Sunday, 24 August 2014

Brighton Expresses its Support for Demonstration calling for a Council Boycott and Divestment from Israel

Israel’s War Crimes Shows Its Utter Contempt for International Law

On a sunny Sunday lunchtime, some 250-300 people rallied outside Brighton Town Hall to listen to speeches and a march to Hove Town Hall. The occasion was the launch of a campaign to persuade Brighton & Hove Council, the first in the country controlled by a (minority) Green Party administration to institute a boycott of Israel.  Proposed by Cllr. Ben Duncan, who was forced to resign from the Green Party for calling the British Army ‘hired killers’ (what else are they? social workers?) Ben has been one of the few Green Party councillors (now an Independent) to remain committed to direct action. However it is difficult to see the Labour or Tory groups supporting the proposal, which is due to come to the Council in October. Ben was also the second speaker at the march.

The best speech was also the first speech, by Canon Paul Ostreicher, a refugee from Germany in 1938 because of his Jewish heritage. Paul has devoted his life to fighting for peace (a non-sequitur!) being Chair of British Amnesty, expelled from the Church Peace Council for criticisms of the Soviet Union among his other notable achievements. He was ordained as a Deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1959 and retired as canon of Coventry Cathedral in 1998. He now lives in Brighton and made a fiery speech pointing out that the ANC and all liberation movements were called ‘terrorist’ and defending the right of any oppressed people to take up arms.

The march was a local one but despite that was larger than the Zionist one last week which was a national one. At Hove Town Hall we listened to more speeches, including one from the local PSC Secretary Barry, before dispersing. Some people joined PSC members in taking part in an action against the Robert Dyas shop in nearby George Street, Hove which stocks Sodastream products. Barry laid heavy emphasis on our victory in closing the Sodastream shop in Brighton, despite a vigorous Zionist campaign to keep it open.

Just a couple of criticisms or observations. Although the demonstration was a healthy size, it was smaller than past demonstrations on Gaza. Last time, during Operation Cast Lead 1,500 people marched through Brighton. The missing factor was members of the local Arab and Muslim community. This was an omission that needs to be rectified. PSC has always been able to tap into existing networks of Palestinians and Arabs and we need to think carefully about why that didn’t happen this time.

Secondly, despite having a Jewish Chair, Mike W, there was no speaker from a Jewish anti-Zionist or even non-Zionist organisation, again for the first time I can remember. At a time when Israel claims its actions are on behalf of all Jews everywhere this is an important omission and should not be the subject of sectarianism. One of the main features of recent demonstrations nationally have been the presence of a large Jewish bloc and we know from the Sodastream demonstration that the Zionists find it difficult to explain away the existence of Jewish opponents. I’m thinking of groups like Jews 4 a Just Peace for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the Jewish anti-Zionist Network. This is at a time when British Jews are showing that they are not interested in rallies supporting Israel’s barbarities. For the first time ever, the Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews has not even attempted to organise a ‘rally in support of Israel’. Last time just 5,000 answered the call unlike in previous years when up to 25,000 turned out.
End EDO,  Brighton's Arms Factory, speaker
However overall the energy and commitment of those who did turn out for the demonstration was commendable and if Israel’s attacks continue and intensify we need to seriously consider a major demonstration on a Saturday.
Tony Greenstein
Brighton Town Hall

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