By Palestinian Solidarity Campaign — Stroud District
On Saturday, May 15th, 2021 members of the community came together outside the Subscription Rooms in Stroud Town to stand in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli Apartheid. Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie responded to e-mails from concerned constituents with boilerplate, copy-and-paste replies. She stated that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, settlements considered illegal under international law, “should not be considered a permanent obstacle to peace”.
As at least 139 Palestinians have been killed since Monday, protests have spread across the UK and across the world against the continued actions of Israel as a settler-colonial state. This outpouring of solidarity comes in the wake of continued illegal evictions of Palestinian families and their replacement with Jewish settlers in areas such as Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and the violence the Israeli military is freely and unrelentingly subjecting Palestinians too in Gaza. The Gaza Strip has been under blockade and siege for over a decade, and 68.5% of its inhabitants are food insecure according to the World Food Programme.
Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “These evictions are part of a broader range of policies and laws employed by Israel to further ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Jerusalem. More and more human rights groups are rightly identifying these policies of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people as amounting to the crime of apartheid. We call on the British Government to demand an end to current proceedings to evict these families, and more broadly to begin taking meaningful action to hold Israel accountable for all its actions which contribute to the crime of apartheid.”
Attendants and organisers of the event from Stroud Palestine Solidarity Campaign were unequivocal in their rejection of anti-Semitism. The organisers stated that “we are adamant that there is no contradiction between full bodied condemnation of Israel as an apartheid/settler-colonial state and utterly rejecting antisemitism.”
Jeremy Green, one of the speakers at the demonstration in Stroud, said: “I’m a Jew, and I want to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people – in Gaza, in Jerusalem, and in Israel. I’m proud of Jewish groups like Yachad and Na’amod in the UK, who have done the same. I’m proud of organisations in Israel, like B’tselem, The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, whose opposition to the abuses in Israel and the territories it occupies began in 1989.”
Nabeela Akhtar, one of those attending the demonstration in Stroud said that “Neutrality protects the Oppressor. I am attending to stand with Palestine where people trying to survive a brutal occupation & foot on their throat are losing their lives.
“Here we have the Israeli Governmentt & Netanyahu using their military might against a people who have very little power – to commit an act of ethnic cleansing. It is no accident that these actions started by targeting Palestinian Muslims at a place of worship during Ramadan & escalated on Eid. Palestinian lives including children are treated as cheap & disposable.”
Just today, the Israeli military carried out an outrageous attack on press freedoms by demolishing the Al Jalaa tower in Gaza, which housed both Al Jazeera and the Associated Press offices. The Middle East Eye shared a video of the owner of the tower pleading with an Israeli office on live TV to let journalists collect their gear before the building was bombed. In his response to the officer’s flat refusal, the owner states “Our life’s work is gone, our memories, our lives, you’ve just wasted”. Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear tweeted: “This is a building I & many other journalists have used in order to gather & report in Gaza – targeting it if deliberate is an attack on the press & media freedom & the ability to try & report the truth”
In the light of the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Israeli state, it is utterly damning that Siobhan Baillie refuses to recognise the acts of settler colonialism going on before all our eyes. It is worth noting that in 2019 Baillie had £2,000 worth of travel, accommodation and hospitality paid for by Conservative Friends of Israel as part of a ‘Fact finding political delegation’ to Israel and the West Bank. Just like with the South African apartheid, the Conservative Party is yet again continuing to support state sanctioned racial segregation and oppression of a people.