Nakba Day – solidarity with Palestinian hunger strike

Palestinian hunger strikes

Demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners, East Jerusalem. Photo from Activestills

Today, 15th May, is known as Nakba Day. The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the forced displacement and exile of the Palestinian people in 1948 from their land following the creation of the state of Israel.  We are pleased to carry the article below written by a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Israel-Palestine regarding the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners taking place currently. We would also direct readers to a previous post on this site which has further background information.


Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

By Shahar Ben-Horin, Socialist Struggle Movement (Israel-Palestine)

The “Strike of Freedom and Honour” is the name given to a mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which started indefinitely on the Palestinian Prisoner Day, 17 April. The prisoners are demanding the ending of discrimination on national grounds in prison and arbitrary detention without charge or trial (‘administrative arrests’). Among other things, the prisoners protest against medical neglect, incarceration in isolation, violation of rights to visits, prohibition of telephone calls and denial of the right to academic studies.

Every week sees dozens of military raids on homes of residents throughout the West Bank. Residents are removed from their beds in the middle of the night as a matter of routine. According to Israeli Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of April more than 6,100 Palestinian prisoners classified as ‘security prisoners’, including nearly 500 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli jails. Three hundred of the prisoners are minors, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights association A-Dameer (‘The Conscience’). Aside from the Security Prisoners held by IPS, further hundreds of Palestinians are held after being criminalised by the occupation authorities as ‘illegal stayers’, usually after seeking work in Israel, and a further dozens of Palestinians are held in facilities of the military and police before being transferred to the hands of the IPS.

In a special statement issued prior to Prisoner’s Day on behalf of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoners Association and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, it was noted that since 1948, about a million Palestinians have been incarcerated in Israeli detention facilities. Since October 2015, at the beginning of the  ‘eruption’ of protest and escalation in violence, some 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel, about a third of them teenagers under 18.

Discrimination in incarceration conditions

Israeli regime propaganda, generously assisted by enlisted media, seeks to systematically mark all Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ as murderers. Even if this was true, and it is not, criminal murderers get definitely better incarceration conditions. However, the sweeping incitement is intended to silence public criticism and torpedo discussion on the reality of the occupation. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned for the sole fact of their involvement in a political struggle against the occupation and the national oppression of the Palestinians.

In this context, the State of Israel does not differentiate between those who were imprisoned after taking part in demonstrations or military activity against the military occupation forces in the territories of 1967, and those convicted of killing innocent civilians out of motives connected with the national conflict. In any case, the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’, whether Israeli citizens or residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are sweepingly discriminated against in legal procedures and conditions of imprisonment.

Ami Popper, a Jewish ‘security prisoner’, who slaughtered seven Palestinian workers on nationalist grounds, is entitled to holidays from prison, regular phone calls with relatives and even a place of work outside the prison. However, Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ are not entitled to any of these. Since 2011, they have been deprived of the right to study at the Open University, because they are not Jewish, and that is following a cynical measure of collective punishment that was implemented with the pretext of serving as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The policy remained in place even after the prisoner exchange deal that was eventually conducted in the same year.

The prisoners’ main demand is for public telephones to be installed in their prison wings so that they can talk to their relatives. Not only does such an arrangement exist in the criminal wings, but also the most famous Jewish security prisoner, Yigal Amir (who assassinated Israeli prime minister Rabin in 1995), is allowed to talk to his family by telephone. Palestinians are forbidden from doing so. The prisoners are dependent on the smuggling of mobile phones. For allegedly assisting in such smuggling, former Palestinian MK (member of the Israeli parliament, Knesset) Bassel Ghattas (National Democratic Alliance party) was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison.

Hunger strikes threaten Establishment

During half a century of occupation in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian prisoners succeeded in improving their conditions of imprisonment through collective and individual hunger strikes, and obtained recognition by the prison authorities of their elected representatives. The current action is the largest hunger strike since 2012, when about 1,500 prisoners went on hunger strike for nearly a month and achieved some improvement in conditions, including partial renewal of family visits from the Gaza Strip. A series of hunger strikes by administrative detainees managed to bring about the release of detainees without an indictment, which only proved the claim that they were arbitrarily detained and refuted the claim of their alleged danger.

In 2014, an extended hunger strike, which at its height involved around 250 administrative detainees, was isolated and eventually collapsed against the background of the military offensive in the West Bank (operation Shuvu Ahim – ‘Come Back Brothers’) and the mass arrests that accompanied it. But the Israeli establishment continues to view hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners as a threat. In addition to international criticism of Israel, the hunger strikes could ignite military confrontations – Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has already threatened to take action if the demands of the prisoners are not met – and much more significantly also mass protests on the ground, the more so as the lives of the prisoners and strike leaders become endangered.

The forced-feeding law approved by the Knesset in 2015 is designed to help the state to subdue hunger strikes by restoring the practice of de-facto torture conducted in Israel in the past, and which ironically has led to the only deaths of hunger strikers, so far.

The Israeli Medical Association (doctors’ trade union), as part of the policy of the World Medical Association, issued a vocal criticism against the law and ordered doctors not to cooperate with it. Doctors in hospitals in Ashkelon and Beersheba, for example, refused in 2015 to forcibly feed administrative detainee Muhammad ‘Allan, and last year, doctors in a hospital in `Afula refused to forcibly feed the journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who was also held as an administrative detainee. The lack of collaborationist doctors who would agree to break the hunger strike has now led Netanyahu’s officials to consider flying doctors from abroad to do so. In the meantime, the Health Ministry is briefing hospital managers to prepare for the possibility of forced feeding, and at the same time, IPS, MDA (emergency medical service) and the military are preparing to set up designated clinics in the prisons.

The IPS claims that the number of hunger strikers has dropped to 850 within the first two weeks of the strike, but prisoners’ rights organisations estimate that the number actually climbed to 1,500. In any case, the prison authorities do not hide their concern that the strike will expand, especially if the movement of solidarity with it accelerates. So far, most of the hunger strikers are identified with Fatah. About 3,000 prisoners support Fatah, and despite political divisions between them, there is a possibility that many of them will be convinced to join the protest later on. Additionally, hundreds more prisoners identified with Hamas and PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are taking part, and the hunger strike may expand among the supporters of these political movements, as well. On 4 May, a number of prisoners who had served as senior commanders in the Hamas militia joined in, and additionally the secretary-general of the PFLP, Ahmad Sa`adat, joined the hunger strike, as well.

“Israel transformed basic rights into privileges”

The most prominent leader of the current strike is Marwan Barghouti, one of 13 Palestinian MPs (members of the Palestinian Legislative Council) imprisoned by Israel, and considered the most popular Palestinian leader today, who is sometimes called the ‘Palestinian Nelson Mandela’. In all the polls, he consistently appears to be the candidate who can draw the most support if in the future he runs – as he plans – for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority.

In an article he succeeded in getting to the New York Times at the start of the strike, Barghouti wrote that the State of Israel has “turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.” He added that “Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalising Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation”. He concluded, “Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace”.

Barghouti, who was one of the leaders of the militias affiliated with Fatah – the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – survived an assassination attempt in 2001 (“targeted prevention”) by the Israeli military. He was arrested during a military raid on Ramallah the following year and convicted in a civil court for responsibility for approving terrorist actions against civilians on both sides of the Green Line, in which five people were murdered. Barghouti denied the allegations, gave up legal defence as a protest against the trial and claimed he was opposed to harming innocent people.

It should be emphasised that the socialist left opposes the use of terrorist methods in struggles. As opposed to the propaganda of the Israeli establishment, not every person who wages an armed struggle against the occupation is a terrorist. The militias of Fatah, for example, have conducted military actions against the military occupation. Nevertheless, they did not refrain over the years from killing civilians – which has, in fact, not harmed at all the occupation regime and even played into its hands politically, with more brutal attacks being carried out against Palestinian civilians. It is reasonable to assume that as one of the militia commanders, Barghouti has also been responsible for the killing of civilians. But what about former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who as the commander of the Irgun, was directly responsible, among other things, for the massive terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 91 Britons, Arabs and Jews were killed? And is not present Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responsible for issuing instructions for actions, such as the bombing of highly populated areas in the Gaza Strip, in which many Palestinian civilians died? In the war in 2014 alone, the number of Palestinians killed was twice that of Israelis killed in all the years of the second intifada.

Barghouti’s popularity is a cause for concern for the Israeli establishment. While Palestinian Authority President Abbas hastened to lavish praise on Trump and met with him on 3 May, and continues to work to maintain full arrangements with the occupation regime, Barghouti corresponds with the public rage against the Palestinian president who is reaching the end of his road. As he explained in an article he leaked to the Palestinian daily al-Quds last year, Barghouti attacks Abbas’s authoritarian rule, explains that the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic campaign on the international level have failed, and demands that the PA ends the “security coordination”.  In recent years he has called for a new popular intifada. His challenge to Abbas’ leadership is also the reason why, despite coming first in the election in December to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas refused to appoint him to the position of deputy chairman of the Fatah movement. Abbas has paid lip service in support of the hunger strike, but has no interest in it. He does not want Barghouti to profit politically from the hunger strike or the development of a popular protest movement around it – at the time when he puts his trust in Trump and wants to show he has control on the ground in the Palestinian Authority enclaves.

Barghouti was sent to solitary confinement at the start of the strike. The IPS, using secret video camera surveillance, claims that Barghouti ate on two occasions since the beginning of the hunger strike. In 2004, during another hunger strike involving around 2,200 prisoners, in which Barghouti was amongst the leaders, the IPS also claimed Barghouti was secretly filmed eating a meal in solitary confinement. These claims are angrily denied by Palestinian prisoners’ campaigners, who say the IPS are deliberately spreading black propaganda by using old video footage that was made when there was no prisoners’ hunger strike and that the face of the man eating food in the latest footage is obscured.

If Barghouti is evacuated for medical treatment or forced feeding, or if his life becomes in danger, an escalation in the solidarity protests outside the prisons can be expected. It is not inconceivable that if one of the hunger strikers – and certainly one of the leaders of the hunger strike – pays with his life over the next few weeks, it will ignite a mass protest similar to the response to the deaths of hunger strikers in Northern Ireland in 1981, led by republican prisoner, Bobby Sands, who was elected to Westminster during his protest. Already, now, the hunger strike serves as a mobilising and uniting factor for significant layers among the Palestinian public, on both sides of the Green Line.

Solidarity protests

Many thousands took part in protest marches held on Prisoner Day throughout the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem. In towns and villages, solidarity protest tents were set up in solidarity with the hunger strike. On 27 April, a protest shut-down of public services and small businesses was held in the Palestinian Authority territories and in East Jerusalem. On the following day there were demonstrations and confrontations with the military and the Border Police in at least 15 locations in the West Bank as part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by the Fatah.

The protests in the West Bank are facing military repression, which could worsen later. During the first two weeks of the hunger strike, the highest number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank was recorded since the beginning of 2017, with 191 injured, including 45 minors (OCHA figures). The vast majority of them were injured during solidarity protests with the hunger strike, and about a tenth were injured from live bullets.

Within the Green Line, as well, a number of protest vigils were organised locally and a solidarity tent was set up in Umm al-Fahm. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in several countries around the world, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the Histadrut (Israeli trade union organisation) is affiliated, published a solidarity statement.

As usual, the Israeli government and the tops of IPS declare that they allegedly are not moved by the protests and have no intention to negotiate with the prisoners. In a number of cases in recent years, the state, under the Netanyahu governments, was prepared to bring hunger striking prisoners to the brink of death before reaching an agreement. In the meantime, the IPS is working to punish the prisoners by psychological pressure, isolation, transfers between prisons, confiscation of clothing and personal equipment, and even the confiscation of salt used by the hunger strikers to improve their physical condition during the strike.

According to reports, negotiations between the prisoners and the IPS, nevertheless, took place during the weeks leading up to the strike, and if the strike intensifies, they will probably be renewed. It is possible that the Netanyahu government may be willing to try to push the line a bit further this time to demonstrate toughness against the demands of the prisoners, but they are playing with fire and may lose control over developments.

More protest actions, of Palestinians and Israelis, to support the hunger strike, represent a potential threat to Netanyahu’s fanatical right-wing government. Israeli demonstrators must stand alongside Palestinian demonstrators. And the Israel Medical Association is, on this issue, an example to other trade unions: it is necessary to rebel against draconian legislation and attacks by the right-wing government. The protests against forced feeding, discrimination in incarceration conditions and administrative detentions should help to build a stronger movement against the occupation and perpetuation of the national conflict, against the war on workers and poor, and for peace, equality and a socialist change.

Socialist Struggle Movement says:

  • Support solidarity protests with the prisoners’ hunger strike. The Histadrut should back the solidarity statement of the ITUC, of which it is a member.
  • No to torture of hunger strikers – no to forced-feeding! Repeal the Forced-Feeding Law. Workers’ organisations should back the Israeli Medical Association’s opposition to force feeding.
  • End discrimination on the basis of nationality in conditions of imprisonment! Yes to supporting the basic demands of the prisoners to improve their conditions, including the right to telephone calls.
  • End administrative detention! End arbitrary arrests and incarceration without trial. Protect the right of every prisoner to know the charges against him/her, to be represented by a lawyer and to have a fair trial.
  • Get the military out of the territories! Abolish the military courts in the West Bank and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the settlements.
  • Release all Palestinian political prisoners. Conduct fair trials, through a designated procedure, under the supervision of workers’ and independent human rights organisations, from both sides of the conflict, for Israelis and Palestinians suspected of responsibility for atrocities related to the conflict.
  • For an independent, democratic and socialist Palestinian state alongside a democratic and socialist Israel, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East and regional peace.

If you agree with us, want more information or want to discuss the situation in Israel-Palestine please fill in the form below

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Socialist Party statement on the Livingstone suspension

Socialist Party statement on the Livingstone suspension: ‘Slow coup’ against Jeremy Corbyn

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Ken and Jeremy (picture from the Huffington Post)

By Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party. Hannah will be speaking at this event in May, in Coventry
The furore around charges of anti-Semitism engulfing the Labour Party is, in reality, an orchestrated and cynical new stage of the campaign by the right-wing pro-capitalist wing of the Labour Party to try and prepare the ground for ditching Jeremy Corbyn at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is not possible to tell what the timescale will be, but this has all the hallmarks of a slow coup.

Iain Watson, the BBC’s Political Correspondent, reports a Labour MP telling him a week before this broke publicly that: “There is a lot more in this anti-Semitism issue – a lot more. And the people we will take out are all close to Corbyn.”

Jeremy Corbyn was elected less than a year ago by a landslide; having enthused hundreds of thousands of people with his anti-austerity policies.

The Blairites were trounced and these 4.5%ers were horrified at the prospect of Labour – a party whose leadership had loyally acted in the interests of big business for decades – being reclaimed by the working class.

Backed to the hilt by big business and the right-wing media, they are dedicating all their time and energy into once again making Labour a party that can be relied on to act in the interests of the 1%.

Compromise no solution

As we have repeatedly warned, no amount of attempts to compromise with the right wing that dominates the parliamentary Labour Party will pacify them.

On the contrary it only emboldens them. Nor are there any limits to the levels they will stoop to. MPs like Jess Phillips, who declared she would happily knife Jeremy Corbyn in the front, or John Mann, who has attempted to discredit Corbyn with the most scurrilous lies since the moment his name appeared on the ballot paper, will be prepared to use any means necessary to achieve their goal.

Hence an attempt is being made to equate criticism of the right-wing Israeli government with anti-Semitism and to smear the whole of the left with the charge.

This has included an outrageous attempt to smear the Militant, now the Socialist Party. The slur was made on Newsnight by former leading SDP member Baroness Neuberger.

She has since admitted that she has ‘no written evidence’ but based her accusation on the reports of ‘personal friends/acquaintances’! In fact Militant (and now the Socialist Party) has always fought against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, and has a very longstanding position of supporting the right of two states – Israel and Palestine – to exist side by side, which would be possible on a socialist basis.

We have a sister organisation in Israel Palestine that takes the same stance and heroically campaigns against the Israeli government.

Unfortunately, this is not the position of many others on the left. We would criticise Ken Livingstone for his crass remarks mentioning Zionism and Hitler, which were greeted with glee by the right wing because they gave them an opportunity to step up their attack.

However, Jeremy Corbyn made a mistake when, rather than just making clear his disagreement with Livingstone’s remarks, he acceded to the frenzied demands of the right to suspend him from the party.

No action against John Mann

At the same time no action has been taken against John Mann for his brutal public provocation of Livingstone other than a supposed ‘dressing down’ by Rosie Winterton, the right-wing Labour chief whip.

In fact, as the capitalist class’s mouthpiece, the Financial Times (FT), reported, far from being punished, Mann had “Labour MPs…lining up to pat him on the back”.

The FT added that: “One party insider said the row was indeed a proxy for the left-right split within the Labour party. ‘You go to party conference and all the leftwingers are at the Friends of Palestine event and the right are all at the Friends of Israel drinks’.”

They conclude that: “Mr Corbyn is now under pressure from his critics to make a big speech on anti-Semitism with a promise to stamp it out; for the Labour leader, making good on that promise is the politically dangerous part.” The right intend to keep ratcheting up the pressure on Corbyn to denounce all those on the left who have criticised the right wing Israeli government.

Badge of honour

Meanwhile, voting for bombing Iraq or Syria will, in their view, continue to be badges of honour.

It would be a serious mistake for the Labour leadership to retreat in the face of this onslaught. Many of those who were enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign can see this onslaught for what it is and will be eager to come to his defence.

Outrageously, leaders of Momentum, initially set up to organise those very people, have cravenly gone along with the attacks by the right.

Unfortunately this has been the trend – from refusing to campaign for deselection to attempting to exclude non-Labour Party members, including the Socialist Party, from Momentum.

But by supporting Livingstone’s suspension and demanding he should permanently “exit politics” Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum, has shown he is incapable of organising a movement to effectively defend Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership from the Labour right.

It is urgent that the lessons of this incident are learned. As we have consistently pointed out it will only be possible to defeat the right by mobilising the anti-austerity movement in a mass, democratic movement.

To succeed this cannot be led by those who see the way forward within the narrow and undemocratic constraints of the existing Labour Party and whose approach is for endless compromise with the pro-austerity warmongers that dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Instead it means building a movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those workers, young people and community activists who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party. The Socialist Party will do all we can to assist in the building of such a movement.

Report from a Coventry Socialist on International Women’s Day protest in Israel-Palestine

Report from a Coventry Socialist on International Women’s Day protest in Israel – Palestine

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Protest in Tel Aviv

On a recent visit to Israel a member of Coventry Socialist Party attended a protest linked to International Women’s Day initiated by Socialist Struggle, part of the Committee for a Workers’ International and the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Israel – Palestine.  Socialist Struggle then proceeded to support a protest organised to demand bilingual education in Jaffa.

Below is a report with pictures

Demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Haifa

Last week saw protests organised in the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa by members of Socialist Struggle (Maavak Sozialisti / Nidal Eshteraki), to fight against sexism and the oppression of women under capitalist society. The protests, which took place during the same week as International Women’s Day, drew attention to the link between the current system , the situation for women and why socialist change is needed across the world.

In Tel Aviv the vibrant and lively protest saw hundreds of leaflets distributed outlining the Socialist viewpoint, with copies of The Maavak, the newspaper of Socialist Struggle being sold.

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The newspaper ‘Maavak’ and leaflet against sexism and oppression

The poor situation facing women was highlighted – from the fact that since 2011 over 100 women have been murdered in Israel, mostly by their partners,  that there are around 200,000 victims of domestic violence, street harassment and that women receive less pay amongst many other issues.

Struggle together

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Marching through the streets

A speaker for Socialist Struggle won applause by calling for solidarity with the strike of Palestinian teachers in the West Bank which was taking place at the time.

The leaflet pointed out that Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories are the main victims of the collective punishment measures such as house demolitions and the closure and denial of access to social services, health care and so on, whilst the call by government ministers for Jewish citizens to carry guns only increases the risk of Jewish and Arab women, including from violence by family members.

Furthermore that there needs to be a joint struggle of women and men, Israeli and Palestinian for social justice and peace, an end to the policy of ‘conflict management’ and an end to the occupation and settlements which promises only more rounds of bloodshed.

Fight the system

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Fighting for Socialism

A key aspect of the protest was to point out that

‘Sexism and discrimination against women are nurtured and emboldened by poverty, privatisation, unemployment, wars and environment destruction – these are not an act of fate, but the result of the capitalist system being waged for the sake of profit and not the needs of the majority. International Women’s Day shows a long tradition of working class women’s struggle against discrimination and against capitalist exploitation.’

Demanding bilingual education in Jaffa

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Fighting for bilingual education

After completing the protest against oppression of women, members of Socialist Struggle joined a rally in a main square in Tel Aviv outside the national theatre where hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians met to demand bilingual and integrated education in Jaffa.  In 2014 after the Gaza war far right activists incited by the racist propaganda of the Israeli government executed an arson attack on the bi-lingual school in Jerusalem. The attackers were arrested and identified themselves as activists of the fascist group LAHAVA that receives funding from the state which led to a series of protest on this issue in Jerusalem.

Read more about this protest from 972 magazine here

Socialist Struggle take part in joint Israeli-Palestinian Women’s Day demonstration

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No to the Occupation

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Members of Socialist Struggle also took part in a joint Israeli-Palestinian Women’s day demonstration on 4th March.  This took place next to an Israeli army check point south of the Palestinian village of Beit Jala in the Occupied West Bank as part of a series of monthly protests against the Occupation.

For more information and to find out more about the struggle for Socialism, please fill in the form below. Indicate if you would like to receive a bulletin produced by Coventry Socialist Party on Israel-Palestine

 

Dave Nellist on the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six

Dave Nellist on the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six

The Birmingham Six celebrating their successful appeal

To mark the 25th anniversary – on 14 March – of the release of the Birmingham Six, Dave Nellist, former Coventry Labour MP, remembers their arrest and the campaign for their release. This article was originally carried in the Socialist Party’s newspaper, The Socialist.

On the night of Thursday, 21st November 1974, two IRA bombs exploded in central Birmingham pubs, destroying the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town, killing 21 people and injuring over 160. Many of the victims were themselves Irish.

Alongside the overwhelming sense of revulsion at the death and injury of ordinary working class people, the bombings triggered a wave of anti-Irish sentiment, particularly in the West Midlands. Petrol bombs were thrown at the Irish community centre in Digbeth, at an Irish pub in Kingstanding, and at Irish businesses and schools.

Workers walked out of the Leyland plant in Longbridge carrying placards demanding the hanging of the bombers. Support from small, fringe, allegedly Marxist groups in Britain for the right of the IRA to conduct an ‘armed struggle’ affected factory sales of genuine Marxist papers like the Militant.

Militant was in favour of workers’ unity in Northern Ireland, a struggle for a socialist Ireland with full rights for all minorities, and a socialist federation on an equal and voluntary basis of Ireland with England, Scotland and Wales.

Militant resolutely opposed the IRA’s campaign of individual terrorism which further divided working class people.

Six men from Birmingham who, before the bombs had exploded, had been travelling to Belfast, were arrested and beaten by West Midlands police during three days of lengthy periods of interrogation, which also involved food and sleep deprivation. Four of the men ‘confessed’. 14 prison officers charged with assault arising from the case were later all acquitted.

Scientific tests showed that statements the Six had made during their questioning had been altered at a later date. Forensic evidence ‘proving’ that two of the six had been handling explosives was challenged by an expert for the defence (the former Chief Inspector of Explosives for the Home Office) and later discredited.

16 years in jail

The Birmingham Six: Paddy Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker, served 16 years in high security jails for that false accusation and wrong conviction.

Much of the investigative work in the 1980s which demolished the forensic evidence and alleged confessions was done for Granada TVs ‘World in Action’ by Chris Mullin (later to become a Labour government minister) and published in his book ‘Error of Judgement’.

At the Court of Appeal in 1991 new evidence was heard of police fabrication and suppression of evidence which, together with the discrediting of the forced confessions and the tainted forensic evidence, was so strong that the prosecution service decided not to oppose the appeal. Three police officers, including a superintendent, were later charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, but were never actually prosecuted.

The release of the Birmingham Six on 14 March 1991 was followed by a number of others who had been convicted of terrorist offences in the 1970s including the Guildford Four, and Judith Ward who had served 19 years of a 30-year sentence for the M62 coach bombing. The cases were joined by other miscarriages, including in the next six years 27 people having convictions quashed or charges dropped after evidence from West Midlands detectives was discredited.

Several of the Birmingham Six have continued campaigning, not only on their own behalf, but also for others.

Paddy Hill, less than five months after his release in 1991, accompanied me to Israel/Palestine as part of a week-long international delegation to attend the appeal of Mahmoud Masarwa, a Palestinian trade unionist wrongly convicted by Israeli courts of terrorism. A year later Paddy Hill was the main speaker at my election rally in the 1992 general election.

CWI-organised delagation to Israel-Palestine in August 1991. Dave Nellist on the left, Paddy Hill 2nd from right, Ann Whelan (Bridgewater 3 campaign) in the centre

More recently Paddy has campaigned alongside ‘Justice4the21’ – the group set up by family and relatives of those who died in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings – and supported their petition for a new inquiry.

The Birmingham Six were political scapegoats. They were beaten and tortured until four of them ‘confessed’. For 16 ½ years millions of pounds of public money was used to sustain those wrongful convictions, and no one from the police or legal system was ever successfully prosecuted for the fraud and perjury that convicted them.

Wider accountability of the police and democratic control over them have yet to be achieved, as developing revelations about undercover policing and many other issues still show.

Coventry shows support for Palestine

Coventry shows support for Palestine

Protest in Coventry

Protest in Coventry

By Dan Crowter

Around 150 people gathered outside the Council House in Coventry to protest against Israel’s continued onslaught on Gaza. The mood was both sombre and angry as people read the names of the hundreds of innocent children who have been killed by Israeli state terror. Unfortunately this list is growing by the hour, with the latest attacks on Gaza perpetrated by the IDF.

The names of children murdered in Gaza were read out

The names of children murdered in Gaza were read out

It is not only the inhumane slaughter of innocent people. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza have been displaced, their homes and communities being reduced to rubble, with little or no access to basic amenities. The situation is nothing short of barbarism.

Socialist Party member Paul Hunt speaking at the protest. Anti-war placard from Israel can be seen in the background - in Hebrew, Arabic and English

Socialist Party member Paul Hunt speaking at the protest. Anti-war placard from Israel / Palestine can be seen in the background – in Hebrew, Arabic and English

Socialist Party member and Coventry Unison assistant branch secretary Paul Hunt spoke bringing solidarity for the people of Palestine from trade unions in the city.  He drew attention to the anti-war protests in Israel and the West Bank and the slogan raised by the Socialist Struggle Movement in Israel / Palestine (sister organisation of the Socialist Party)– “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation” which has been produced in Arabic, Hebrew and English . The protests in Israel are as yet small, however 6,000 have rallied in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, with a common slogan being ‘Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.’

A member of the community expresses his opposition to the situation in the Middle East

A member of the community expresses his opposition to the situation in the Middle East

He also echoed the feelings of many on the demo when he said that the Palestinians can’t rely on any capitalist political leaders – the US and the UK have been sending money and arms to Israel, and Labour leader Ed Miliband described himself as a Zionist. The Egyptian Government are maintaining the blockade of Gaza, which keeps the Palestinian people in poverty and locked in an open air prison. We can’t trust establishment politicians to support Palestine. Rather it will be the support, solidarity and crucially mass action of workers and ordinary people across the Middle East and indeed the world which will be the only reliable source of support for the Palestineans.

The crowd on the Council House steps

The crowd on the Council House steps

Coventry’s Labour council leader Ann Lucas and deputy leader Phil Townshend both spoke at the demo and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people – this is welcome, but what actions will Coventry Council take to support the Palestinians? They have refused to fly the Palestinian flag from the council building, which would be seen as a basic gesture of solidarity and support.

Stop Israeli state terror

Stop Israeli state terror

There will be more protests in Coventry in the future and we urge as many people as possible to attend the national demonstration for Palestine that will be taking place in London, Saturday 9th August. There will be transport from Coventry. Contact us for more details

If you want to join the fight for a socialist solution to the crisis in the Middle East, please get in touch by clicking here

 

Gaza crisis – online resources from Coventry Socialist Party

Gaza crisis – online resources from Coventry Socialist Party

Dave Nellist speaking outside the BBC

Dave Nellist speaking outside the BBC

Millions around the world have protested against the continuing slaughter in Gaza as the crisis gathers pace. Here in Coventry there have been protests which have been well attended as people express their disgust as the death toll mounts. Socialist Party members in the city have supported the protests, as we have done across the UK and indeed the world.

In this post we provide some links to what we believe are important articles and film which express the outrage that so many are feeling, but importantly provide a socialist analysis of the situation, and a socialist way forward out of the endless nightmare for the working class and poor of the Middle East.

The Socialist Party is a member of an international organisation of socialists, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which is present in around 50 countries across the world. We are proud to be linked to the Socialist Struggle Movement in Israel / Palestine which has relentless campaigned against the occupation and in support of united working class struggle across the Middle East.

The following is a short film of a speech by a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, Shay from Haifa in Israel.

The next link is an article by another member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, Shahar. This goes in to some detail about the current situation in the region, including the current mood of the Israeli population towards the war, Hamas, and the role of socialists in fighting for a solution.

The article can be accessed here

The next film is an uncut version of the recent mass demonstration in London. Click here to view

And finally, here is the PDF of the leaflet that has been mass distributed across the country. To access it click here. A new Socialist Party leaflet will be available in the next few days.

If you are disgusted by what you are seeing on the TV screens every day, and want to help us fight for a socialist solution to capitalist brutality in the Middle East, please fill in the form below.