A broad coalition of Manchester groups has welcomed the decision by the owners of the Sheridan Suite to refuse to host the “Stand with Israel” rally 31st January. As groups in Manchester demanding justice and equality for Palestinians, we believe it is a moral duty for institutions and companies to refuse to host events that endorse and glorify Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

It is not anti-Semitic to oppose the Israeli regime and its oppressive system of domination over the Palestinians, just as it was not anti-white to use international boycotts against the Apartheid South Africa racist control of blacks in the 70s and 80s. It is a duty to stand against any state that is occupying another people’s land and brutalising the remaining people who live there.

Over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations made the international call in 2005 that they will no longer accept a life under the Israeli soldier’s boot. They called for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until they abide by international law and allow equality for Palestinians in their homeland, the same rights that any human being would expect.

The UK Israeli supporters that organised the conference, talk as if it is acceptable to wipe out 531 villages in Palestine. As if it is acceptable to steal 80% of a people’s land and then occupy the rest as Israel did in 1967. That it is acceptable to keep the remaining millions of Palestinians in imprisoned towns and villages, demolishing them house after house. To then claim that all this took place in “the fog of war” when in reality founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said, “We must expel the Arabs and take their place” long before Israel was created in 1948 on the ruins of 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s abominable treatment of the Palestinians got worse, culminating in the summer of 2014, with Israel’s 51-day bombardment of Gaza that murdered over 2200 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians. Israeli supporters came out on the streets of Manchester, waving their flags, shamefully endorsing the attacks which left 551 Palestinian children dead and 90 entire Palestinian families wiped off the citizen registry.  18,000 houses were destroyed or damaged beyond repair and even now over 100,000 Palestinians still remain homeless, many with permanent injuries.

We do not accept a conference in Manchester that justifies such evident war crimes, standing with Israel while their army bombed over 62 hospitals and clinics, 45 ambulances and 250 Palestinian schools. The boycott divestment and sanctions movement came about because the world’s governments hold other countries to account for their crimes while it rewards Israel with more aid than any other country. This is despite Israel’s record of violating more United Nations resolutions than any other UN member state. Is it any wonder that Palestinians are aggrieved by the life imposed on them by permanent occupation?

The BDS campaign is not a fringe movement. The European Union has compared Israeli policies to South African Apartheid, as have anti-Apartheid heroes Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former US president Jimmy Carter. The Sheridan Suite not hosting an event whose organisers’ only objective is to encourage even further the status quo, to plead victim while more theft of Palestinian land takes place every day, is a moral stand we would expect from any venue.

We call on people of Manchester and the rest of the United Kingdom to act, educate and join the growing movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction the Israel apartheid regime until freedom and justice arrives for the Palestinian people.

Manchester Fight Racism Fight Imperialism

Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine

Manchester Palestine Action

Other links
BBC report on the Sheridan Cancellation: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-35377771

Facebook call “Reject Israeli Apartheid in Manchester, Stand with Palestine” : https://www.facebook.com/ManchesterPalestineAction/photos/gm.1725619234334192/1018415898199587/?type=3&theater

Critical piece about the nature of the pro-Israel rally: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/writingfromtheedge/2016/01/the-onoff-pro-israel-rally-that-tells-us-much-about-the-state-of-british-jewry/