Grinding into Motion

Wednesday, 7th January 2009 at 9:00 UTC 2 comments

Its always kind of interesting to see a movement begin to deal with a new reality, and there have always been plenty of those in the Palestine Solidarity Movement for UK activists to get to grips with. This last weekend saw thousands of people march in cities around the UK, and awoke questions new and old of how this movement should work.

During our march in York, I had a very brief discussion with a senior member of the York Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in which we both commented on chants we don’t really like. Its great to chant about having a “Ceasefire NOW!” or declaring we want to “Free, Free Palestine”, but saying “From the River to the Sea, Palestine must be Free” does rather imply that the Israeli’s should be cleared out towards either the River or the Sea, I’ll let you guess which. Various chants invoke Israel as being variously a “Terror State”, “Terrorist State”, “Racist State” (I like) or “Zionist State” (not so sure about that one).

The fact is, this is in some ways a split movement, with two natural sides to it: those who want to talk about the human rights of Palestinian citizens or “Peace in the Middle East”, and those for whom this is rather closer to home, and who so often put a determinedly Islamist twist on things, either because they are Muslims, or out of calculation that this way, the Muslims will team up with them for (delete as appropriate) Parliamentary Victory, World Revolution, Joint Hatred of America.

Which brings me to a question about the march in London today: Why were people throwing shoes at the British Prime Minister’s house (give or take the logistics and security barriers in Whitehall)? Shoe throwing, in this context, pertains mostly to the Iraqi struggle with America. Admittedly, throwing shoes is an Arab cultural reference, but I think maybe there’s a mixed metaphor going on here.

This is rather symptomatic of the whole situation. I’ve seen protesters on anti-war marches come close to blows over several things, including impromtu sit-downs and the speed of progress by Samba bands, but I’ve also seen near-fights over statements concerning the Iranian regime (where some wished to defend the Iranian regime as a victim of American intervention, and others wanted Iran for the Iranians and not the so-called Revolution).  The other significant issue, in which police had to wade into a march, concerned protesters shouting “We are all Hezbollah”. Erm, sorry, no we’re not.

Which brings me to more pertinent questions. Hamas being the first. Hamas are not a good organisation in themselves. They are, for what its worth, the democratically elected government Palestine, which they have every right to be. But democracy is a fickle concept, and no longer really means “voted in by the people”, instead meaning “pursuing Western values and interests”. Hamas have every right to rule Palestine until the next election. But should we actually support them? Sell t-shirts in aid of them? Fly their flag? I’m really not so sure. (And whilst we’re on the subject, please consider donating to Medical Aid for Palestinians. Hamas might run hospitals, but MAP only run hospitals).

Next question: who to confront. Unlike York, London provides many plausible targets, including but not limited to:

  • The British Parliament
  • The Prime Minister’s official residence
  • The Israeli Embassey
  • The American Embassey
  • The offices of several arms companies
  • A warehouse belonging to Carmel Agrexco, distributors of illegal settlement produce.

Which should people pursue? Its really not easy, and probably its a combination, but in a way, I’d like to include some nudges here. A nudge away from the American embassey. This can all too easily become a game of America vs Islam. This isn’t helping the situation at all. A nudge towards Kensington, and the Israeli Embassey seems quite reasonable. A nudge towards the Hatton Cross warehouse of the afforementioned Israeli company seems highly reasonable. Sanctions on Israel will have to start with the public confronting Israeli economic instruments such as Carmel.

But above all, this movement mustn’t stop until its quite sure its removed the Israelis from Gaza. It must be prepared to act premptively: its no use protesting the day of a land invasion, it should be before! It should not fall into a trap of lobbyism, either. This is primarily about turning world opinion, from first tack (governmental) and second track (other community leaders) to third track (general populace) opinion against the Israeli propaganda machine, and identifying with the people of Gaza, not propping up the Palestinian State-in-waiting.

Entry filed under: Activism, democracy, Middle East, News, Peace, Politics.

Acceptable Lies In your dreams? Or your nightmares?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Sands  |  Wednesday, 7th January 2009 at 12:15 UTC

    The people I witnessed chanting ‘We are all Hezbollah’ were almost exclusively Lebanese, in solidarity with their relatives in Lebanon who had adopted that slogan to signify that as the Israeli attacks were affecting against all Lebanese people while claiming to be only against Hezbollah, and that all the different militias were defending their on the basis of geographic rather than religious unity.

    When did the police have to “wade into a march”, and where was this reported?

  • 2. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 7th January 2009 at 21:51 UTC

    Thanks for this clarification. It wasn’t entirely clear at the time, but I suppose its hard to be clear; most people carrying a Palestinian flag on the march on Saturday probably weren’t Palestinian.

    The incident with the police entering the march was one I actually witnessed with my own eyes, and I remember clearly that it took place near the Ritz hotel on Piccadilly. What I saw was an argument break out, some wild gesticulating (though clearly not an assault of any kind), and three police walk into the demo to try and separate the two ‘sides’.

    As the smaller group moved back, I caught up and asked, and I believe the answer I was given was more or less that the larger group had chanted something which the smaller took as a statement of opposition to the very existence of Israel, whether this was intended or not.

    I have also seen a similar situation, which I blogged about over a year ago, involving some people who’s views were clearly anti-American Imperialism and anti-Ahmedinajad (spelling?), which I find as reasonable as being anti-Saddam and anti-American Imperialism, as neither represents a free Iran/Iraq. That is also available by the wonder of YouTube.


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