By Gilad Atzmon
PSC Director Sarah Colborne went out of her way to kosherize the UK PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign) but now no longer holds her position in what is left of the diluted solidarity institution. The rumour is that Colborne had to go because evidence of her collaboration with the police against leading Palestinian activists was too embarrassing.
Back on 17 October two men were arrested at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in London after they refused to take down a Hezbollah flag they had hoisted on a pole.
Abbas Ali and Antonio Maniscalco, both prominent pro-Palestinian activists had been warned by the PSC that only Palestinian national flags would be welcome at the protest. Shortly after, Ali and Maniscalco were arrested by the police, their homes were raided, their PCs, laptops and memory cards were confiscated. They were questioned by counter-terrorism officers for 15 hours before being released with no charges.
Once free, Abbas Ali told 5Pillars “we were initially told to take down the flag by people on the podium and by someone at the demonstration (so) we moved across the road. We also told the police that we were in a public place so we saw no reason to take down the flag – we had as much right to protest as anyone else but the police kept hounding us.”
After the event Sarah Colborne admitted that the organisers of the event hadmade a clear request before the demonstration that only Palestinian flags should be raised. However, Colborne did not confirm or deny that any of the organisers had alerted the police of Mr Ali and Mr Maniscalco’s actions.
In her interview with 5pillars a few days after the arrest, Colborne produced the standard sound-bite outburst of diarrhea: “we welcome all who stand with us in our opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Supporters of Palestinian rights encompass all faiths and none. Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist, religious and non-religious people all stand together on this protest… We stand with Palestinians in their struggle for a future free of racism, colonialism and apartheid. There is no place for racism in a progressive movement fighting for justice and human rights.”
No secret that PSC under the rule of the ‘progressive’ Sarah Colborne was mainly concerned with anti-Semitism, racism and other Jewish sensitivities. Thequestion remains whether the PSC can resurrect itself, de-kosherize its act and support Palestine for real. I hope it can but I do not hold my breath.
Letter drafted by IHRC* to the PSC following the 17 October arrest
We the undersigned are deeply concerned about events at last Saturday’s demonstration called by yourselves (17 October 2015).
It is reported that two long-time activists were harassed by other protestors, and ultimately arrested after being told by the police that the organisers and others had complained to them about the flag they were carrying. This came after:
• organisers had called from the stage for all flags other than Palestinian flags to be lowered;
• various persons were sent on behalf of the organisers to ask the activists to remove the flag;
• and some protestors it would seem, emboldened by the organisers’ call, harassed both activists in a manner bordering on violence (one protestor was seen shouting abuse and breaking the flagpole used by one of the men eventually arrested).
The flag in question was the Hizbullah flag. At the time of writing we know that both of the protestors have been bailed pending a decision by the CPS on whether to charge them with supporting a proscribed organisation and encouraging others to support a proscribed organisation. When arrested they were questioned upon arrest by SO15 (the Counter Terrorism Command).
It has also been reported that police were asked by PSC to ask one of the men to remove banners in support of Palestinian prisoners from a previous demonstration.
As you are aware the anti-terrorism laws and regime are not only unjust, they have been used to target Muslims, and demonise some liberation movements, including some associated with the Palestinian struggle. This vicious curtailment of civil liberties, the removal of Muslims from equality before the law and the demonisation of political causes that run counter to UK foreign policy, are all surely things that PSC should at the very least eschew and at most actively oppose.
If these arrests have come as a result of the organisers’ request to the police, it is a matter of great shame for PSC. Those involved in making those calls from the platform and contacting the police should resign their positions forthwith.
As a note, it is worth recognising that the two men arrested have spent every other week over the last three years holding vigils for Palestinan prisoners. The conditions of their bail - of extraordinary disproportionality - prevent them from contacting each other, forbid them from going to demonstrations and require them to sign at a police station three times a week. It is truly disgusting that such committed pro-Palestinian activists and their activities have been stopped in their tracks. Whilst there is no legal case to charge and convict them under anti-terorrism laws, the threat that hangs over them is a form of harassment that has already had the effect of closing down regular pro-Palestinian protests organised by one of these men. As you are doubtless aware one of these men was one of the pioneers of BDS some fifteen years ago, and has suffered many threats and abuse from pro-Israel groups and indviduals.
Both these men should have been supported in their work by the organisers, not targeted. This sorry state of affairs has come through some level of instigtaion by the organisers. At the very least PSC must campaign for these two men. Please advise as to how you will be proceeding.
With deep regret,
• Massoud Shadjareh, Chair of Islamic Human Rights Commission
• Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
• Francesca Viceconti, visual artist and member of Artisit Against Apartheid (USA)
• Fateh Party UK
• Brighton and Hove PSC
• John Tymon, Football Against Apartheid (Coordinator)
• Badee Dwaik, Human Rights Defenders - Palestine (Coordinator)
*IHRC- Isalmic Human Right Commission