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Vigil by Hastings PSC in the town centre last June.

Following a call by a number of Palestinian organisations for local actions, the Hastings branch of the PSC organised a vigil in the town centre last June under the banner “Stop the Killing – Stop Arming Israel” (photo: Hastings PSC).

How to support Palestine

As life under Israel’s occupation becomes intolerable for Palestinians, Laurie Holden of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) gives a few pointers as to how the local community can show solidarity.

If any country were to send its military personnel armed with sniper rifles with the intention to shoot to kill protestors – and actually carried this out, murdering hundreds of people – there would be such disgust and outrage throughout the world that sanctions would immediately be imposed on that country. There might even be calls for military intervention.

But if that country is Israel, then much of the international community wlll probably look the other way. Of course this is exactly what happened. Israel’s snipers started aiming at unarmed protesters in Gaza, murdering at least 170 Palestinians, some shot in the back, more than 24,000 wounded, 86 requiring amputations. The dead included nurses and journalists. 33 children were targeted and killed.

The demonstrations were part of the Great March of Return rallies. The people of Gaza, two million people under siege by Israel and Egypt, are mainly refugees (and their descendants) who fled the Israeli military in 1948. Gaza is often described as the world’s biggest prison because of the blockade.

The right of return is enshrined in international law (UN resolution 194). Even in Syria, after seven years of bloody war, an estimated one million refugees have returned now that the war is over in most areas.  But the number of Palestinian refugees that Israel has allowed back is exactly zero.

Britain’s complicity

Britain certainly hasn’t been ‘looking the other way’ while Israel massacres Palestinians. In fact it has been increasing its trade and investment with Israel, now standing at more than £7 billion. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently stated: “Britain is in fact our largest trade partner in Europe…..we value the friendship, we value the prospects for the future.” Since 2014, the UK has sold £350 million worth of military goods to Israel; this includes components for combat aircraft, tanks, drones – and sniper rifles.

There is extensive cooperation between the militaries of UK and Israel. British military pilots are now being trained by a company co-owned by Israel arms firm Elbit Systems. Elbit is a major manufacturer of militarised drones responsible for hundreds of deaths in Gaza. While the Israeli navy illegally blockades Gaza, firing on local fishermen, British warships conduct joint NATO-Israel naval exercises. The British spy centre GCHQ is a key partner of the US National Security Agency and the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU, also known as Unit 8200). GCHQ has fed communications data to the Israelis, sharing information on Palestinians.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign

Banksy's Christmas card on display at the PSC information stall in Hastings town centre (photo: Hastings PSC).

Banksy’s Christmas card on display at the PSC information stall in Hastings town centre (photo: Hastings PSC).

We can sit at home on our bottoms, get angry and start ranting at our computer screens, or we can get active and play our part in changing this. The Palestinian-led BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement has been putting an increasing amount of pressure on Israel, now generally regarded as an apartheid state.

The boycott of apartheid South Africa played an important part in bringing an end to its racist system of government – this type of action can do the same in Israel. Of course, Israel has come out on the offensive, giving its Ministry of Strategic Affairs £39 million per year to fight it. In the UK and the West generally, the corporate media has been keeping very quiet about the BDS movement and its achievements.

Successes

But we’re finding successes all the time. In just the last six weeks, the Irish government passed a bill making settlement goods illegal; UK Quakers announced that they would not invest in companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine; home-renting company Airbnb has removed listings in Israel’s illegal settlements; two US police departments cancelled training with Israel; and Leeds University became the first UK university to divest from firms involved in the Israeli arms trade.

There are regular announcements of trade unions, student unions and churches stating their support for Palestinian rights and the BDS movement. Some of the successes involve very large investments: the Government Pension Fund Global of Norway (the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at £790 billion) divested from Israeli companies involved in illegal settlement building and from the Israeli military company Elbit; the Dutch pension fund PGGM (valued at £145 billion) announced its divestment from Israel’s five biggest banks.

We can all play our part, no matter how small. In Hastings the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been highlighting some of the targets of the BDS movement.

No 1 on the list: Israeli fruit and vegetables. All Israeli agricultural exporters are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law as they operate on stolen Palestinian land. So far we’ve found Israeli dates and grapefruit in local supermarkets.

No 2: Caterpillar products. Caterpillar bulldozers are regularly used in the demolition of Palestinian homes and farms and in Israel’s attacks on Gaza. We don’t expect many local people are about to go out and buy Caterpillar bulldozers, but Caterpillar produces a range of clothes, footwear, bags, toys and tools, all products that can be boycotted.

No 3: Hewlett-Packard. HP is complicit in the military occupation. It runs IT systems for the Israeli government and military, including the ID system used at Israeli military checkpoints, and for the Israeli navy that enforces the siege on Gaza.

No 4: Puma. This company sponsors the Israel Football Association (IFA) which includes clubs from illegal Israeli settlements. The Israeli military occupation expels Palestinian families, including children, from their homes to make way for these settlements. Israeli settlements are regarded as war crimes under international law.

No 5: Ahava. This is a cosmetics company whose its products come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the occupied territory of the Palestinian West Bank, and are produced in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem.

No 6: SodaStream. The company is based in the Naqab (Negev desert) where Palestinian Bedouin are being forced off their lands. SodaStream exploits the very insecure lives Palestinians are forced to live, employing them under terrible conditions. Palestinians have no choice but to earn a living with companies tied to the occupation like SodaStream.

Another way of supporting Palestine is to donate to some of the groups working on the front line. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) works throughout Gaza, the West Bank and in the refugee camps in Lebanon. As a result of the Israeli bombing of Gaza and the targetting of demonstrators by snipers, the work of MAP is in urgent need of support. MAP has established a permanent limb reconstruction unit at Al Shifa Hospital. Since 30 March 2018, 5,793 people have been hospitalised with limb injuries alone.

Other groups the local PSC has raised funds for in the past are: Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and the Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP).

Hastings PSC’s next public meeting, on Thursday 24 January, will be addressed by Dr Jenny Tonge, former MP and frequent visitor to Israel and occupied Palestine. Venue to be announced.

Website and Facebook page.

 

 

Posted 21:22 Wednesday, Jan 2, 2019 In: Campaigns

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