As Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain, I was proud to work with our partners to organise the estimated 150,000-strong march from London's Marble Arch to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington on Saturday. Our partners were the Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition, CND, and the Muslim Association of Britain.
Speech after speech expressed disgust at Israel's deadly bombardment of Gaza following attempts to ethnically cleanse Sheikh Jarrah of its Palestinian residents and the unspeakable violence meted out to peaceful worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. There was also unanimous support for the Palestinians who were united in historic Palestine as never before. Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, racism, and occupation affect all of the areas of Palestine under occupation. No location is spared Zionist aggression and oppression, including those Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship because they stayed on their land in 1948 in what is now Israel.
There was also disgust expressed at the leaders of the so-called international community, who were silent about the violence inflicted on Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, at Bal El-Amoud (Damascus Gate), and within Al-Aqsa compound. The same leaders, including the US President and representatives of the British, French, and German governments, among others, were quick to start their discriminatory clock ticking against the Palestinians when the first rocket flew out of Gaza towards Israel.
Their discourse was simply that Israel has a right to self-defence. No mention of the Palestinian right to self-defence — indeed, our legitimate right to resist Israel's occupation — was made, as if we are a lesser people. Instead, the Americans argued that only countries or states have a right to self-defence. Palestine has been calling for recognition as a state for decades. However, key world countries such as the US, Britain, France, and Germany have dismissed this claim, despite some of their parliaments passing resolutions mandating officials to recognise the State of Palestine.
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This is semantics, though, and should not be used as an excuse to deny the people of Palestine the right to self-defence because to do so would upset the pro-Israel status quo. Importantly, the International Criminal Court has accepted that it has jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory because Palestine is recognised as an observer member state by the UN and has been admitted to the Rome Statute. It is therefore a state and entitled to self-defence.
People can hold different views on what self-defence might look like. In Israel's case, it seems that it will use all means of violence available to enact what it considers to be its right. However, just look at the destruction and devastation it has wreaked in Gaza. There is no "self-defence" justification for the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children with what are supposedly smart weapons that cost millions of dollars. There is no excuse to demolish towers that housed hundreds of people, regardless of whether or not the army warned residents by phone or "light" rocket that it was about to make them homeless. There is no excuse for blowing up the tower that housed the offices of media outlets such as Al Jazeera which have covered the barbaric bombardment. There is no excuse for destroying banks and other civil society infrastructure. Israel did all of this in "self-defence". I am not sure how destroying a bank or making Palestinians homeless will make Israeli citizens any safer.
This is absolutely deranged violence against a captive, besieged population with nowhere to shelter in the most densely populated area in the world. Israel has again traumatised a whole generation that will grow up ready to join the resistance.
Neither I nor the PSC want to see anyone killed or wounded because of Israel's insistence on denying Palestinians their right to self-determination in their homeland and denying the legitimate right of refugees to return home.
Nor do we want the amazing solidarity witnessed on the streets of London, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, and many other places in Britain and overseas, to be characterised by some as an expression of hatred of Jews who have nothing to do with the unfolding events in Palestine that stem from Israel's abhorrent policies and practices.
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As an anti-racist who is also Chair of an anti-racist solidarity organisation, I distance myself and the organisation from any attempt to blame British Jews for the actions of Israel. The latter are driven by its extreme right-wing leadership's policies and the Zionist ideology that planted Israel in my homeland Palestine, aided and abetted by Britain.
Neither I nor the PSC or our partners want racists taking part in our demonstrations and rallies. More importantly, the Palestinian people do not want the support of racists who attempt to use our cause to spew their hatred of Jews.
I was really shocked and troubled, therefore, when I saw a video shared extensively on social media on Sunday in which the flag of peace, the Palestinian flag, covered vehicles in which some anti-Semites drove through Jewish areas in London and shouted racist obscenities. This was not done in the name of the Palestinians, and I condemn it unreservedly and ask the authorities to take all measures necessary to deal with these racists.
I put this tweet out immediately.
These people do not speak 4 Palestinians & we do't need or want their support.Our problem is with #Zionism,not #Jews.I do not want them on any marches or rallies.#antisemitism
Passengers in car convoy filmed yelling: 'F*** the Jews, rape their daughters' https://t.co/oxrTx4y4h1
— Professor Kamel Hawwash كامل إسحق الحواش (@kamelhawwash) May 16, 2021
This is not the time to argue how anti-Semitism is defined, but I reject attempts to shield Israel through new definitions of this racist scourge. To me it is simple: anti-Semitism is the hatred of Jews because they are Jews. I abhor all forms of racism. I believe firmly that we British Palestinians stand shoulder to shoulder with British Jews in rejecting all forms of racism, just as we do with other minorities.
We will be marching again in London next Saturday and there will be rallies and marches across Britain and around the world. Our anger should be directed at Israel, not British Jews or those from anywhere else. I say to those coming to the march, do not bring placards displaying anti-Semitic images or referring to Nazis. Do not give voice to anti-Semitic chants. Challenge those who do, because we do not want them and they do not help our cause. Bring placards that support the Palestinians, and raise the Palestinian flag.
We do not want anti-Semites in our society, and we do not want anti-Semites on Palestinian solidarity marches and rallies or at pro-Palestinian events. For the sake of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, make Palestinian events anti-Semitism-free zones and let us keep the focus and pressure on Apartheid Israel. Free Palestine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.