Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Solidarity Vigil 29 October 2023
Opening statement by BHPSC
Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I want to thank you for joining us today at this very distressing time.
A week ago, on Sunday afternoon, we were joined by about 500 local people here at the Peace Statue to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Palestine. And yesterday in London, half a million people marched to demand an immediate ceasefire, and to show their solidarity with the people of Gaza and with all Palestinians. And still our government, and the so-called opposition, sit on their hands.
Since last Sunday, as we all know, the situation in Palestine has become unimaginably worse, and is getting even worse as we meet today. And the bloodshed has now extended across the West Bank, which we’ll hear about in a moment.
Sadly, the four demands we made at our vigil last Sunday are just as vital today as they were a week ago, if not more so. They are:
- An immediate ceasefire.
- Immediate humanitarian aid for Gaza (food, water, fuel & medical supplies).
- An end to Israel’s siege of Gaza.
- An end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
After 21 days of brutal bombardment, on Friday night Israel plunged the Gaza Strip into darkness, and cut off all communication as it intensified its aerial and naval bombardment, and began a ground incursion of the Gaza Strip – resulting in more untold deaths.
Before Friday, Israel’s apartheid regime had already killed 7,434 Palestinians in its war on Gaza. This escalation, in what UN leaders have called a ‘genocidal campaign’, means more indiscriminate violence towards Palestinians trapped by Israel’s occupation and siege. With huge swathes of the Gaza Strip in ruins from Israel’s bombs, for Palestinians, there is no place of safety left.
For the past two weeks, in the face of humanitarian crisis and unthinkable casualties, the UK government has refused to call for a ceasefire.
Even in the face of mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, the UK government has provided military equipment and weapons to Israel’s apartheid regime, and is complicit in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
Instead of upholding international law, the UK government has spent three weeks using its considerable diplomatic strength to justify and minimise Israel’s continuing war crimes — from the total siege of a civilian population in Gaza, to the bombing of schools and hospitals — offering uncritical, unequivocal ‘support’.
I’m sure our other speakers today will spell out in dreadful detail the war crimes currently being perpetrated by Israel upon the Palestinian people. We will leave it to them to do this. But we want to use this opportunity to remind our many supporters in this city that Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign has a simple but important job to do. Our job is to raise the profile of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination ,in this city. No more, and no less. We welcome the support of other groups that share our objectives and our values.
But it’s worth stating that the political environment within which we campaign is often a hostile one. Our city council, unlike city councils up and down the country, has not called for an immediate ceasefire. And let’s be clear: the Palestinian struggle is fundamentally an anti-racist struggle. But in 2018, our city council adopted a definition of antisemitism that explicitly equates the campaign against Israeli apartheid with hatred of the Jewish people. This has had the chilling effect of emboldening those who wish to silence us. This in a city where the council has pledged to be an Anti-Racist Council. So, when we say we’re operating in a hostile political environment, we are choosing our words carefully.
So, our job as a solidarity movement in this city is harder than it is for our comrades in other parts of the country. But we will not desist, despite many attempts to silence us. And we greatly value the support of our many friends in the city, like all of you here today.
Freedom for Palestine!