Posts Tagged ‘racist abuse’

Support of Palestinians – not Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Fortunately I am not a member of the Labour Party, so can speak freely about Israel and Palestine without fear of being expelled from the party. I’ve never actually been a member, though in my teenage years used to occasionally attend the meetings for young socialists at the local Cooperative hall, mainly I think because they would offer cigarettes around very freely. As a fresher I joined the Labour Students and attended meetings until they were closed down by the national party for being socialist. But by then I was involved with various other groups campaigning on various political issues but outside the party system. That remains the case and I’m still a member of groups including Friends of the Earth, CND and Global Justice Now.

The only political party I’ve ever actually joined was the Green Party, though I think back then it may still have been called the Ecology Party. After a year I didn’t renew my membership, partly because it seemed to be spending most of its time on internal feuding, but also because of the strange cranks it seemed to attract. Of course it also includes some of the most honest and sensible politicians around but our crazy electoral system means few of them getting elected. But most years Caroline Lucas would get my vote as politician of the year, and a few have made it as local politicians and also MEPs. Though sadly the latter opportunity is about to end.

Back in my student years and later, virtually everyone on the left including myself admired and supported Israel. It wasn’t just the Holocaust, but also their fight to free themselves from the British mandate and their determination to build a future. I think we remained largely ignorant about the 1948 ‘Nakba’ when around half of the Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Several of my friends went to volunteer in kibbutz and we envied them and thought seriously about doing the same to help build a socialist future.

Over the years we’ve learnt more about what actually happens in Israel and Palestine, and the government of Israel has become very much more right wing. While almost none deny the right of Israel to exist (and to that extent are Zionists), we all want a fair solution in the area which recognises the civil and human rights of Palestinians. The Balfour declaration as well as favouring the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people also insisted “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” and in 2017 the British government recognised the declaration should also have called for protection of the Palestinian Arabs’ political rights.

I’ve been labelled by a few militant ultra-right anti-Palestinians as an “anti-Semitic photographer” because I have photographed protests against human rights abuses by Israeli government forces – like these I photographed on 23rd December 2017 – and against laws that make people – including notably Nelson Mandela – describe Israel as an “apartheid state”. And also for photographing protests calling for support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” None of these things are anti-Semitic, though they are opposed to policies of the current government of Israel.

I’m fairly certain however that were I a member of the Labour Party I would now be suspended and expelled for my views – along with many of the leading Jewish (and non-Jewish) Labour activists who express any support for human and civil rights for Palestinians. But fortunately you can’t be expelled if you are not a member.

The protests on this date were prompted by two events. The Palestinian Forum in Britain protested outside the US Embassy after US President Trump’s announcement that the US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem, there was a regular protest calling for a boycott of goods from Israel outside Marks and Spencers on Oxford St and a protest in Trafalgar Square condemned the kidnap, beating up and arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi by Israeli soldiers – which was also condemned at the two earlier protests.

A few militant supporters of the Israeli oppression of Palestinians came to insult and shout down the event in Trafalgar Square, with one man making clearly racist comments about one of the protesters. A police officer eventually arrived and suggested firmly they go away, but took no action over the complaints of racist abuse made against one of them. The man in a hat in my picture above was found guilty of disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress for similar behaviour at a BDS protest the following year.

More at:
Free Ahed Tamimi
Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi
Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Goldsmiths Occupation

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Goldsmiths, University of London was once a small college in New Cross, establishe in 1891 by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths as Goldsmiths’ Technical and Recreative Institute in a building built in 1844 for the Royal Naval School who had outgrown the site. It became a college of the University of London in 1904 as as Goldsmiths’ College, losing the apostrophe in 1933.

Goldsmiths College is still its official name, but it no longer uses the ‘College’, perhaps too much of a reminder of its past role largely in training teachers, although also offering other courses. Many well-known British artists studied there, perhaps benefitting greatly from a thriving south London art scene in the 1970s in Bermondsey and other areas of nearby Southwark.

Goldsmiths too has outgrown its old building, although it is still its main building, but has spread its campus across a much larger area, with both new buildings and incorporating older ones, the most prestigious and ornate of which is the former Deptford Town Hall on the New Cross Road.

Over half the students at Goldsmiths are mature students, and around a fifth are overseas students as well as many BAME students from this country. That mix was evident when I visited Deptford Town Hall where students were preparing for a party to celebrate 50 days of occupation in the building – as it has also been on other visits to the campus. It feels more like a London university than most.

The Goldsmiths occupation was prompted after a candidate standing in student elections was racially abused and the university authorities failed to take action, but has longer and deeper causes. Students claim that the university fails to treat its BAME students and workers fairly, with higher dropout rates for them as well as lower academic results. I’d been at Goldsmiths a couple of months earlier, on St Valentines Day for a protest to launch the campaign by the IWGB union and students to directly employ its security officers and give them decent pay and conditions.

I was signed into the building by a student and given a conducted tour of the occupied areas, then watched and photographed the occupying students preparing for their party – and wished I could stay as the food looked delicious.

The students had a long list of demands, including that Goldsmiths develop a strategic plan to tackle the institutional racism – and bring workers on the campus into direct employment, several versions of which were written up in the occupation and on-line.

They also demand that Deptford Town Hall be made more available to the local community, as they say Goldsmiths have failed to live up to the promises they made about this. It really is a splendid building, and the interior even more so than the impressive facade, and it would be good to see it become a community asset rather than solely used for university purposes. It was after all built for the people, doubtless with money from taxpayers as well as from our exploitation of the Empire.

The occupation finally came to a successful end in July after 137 days when the Black, Minority Ethnic, Muslim, LGBTQ and disabled student-led occupation by Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action obtained a legally binding dcument signed by the Senior Management Team to their demands including that they would not pursue further legal action against those who had carried out the occupation.

More pictures from my brief visit: 50 days anti-racist occupation at Goldsmiths.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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