Over the past few months, a number of pro-Palestine demonstrators and activists have been arrested for alleged public support for a proscribed terrorist organisation. Some have been charged with offences under the Terrorism Act 2000. Amongst the people arrested are Tony Greenstein in Brighton and Mick Napier in Glasgow.
Although the comments made by these individuals vary, all of the arrests have been made in the context of Israel’s current campaign of genocide against the people of Gaza, and the huge mobilisations across the country protesting against Israel’s war crimes. Whilst we do not know the full particulars of each case, none of them can be understood without taking into account the outrage felt by millions of people over Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza – not to mention decades of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, all of which are documented by numerous human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem.
We must also place the arrests alongside other efforts by the state to suppress criticism of Israel, and to demonise support for the Palestinians, including the Anti-Boycott Bill and numerous pronouncements by government ministers and opposition spokespersons in relation to pro-Palestine demonstrations. In this sense, we see the arrests as part of a wider attack on our civil liberties.
These recent arrests can be seen as examples of the use of terrorism laws to stifle free speech around Palestine and Israel. It is not just the silencing of arrested activists that concerns us, but also the chilling effect the arrests will have on countless others in relation to their freedom of expression.
Our point here is not about the guilt or innocence of the individuals concerned. No one genuinely believes that any of the comments in question will encourage increased support for terrorism. What is unmistakable is that these arrests will serve to reinforce the hostile environment within which UK campaigners for justice for Palestinians must now try to act. BHPSC will continue to raise awareness of Israel’s genocidal violence, and of the complicity of the UK government. BHPSC will continue to campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in solidarity with outspoken activists here and around the world. We call on all people of conscience to join us and resist these attempts at intimidation and censorship.