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Sheffield Remembers The Nakba in 2024

An inspiring march and rally on Saturday May 11th as Sheffield remembers the Nakba and stands with Palestinians as the attacks on Rafah intensify.

Below is a great summary of the Nakba and its meaning today, taken from a speech by long time activist for justice in Palestine, Paul Kelemen, at our rally in Sheffield on Saturday May 2024.

This year’s Nakba Day has a special meaning, a special significance:

  • Palestinians are again subjected to ethnic cleansing and mass murder; 
  • We are again seeing unarmed Palestinians fleeing on foot and on carts, in the face of savage bombardments, just as they as they were forced to do from Dec 1947 to the first few months of 1949.

Then, as now, the Palestinian resistance had to fight without much support from the neighbouring states.  In Zionist mythology it is said that the Zionist militias had to withstand 5 Arab armies.  

The truth is that the neighbouring Arab states led by Western stooges made largely token gestures at fighting to placate their own public. The King of Jordan, the only leader with a serious military clout had an army run by British officers. He made a deal with the  Zionists to carve up Palestine, which is what the British wanted. 

After the 1948, it became the standard defence for Israel to claim that it had to be established because Jewish people could find safety only by having their own state.

It is true, that the during the rise of fascism the so called liberal democracies did not want to open their doors to large numbers of persecuted Jewish people.  But people who seek refuge don’t become colonisers merely by taking refuge in another country – instead they settle down amongst the people living in that place.  

It was the Zionist movement which turned the Jewish people who went to Palestine into colonisers, by recruiting them into a project which involved Jewish immigrants being given land taken from the Palestinians and being given jobs and resources that were denied to the Palestinians.  

The same colonisation process is now being implemented in the West Bank and it is also the goal that Israel is pursuing in Gaza.  By reducing Gaza to rubble, by making it unliveable, Israel is hoping to push out its population.  

The Naqba has never ended.

Although there are haunting parallels between Israel’s current genocide and the 1948 massacres and expulsion, there is also a very important difference.  

In 1948, there were no public protests at the expulsion of 750,00 Palestinians.  

In Western countries, it barely registered on public consciousness.  In the UK, no political party or organisation spoke out for the Palestinians.  To give but one example. Prior to 1948, Labour party conferences had passed 11 resolutions in support of the Zionist movement. They mostly repeated the Zionist argument that Jewish settlement would also benefit the Palestinians. 

In the autumn of 1949, as the traumatised Palestinian refugees were sheltering in refugee camps some under tents but most under trees, with little to eat or drink, the Labour Party had its annual conference.  About the destruction of Palestine, not a single word was uttered at the conference.  

It is not an exaggeration to say that for about 20 years after Israel’s establishment in 1948, in Western countries, the Palestinians were forgotten.  Their ethnic cleansing was covered up by thick layers of mythology about Israel finding a barely populated land. 

In this respect there is a fundamental difference between the lack of an international response to the Nakba, and the popular mobilisation on the side of the Palestinians against Israel’s current genocidal war.  Completely unexpectedly to Israel and its allies, this has opened up a second front in the Palestinian struggle. 

Some of the most significant anti-colonial struggles in the past century, as in Kenya, in Algeria and in Vietnam were won because the moral authority of the coloniser collapsed. And it collapsed in the imperial centres as well as globally because of the resistance of the colonised but also because of the international protest movements which that resistance provoked.  

A sure sign of this happening now, is that the likes of Biden, Sunak and Starmer are now desperately trying to recover the moral high ground, by feigning concern over Israel’s attack on Rafah.  

But even as they make great play of their concern, they continue to supply Israel with weapons, to demonise the Palestinian resistance and to accuse us, who refuse to turn a blind eye to genocide, of being motivated by racism.

 The truth is that it is their racism that has been exposed. They incite hatred against migrants and pretend to shed tears over Ukrainians to expand NATO to Russia’s border, but they believe that massacring Palestinians is something we should quietly accept.

In contrast to the total moral bankruptcy of Western leaders, the people of Gaza have kept their unity.  In the midst of the grief, the stress and the shortages, they might have turned against each other. They have not.  

In military terms, the Palestinians cannot match the most advanced US, German and British weaponry supplied to the IDF, but they do not have to win on the battlefield.  

They and the international solidarity movement can and are winning the political battle.  

There is a long struggle ahead but after 76 years the political tide has turned. The task for us, is to make British complicity with Israel into a mainstream political issue and to build a powerful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. 

That is the least we owe to Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel, in exile here among us and around the world

 who have continued fighting for their people’s liberation 

They have demonstrated that the Westen imperial order can be defied and discredited and that there are people everywhere willing to join the fight to defeat racism and colonialism. 

Don’t bank on Barclays!!

Barclays is bankrolling Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians through its financial ties with arms companies that sell weapons to Israel.

We’re calling on all concerned people to boycott all Barclays services until the bank ends its complicity in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians.

IN SHEFFIELD, we are camping outside Barclays for 24 hours to draw attention to their complicity with genocide and to continue our demand for an Israeli Apartheid Free Zone in this great city.

Let’s not forget Sheffield’s great tradition of solidarity – from the anti slavery sugar boycott in the 1850s, solidarity with Chilean refugees in the 1970s and South African anti apartheid campaign in the 1980s when Barclays were boycotted before and paid the price!!

Excellent boycott action Saturday Feb 3rd

Over 100 people took part in a vibrant boycott action in Sheffield today: prepared with songs and good voice over 50 walked through Waitrose singing various boycott songs, including the new Cokebusters!

The crowd then moved on to Aldi – their staff did not seem to mind too much; Waitrose meanwhile had blocked all the isles and called the police – who remained at a respectful distance and enjoyed the concert.

Handing in the names IDF enlistees

Justice Now Campers visit the Snig Hill police station in Sheffield to report people who have joined the IDF in contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act and may have participated in war crimes.

You can try this at your own police station . Also, you can call 101 and ask for progress on INC 546 10 Jan 2024. Here are the names submitted:

  • Peter Lerner (lieutenant colonel)
  • Elon Levi
  • Colonel Richard Hecks
  • Sam Sank
  • Simon Levy
  • Zecharia Deutsch

Simon Levy has submitted videos of himself on social media ransacking a Palestinian woman’s underwear in a typical invasive and sexually exploitative moment. He has also filmed himself declaring that only Hebrew will be taught in Gaza as he stood on the rubble of a school waving an Israeli flag.

Meanwhile Zecharia Deutsch is still holding on to his job at Sheffield University as chaplain while advocating murder to Gazan civilians.

All are in possible contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act and all should be investigated for possible war crimes.

Sheffield #justicenowcamp day 8

The camp came to a dignified close today with supporters chalking messages of solidarity in front of the town hall where Lena and Sahar have been camping out.

“We were overwhelmed with love” said Sahar, urging people of Sheffield to keep the pressure on the government and the council and “keep fighting for Palestine”.

The day started with a moving tribute to the journalists and media workers who have been killed as members of the NUJ read out their names. Shortly after over 300 people attended a rally, having marched from Ellesmere Green in a mood of celebration for the camp, defiance against continued lack of local action and anger at the complicity of the government.

The rally was visually stunning with the huge Palestinian flag being carried by supporters and held aloft throughout. Followed by speeches from Sahara, Lena, Musheir – chair of Sheffield PSC – and others, the crowd celebrated the achievement of Lena and Sahar and all their supporters. A team effort!

Sahar congratulated the achievement of South Africa in taking Israel to the ICJ and Lena told a parable from her childhood warning of efforts to divide us and conquer. “We are all human” she said “and must fight for freedom together”.

  • Lena and Sahar on the last morning of their camp

What next?

There is an imperative not to lose the energy of this camp nor the wide support that has emerged as a result of it.

Tere is a meeting between the Coalition and the council on Friday 19th January. A key issue will be what is the council going to do now.

We continue to demand a declaration of an Israeli apartheid free zone and some political leadership and bravery here.

On 20th January after a ‘bigride4 Palestine’ across town, there will be a rally at the Town Hall followed by a meeting meeting for school students in the Central United Reform Church 1.30 – across from the Crucible Theatre

This wil be an opportunity for school students to find out about ways of supporting Palestinians, inside and outside school. Refreshments will be provided – all welcome. (Interested parents are welcome too!)

Sheffield #justicenowcamp day 7

Another bitter day but warm in spirit as the camp had visits from Unite, Sheffield Jews Against Israeli Apartheid, South Yorkshire Migration Action Group, Kairos, Gut Level, Workers For a Free Palestine and Healthcare workers who held a vigil.

We were really pleased to be able to project some of the ICJ case and wondered why the council does not provide a public space for viewing such an important international event – like they do the world cup!

A special mention for Annabelle (above with Sahar and Lena ) who travelled from Newcastle to come down show support and plenty of individuals stopped by to write in the visitors book too or just to say hello and late in the day Fran Belbin , deputy leader of the council, visited again.

  • Unite visit in the morning

Sheffield #justicenowcamp day 6

Busy day at the camp. Visits from former MP Chris Wiilliamson, now from Palestine Declassified and also ex President of Aslef , Tosh McDonald. The solidarity of trades unionists with an anti imperial struggle is hugely welcomed.

The morning was tense as we listened to UN TV as the International Court of Justice proceedings brought by South Africa , now supported by many countries, in bringing the charges of genocide against Israel.

Such a shame that the council did not see this very important international event worthy of a public viewing space.

Here is the very powerful summing up from the South African legal team:

As a result the planned Town Hall singing of boycott songs included the South African National Anthem:

Just as we were celebrating at last a bit of attention from printed local media, we noticed a gross and highly offensive error in the Sheffield Telegraph. Have they sleeping for three months?

Later in the day we had a visit from Paul Blomfield MP for Sheffield Central and this is to be welcomed of course. He has said he would vote against the boycott bill and this he did but this was in step with the Labour leadership. Always expressing sympathetic words on Palestine Paul has never stepped up to use how public voice.

The Sheffield Street Band, as well as he singers came in the afternoon and as the temperature drops it is still busy with people sending love and support with the Samba band picking up the pace.

And finally we were so pleased to get a solidarity visit from Peak Queer Adventures

BUT the question remains when will Sheffield City council declare and apartheid free zone?

  • Chris Williamson and Tosh McDonald visited to show support

Sheffield #justicenowcamp Day 5

A cold and miserable start with rain leaving little else to do but play games at 3am. Spot the ball?

As day broke, Sahar was on Radio Sheffield breakfast having been interviewed yesterday:

But still it is clear that the media are largely silent and the Sheffield MPs and councillors are largely absent (notwithstanding the welcome visit from exceptional Labour councillors on Sunday and Green councillors on Monday)

In view of this we received a statement (see below) from Sahar’s and Lena’s daughters and sent it to the council leader, Tom Hunt (and all Sheffield MPs).

Marching to Snig Hill police station

The result was he and Fran Belbin, the deputy leader, went on the march to Snig Hill Police station where a delegation handed in names of seven UK citizens who have joined the IDF in contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act and possible complicity with war crimes. One of these is Zecharia Deutsch who is still chaplain at Sheffield University, bizarrely in spite of fighting a war on Palestinian people

Statement on lack of action from the council

Our mothers are camping in the bitter cold and one is currently on hunger strike demanding a voice and action from Sheffield City Council , and MPs,  in the face of the ongoing genocide, massacre, and ethnic cleansing the Palestinian people are facing. They have now been camping outside Town Hall for 4 nights, yet there have been no official visits to discuss their call on Sheffield City Council to declare itself an Israeli Apartheid Free City. 

We ask- surely this would be in Sheffield’s great tradition of protest? Considering Sheffield was the first city of sanctuary and the first to declare itself a South African apartheid free zone …why are Palestinians and their plight for freedom and justice not met with the same acts of solidarity and support?”

Dima Ashlami (daughter of Sahar) and Nada Mufli (daughter of Lena)

Late in the afternoon, the flavour of the day was boycott it seemed as everyone was framed with the not in my fridge frame, even the dog!

Sheffield #justicenowcamp Day 4

Local support but local media

The continued absence of local television at a prolonged event that has clearly garnered much local interest and support is baffling.

In our visitors book, some wonderful and powerful comments; local people speaking out about an issue that is about Sheffield but with international ramifications.

So why have Calendar and Look North not turned up?

If this had been two Ukranian women 18 months ago, the local media would have been down here instantly. Why not for Palestinian women?

Visitors today

Visits from some people from Lebanon in the morning was followed by som Afghanis thi safternoon. They happened on the camp having come to visit thier cousin in Sheffield. They signed the visitor book ‘with love from Afghanistanin’

Then Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign brought warm hats , £100 for the emergency relief fund and many memories (see slides below)

Solidarity to you all . Your fight is our fight Jo, deptuy chair OTJC

The visitor book is brimming with many more supportive comments

“Your visible courageous stand and camp is an inspiration – ceasefire now”

“Thank you for the good work you are doing – I am proud of you”

“Solidarity from Sheffield cyclists”

“Thank you for making a stand – if not us, who will?”

“Thank you Sahar and Lena. Your samud is an inspiration to us all. Thank yiou for taking the fight to the next level. I will be along with my family during the next days to offer our love and support”

“Thank you for all you are doing – I am extremely heartened to see fellow peoplewho are disgusted and horrified by the genocide in Gaza. We must all show up until Palestine is free”

“Absolute shame on the Government and the Opposition that they allow this genocide and horror in silence. I have been a healthworker for 22 years: I call on all healthworkers to speak out and call for a ceasefire!”

  • Healthcare not warfare left by healthcare workers yesterday

How many layers …?

And so to the competition which we said had a serious aspect. It is bitterly cold today and camp support are there for four hours only.

Lena and Sahar are here all the time of course though they move to warm spaces from time to time.

But in Gaza, while it is not so bitter, there is no recourse to warm space, no recourse to comfort, no easy access to showers and soap, clean clothes and hot water. Nearly 2 million people are being forced to live in squalor and when they resist they are deemed to be terrorists: and the UK government is largely silent about this aspect.

So : Angela informs us she had seven layers as follows:

thermal vest, thermal t-shirt, cotton ‘vest’-T, acrylic sweater,
long-sleeve fleece collar, mac w fleece lining, blanket

No winners but the chocolates will be delivered to camp tomorrow. Thank you Nick the wonderful Tidewell cholcatier!