Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists protested in towns and cities across Britain on Saturday against Israel’s threats to snatch Palestinian land.
The socially distanced rallies and actions came as Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu delayed an attempt to annexe huge chunks of the Palestinian West Bank.
Netanyahu wants to push ahead with plans to annexe at least a third of the West Bank, which has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Palestinians would be left with tiny scraps of land, surrounded and effectively controlled by a heavily militarised Israeli state.
Protesters in Britain gathered to call for action against Israel—including sanctions and boycotts of products produced in Israeli West Bank settlements.
Activists protested in towns and cities including Brighton, Bristol, Exeter, Norwich and Sheffield.
In central London, activists toured the streets around parliament with banners reading “Stop annexation,” “End apartheid,” and “sanctions now.”
In York, protester Harkan reported, “Around 40 people gathered in York town centre with Palestine flags and anti-apartheid posters.
“After some lively chanting, the protest dispersed with a commitment to keep fighting for Palestine and organising more for the future.”
Israel, right wing coalition government had looked set to push ahead with its annexation plans from as early as Wednesday of this week.
It would be a major step in Israel’s decades-long war against Palestinians and their right to exist.
Some 850,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes when Israel was created in 1948. Their expulsion was an act of ethnic cleansing designed to ensure Arabs would be a minority in the new state.
Israel captured the remaining Palestinian land during the Six Day War of 1967, when it invaded and occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
It has since left Gaza, instead placing it under siege. But it has refused to give up the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and is constructing huge settlement blocs there directly connected to Israel.
It now hopes to use these settlements to claim the land as its own, with the support of US president Donald Trump.
But opposition from governments in the West stalled its plans. This isn’t on the basis that annexation is a crime against Palestinians, but because they threaten “security”.
For decades Israel has been a cornerstone of the West’s domination of the Middle East. Many Western states worry that annexing the West Bank will undermine that.
They have used the promise of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a way of co-opting Arab leaders and containing Palestinian resistance. But annexation would show once and for all that such a “two-state solution” is impossible.
Even Boris Johnson wrote that he was opposed to annexation—though the Tories would never back boycotts or sanctions against Israel.
Netanyahu’s main coalition partner—and biggest political rival—Benny Gantz said at the beginning of the week that annexation could be delayed. He wants to prove to Western leaders that he’s more reliable than Netanyahu, and has hinted he’s against “unilateral” annexation.
That doesn’t mean he’s against annexation entirely—only that he thinks he could engineer a scaled-back version the West could sell as “fair” while still allowing Israel to take more Palestinian land.
The threat to Palestinians hasn’t receded. Activists in Britain have to fight to demand boycotts and sanctions against Israel—but also an end to the occupation of all Palestinian land.