUC’s public statement in response (here) refused to condemn Zionism as racism or to exclude COFIS / GFI from the march, simply stating that ‘it has no formal or informal relationship with the COFIS and GFI groups.’ It did not state that Zionists were not welcome to join their anti-racist march.

On 16 March at the BBC offices on Pacific Quay where the SUTR march assembled, a quiet area with no public footfall, SUTR stewards stood in front of the Zionists who attended, holding out their arms to symbolise that COFIS / GFI were not part of the SUTR march. One Zionist, walked around the SUTR protest with a placard reading ‘Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism’ and ‘Hamas are racist terrorists’. He was accompanied by SUTR activists holding Palestine flags in front of the placard. Meanwhile, SUTR platform speakers declared solidarity with Palestine, and one even recognised the reactionary basis of Zionism but none called for the exclusion of COFIS/GFI from the march. While this theatre was taking place, our anti-Zionist counter protest demanded SUTR issue a public statement to exclude COFIS/GFI. When the march moved off, no serious attempt was made by SUTR organisers or participants (some 200, a lot smaller than previous years) to prevent COFIS/GFI from marching with them for a sixth year.

SUTR 2024a

In 2018, around 50 activists from FRFI and other anti-Zionist campaigns prevented COFIS/GFI from marching. We were verbally abused and physically threatened by SUTR/SWP stalwarts for doing so. It was only under a heavy police escort that COFIS/GFI were able to march. SUTR/SWP is not willing to call for, never mind lead, such opposition. Their main concern is to maintain their ties with the cowardly Labour left (which leads SUTR nationally), the SNP left and the trade unions’ leadership.

This year, from the main platform, Talat Ahmed, SUTR Scotland convenor and STUC Black Workers Committee chair, told our anti-Zionist counter protest to ‘shut up’ and dismissed us as ‘scum’ when we refused to stop speaking out. This comes as no surprise as the SWP, to which Ahmed belongs, have been the most active defenders of Zionist participation on the SUTR march in Glasgow. Two days before the SUTR march in 2019, Ahmed as SUTR Scotland convenor, wrote that: ‘views on Israel should not be a dividing line in Scotland’s anti-racism movement’ (14 March 2019, Commonweal, see full article here). Ahmed claimed that banning COFIS is ‘not the answer’ because doing so would challenge: ‘nine out of ten British Jews [who] support Israel’s right to exist as an independent state’ adding that ‘The British TUC and most British trade unions support a two-state solution which also involves recognising Israel’s right to exist. And of course the British Labour Party and the Scottish National Party run Scottish government have signed up to the IHRA definition of antisemitism.’ She concluded that: ‘If the criterion for the march is opposition to the existence of the state of Israel, then it will be a very small demonstration indeed!’ Such blatant opportunism! And yet it is now SUTR which finds itself exposed and isolated as a consequence of abandoning and betraying the Palestinian people. But they can still count Zionists among their numbers. A week before this year’s march Ahmed re-stated ‘we do not and cannot enforce pre-emptive bans. This is an unrealisable demand and we have urged those making it to reconsider it…’ (The National, 10 March 2024).

The emerging movement in solidarity with Palestine disagrees. Not far from the SUTR march, thousands of people assembled for the GGEC organised national march against Israeli genocide. FRFI left the SUTR march assembly point to join that protest. The noisy colourful march made its way through the busy city centre with printed and homemade placards, creative new chants, a giant Palestine flag and spirit of solidarity, before returning to George Square. FRFI held a noisy contingent and open mic during the march.

Closing speakers on the main platform included an FRFI supporter, one of the Starmer 2 who are facing trial on trumped up charges of police assault and resisting arrest after being arrested in December 2023 when Keir Starmer visited Glasgow for the Labour Party’s Winter Gala. Starmer was met by a crowd of protesters condemning the Labour Party’s support for Israeli genocide. At George Square, the FRFI supporter condemned British imperialism’s bloody complicity, led chants to demand sanctions against the Zionist state and underlined the importance of defending the right to defend Palestine. He called for support at the first court protest for the Starmer 2 on 28 March (see below). The crowd applauded as he reported on the anti-Zionist counter protest at SUTR’s march earlier that day. Everyone then took up the chant ‘Stand Up To Racism! Stand Up to Zionism!’ without any hesitation. Free Palestine!

Join us at the upcoming events:

Court protest: Defend the right to defend Palestine! Support the Starmer 2! Drop the charges now!

Thursday 28 March, 9.30 – 10.30am

Glasgow Sheriff Court

1 Carlton Pl, Glasgow G5 9DA

Bring flags and banners and there will be an open mic for speaking in solidarity with Palestine.

Sign the online petition to demand the charges are dropped here

Public Meeting & Pamphlet launch: End British Support for Zionism: Isolate the Israeli state

Including discussion of the ongoing situation in Palestine, what we can do and report from the Starmer 2 court protest.

Thursday 28 March, 6 – 8pm

70 Coplaw Street


G42 7JG



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