Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Those Against the Massacre, ...and now those for it.

EDINBURGH, JANUARY 3. (photo from Eddie Truman, Scottish Socialist Party)

AS the UN reports on more than 40 children killed in its Gaza schools, and there are reports of Israeli aircraft dropping white phosphorus, two very different demonstrations are due to take place this evening.


Here in London, however, where people have been holding angry protests outside the Israeli embassy, police have apparently given permission to Zionists to hold a demonstration there supporting Israel's war. If that is not a provocation I don't know what is. The organisers of a Facebook group calling this action say "security and police will be there" I bet they will. I've encountered some of their "security" before, and may have more to say on this.

Thousands of people marched against this war in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, about the same time as we were rallying in Trafalgar Square, and in other towns and cities and the Israeli War Minister was ordering the tanks in. Here's Gush Shalom's report:
"At the same time as Ehud Barak was ordering the army to start the bloody ground offensive against Gaza, some ten thousand protesters from all over Israel marched in Tel-Aviv in a massive demonstration against the war. All four lanes of Ibn Gvirol St., one of the city's main throughfares, were packed full of demonstrators who marched the two kiolometres from the Rabin Square to the Cinemateque, chanting and waving banners all the way.

“One does not build an election campaign over the dead bodies of children!” shouted the protesters in Hebrew rhymes. “Orphans and widows are not election propaganda!”, “Olmert, Livni and Barak – war is no game!”’ “All cabinet ministers are war criminals!!” Barak, Barak, don’t worry – we shall meet you in The Hague!”, “Enough, enough – speak with Hamas!”

"The demonstration took place after a fight with the police, which tried to prevent or at least limit it, arguing that they would not be able to stop right-wing rioters from attacking it. Among other things, the police demanded that the organizers undertake to prevent the hoisting of Palestinian flags. The organizers petitioned the High Court of Justice, which decided that the Palestinian flag is legal and ordered the police to protect the demonstration from rioters,

"The demonstration was decided upon by Gush Shalom and 20 other peace organizations, including the Women’s Coalition for Peace, Anarchists Against the Wall, Hadash, the Alternative Information Center and New Profile. Meretz and Peace Now did not participate officially, but many of their members showed up. Some thousand Arab citizens from the north arrived in 20 buses straight from the big demonstration of the Arab public which had taken place in Sakhnin.

"The giant Gush Shalom banner said in Hebrew, Arabic and English: 'Stop Killing! Stop the Siege! Stop the occupation!' The slogan of the demonstration called for the end of the blockade and an immediate cease-fire".

As I have anticipated, the fight for peace cannot remain peaceful.

"On the day of the protest, the extreme Right mobilized their forces in order to break up the demonstration by force. The police made a great effort to prevent riots, and the one-mile march from Rabin Square to Cinematheque Square proceeded relatively quietly. However, when the protesters started to disperse, in accordance with the agreement with the police, a large crowd of rightists started to attack them. The police, which till then had been keeping the two camps apart, disappeared from the scene. The rioters then encircled the last of the protesters, harassing them, pushing them about and at a certain point started to besiege the Cinematheque building, where some of the last protesters had found refuge. They tried to break into the building, threatening to “finish off” the protesters, but at the last moment some police arrived and protected the entrance. The rioters stayed around for a long time".

One group of people could not take part in Saturday's demonstration, being detained over the weekend after a protest outside the airbase from where planes were taking off to attack Gaza.

An Israeli comrade has drawn my attention to three other bits of film coverage:>

Besides the anti-war and pro-human rights groups in Israel, Jewish people have been prominent in several demonstrations around the world against Israel's actions in Gaza. On Saturday's march in London there were banners from the Jewish Socialists' Group, Jews Against Zionism, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Scottish Jews for a Just Peace took part in the march in Edinburgh. The black-clad ultra-Orthodox Naturei Karta joined with Muslims outside the Israeli embassy. Another Jewish group took their protest to the ambassador's home, at 58 Avenue Road, NW8, on Sunday.

But it would be foolish to think that highflown ethics, religious or secular, or progressive international views, were characteristic of all Jews. There's a story of an early Zionist rejoicing when he heard of crime in Tel Aviv and saying "At last we are a normal people". If he thought it was something new he must have had a sheltered upbringing. But now we can acknowledge that with not only a militarist state but more than forty years of occupying over another people, not just Israel but its loyal outposts have bred at least their 'normal' quota of racist thugs and fascists, like those who wanted to "finish off" Tel Aviv's peace demonstrators.

The organisers of the 'pro-Israel', pro-war demonstration in London are claiming to have called on some 20,000 people to participate. So far about 2,000 have indicated they will (though people often promise to support things on Facebook, without necessary doing so). It's good to see that more than 5,000 have said they would not come. Of course not all those promising to come and "stand with Israel" are necessarily conscious racists, let alone conscienceless killers. A large proportion somehow manage to persuade themselves that Israel is the victim, no matter how many Palestinians it kills or homes it destroys. Far from freeing Jewish people from feeling lone and persecuted, the last thing Zionist leadership wants today is to make us "normal". But then as we know from history, regimes which are justifying ruthless oppression and killing can find it useful to present themselves as the victim, and tell their people the world is out to get them.

A lot of the people the Zionists (and other reactionaries) count upon are, to put it bluntly, not too bright, and many of those saying they will come to the embassy are evidently still at school - in 'faith' schools, which means they are segregated from their peers, and can be indoctrinated by religious bigots and hardline Zionists.

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust was on the radio the other morning talking about rising antisemitism and attacks on Jews and synagogues as a result of the war in Gaza. Contrary to the impression given when these people are introduced, CST, previously known as the Community Security Organisation, is not an objective source. It did not just arise from the community, its idea of "security" has often meant policing dissent within the community, and it is therefore not to be trusted. That said, it is quite likely that foolish and ignorant people have sought to take their anger out on Jewish people or premises, wrongly seen as an extension of Israel. We also know that malicious antisemites who no more care for Arabs than for Jews will try to use the war tension as a cover for their attacks - just as they use terrorist incidents as a pretext for attacking Moslems. Of course it is wrong, and people have a right to protect themselves.
(Though incidentally, the far-Right British National Party is supporting Israel's war in its publications).

But the kind of people who are organising this pro-Israel stand at the embassy are only too happy to confuse distinctions, and provoke antagonism, by insisting that blind support for whatever Israel does is part of Jewish identity. Elsewhere we learn that the embassy event is part of a five day campaign culminating in "a rally of solidarity with Israel" in Trafalgar Square at 11:00am on Sunday, "organized by the Board of Deputies and supported by the CST". They tell us "Under difficult circumstances the IDF is currently freeing southern Israel of terrorist forces in Gaza".

The embassy event organisers say police and the security services have asked them to advise people coming to their demonstration by tube to arrive via Gloucester Road Tube Station and walk up through Gloucester Road/Palace Gate to Kensington Road. I expect there'll be counter-protesters, organised or spontaneous. But I do hope there is none of the violence that Zionist right-wingers inflicted on peace marchers in Tel Aviv. There are bound to be plenty of police and security heavies around, and even if some of those coming provoke you, it would not be worth getting into trouble because of them.

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