The Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh,shot by an Israeli soldier on 11 May.
Welcome to the website of Liverpool Friends of Palestine.
On other pages you will find out more about the issues. You’ll also find some recommendations of books, films and so on and some links to other organisations. There’s a ‘basic history’ in the ‘Palestine’ section and there’s even a quiz to test your knowledge! Elsewhere on the net, we have a Facebook page for which you can just follow this link. You can also follow us on Twitter at @Livfop.
POSTPONED Tuesday 21st, 7pm – Israelis and Palestinians: Hope, Justice and Equality: this Christian Aid week lecture is given by William Bell who is head of Christian Aid’s Middle East department. It is at the Anglican Cathedral, free entrance. Register free HERE. This event is postponed because of the rail strike.
Wednesay 29th, 5pm – Gaza above the siege – the blockade 15 years later, an online conversation hosted by Adalah Justice Project. Register free HERE.
Wednesday 6th, 7pm – our normal monthly meeting is held on zoom. Agendas, link etc go out to members separately.
Saturday 9th, 12 noon – our city centre stall will be at the bottom of Church Street outside HSBC, with petition and leaflets. Come and help out for half an hour.
Saturday 16th, 7.30pm – Curfew, a contemporary dance production by El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe & Hawiyya Dance Company. Part of the city’s Arab Arts festival, this production is at the Unity Theatre on Hope Place. Tickets are £10 / £8. More information is HERE.
Sunday 17th, 12 noon to 5pm – the traditional Family Day at the Sefton Park Palm House that ends the Arab Arts Festival. Stalls, storytelling and entertainers all afternoon, free entry.
Monday 18th, 7pm – Time to Speak Up for Palestine, an online rally hosted by Labour & Palestine and part of the Arise Festival. Speakers include MPs Kim Johnson and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, also Louise Regan from the NEU. Register free or donation HERE.
Friday to Sunday 29th to 31st – this year’s Big Ride for Palestine begins in Derby and ends with a Sunday ride round Manchester. Cyclists of all speeds welcome! Details including how to register – you don’t have to do all three days – are HERE.
TO KILL A JOURNALIST
The Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was shot by an Israeli soldier on 11 May. She was covering the Israeli forces’ latest raid on the refugee camp in Jenin (on the West Bank) and was wearing a helmet and a flak jacket (as seen here) clearly identifying her as a press reporter. She was shot in the head, which suggests a precision aim. More detail on the incident is HERE.
Israeli spokespeople tried first to blame a Palestinian gunman. The human rights organisation Btselem immediately showed their account was impossible (see HERE) and a more considered finding from the United Nations (delivered on 24 June) is HERE. The UNs rapporteur has said that the shooting may amount to a war crime. The International Federation of Journalists and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate had already in April this year filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court alleging war crimes by the Israeli forces against journalists (see HERE). The shooting of Shireen Abu Aqleh will be added as further evidence. An Early Day Motion before the British Parliament is HERE and an open letter from over 120 artists is HERE.
Shortly after the shooting, the world witnessed the horrific attack by Israeli soldiers on Shireen’s Christian funeral in Jerusalem, an atrocity that has been condemned even by some who are normally subservient to Israeli apartheid. Since then, as reported HERE, the UN has named its annual training programme for Palestinian journalists after Shireen. A briefing from CAABU on this issue can be viewed HERE.
ISRAEL – AN APARTHEID STATE
Amnesty International have on 1 February released a report Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians – cruel system of domination and crime against humanity. The lengthy full report is HERE, there is a 15-minute youtube summary HERE and a 90-minute online course is available free from Amnesty HERE. “Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights,” Amnesty’s secretary general, Agnès Callamard, said while introducing the report, “Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid.” Our own leaflet, Palestinians ruled by Israeli apartheid, is HERE, with Arabic version HERE.
The Amnesty report is part of a growing international consensus. The Israeli human rights organisation Btselem produced in 12 January 2021 a report setting out clearly how Israel is properly described as an apartheid state ‘from the river to the sea’. Read their report HERE. Evidence pointing in the same direction has been gathered by the international organisation Human Rights Watch whose report, entitled A Threshold Crossed, can be found HERE.
The Amnesty report is welcomed by a host of Israeli human rights groups whose statement is HERE. A review in the Electronic Intifada online explains how the report breaks some new ground and is HERE. A further report was published at the end of February from the human rights organisation Addameer (in conjunction with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School) and can be read HERE.A 22-minute documentary from Mondoweiss can be found HERE.
On 25 March the United Nations Human Rights Council heard from Michael Lynk, its outgoing ‘special rapporteur’ who concluded that the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory ‘satisfied the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid’. First, an institutionalised regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination has been established. Second, this system of alien rule had been established with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another. And third, the imposition of this system of institutionalised discrimination with the intent of permanent domination had been built upon the regular practice of inhuman(e) acts. This was apartheid. With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel had imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world. The tabled report for the meeting is HERE (it is report A/HRC/49/25)
For weeks there was complete silence from all the main British political parties. Eventually in April Labour leader Keir Starmer gave an interview saying he did not agree with the Amnesty report. He did not say why. He is roundly criticised in THIS ARTICLE. Meanwhile no MP has troubled even to put up an Early Day Motion on the subject..
Israel and supporters have railed against Amnesty International and threatened to downgrade Amnesty’s status in Israel. But as if to make the case, the Israeli parliament has in March passed a law reinstating the ban on Palestinians married to Israeli citizens from getting residence in Israel (read about it HERE and HERE).
ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINIANS
The actions of Israeli authorities in the West Bank amount to ethnic cleansing: demolishing Palestinian homes, destroying water infrastructure and extending ‘settlement’ towns from which Palestinians are excluded. THIS REPORT from the European Union documents demolitions and land seizures during 2021 and makes you wonder why the same EU does not impose sanctions.
Attempts to force Palestinians to leave their homes are not confined to the West Bank. THIS REPORT from December 2021 shows how Palestinians in the Israeli town of Lydd – who are Israeli citizens – encounter similar pressures.
BRITISH PARLIAMENT BOGGED DOWN
The latest British Commons debate on Palestine was on 24 February, where the resolution was merely That this House has considered the UK Government position on the recognition of the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel. The official record is HERE. There were some forthright speeches from MPs Julie Elliott, Andy McDonald, Jeremy Corbyn and others (none from Liverpool) but the Government’s position remains that it is not the right time to recognise the State of Palestine. Both major party leaderships are strongly pro-Israel at the moment, so do not watch this space.
RIP DESMOND TUTU
The world has mourned the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 26 December 2021. He is best known for his resolute opposition to apartheid in his native South Africa. Messages from all parts of the establishment have tended to omit his equally forthright condemnation of Israeli apartheid (an example is the short clip HERE).. Even the Guardian newspaper took its time before including THIS TRIBUTE. Desmond Tutu helped many to understand the similarities between the systems of Israel and apartheid South Africa and was not afraid to make his views clear. We will remember him.
STAND WITH THE SIX
On 19 October the Israeli Defence Minister announced that six Palestinian Non-governmental Organisations would be designated as ‘terrorist’. A subsequent military order extended this designation to cover the West Bank area. The six organisations are Addameer, Defence for Children Internationanl Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees, the Bisan Centre, Al-Haq and the Union of Palestinian Womens Committees.
This drastic step, that renders the six organisations liable to immediate enforcement action, has not been taken suddenly. It is reported that as long ago as May the Israeli government circulated a 74-page dossier among European governments that claimed to provide evidence for proscribing those organisations. Those goverments were not impressed, however and none have endorsed the move. The Israeli government is reported HERE as having another go in January 2022, presenting another unconvincing dossier.
The international mobilisation has been swift. The move is described by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem as ‘an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes’.The six organisations themselves have expressed their opposition in a webinar HERE. In Britain, the response of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign can be found HERE, while a statement from the TUC and eleven major trade unions can be found HERE. A statement from members of Parliament’s around Europe – on this and other issues – is HERE. You can sign a petition #Standwiththe6 HERE.
The six organisations have also filed a formal objection to the military order – read it HERE. They highlight that they have been given no opportunity to see the ‘evidence’ against them.
Also, not to be deterred, Al-Haq have in January produced a report Cultural Apartheid – Israel’s cultural erasure in Gaza, which you can find and download HERE. The report includes material from Forensic Architecture.
On 3 March Michele Bachelet, UN Commissioner for Huan Rights, said: “These designation decisions were based on vague and unsubstantiated allegations; my Office remains unaware of any credible evidence to support these accusations. A number of member states, notably those providing financial support to these organisations, have also questioned the basis for these decisions. After the end of the reporting period, the Israeli military denied a request by human rights organisations to share the evidence justifying the decisions, citing threats to national security. These designations and declarations by Israeli authorities raise serious concerns that counter-terrorism legislation and military orders are being used to halt, restrict or criminalise legitimate human rights and humanitarian work, including important work on accountability. These measures, adding to a series of actions undermining civil society orgs working for the human rights of Palestinians, constitute an attack on human rights defenders, & seriously inhibit freedoms of association, opinion & expression and the right to public participation.. I call upon Israel to revoke the designations against Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organisations as terrorist or unlawful organisations, absent sufficient evidentiary basis for them.”
In April the Union of Agricultural Workers Committee has been awarded one of the Iinternational Ockenden prizes for its garden project in Hebron (see HERE).
SOLIDARITY IS A VERB – EMMA WATSON
On 2 January the British actress Emma Watson, star of the Harry Potter films,posted a support for the Palestinians on her instagram account: Solidarity is a verb’. In the caption she added a quote from scholar and activist Sara Ahmed: “Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work,”
She was supported by fellow-actress Miriam Margolyes who said: “I totally support Emma Watson’s recent remarks on Palestine. All decent people should too. The Israeli treatment of Palestinians is disgraceful. Anti-semitism is not at issue. What matters is opposing cruelty, speaking out for compassion. Criticising Israel is not in itself, an anti-Semitic stance. Conflating the two is a form of disguised censorship.” .
A further forty people from the world of film signed this open letter: “We join Emma Watson in support of the simple statement that ‘solidarity is a verb’, including meaningful solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their human rights under international law. We oppose injustice anywhere in the world and stand with all those seeking an end to oppression. We stand against ongoing Israeli attempts to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory. We recognize the underlying power imbalance between Israel, the occupying power, and the Palestinians, the people under a system of military occupation and apartheid, as described by Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, and by Palestinian and international human rights experts. We condemn all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Opposition to a political system or policy is distinct from bigotry, hatred and discrimination targeting any group of humans based on their identity. We see the former as a legitimate and necessary form of political and ethical expression and the latter as racism – pure and simple. The late Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Heeding Tutu’s moral appeal, we stand on the side of justice, freedom, and equal rights for all. This is the least we can do.”
ELBIT OUT OF OLDHAM
In January the Israeli arms firm Elbit Systems sold its Ferranti factory premises in Oldham. The factory has been the target of protests over the past eighteen months as it has been manufafcturing drones used by the Israeli armed forces against Palestinians. Since May 2021 there have been weekly demonstrations outside the factory called by Oldham Peace and Justice and Palestine Action. The factory has also been occupied and on several occasions sprayed with red paint.
The premises have been sold to TT Electronics, who announce that ‘the addition of their talented team of engineers and product portfolio will help us build leading positions in high-reliability markets including aerospace and defence.’ It remains to be seen what will be produced on the site in future.
As from November 2021 Elbit have also been on the ‘exclusion list’ of the Australian sovereign wealth fund because of the nature of their involvement in the arms trade (as reported HERE).
CHALLENGES TO ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION
Over 500 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons without charge under what is called ‘admiinistrative detention’. The procedure derives from British regulations from the days when Britain held Palestine under a League of Nations mandate: no formal charge or trial is involved and the detention can be extended indefinitely. A factsheet about the process is HERE. In October 2020 Hisham Abu Hawash was detained in this way. He went on hunger strike to demand his release. After 141 days he was in a coma and close to death. As the journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote HERE, the Israeli government (eventually) feared widespread resistance if he were to die and he has been released on 26 February.
Palestinian prisoners are now refusing to take part in Israeli courts that deal with administrative detention, citing the inherent unfairness in the procedures. The English version of their statement (20 January 2022) is HERE.
For more background on this issue see THIS FACTSHEET prepared by the Institute for Middle East Understanding in September 2021
ICE CREAM WARS
On 19 July 2021 the American ice cream firm Ben and Jerry’s announced that from the end of 2022 they will not sell their ice cream in the ‘occupied Palestinian Territories’, meaning that they will no longer cool the brows of racist settlers in the West Bank.
Their statement reads: We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners. We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.
The reaction of Israeli public figures has been pretty much a meltdown. The Israeli President denounced the move as a form of terrorism, while some American politicians are trying to get action taken under American anti-sanctions laws. In short, those who have spent years saying that boycotts don’t work are… calling for a boycott!
The Balfour Project have in July put up a Palestinian art exhibition online, that includes maps of Palestine. You can view it HERE.
Another interesting map can be found HERE. Two detailed Palestine maps from 1947 and 1951 are superimposed and you can slide from one to the other. The later map has the lines marking out the West Bank and Gaza strip.
For further pictorial presentations on the situation of Palestinians check out Visualising Palestine whose website is HERE. Maps from the 1940s (produced under the British mandate) have been put online and can be accessed HERE.
WHERE IS PALESTINE? – NEW REPORT
In September 2021 the charity Christian Aid produced a report entitled Where is Palestine: a story of loss, inequality and failure. “This report details the repeated violations of basic human rights, that Palestinians experience, drawing on Christian Aid’s decades of work with the poorest communities in the region and the expertise and experience of our partners. We show how the situation takes away the dignity that we should all be entitled to live with”. You can read the report HERE.
HELP PALESTINIANS FIGHT THE VIRUS
The impact of the COVID-19 virus is that much greater when medical services are thin on the ground or when your community is under siege and/or occupation. We would encourage you to spare a donation to one of these two charitable agencies:
- Medical Aid for Palestinians have special programmes in Gaza, the West Bank and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. You can donate from the front page of their website which is www.map.org.uk. Their special briefing on COVID19 and the systematic neglect of East Jerusalem can be watched HERE.
- The Middle East Childrens Alliance supports projects for Palestinian children and rerugees from Syria. Their special appeal for medical supplies for Gaza is on the front page of their website which is www.mecaforpeace.org
A series of short films on the impact of COVID-19 on Palestine is produced by Mondoweiss and can be seen HERE.
As in Britain, the coronavirus and the responses have shown up the faultlines in Palestinian society and in particular the effects of Israeli occupation. The Israeli government has claimed to pioneer nationwide vaccination and has sent supplies to other countries, but has failed to include Palestinians on the West Bank in disregard of its responsibilities as an occupying power. See HERE for a briefing from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine.
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
If you need any reminding of why racism has no place in sport, watch THIS TRAILER for the documentary ‘Forever Pure’ on the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem. It is a withering critique of a club that prides itself on having no Arab players. Even the signing (in 2012) of two players from Chechnya (who were Muslims) led to widespread protests. Just to make the point, the club renamed itself Beitar Trump Jerusalem! Ownership of the club is uncertain: current owner Moshe Hogeg is under investigation for illegal dealings and Emirati Sheikh Nahyab and Frenchman Stephane Halloul are working on a deal (January 2022). Chants of “Death to the Arabs”. still reverberate around the stadium during games.
It is therefore hardly surprising that in the summer of 2021 FC Barcelona, having unwisely scheduled a friendly game against this club, insisted that the game be played outside Jerusalem: the Palestine FA had pointed out that the Beitar stadium is actually built on the rujns of a Palestinian village Al-Mahla that was ethnically cleansed in 1948. Beitar refused so the game was called off.
Elsewhere in the footballing world, the Israeli FA has been under pressure to exclude six of its member clubs that are based in illegal settlements. See HERE for a detailed investigation by Human Rights Watch. A ruling from FIFA (the international federation) has let the Israeli FA off the hook but the issue remains live.
As Israeli football clubs take part in European competition, so the protests follow them. The biggest demonstrations have been at Celtic Park where supporters regularly display Palestine flags.. A more recent appeal to Scotland supporters, made on the eve of an international fixture, is HERE.
THE ISRAEL LOBBY
Labour apologists for Israeli apartheid still have to live with the findings of THIS DOCUMENTARY made by Al-Jazeera. A six-month investigation in 2016 by an undercover reporter produced compelling footage of an Israeli embassy official openly discussing with Labour fgures the setting-up of pro-Israel groups and ‘taking down’ politicians up to and including a Government minister. Needless to say there were cries of outrage about the programmes but all the complaints made to Ofcom were dismissed. In fact the programme won a CINE award in the USA.
Then it was the turn of the Conservatives. While holding the post of Development Secretary, Priti Patel spent much of her 2017 ‘holiday’ meeting Israeli government officials and came back with plans to divert British aid money to help Israel’s war effort against Syria (by funding hospitals in the occupied Golan heights). Whoops, the story got out and she had to resign. Was she acting alone? She is now Home Secretary.
Al-Jazeera have also made an expose of the Israel lobby in the USA. It was kept under wraps for some time but eventually leaked out and can be found on the website of the Electronic Intifada HERE.
PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN
There are calls for Spotify to exclude the hugely popular musicial Lowkey because of his support for the Palestinians. A petition in support of him is HERE.
Don’t demolish Palestinian homes
A petition to the Israeli government produced by Amnesty International is HERE.
Ban European trade with Israeli settlements
If you have European Union citizenship, you can add your name HERE to a European Citizens Initiative that calls for legislation to ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements. The initiatve is supported by Human Rights Watch and you can read more about it HERE.
Children in Military Custody
Call for an end to the mistreatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention – a petition is HERE.
Stop Arming Israel
Call on the HSBC bank to stop funding the arms trade with Israel: a standard email is HERE.
Give Puma the Boot
Ask selected football clubs to break sponsorship ties with Puma as Puma sponsor Israel’s national football association. A standard email is HERE.
Keep Palestine on the map
Googlemap simply does not mention Palestine at all. The petition to include is HERE. The petition now has over 2.25 million signatures.