The first of January 2021 brought a stark reminder of how unjust life is in Palestine.
Harun Abu Aram was shot in the neck at point-blank range by an Israeli soldier. His home had been demolished a few weeks previously by the Israeli authorities and he was trying to stop them taking a neighbour's generator. The government that sanctioned those demolition squads, the settlers taking the land, the soldier who attacked, were able to act without international condemnation or sanctions.
Action by that international community, the UK and the Green Party and our members is now urgent. The situation of Palestinians has rarely been more perilous. Blockaded by Covid and the Occupation, they face annexation, and their identity, aspirations and livelihoods threatened with liquidation and deserted by Arab regimes seeking alliances with Israel.
Gina Dowding, in her role as Green MEP for the North West, visited the occupied West Bank in 2019, meeting a wide range of people. I strrongly recommend reading her recent report of that visit, with its videos of Palestinian experience and analysis, on both what the EU could do to exert pressure on Israel and, importantly for us, action we can take in support of Palestinian Rights.
And the Green Party's role? The Green Party has long held the policy that until Palestinian rights are addressed, there can be no peace, justice, demilitarisation or democracy for anyone involved, Palestinian or Israeli.
Conference in 2014 decided on support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to implement this policy. BDS is a Palestinian-led movement inspired by the anti-apartheid movement, that demands equality of rights for all Palestinians, whether living in Israel, in the occupied territories or as refugees. It asks us to stop trading with Israeli companies and those that support the occupation, cut off relations with institutions that do so, divest money from companies that are profiting from the occupation, and stop our government's licensing trade, particularly in arms, with Israel. Visit the website for details of last year’s growing support for the BDS movement.
It’s highly likely that most of us are involved, one way or another, in organisations supporting the Israeli occupation. We can support the BDS campaign as individuals, local parties and through our elected representatives, local and national. We can scrutinise everything we buy, the teams or charities we support, the church or trade union we belong to, the banks and the pension schemes that hold our money, the musicians we enjoy – and act on this.
We can support our elected representatives in resisting attempts to refuse local authorities the right to make ethical decisions about who they procure services from, where they invest their funds. We can urge MPs to sanction the arms trade and, when they don't, join protests.
We can network to strengthen the voices of those who are systematically disenfranchised, working together with other organisations such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, inspired by the alliance between Black Lives Matter and the BDS movement. We can follow the lead of the actions and coalitions, led by Green representatives and described in last month’s Green World, that led to the cancellation of the Liverpool arms fair, Liverpool mayor's promise of an ethical charter and the cancellation of the fair’s replacement in Spain.
And you can get involved in the Green Party BDS working group, set up after the 2014 conference to promote practical action in support of Green Party policy. We offer workshops to local parties: people have found especially valuable the chance to clarify the difference between antisemitism and criticising the policies of Israel and explore how to challenge any antisemitism we meet. Through our monthly bulletin we keep people informed about events in Palestine, and encourage people to get together and take part in local and national actions - lobbying, petitioning, pickets and protests. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by our Facebook page.
The current situation in Palestine is savage and iniquitous. As a progressive party committed to equal rights, to the value of international law and to tackling racism, we can be part of a movement that will give western governments, inside and outside the EU, no option but to make their close relationship with Israel conditional on respect for Palestinian rights and lives.