No 624 Posted by fw, November 29, 2012
Across Britain growing numbers of people are finding ever more creative, multifaceted ways to engage in direct action protests and act in solidarity with Palestinians. And, as usual, the Real News Network is on hand to cover important human interest stories that mainstream news outlets ignore. Watch the wonderful embedded 9:35 minute video below, hosted by TRNN correspondent, Hassan Ghani. My transcript follows the video.
Direct Action Protests
Hassan Ghani, TRNN Correspondent — Amid the bombing of Gaza, thousands took to the streets in anger in cities across the UK. And despite a ceasefire, protesters are keeping up the pressure on their own government to change its stance, which has been supportive of Israel. On Saturday, thousands rallied again, this time marching from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy. But for some just protesting in the streets in reaction to bloodshed isn’t enough.
The Israeli embassy has become a focal point of protest at times of crisis. But up and down the country pro-Palestine activists are involved in many different kinds of action to make their point.
It’s a wet and cold afternoon in London. A group of young activists have met to carry out some disruptive action in solidarity with Palestinians. They haven’t told us their plans but we follow them across central London anyway. It’s soon apparent what the target is. This building houses the offices of the British security company G4S. And the activists have occupied the ground floor. Police quickly arrive in large numbers to remove the protest.
Male activist — What’s happening in Gaza could only happen with the support of the Israeli side, of a network of states and companies. G4S is one such company. They build and maintain Israeli prisons in the West Bank. And in Gaza they maintain the (undecipherable) check point that is physically stopping Palestinians getting out.
Ghani – G4S became infamous around the world for its disastrous failure in managing security at the London Olympics. But its involvement in the murky world of Israeli prisons and checkpoints is less well known. The UK government considers Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians, including children, without a charge or trial, as a breach of the Geneva Conventions but it refuses to take action against G4S. The security company itself says it hasn’t violated any international laws. The activists don’t have much sympathy.
Male activist – Because what’s happening is sustained by companies and actions right here in London we have a duty to act wherever we are in the world. And we’re sending a message to G4S that we know what they’re doing and it’s unacceptable.
Ghani – Actions by pro-Palestine activists are not unusual in the UK. In fact, over the last few years they’ve become a regular occurrence. But Israel’s latest attack on Gaza has inflamed anger and protests like this one have become a near daily occurrence over the past week. And an hour and a half after they arrived, the activists decide to leave peacefully. No arrests were made this time but the group say they have a list of targets they’ll hit next and this is a regular action to shame companies profiting from occupation.
BDS Campaign As Form Of Economic Counterpower
Holly, activist – We don’t want Israeli citizens to suffer, but what the Israeli state is inflicting on Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, means that BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) is so important. Like the whole of Britain got behind the boycott movement in South Africa during apartheid and they ended it. It worked. It really, really worked. And we will keep up doing campaigns like this. We’ll keep providing the targets for people to realize what’s actually going on.
Ghani – Later in the day a different group of people have gathered outside a performing arts theatre also in central London. Some are queuing to go in. Others are trying to convince them not to. On the billing is the Israeli State funded Batsheva dance group described by the Israeli government as the best known global ambassador for Israeli culture and part of the government’s “Brand Israel” PR initiative. It’s currently on a tour of the UK but its performances have been disrupted by pro-Palestine activists in several cities. Supporters of Israel describe them as hate mongers.
Keith Fraser, Zionist Federation – Do you boycott a group of dancers who express themselves in an artistic way? What has that got to do with politics? What has that go to do with religion? They are an artistic, contemporary dance group, nothing to do with politics. Anyone who wants to boycott them will know that boycotts just divide people. Culture and art bring people together. Those sort of people who go on rallies and saying down to Israel and anti-Israel comments, where have they been in the last 18 months when 40,000 Syrians have been killed?
Ghani – Activists insist this is about boycotting the Israeli state and its associates, not individual artists.
Shamiul Joarder, Friends of Al Aqsa – Historically culture and politics have always gone hand in hand. And right now they know that the world is slowly waking up to the aggression of Israel and that’s where they’re sending dance groups like Batsheva around the world to try and justify and try and make what they’re doing seem a lot more palatable.
Mike Cushman, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods – The Israeli state is breaking international law, is breaking humanitarian law every day with its killing. It’s not about individuals, it’s about institutions, and it’s about the institutions that support occupation, colonization and murder.
Shamiul Joarder – If Batsheva was just a dance group I wouldn’t have to be boycotting. But Batsheva is actually state funded by Israel and they will try and conflate the issue into Jews against Muslims. It’s not. It’s about human rights. Yes, many of us have actually been on demonstrations about Syria as well. But we are here as well because we’re human rights activists.
Ghani – One by one, activists inside the theatre stood up and disrupted the performance before being ejected from the venue, sometimes by force. They say their presence has received a mixed reaction.
Mike Cushman – Some people want us to go away. Some people want to hear from us and are worried. Some are going in. They’re not sure whether they should go in but they’ve paid for their tickets. But they’ll think differently about the performance having heard what we’ve got to say.
Ghani – This member of the audience, who left early, said the show was excellent but he sympathized with the sentiment of the protest.
Theatre goer — I hope that more people have got the guts to do something about it rather than going in there and sitting and watching that show. It’s an excellent show, mind you, as a show, but I think that there’s a time for a show and a time for grieving.
Ghani – Some of the boycotts have borne fruit. A long-running campaign against the Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava, which operates in and takes resources from the Occupied West Bank resulted in its being forced to close its doors in its flagship London store. In other places some city councils and universities have cancelled contracts with firms involved in the occupation.
And Even Skateboarders Are Acting Out
Ghani — Art, photographs and lots of skateboards. You might be wondering how all this fits into a report about activism. Skatejam is a project set up by skateboarders to help children facing difficult circumstances around the world. The idea is to connect young people together across boundaries and teach them skills that are both fun and practical. Currently they are selling art work donated by the local skateboarding community to help fund supplies for a project in Gaza.
Alexandra Lort Phillips, Skatejam — People wanted to respond to the children in Gaza on a direct level by doing something constructive in terms of recreation and education. Skatejam is an organization that builds skateboarding ramps and they have a network of contacts who do a lot of skateboarding, and also other related activities such as artwork, illustrations, graphic design – things like that. We’re trying to work out the best way to deliver an educational and recreational project of a grassroots-directed nature to a group of young people in Gaza. So we’ve been talking to partners on the ground there who already work with young people.
Ghani – Skaters involved believe that giving children in Gaza an outlet for their frustrations can be an important part of the healing process after witnessing traumatic events.
Parky, Skatejam – Because it is such a big issue. There’s so many people who are giving aid and giving those sorts of help. But I think that with skating it’s going to be something that they’re going to be able to build on. They’re going to see that they have the ability to progress.
Rico, Skatejam — The contacts that I have in Gaza, they’re actually really positive about it. And these growing scenes of surfers and graffiti artists and (undecipherable) so, yeah, it’s time to skate as well.
Alexandra Lort Phillips – We feel that’s it’s possible that a skate park, a skate ramp may be able to provide them a chance for a small group of people to learn how to use carpentry tools, do some teamwork together, maintain recreational space for their peers so it’s made by young people for young people.
Ghani – Starting from humble beginnings, the project has already attracted attention in London and Brighton and made connections with sports groups in Gaza.
Alexandra Lort Phillips – It’s not a bunch of people that have got loads of money but they want to give what they have to support this small grassroots project, which is what it is.
Ghani – Up and down the country many people are finding many different and new ways to connect with Palestine, although their efforts are often ignored by the mainstream media. Skatejam hopes to have enough funding for its project in Gaza by January next year.