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Reply to Palestinian Community Statement

Placard on display at US Consulate.

A Hail Mary for Sinn Féin that damages the Palestine Solidarity Movement.

06 April 2024

On Good Friday the Palestinian Community in Belfast issued a statement published by the Belfast Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  Essentially it was a call for unity.

"As the Palestinian community in Belfast, we are very grateful to all the solidarity groups, political parties, trade unions, churches, and other organisations, and every individual who showed solidarity in any way they can to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people.

In any movement, however, we recognise that at times there will be disagreements and different opinions. We believe that this is normal and that all different views are equally entitled to be heard and respected.

Such differences also should not be allowed to escalate and become divisive and distract away from the main demands of the Palestinian People".
However, these remarks have to be put in context. At the previous week's march to the US consulate there were furious scenes at the appearance of a Sinn Féin speaker on the platform following the party’s decision to attend the Biden White House.

The consulate march platform was justified by the chair on the same basis, that the solidarity movement was a broad church and all opinions were to be respected.   However, the actions of the campaign went much further than the broad-church argument suggests. The platform was redrawn to allow a Sinn Féin speaker and that in turn led to the withdrawal of Bernadette McAliskey from the platform and a Tyrone delegation from the march.

It is difficult to ignore that the broad-church argument is designed to offer a "Hail Mary" to Sinn Féin, excusing both the Biden visit and the previous expulsion of Palestinians from a Sinn Féin solidarity meeting.

That's a problem. A solidarity movement can't allow political parties to dictate the conditions of support.  If we excuse Sinn Féin’s ties to the White House, we are no longer able to protest about other parties and it stands in stark contradiction to the stated policy of the IPSC of boycotting the White House.  The statement praises trade unions and political parties, but what exactly have they all accomplished in over six months of genocide?

The statement asserts that: "all different views are equally entitled to be heard and respected"

But the only way that this can be done is through open democratic discussion and frequent policy conferences at local and national level.  The campaign is innocent of these structures.

Finally, we have to ask for more detail about the Palestinian Community that issued the statement.  How many different Palestinian currents are contained within it?  Does it include people like those who were thrown out of a Sinn Féin Palestinian solidarity rally in Belfast?  We know that Sinn Féin are allying with the PA and we know that many members of the PA and Fatah are negotiating with Israel to replace Hamas in the ruins of Gaza.

We are over six months in. Israel openly commits genocide. Atrocity is piled upon atrocity. Massacre on the West Bank is accompanied by a drive towards regional war. Western powers are all complicit. Even Ireland, for all its fancy tap dancing, has done nothing. The UK leads the charge behind the US. Tight censorship holds the media and in the UK the law is being rewritten to criminalise protest.

Being grateful for what we are given is not a credible strategy. Instead of wringing our hands in gratitude we should demand positive action in support of Gaza, demand that trade unions and political parties formally subscribe to the campaign and that they take the perfectly reasonable steps that would challenge the US, expel the Israeli ambassador and shut down the many trade and diplomatic links between Ireland and Israel.

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