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MPs smear Gaza protestors, while others invent scare stories

March 1, 2024 at 8:39 am

Thousands of people holding Palestinian flags and banners, gather at Marble Arch to stage a pro-Palestinian demonstration calling on the UK government to end its support for Israel as they march to Israeli Embassy in London, United Kingdom on February 17, 2024. [Raşid Necati Aslım – Anadolu Agency]

Are the massive pro-Palestine marches in Britain being deliberately targeted and smeared as part of a concerted Zionist effort to use the law to stop people from joining the ranks of the growing anti-war movement? That would certainly explain the furore over MPs’ safety which came to a head last week when Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons and a member of the Labour Friends of Israel lobby group, cited threats to politicians in his disastrous handling of a debate on calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

I pose the question after some extraordinary events have been picked up and anchored in a media campaign which has collectively shown nothing but hostility towards Palestinians in favour of the Zionist Israeli state as the genocidal onslaught in Gaza continues. Throw in some decidedly Islamophobic comments by prominent Conservative MPs, and there is a really toxic atmosphere brewing in advance of this year’s General Election, with Muslims — “Islamists” — cast as the bad guys.

Today, my suspicions were fuelled by none other than British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who resorted to shameless smears and scare tactics as he warned police chiefs of a “growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule”. Calling for more robust police action, Sunak used inflammatory language to insist that politicians need to be protected from intimidatory protests outside their homes.

Amnesty International said Sunak “wildly exaggerates the issue.”

However, the Home Office has nevertheless announced a £31 million package aimed at protecting MPs. It is said to be in response to the impact of the ongoing “Israel-Hamas conflict”.

Meanwhile, in Scotland police were called to investigate bizarre claims that the Glasgow constituency office of Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament was “stormed” by 30 pro-Palestine protesters, with MSP Paul Sweeney criticising officers for taking 27 minutes to respond even though the office staff were left “distressed”.

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Police Scotland insist that the storming of the politicians’ shared office never happened as described, and rejected the claims made by Sweeney. According to him, campaigners forced their way into the office that he shares with party leader Anas Sarwar, and fellow MSPs Pam Duncan-Glancy and Pauline McNeil.

“It may well be that this entire furore over alleged threats by protestors is confected,” said Mick Napier, a co-founder of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, whose members took part in the protest. Certainly, the example of Sweeney caught flagrantly inventing threats to the staff suggests that this might be the case. Sweeney supports a party leader who endorses Israel withholding water, food and fuel from the entire population of Gaza — not only cruel, but also collective punishment, a war crime — while he complains that people opposing such barbarism raise their voices.

“Although in this case voices weren’t even raised,” explained Napier. “There seems to be something new in the shamelessness with which our politicians lie to the public. Could it be because the mainstream media have given up any pretence of investigating such fabrications?”

Despite repeated attempts to contact Sarwar, McNeil, Duncan-Clancy and Sweeney, none were prepared to offer a comment to me about the incident.

European political analyst Kevin Ovenden wrote about the incident on 22 February: “Two elected politicians have been exposed today for simply lying that they faced violent intimidation when they merely had to deal with democratic lobbying and political pressure. One is the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Paul Sweeney. Police in Glasgow refuted his highly charged claim that anti-war protesters stormed his office and intimidated his staff. They did no such thing, as the police concluded, having been present throughout for an orderly protest, without even any civil disobedience, by a small group of middle-aged or older women and men.

“That has not stopped the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle (for years a nodding-donkey Labour MP) today smearing the entire anti-war movement as in some way incubating terrorism as justification for his anti-democratic manoeuvres on behalf of [Labour Party leader] Keir Starmer.”

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Ovenden blames craven support for Israel by the two main establishment parties, Conservative and Labour, for “not only leading to authoritarianism against public protest and free speech. It is now even crushing the limited democratic avenues available through parliament.”

The streets of London have witnessed some of the largest, peaceful, pro-Palestine demonstrations in the capital’s history, but that did not stop Sunak from calling an urgent meeting in Downing Street for police chiefs on Thursday. He urged them to use all of their existing powers to crack down on the alleged intimidation, disruption and subversion.

“We simply cannot allow this pattern of increasingly violent and intimidatory behaviour which is, as far as anyone can see, intended to shout down free debate and stop elected representatives doing their job,” insisted the prime minister.

Without a hint of irony, the man who has so far given his unconditional support to Israel, currently under investigation for genocide by the International Court of Justice, added: “That is simply undemocratic… I am going to do whatever it requires to protect our democracy, and our values, which we all hold dear.”

Del Babu, a former chief superintendent in London’s Metropolitan Police, said language like “mob rule” was not “helpful”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that appealing to people to demonstrate less could have “unintended consequences” and potentially lead to more people protesting.

“We will continue to march until there is an immediate ceasefire,” said Shamiul Joarder of Friends of Al-Aqsa. The organisation is part of a coalition of groups organising the marches which have brought world attention to London’s streets.

Members from all six groups, along with Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, and the campaign group Liberty, held a press conference earlier this week in parliament criticising unhelpful language used by politicians. They claim that anti-Muslim “hysteria” and pressure from the government had provoked the Metropolitan Police into heavy-handed and “discriminatory” policing of “peaceful mass protests”.

Home Secretary James Cleverly, meanwhile, told the BBC: “I genuinely don’t know what these regular protests are seeking to achieve. They have made their position clear, we recognise that there are many people in the UK that hold that position.”

Hours later, 104 starving Palestinians in Gaza were massacred — witnesses say that Israeli troops opened fire on them — as they gathered around an aid convoy distributing food. If Cleverly doesn’t understand the point of the street demonstrations then he has the emotional intelligence of a brick and a surname which doesn’t quite match his IQ.

Calls for a ceasefire will continue until Israel’s genocide of the people of occupied Palestine is stopped in its murderous tracks. Which bit of “Stop Killing Civilians” do our politicians not understand?

READ: National Security Minister hails Israel soldiers’ killing of over 100 civilians waiting for aid in Gaza

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.