Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign had a sad task last week. Where and when do we wish to protest against the killing in Gaza of Razan al Najjar. She was a 21 year old medic, clearly identifiable, there to provide help to injured Palestinians. Her whole life ahead of her, snuffed out by an Israeli sniper. The images of her smiling face linger on in our minds. Perhaps we could have called a vigil for the 14 children killed over the last few weeks. What about the others among the 119? They were protesting that their right of return enshrined in UN Resolution 194 was being denied them. They need to be remembered as well.
It is worth pointing out that killing civilian protesters is a war crime. This is B’stalem’s legal opinion.
‘Israel’s position that it may use live and potentially lethal fire against unarmed demonstrators who are endangering no one undermines every moral principle, contradicts the provisions of international law and is unlawful.’
Along with the 119 dead we should consider the injured. This is from a report in the BMJ.
‘As of 18 May, the death and injury toll, rising every day, is 117 dead, including 13 children, and no less than 12,271 injured. 6,760 have been hospitalised, including 3,598 with bullet wounds. 19 clearly identified medics have been shot to date…Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been operating in Gaza and says that people have been shot with bullets that have caused fist-sized wounds of “unusual severity”. Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, head of MSF Palestine says in their report that “half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverised bone. This is what we are facing. I have seen a great deal of physical trauma in Gaza following Israeli attacks but have not seen these kind of injuries before. From the appearance of the wounds there appears to have been systematic use by Israeli Defence Force snipers of ammunition with an expanding ‘butterfly’ effect.”.
We cannot rely on justice from the Israeli legal machinery. In 2013 Samir Awad, 16, was shot dead by two Israeli snipers. He was shot in the leg, then as he ran away from the soldiers he was shot in the shoulder and in the back of the head. According to Hebrew-language news outlet Walla, the Israeli Central District Attorney’s office formally retracted all charges on Tuesday, saying there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
‘During the hearing, attorneys for the accused argued that their clients should not be convicted because it was not proven that they acted negligently and because the law was being selectively enforced in their case. The attorneys presented military data showing that in the last seven years, out of 110 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed’.
They were saying in effect, because the Israeli state did not prosecute the others, it is wrong to prosecute these two.
When we cannot rely on others to help defend Palestinians, we have to do it ourselves. The vigils are important, events like the Small Park Big Run are important, Adam’s cycle ride to Amsterdam, and a thousand others. They make a difference.
We have been here before. South African Apartheid was defended by the British and US authorities. Nelson Mandela was denounced as a terrorist. We were the extremists. Today only outright racists and fascists defend South African Apartheid. David Cameron has apologised saying the Tories were wrong over Apartheid.
We were right then, and we are right now. It is wrong that unarmed demonstrators are killed by Israeli snipers, that medics and children were injured or killed, that hundreds will be maimed for life.
The sooner that the media, and the politicians regain a sense of morality, the sooner they will take up the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the sooner Israel will look upon Palestinians as equals as opposed to targets, the sooner there will be peace.
Adam Samara is Cycling from Leeds to Amsterdam to protest against the killing of Razan al Najjar and the other 118 unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli snipers. This (11th June) is the second day of his 600 mile journey.
A few of us wished him well for the next 50 miles of his ride. He will be in Loughborough tonight.
Saturday 9th June a group of us gathered to protest against the killing of Razan al-Najjar. The 21 year old medic was murdered by Israeli snipers on June 1st. Her mother said ‘She thought the white coat would protect her’ . The protest was at Peace in the Park.
Eitan Bronstein was in Sheffield Tuesday 22nd May to address a public meeting organised by Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The meeting was called Why the Nakba still matters. Eitan Bronstein is a founder member of Zochrot. Zochrot organizes tours of Israeli towns, which include taking displaced Palestinians back to the areas they fled or were expelled from in 1948 and afterwards. The group erects street signs giving the Palestinian history of the street or area they are in. Zochrot sees this as causing “disorder in space”, raising questions about naming and belonging. A key aim is to “Hebrewise the Nakba” by creating a space for it in the public discourse of Israeli Jews.[
There was a lively protest at the under 17 UEFA game in Chesterfield. About 30 of us pointed out that Israel breaks UEFA rules on Racism and settlements. (The issue of borders of Europe was also mentioned.)
There are a few more pictures here
This is from Saturday’s protest. The media continue to refuse to publish the shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza. Even the killing of unarmed children goes unreported. Those of us who believe that it is the right of all human beings to live in peace and dignity must campaign to ensure that our media and our ‘leaders’ end their silence. On Saturday 12th May there will be a protest on the 70th anniversary of the Naqba. It has been 70 years of oppression and injustice which has led to today’s Israeli Apartheid. Come, tell your friends, workmates, and family.
12 noon,12th May, Sheffield Town Hall
3 April 2018
The author wishes it to be clear that he is not a member of the Labour Party
What has unfurled this vehement denunciation of the left for antisemitism? Only a few months ago, the largest survey on attitudes in Britain to Jews and Israel was published by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research (IJPR). It concluded that a ‘relatively small group of the general population can justifiably be described as antisemitic’ and that ‘the very left-wing are, on the whole, no more antisemitic than the general population, but neither are they less antisemitic’. A still more recent YouGov survey shows that since Jeremy Corbyn has been the Labour party leader, antisemitism has declined among Labour voters. Whereas, for example, in 2015, 22 percent of Labour voters agreed with the suggestion that ‘Jews chase money more than other people’, this had declined in 2017 to 14%.
Among Conservative voters, the decline over the same period to this question was much smaller and the overall levels of prejudice much higher: 31 percent in 2015, and 27 percent in 2017. Opinion polls give, at best, a rough assessment and opinions are fluid but the decline of antisemitism among Labour voters probably results from younger people, more at ease with multiculturalism, indentifying, in greater numbers, with Labour since Corbyn has become leader. Whatever the reason, it belies the ideological assault to drum into public consciousness that the party and its supporters released from the grip of New Labour’s rightwing agenda are descending into antisemitic bigotry.
If, indeed, antisemitism had been the principal concern of those Jewish community leaders and Labour MPs who now condemn Corbyn for being ‘soft ‘ on antisemitism, they would surely be demanding action not only from the Labour leader but from May and other leaders of the political right. Or, if they want to seriously address the issue of antisemitism, they would be looking to build broad support for it by pointing to the connection between antisemitism and other forms of racism. There is potential for alliances. As the IJPR report noted, there are much higher levels of hostility in Britain to Muslims.
The eagerness with which the charge of left-wing antisemitism has been seized on by the right of the Labour party has naturally lead to the conclusion that this issue has been inflated to weaken and preferably replace Jeremy Corbyn. Yet, this is only one of the ingredients. For the pro-Israeli lobby, which is the main driving force in this campaign, Corbyn would be merely collateral damage. Since assuming the party leadership, Corbyn, has tried to fend off criticism of his past sympathy for the Palestinian cause by reaffirming, mainly through Emily Thornberry, the party’s shadow foreign affairs minister, Labour’s commitment to the two-state solution – a convenient fiction to perpetuate international collusion in Israel’s policy of dispossessing and marginalising the Palestinian people. Thornberry has accompanied her repeated affirmations of Labour’s historic support for a Jewish state in Palestine by eulogising Israel’s ‘egalitarianism’, not withstanding the well documented discrimination between Israelis and the Palestinians both in Israel and in the West Bank. The inequality is inseparable from the Zionist project of taking over the land and supplanting the indigenous population in favour of Jewish settlement. In 1948, just 8 percent of the territory that is now Israel belonged to Zionist organisations and the rest to the Arabs. Today, the Israeli state or the Jewish citizens of Israel to whom the state has allocated land, own 97 percent and the same process of dispossessing the Palestinians of their land is far advanced in the West Bank through the settlement expansion. However, for the pro-Israeli lobby, Labour’s call for the British government to recognise a Palestinian state, even a feeble and mini, is undesirable and what it dreads still more is that a Corbyn led government, under left-wing pressure, may break the longstanding Western consensus in favour of unconditional support for Israel
Interviewed on Channel 4 News (29 March), Tony Blair, indicated the source of the alarm. He identified the radical left as responsible for the Labour party’s alleged antisemitism: ‘their position on Israel goes far beyond criticising the Israeli government and actually criticises the existence of the state’. Yet, opposing the current constitutional form of the Israeli state, in which anti-Palestinian discrimination is inscribed, is no more racist than it was to oppose the institutional arrangements that produced the South African apartheid state or the Protestant domination of the Ulster state. The radical left’s critique of the Israeli state can accommodate Israel’s Jewish population’s self-determination, stripped of its exclusiveness and anti-Arab racism. It merely circumscribes the limits within which that democratic right can be practised in order that it does not negate the national rights of the indigenous people.
The frenzied campaign that purports to have detected a tidal wave of leftwing antisemitism is aimed at closing down debate on Israel’s continuing settlement expansion and military occupation that is fragmenting the Palestinian population into ghettos, fenced off behind walls, barriers and army checkpoints and deprived of land, water, adequate housing, medical services and opportunities for work. The besieged and impoverished people of Gaza who these last few days have been confronting the Israeli army to demand an end to their invisibility, need international support. The left far from allowing its solidarity with the Palestinians to be delegitimised and criminalised, must redouble its campaign in their support.
About 50 people came to the protest in solidarity with the protesters in Gaza. Israel has killed about 36 unarmed protesters over the last few weeks. They are demanding a basic human right, the right of return to their homes, in what is now Israel. Unarmed protests are met with gunfire. More pictures are here.