Open letter to those arrested and imprisoned for protesting against Israel’s onslaught of Gaza

We were among the hundreds and sometimesthousands who protested every night at the Israeli Embassy in December2008/January 2009, and who marched with 100,000 others on 10th January, 2009.

While young Muslim men and women were the first,the most numerous and the most consistent protestors, this was a popular cause- many Jewish people and people from other backgrounds participated.  Allof us shared a desperate outrage at Israel’s use of F-16s, drones, whitephosphorous and depleted uranium; its murder of 1,400 people and the woundingand maiming of thousands more, including hundreds of children, women, peoplewho were unarmed or holding white flags; its bombing of schools and hospitals;its decimation of animal and bird life; and its poisoning of water andair. 

Our distress and anger reflected the widespreadhorror in the UK at what wehad heard (and been prevented from witnessing by Israel’srefusal to allow reporters into Gaza),and at the devastation we were only afterwards allowed to see.1

The bombing was part of the ‘holocaust’ Israel’sDeputy Minister of Defence had threatened on the people of Gaza.2  Everyyear on of the anniversary of the Nazi holocaust, we are asked: ‘How was itallowed to happen?’  Yet for 60 years another holocaust has been unfoldingin Palestine infront of the eyes of the world.  And ironically, those who tookresponsibility to try to stop the bombing of Gaza by demonstrating against it were notthanked but punished – especially if they happened to be young Muslimpeople. 

We were shocked by the arrests, many of them monthslater through the use of surveillance, dawn raids, and the handcuffing offamilies.  Even more shocking is the court’s use of "deterrent" sentences:a year in jail for as little as throwing a plastic bottle.  This politicalsentencing treats perfectly legal demonstrators in a popular internationalhuman rights cause as if they were terrorists just because they areMuslim. 

This racist targeting of Muslim people, from theGaza protest tothe "war on terror", is part of an insistent attempt to equate Islam withterrorism.  This targeted racism is not accidental but calculated,intending to justify the war and occupation in Palestine,Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombing of Pakistan, and to prepare us to accept an attackon Iran.

Islamophobia is also used tocriminalise protest.  The targeting of G20 protestors, the continuing‘kettling’ and police violence including the death of Ian Tomlinson, and thesystematic undermining of the legal right to protest are reinforced by thispersecution of the Gazaprotesters.  In defending the Gazaprotesters, we defend everyone’s right to protest.

AsJewish people we stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers against theslaughter in Palestine. If there had been this kind of protest outside Germany in support of resistance tothe Nazi onslaught inside, against Jews, Roma, people with disabilities,communists, socialists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, lesbian women andgay men, there would have been many fewer deaths.

In honour of all those who died in the Nazi Holocaustand every holocaust before and since, we defend those targeted now.  Thoseof us who concentrate on the liberation of Palestineare well aware of the tragedies unfolding elsewhere in the world, from Congo to Iraq,from Sri Lanka to Colombia.Defending our sisters and brothers in Palestine who resist and struggle tosurvive, and taking our lead from their resistance, is one with all whostruggle to survive against violent repression elsewhere.  Opposition tothese repressive forces is increasing.  Even in Israel Jewish hostility towhat the government is doing is growing, from the mother who lost her child andcontinues to speak out, 3 to the ´refuseniks’ who will not serve in thearmy or who leak information about how the military actively encourages soldiersto commit atrocities in Gaza.

Israel’s claim to speak for all Jewish people is alie.  An increasing number, including those of us who fought South Africanapartheid, are anti-Zionist.  We stand against Israeli apartheid: thebantustanisation of Palestine, the brutal pass laws, ID cards and check points,compelling Jewish-Muslim couples and their children to live apart, Jewish-onlyroads, Jewish-only settlements; the Apartheid Wall tearing families andcommunities apart and separating farmers from their land; the theft of houses,land, water and other resources; the denial of legal rights – including the useof torture of those in "administrative detention", and extra-judicial killing -that is, death squads.  All of this is against our will.

In the thirties there was censorship to preventpopular mobilisation outside to support the resistance against the Nazigenocide within Germany. Now that, despite censorship and distortions, news reaches our screens,prosecutions and ‘deterrent’ sentences aim to isolate and punish young peoplefor acting against Israel’scrimes.  We must stand against this.

We hope that activists and their networks willorganise publicly with the defendants’ families in support of those in jail andon trial.  This is what we intend to do.

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