An end to the danse macabre
A few months ago, JfJfP was protesting outside Downing Street. A cyclist rode past slowly, staring at our banner. A few minutes later he came past again. This time we shifted on our feet – slightly nervously. Then he got off his bike and approached us. He explained that he was a student from Chile but that his family was Palestinian. And then he said that if he had not seen it for himself, he would never have been able to conceive that a group such as JfJfP existed.
We must always resist the efforts of those who try to corral us into different political camps according to assumptions about what we think. This is not a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews – from which we would all anyway be the losers. We are here today in support of universal values to be enjoyed by Palestinians and Israelis alike: freedom, justice and democracy.
Our voices in support of those aims are needed now more than ever. Not just because Israel is, right now, deepening and expanding the occupation. Not just because they are reviving some plans so inimical to Palestinian statehood that even George W Bush rejected them. No, our voices are needed because it might be a time when a change is about to occur.
Monday sees the first meeting between Netanyahu and Obama. In my depths of wishful thinking I fantasise and I bet many of you here do the same – about President Obama reading the riot act to the Israeli Prime Minister and a shame faced Bibi slinking out of Washington, his expansionist tail between his legs.
A fleetingly happy image, but we know it will not happen. Truth be told, a grand gesture is not what is needed right now.
We have seen the so-called leaders of the Western world engaging for years in the danse macabre they call the peace process. Process, more talk of it is not what we need. Instead, we need progress. And equally sure as I am that no riot act will be read on Monday, so am I sure that there will be no progress or movement from politicians without constant pressure from us.
And that is the most important thing I can say here today. When the politicians look as if they might begin to move, that is when we have to push them in the right direction ever harder. We have to make our heads of state, our MPs, MEPs and councillors have our voices always ringing in their ears, saying ”we will not tolerate the occupation any longer.”
That means we will not tolerate arms exports to and from Israel. It means we demand of MEPs candidates in next month’s elections that a vote for them depends on a vote from them against the upgrade of relations between the EU and Israel.
It means we will not tolerate UK supermarkets selling settlement goods – and that right now London Underground remove posters that eradicate Palestine completely from the map.
It means that next time Avigdor Lieberman creeps into London, the Foreign Secretary makes clear to him exactly what we think.
It’s great for you to be here today. Tomorrow, at home, sit down. Start writing to the politicians. Don’t stop until we have, together, won freedom for the Palestinians.