28 October 2015

Did the leadership of Palestine Solidarity Campaign Aid the Police in Harrasment of Palestine Activists?

Police Arrest and Impose Draconian Bail Conditions on Activists for Flying the Hezbollah Flag

I was sent this letter, signed by Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian of the Nakba and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians, relating to a demonstration organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Saturday 17 October. 
Hezbollah Flag
Police moving in to prevent flag being flown and to arrest two solidarity activists
It relates to the arrest of two Palestinians for flying the flag of Hezbollah at the demonstration.  PSC asked that only Palestinian flags should be flown but those around a group called ‘Inminds’ also wanted to fly Hezbollah’s yellow flag.  Hezbollah is the only Arab resistance group which has been able to defeat Israel militarily.  In 2000 it forced Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon and bring to an end its quisling entity in South Lebanon, allied to the so-called South Lebanese Army under a Lebanese General Lahad.  In 2006 it repulsed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon with heavy Israeli casualties and Israel has been seeking revenge ever since.
one of those arrested
I have therefore signed the letter and Brighton PSC has asked national PSC for clarification as to what actually happened.  In particular Brighton PSC is concerned about the arrest of Abbas, who runs the Inminds web site and his subsequent mistreatment by the Metropolitan Police.  We have therefore asked the officers and executive of national PSC to answer several questions about their actions on the day, and about possible links between their actions and the arrests. There have been conflicting accounts of what happened, so Brighton PSC is not prejudging what actually occurred. We also believe that national PSC should also be briefing local PSC branches on what they think happened and why they acted as they did.
Inminds stall outside Labour Party conference
As I see it, the main issues are:

1.  The co-operation by PSC, which seems to me to be very clear, with the Police in getting a Hezbollah flag lowered.  Sarah Colborne, in her statement to Inminds, refers to opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.  I am not aware that Hezbollah is an anti-Semitic organisation though it is an Islamic organisation.  Hamas too, since the question of their flag has arisen, has made anti-Semitic statements, not least in its charter but I don't consider it, contrary to Israeli and Zionist propaganda as an anti-Semitic organisation so much as a backward organisation politically.  That is almost certainly true of Hezbollah.
2.  The key issue, indeed the only issue, is whether we should co-operate with the Police in enforcing a rule that only Palestinian flags should be flown.  It is reasonable to ask that only Palestinian flags should be flown on our demonstrations but it is unacceptable that Police should be asked to enforce this especially since the question of enforcing anti-terrorist legislation becomes an issue.
Inminds G4S protest outside Labour Party Conference - PSC nationally withdrew support
3.  The anti-terrorist legislation is an affront to any notion of civil liberties.  It criminalises a person's thought.  It can mean and would have meant, at a time when some of us were involved in supporting Republican activities in Ireland in the 1970's and 1980's having our activities criminalised on the grounds that it was effectively in support of banned organisations.  This is unacceptable.  PSC should never ever be seen to be in support of legislation which defines certain forms of speech as 'terrorist' whilst at the same time refusing to arrest fascist demonstrators and EDL supporters when they engage in anti-Islamic race hatred (or anti-Jewish race hatred).
Inminds stall in support of Palestinian prisoners outside Labour Party conference
4.  The question that has been brought up by a spokesperson for Scottish PSC, Mick Napier, of Hezbollah's support for the Assad regime is irrelevant.  We each have our own view of Russia's intervention and bombing campaign and Hezbollah's tactical alliance with the Assad regime because they deem it in their interests to maintain a regime in Syria that allows Iran to supply it with weaponry. 
PSC demonstration in London
I take the view of Robert Fisk, viz. that there are no easy choices in a situation where the most reactionary Arab states - the Saudis and Quataris and Gulf States support the Jihadists and seek to overthrow Assad.  The United States has got itself into a position where it is on both sides of the civil war - opposing ISIS and Assad.  My support would be for the Kurds and their liberation struggle.  The Assad regime is a detestable police state but the question is whether one would like to see it replaced by an ISIS regime given there is no alternative and the FSA is little more than a flag of convenience for al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda group.  The only saving grace of the Assad regime is that it is a secular regime whereas an ISIS regime would be one in which genocide could and would occur. 
Placard of Palestinian prisoner outside Labour Party conference
5.  The Palestine solidarity organisations should make our position clear that we reject the proscription of either Hamas or Hezbollah.  There is no record of either group having engaged in terrorist activities in this country or abroad.  The war fought in 2006 and in the successive attacks on Gaza were terrorist wars by Israel.  Israel is the terrorist state.  The victims are not terrorists.  We should therefore challenge these proscriptions as being arbitrary and not based on any actual or real activity.

6.  In any event  the political wing of Hezbollah is not proscribed and so the flag itself should not be seen as support for a terrorist organisation though obviously this is something that counsel for the accused will present in court.
7.  The activists arrested are supporters of the Palestinians and Palestinian prisoners in particular.  The Police have, as we would expect, imposed conditions of bail which prevents their engaging in this activity.  This is not what PSC should be lending its name to.  Anti-terrorist legislation is not concerned with preventing actual terrorism but in preventing political activities that is deemed to be supportive of terrorism. 

8.  We should be clear as to who the actual terrorists are and not aid the state in its definition of who is an 'extremist' or indeed have anything to do with the Prevent agenda.

The incident at about 1.13.20 on the film. 

Open Letter to PSC and others

We the undersigned are deeply concerned about events at last Saturday’s demonstration called by yourselves.

It is reported that two long-time activists were harassed by other protestors, and ultimately arrested after being told by the police that the organisers and others had complained to them about the flag they were carrying. This came after:

•   organisers had called from the stage for all flags other than Palestinian flags to be lowered;
•   various persons were sent on behalf of the organisers to ask the activists to remove the flag;
•   and some protestors it would seem, emboldened by the organisers’ call, harassed both activists in a manner bordering on violence (one protestor was seen shouting abuse and breaking the flagpole used by one of the men eventually arrested).

The flag in question was the Hizbullah flag. At the time of writing we know that both of the protestors have been bailed pending a decision by the CPS on whether to charge them with supporting a proscribed organisation and encouraging others to support a proscribed organisation.  When arrested they were questioned upon arrest by SO15 (the Counter Terrorism Command).
It has also been reported that police were asked by PSC to ask one of the men to remove banners in support of Palestinian prisoners from a previous demonstration.

As you are aware the anti-terrorism laws and regime are not only unjust, they have been used to target Muslims, and demonise some liberation movements, including some associated with the Palestinian struggle.  This vicious curtailment of civil liberties, the removal of Muslims from equality before the law and the demonisation of political causes that run counter to UK foreign policy, are all surely things that PSC should at the very least eschew and at most actively oppose.

If these arrests have come as a result of the organisers’ request to the police, it is a matter of great shame for PSC.  Those involved in making those calls from the platform and contacting the police should resign their positions forthwith.

As a note, it is worth recognising that the two men arrested have spent every other week over the last three years holding vigils for Palestinan prisoners.  The conditions of their bail - of extraordinary disproportionality - prevent them from contacting each other, forbid them from going to demonstrations and require them to sign at a police station three times a week.  It is truly disgusting that such committed pro-Palestinian activists and their activities have been stopped in their tracks.  Whilst there is no legal case to charge and convict them under anti-terorrism laws, the threat that hangs over them is a form of harassment that has already had the effect of closing down regular pro-Palestinian protests organised by one of these men.  As you are doubtless aware one of these men was one of the pioneers of BDS some fifteen years ago, and has suffered many threats and abuse from pro-Israel groups and indviduals.

Both these men should have been supported in their work by the organisers, not targeted.  This sorry state of affairs has come through some level of instigtaion by the organisers.  At the very least PSC must campaign for these two men.  Please advise as to how you will be proceeding.

With deep regret,

-       Ilan Pappe

An e-mail sent out by Inminds 23 October 2015
I am one of the activists mentioned in the open letter. Unfortunately I cannot elaborate in detail as the case is on-going and I have a hearing on 20th Nov (I have been told that if things don’t work out I could face 5 years imprisonment).

The flag pole in question can be seen in this photo (unfortunately my own photos, cameras, videos including the flagcam have all been taken by the police). The flagpole had two large 8ft Palestinian flags and one small 3ft Hizbullah flag flying on it.

We were part of the main demonstration until one of the protestors attacked us after PSC had hounded us from the podium and in person several times to remove the flag. The attack resulted in a section of the flag pole being broken -  the photo Tapash has selectively shared was taken just after the flag pole had been ripped from the hands of one of us and he is seen trying to retrieve it. After that incident we moved away from the 'PSC protest', across the road to the other side. This did not however stop PSC from continuing to hound us from the podium to remove the flag. The police used this along with complaints from the organisers and others as excuse to arrest us. I explained to the police that we had every right to our flags be they Palestinian, Hizbullah or Inminds as did the PSC to their flags be they Palestinian, PSC, FOA, or any other factions they supported. We had moved away from 'their' protest and had an equal right to protest against Israeli war crimes as they did. If our location was a problem then they should find us another spot to protest. But the police weren’t interested and arrested us (initially for breach of the peace as we had refused the organisers’ instructions to remove the flag - this they said would likely lead to a breach of the peace, and later followed by terror related charges).

On the RT video you can clearly see the police stop talking to us and push us into the car park grabbing our flag and arresting us in direct response to them hearing PSC podium demand other flags be lowered (the policeman mentions this in the video):

Salim’s claim that stewards were instructed not to ask police to intervene is at odds with the police's account. Normally I would not put any weight to police claims but this is not the first time the PSC has sought police help to silence other activists voices. Just last month at the demonstration outside Downing street protesting against Netanyahu's visit the PSC tried to get the police to remove our banners. We had reached Downing Street about 45mins before the main protest was kicking off and started setting up. I attached our 'For justice in Palestine boycott Israel' Palestinian flag banner to the railing and was about to start attaching sticks to our placards when a member of the PSC executive MK demanded I remove our 'crappy banner' from 'their railing'. I explained that it was a public railing and besides there was plenty of free railing for their banners - well over 10 metres of empty railing and wall! But PSC still insisted on us removing our banners, this time the PSC director also joining in. They said it was their protest as they had paid for it and spent months organising it and that they will call the police if we dont remove our banner (PSC executive MK said this). I was bewildered as to what they had paid for.. in any case I refused to remove the banner and PSC called the police liaison officer to get us to remove it. The police told us that the organisers are asking us to remove the banner so we must remove it. In reply I asked if we were legally obliged to remove our banner from a public railing to which they admitted that they were not ordering us but requesting us to remove the banner. So the banner stayed (that banner can also be seen in the photo above - its basically a Palestinian flag with writing on it taken from the Irish PSC campaign stickers).

Another recent example of PSC colluding with higher powers against activists is what happened at the Labour Party conference in Brighton a few weeks ago. There is an ongoing campaign to persuade the Labour Party to stop hiring G4S to provide security at their conferences due to G4S's complicity in torture and caging of Palestinian prisoners. As part of our prisoners campaign we organised a protest outside the conference :

There was a PSC stall inside the conference where Brighton PSC had planned to ask delegates to sign a petition asking the Labour party to end its G4S contracts. But at the last minute PSC central office did a u-turn, apparently due to pressure from their funders, and refused to allow the petition against G4S on their stall. The petition which they had initially created was no longer welcome. This lead to the bizarre situation of members from Brighton PSC asking  us if we could include the PSC petition on our table outside the conference entrance as they were prevented by PSC from displaying it on the PSC stall inside the conference. We of course welcomed the petition.

Inminds has organised 27 protests so far this year, the main focus being Palestinian political prisoners but also protests for cultural boycott and many others. The draconian bail conditions stipulate that we cannot participate in any demos until the next hearing on 20th Nov when depending on the outcome the conditions could continue until trial. The SO15 counter terror officer insisted on it, saying to the custody sergeant, who was still deciding if it was too harsh, that he should take into consideration that the situation in Palestine is currently inflamed and that could spill over into the streets of London so he didn’t want me doing any more protests. The police also raided our homes and took all Inminds PCs / servers / backups - everything - about 18 years worth of campaigning - all the research and files on individual prisoners and material provided by their families to help our campaign to free them, 18 years of photos and videos from hundreds of demos and other functions.. all gone. It’s shameful that our work has been severely jeopardised not by zionists whose attacks we take in our stride, but at the instigation of fellow campaigners for Palestine. Whilst as activists we will disagree with each other on the tactics of the struggle, but what is unacceptable is for one group to use the police to criminalise another group.

Abbas Ali

Two arrested after refusing to take down Hezbollah flag at Palestine demo

Posted by 5Pillars

Two men were arrested at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in London on Saturday after they refused to take down a Hezbollah flag they had hoisted on a pole.

Abbas Ali and Antonio Maniscalco were warned by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (which was one of the organisers of the demonstration against Israeli brutality in the occupied territories) that only Palestinian national flags would be welcome at the protest.
Police arrested the pair after they refused to take down the Hezbollah flag for disrupting the peace and for supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation.

The pair spent around 15 hours in custody at Belgravia police station where they say they were questioned by counter-terrorism officers before being released without charge

They are now on police bail and are not allowed to associate with each other or attend any further demonstrations until November 20th when they must report to the police again.

Abbas Ali is a veteran pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel campaigner who runs the Inminds website. He told 5Pillars that he had hoisted the Hezbollah flag because he supports a political party that campaigns for justice in Palestine. He added that he had been asked to move other anti-Israel banners at a previous protest organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

“There were other flags at the demonstration such as pro-Morsi and Hamas symbols and someone actually broke our flagpole but the police didn’t do anything to them,” he said.

“After we were initially told to take down the flag by people on the podium and by someone at the demonstration we moved across the road. We also told the police that we were in a public place so we saw no reason to take down the flag – we had as much right to protest as anyone else but the police kept hounding us.”

Ali said that the police had also raided his house and taken PCs, laptops and memory cards. Mr Maniscalco’s residence was also raided.

He added: “I think we were targeted by people in the crowd who had a sectarian agenda or who were upset because of the situation in Syria. I’m not saying they were from the PSC but I do believe we were targeted. But if the PSC called the police on us they should recognise they should not have done that. A broad range of people support the Palestinian cause and they have the right to express themselves.”


Hezbollah has historically been viewed in the Middle East as a Lebanese resistance group which has fought Israeli aggression on several occasions. It even succeeded in driving Israel out of the vast majority of Lebanon in 2000 and again fought a war with it in 2006.

However, Hezbollah – which adheres to the Shia branch of Islam – has played a controversial role in the current Syrian conflict where it has supported President Bashar al Assad.

Those who support Hezbollah say they are fighting an existential war against sectarian terrorists and their Gulf/Western backers who would destroy the region, but the group’s detractors say that it is propping up a murderous tyrant who is killing and oppressing the Syrian people.

In Britain, the military wing of Hezbollah is proscribed but there is some doubt as to whether the Hezbollah flag represents the military or political wing (which isn’t proscribed) or both.

Meanwhile, on social media Mr Maniscalco said he had a “right to freedom of expression and speech.” He acknowledged that the organisers had the right to administer their own protest but they did not have the right to tell people what to do on a public street.

He said: “I believe we all have the right to protest against occupation and Zionists in every way we all feel necessary… as activists for Palestine and human rights we all have different opinions in several matters but the bottom line is to respect each and everyone wish to express themselves.”

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Saturday’s protest, which was attended by around 2,000 people, was organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, Islamic Forum of Europe, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, FOSIS and the Stop the War Coalition.

The PSC’s Sarah Colborne told 5Pillars that the organisers of the event had clearly made a request before the demonstration for only Palestinian flags to be raised. This was also made a number of times from the platform during the protest.

However, she did not conform or deny if any of the organisers had alerted the police to Mr Ali and Mr Maniscalco’s actions.

She also sent 5Pillars a pre-event statement which read: “We have come together to unite for Palestine. We have come together to unite for peace, freedom, and justice. To unite against hatred, intolerance and racism…

We welcome all who stand with us in our opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Supporters of Palestinian rights encompass all faiths and none. Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist, religious and non-religious people all stand together on this protest.
“We condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia or any form of racism. Palestinians have seen their lives destroyed by the horrific scourge of Israeli racism, colonialism and apartheid. We stand with Palestinians in their struggle for a future free of racism, colonialism and apartheid. There is no place for racism in a progressive movement fighting for justice and human rights.

“The organisers ask that those present respect the Palestinian national flag, and use only this flag, showing our steadfastness, unity and solidarity with Palestine.”

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