Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LOCAL COMMENT: Henry Slocum

Quieting pro-Palestinian voices
http://socialistworker.org/2010/01/20/quieting-pro-palestinian-voices

REGARDLESS OF the motivation behind their actions, the Boston police showed that they are not willing to allow pro-Palestinian voices to be heard. From giving Zionist demonstrators special privileges to verbally harassing and ridiculing those on the Palestinian side, the cops sent a clear message: They stand with Israel.

One week after British Member of Parliament George Galloway and the Viva Palestina convoy entered Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid (including desperately needed medicines), supporters of Gaza gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate in Boston to raise our voices in protest of the continuing blockade and apartheid politics carried out upon the people of Gaza by the Israeli government. This, just two weeks after a larger group held a rally before joining the New Year's Eve parade to speak out for the human rights of Palestinians.

A group of more than 30 people stood in front of the consulate, chanting, giving speeches and distributing pamphlets about the atrocities being committed against the citizens of Gaza.

After the grassroots organization Boston Stands With Gaza (BSWG) and the International Socialist Organization's (ISO) Boston branch called for the demonstration, the Jewish Community Relations Council alerted its supporters that it was staging a counter-demonstration. Even still, Palestinian supporters outnumbered the Zionists easily. However, it was soon obvious which side the police were on.

BSWG and ISO activists, when staging a mini-march around the block, were constantly told to "keep moving" and "clear the sidewalk" in order to let other pedestrians pass. Even if there had been other pedestrians trying to pass, they had plenty of space to do so, as activists were moving aside for pedestrians when necessary.

As the Zionist demonstrators left, we moved across the street to take their place in front of the consulate's door. The cops continued to warn us that if we did not keep moving, we would be forced to disperse.

During the demonstration, there were several instances when cops could be heard ridiculing chants of BSWG and ISO activists. When we marched around the block, we had a police "escort" of nearly 10 officers, approximately one cop for every three activists. As the Zionist demonstrators marched around the block, they did not have nearly as large a police presence following them.

Despite the clear opposition, pro-Palestinian activists made their voices heard. We met the Zionists' silent flag-waving with chants, speeches and flyers.

One way they enticed people to participate in demonstrating for Israel was to offer the first 25 participants who showed up a free box of "Israeli" couscous from Trader Joe's. This couscous is one of the items on the boycott list, as it is grown on Palestinian lands, yet Israel sees all of the profits from its sale. Palestine supporters took this as an opportunity to coin a new chant: "Stolen couscous, stolen land--human rights, we demand!"

The fight for justice in Palestine and an end to the apartheid blockade continues.