Palestine march hijacked by "hate Israel" bigots

Submitted by on 4 June, 2002 - 2:45

On Tuesday 18 May another large march about Palestine was held in London. At the rally in Trafalgar Square Tirza Waisel from Just Peace UK was one of the speakers.

"The occupation is terror", she said. "It breeds despair in the hearts of young Palestinian boys and girls. But the suicide bombing is not helping the Palestinian struggle. Whoever is sending these kids, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Tanzim, plays into the hands of Sharon".

At those words there was a roar of anger from the crowd. Tirza struggled to continue.
Speaking as a Israeli Jewish woman, Tirza said that the suicide bombing "helps Sharon to put our future of peace even further away".

People tried to climb on the stage.

Instead of defending Tirza, the platform organiser, Betty Hunter of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, took the microphone from her. "Well, not all of us would agree with the last speaker", said Hunter, before continuing to the next one.

Roland Rance, a Jewish socialist who was at the rally, vehemently opposes Solidarity's support for the right of Israel to exist. Yet Roland, writing on the Socialist Alliance email list, comments that: "It wasn't just that Tirza was heckled - she was jeered and abused, and bottles were thrown at her.

"The chair of the rally failed to take any action to enable her to speak. You did not have to agree with the speech (and I didn't) to sense that the opposition was as much to who she was, as to what she said.

"I am very cautions about scattering around charges of anti-semitism, which in many cases are simply a way of discrediting anti-Zionist views. But, in this case, I am convinced that elements in the audience were not prepared to accept such a speech from an Israeli Jewish woman".

Was this a marginal blemish? Sadly not.

The march had large numbers both of Muslims and of secular leftists. Most of the Muslims were not fundamentalists; they would probably have accepted a "two states" interpretation of the march's studiedly ambiguous official slogans, and been better pleased with a clear, precise message: Israel out of the occupied territories!

Most of the secular left, however, were "more Islamic than the Muslims", insisting that Isreal has no right to exist. The tone was set by Islamic fundamentalists ("Palestine must be free, from the river to the sea"; "Bomb, bomb Tel Aviv"; and, but only in Arabic, "Kill the Jews"), and by groups such as the SWP ("Two states solution is no solution"; "No compromise with Zionism").

Much more than solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the tone was one of hostility to Israel - with little or no distinction made between the Israeli government and the Israeli people.

Perhaps the most telling comment is by Terry Conway, a defender of the view that the shouting-down of Tirza Waisel was a secondary blemish. "I held my breath", writes Terry, "when Mike Marqusee [speaking from the platform] started to talk about being an American Jew. I thought he was incredibly brave..."

To what pass have we come if we talk of Jews as "incredibly brave" when they identify themselves on demonstrations of the left?

Solidarity and Workers' Liberty were present, with Iraqi comrades and others, at the start of the march, with banners, placards and leaflets for an independent Palestinian state with the same rights as Israel. Some of us went straight to the march's endpoint to establish a similar presence there; some went with the small Jewish contingents on the march as a gesture of solidarity.

We will continue to argue and organise for a solidarity movement based on consistent democracy and equal rights, not on "hate Israel" agitation.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.