Sunday, 6 June 2010

Supporting Palestine - What Next?

Some things were perhaps inevitable following yesterday's demonstration against Israel's Gaza Flotilla. There were the inevitable disagreements about the size of the protest - the BBC correspondent Greg Wood shamefully said only 1000 demonstrators, whilst Stop the War claimed 20,000 and George Galloway got a bit carried away - whilst old hands at marching wearily through London guessed at an impressive 15,000 turnout.

It was inevitable, too, that demonstrators in Edinburgh would be largely ignored by the corporate media outside of Scotland and that today, the increasingly deranged Nick Cohen would imagine apologists for Hamas behind every placard.

What I hope won't become inevitable over the coming weeks is the channelling of public outrage over the attack on the flotilla into nothing more inventive than protest after protest in central London, with increasingly diminishing returns. Demonstrations have their purpose but the Stop the War Coalition, perhaps because it has very little local activism. also has previous form when it comes to doing the same thing over and over again. However, it feels like the bravery of the flotilla members has helped create a real turning point in public support for halting the siege of Gaza. The timing of the announcement by the government of £19m of aid money to the Gazans and its call for the lifting of the blockade are a reflection of the changing mood.

In reality, governments will do as little as they can possibly can. The UN Security Council may have called for an impartial inquiry into the massacre on the Mavi Marmara, but the US is as unwilling as ever to criticise Israel. Vice President Joe Biden has defended the assault on the flotilla and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Israel can investigate itself - despite the compelling evidence that it has already been busy manipulating evidence.

So what happens next for activists, if not just more marching? The obvious choice - and the best lesson from the campaign against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s - is for the anti-war movement to throw its resources whole-heartedly behind boycotts and disinvestment. Local action against supermarkets that sell Israeli goods has been patchy and we really need more protests like the one organised on 30 March by War on Want, inside the Barbican branch of Waitrose in London:

Or what about taking 15,000 away from Whitehall and over to Hayes in Middlesex, to the UK headquarters of Agrexco, the 50% state owned Israeli company that exports fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from Israel and the occupied territories? Or mobilising for far bigger pickets of the branch of Adhava in Covent Garden, whose cosmetic products are made in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank?

Then there is one of the most potent weapons of the Anti-Apartheid Movement - cultural boycotts. News today that another band, the Pixies, have cancelled a gig in Israel follows similar decisions by Elvis Costello and Gil Scott Heron. Rarely has there been a better time to set up a 'Love Music, Hate Occupation' campaign to mobilise for a comprehensive music boycott.

My point is that we have an opportunity for greater creativity, more local action and rebuilding an anti-war movement with genuine roots. We'd therefore be daft to simply wait for the next gathering outside Downing Street.

Information on the UK Boycott & Disinvestment Movement here.
More on the supermarkets that sell Israeli goods here

1 Comment:

Putney Debater said...

Activists return; Osama tells his story
Report on return of British members of Gaza aid flotilla attacked in international waters by Israeli commandos on 31 May 2010. Osama Qashoo recounts his experience.
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