Socialist Worker

Pro-Palestine activists' legal win pressures Zionists - but Tory attacks continue

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2560

Hundreds protested against Israeli ambassador Mark Regev at Soas earlier this year

Hundreds protested against Israeli ambassador Mark Regev at Soas earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A court ruling slapped down Tory attempts to curb the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign last week—giving a boost to pro-Palestinian campaigners.

The High Court ruled last Thursday that the government had acted unlawfully in trying to stop councils divesting from firms linked to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Tory communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid issued “guidance” to councils last September.

It warned that “using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate”.

But last week a High Court judge said the government had acted improperly by trying to use pension law to support its own foreign policy and to try to ban BDS.

The ruling was the result of a legal challenge by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), War on Want, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Quakers.

PSC chair Hugh Lanning said, “Today is a victory for Palestine. Absolutely everyone has a right to peacefully protest at Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights.”

Yet Javid has already launched yet another attack. He has warned that the Palestine Expo, set to take place next month, could be cancelled.

The event is set to take place in central London’s QEII venue, which is run by Javid’s government department. But Javid warned the event’s organisers—the predominantly Muslim group Friends of Al-Aqsa—that he could cancel their contract.

A letter on Javid’s behalf said he had “concerns” that the organisers support Hamas and Hizbollah, which resist the Israeli occupation.

The threat came after lawyers from a pro-Israel pressure group Jewish Human Rights Watch wrote to the QEII claiming that “this event is a front for Jew hate”.


“The main groups are organisations promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in relation to Israel, a known antisemitic movement,” they said.

Pro-Israel groups have waged a campaign against events and organisations supporting the Palestinians in recent months, particularly in universities, with false claims of antisemitism.

More than 100 supporters of Israel met for a conference in north London last Saturday, which Socialist Worker gained access to.

Many were the same people who disrupted pro-Palestine events on campuses—including an attempt to provoke protesters at Soas in central London in May.

They are preparing for the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, made in November 1917, in which Britain promised colonial settlers a “Jewish homeland” on Palestinian owned land.

The realisation of that promise in 1948 saw tens of thousands of Palestinians killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee.

Speaking to the conference Labour peer Lord Turnberg congratulated pro-Israel activists who have tried to shut down support for Palestine on campuses.

One session, “Who are our opponents”, named pro-Palestinian groups—including the PSC, Friends of Al-Aqsa, and the Socialist Workers Party—as groups to look out for.

Other sessions tried to prepare answers for “difficult questions” about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet while delegates were ready to aggressively defend Israel, they were all frustrated that support for Palestine is growing.

There was a sense of urgency that they were losing the argument. Strong and defiant campaigns can stop those who want to drive back support for Palestine.

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