England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

International Palestine protests continue

By Paul Gerrard, Socialist Alternative Manchester

Last October, Israel’s brutal ‘revenge attack’ on the Palestinian people was met with an instant wave of revulsion and protest across the world. Huge demonstrations engulfed the capital cities of Yemen, Jordan and others in the Middle East, and in every major city on every continent people assembled, week after week, to denounce the complicity of their own ruling class with Israel’s war machine.

Repression

Throughout the world, the ruling classes have trembled at the sight of millions in the streets and have unleashed a malicious campaign of lies. False allegations of anti-semitism have been levelled against demonstrators by overtly racist Tory politicians and Republican Congressmen with links to white supremacists, even as significant contingents of Jewish people have joined the protests.

State repression has been stepped up. In Germany, police have attacked demonstrations and ripped down posters. In France, President Macron has attempted to ban all pro-Palestine demonstrations, yet the demonstrations and university occupations continue.

Striking scenes of repression have also come out of the US. In April, solidarity encampments were set up at dozens of universities to demand the severing of links to the Israeli army and wider divestment from Israeli capital. President Biden’s craven support for Israel only poured further fuel on the campus protests.

University administrations summoned police, national guard and private security companies to destroy the encampments, and were met with defiance and shouts of ’cops off campus’. Hundreds of students have been suspended or expelled, arrested and criminalised.

Where next for the global wave of encampments?

The movement of solidarity camps with Palestine spread across the globe, including North Africa and Australia. Socialist Alternative wholeheartedly welcomed and supported the movement. We argued for non-sectarian, democratic debate and decision-making, stewarding in defence of the camps, spreading the movement to other universities, and national coordination.

Above all we argued for an appeal to campus unions to support the encampments; in the US at University of Wisconsin, Madison graduate students joined student walkouts and at Columbia in New York lecturers too.

In the UK, dozens of encampments have been set up and this has given focus and impetus to the pro-Palestine movement; in Manchester a regular feature has been the one-mile march from the city centre out to the university encampment.

University management have in some cases felt the pressure, making promises for task forces to look into divestment and other such similar initiatives – but these have often been vague and non-committal in practice. In some camps, students have demanded that universities agree to take a quota of Palestinian students, whose own places of study have been razed to the ground.

As the UK university term draws to a close it is crucial to discuss how we continue the struggle beyond the universities, though some students may wish to maintain a presence on campus over the summer. The Tories will undoubtedly be hoping to benefit from a July election as students return home or go on holiday, shielding them from the overwhelmingly anti-Tory youth vote.

However, horror at the Israeli slaughter in Gaza is likely to firm up a strong youth vote against the Tories – not that Starmer, whose stance over Palestine has been firmly tied to Sunak’s, represents any alternative.

The local elections already demonstrated a swing towards candidates calling for a ceasefire, and a strong vote for anti-war, left-wing candidates standing against the establishment parties in the General Election will be a show of force for our movement.

It will also highlight the potential for a new left party which could link all the struggles: trade unions’ battles for pay and job security, students campaigning against fees, course and college closures, and the world-wide campaign of solidarity with the Palestinians and for a socialist Middle East. 

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