We are thankful for all the support and solidarity during this past week – we see and appreciate all of it.
The virulent harassment and racism we have received the past few days for exercising our democratic right to protest for Palestine have been despicable. In particular, baseless calls from the British political establishment to investigate and arrest protesters exercising their fundamental rights have been especially reprehensible. There is a gross imbalance of power at play here: politicians at the very top of the British government unjustly singling out university students for protesting the racism of the representative of a nuclear-armed ally of Britain.
Protest is a right that institutions and the government can never take from us. It is the very least we can do to address and hold our institutions and the British government to account for their role in facilitating and perpetuating Israeli settler colonialism and other colonial legacies. In the past few days, we have witnessed the British government and right-wing media misrepresenting and vilifying protest in solidarity with Palestine as a justification for suppressing dissent. We, once again, emphasise that solidarity with Palestine, as an anti-colonial struggle, sits at the intersection of other movements including those for climate justice, feminist liberation, anti-imperialism, and against the arms trade.
This crackdown comes in the context of a sustained effort by the government to criminalise all forms of dissent. This has included the characterisation of Black Lives Matter UK with coded racist language such as a “violent mob” and the ongoing use of the PREVENT agenda. This is while the British establishment readily signals “free speech” when the powerful are held to account at the same time as suppressing this right to Black, Palestinian, trans and marginalised communities. Protecting our right to protest is therefore central to combatting efforts by the government to criminalise dissent and justify its investment in imperialism and apartheid.
The continued characterisation of people of colour as an “angry violent mob” when expressing solidarity with our siblings in Palestine, who are at the forefront of resisting settler colonialism and global imperialism, represents dehumanisation by the political elite. We will always be an “angry violent mob” because we will always be racialised in this way; we therefore refuse to engage in this.
Instead of investing energy into deconstructing this rhetoric, we must therefore commit to remaining strong and loud in our solidarity for Palestinians on the ground. In addition, we reject the state’s ability to define who is violent – especially when the state itself is violent. A quote that strongly resonates with us is from Paulo Freire: “Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How can they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence?”
The fear that politicians have attempted to instill in organisers and attendees is part of a long history of suppression of any Palestinian resistance and activism. We refuse to be intimidated by war criminals and their enablers. We refuse to be threatened and silenced for speaking up for Palestine.
We must remember that the attention that has been placed on us in the past few days is a diversion from the daily systematic violence and intimidation Palestinians resist under a brutal apartheid regime.
Just last week, 13-year-old Mohammad Da’das was killed by Israeli soldiers. 5 Palestinian political prisoners have been on hunger strike for up to 122 days in protest of their detention without trial.
When we protest, we protest for them and all other Palestinians under Israeli apartheid. We must not be intimidated by any efforts to restrict our right to protest and centre the Palestinian struggle in everything we do.
We will never stop protesting until the liberation of Palestine.
We will never stop protesting until the abolition of all settler colonial formations and global imperialism.