I write this article just weeks after the passing of late, great Mandela, arguably one of the most prominent humanitarian figures of last century, a leading anti-apartheid activist, hero to countless millions worldwide and a giant even amongst his own friends and peers.
The issue of Israel and Palestine has also been (back) in the headlines. Not that it ever seems to get fair and honest reporting in corporate news – just some passing snippets of news on how there are new plans for thousands of illegal settlements to be built in the Occupied West Bank, or how the illegal apartheid security wall encroaches on more and more Palestinian land, cutting off families and villages from their own communities. Nor how siege in Gaza intensifies even further – now more than eight years on, with frequent cuts to water and energy supplies, raw sewage flooding the streets and add on top of that, this very cold winter spell that’s facing the region – first time in century – thanks to poor practices of mainly industrial nations (but that’s topic for another day!).
Scotland is well known for is its’ vibrant political activist scene on social justice and humanitarian issues at home and abroad, from participating in international brigades in the 1936-39 Spanish civil war against fascism to the Red Clydeside trade union movement, to more recently its leading role in the antiwar movement in UK
Instead the western media has chosen to focus its attention on the passing of former Israeli PM Sharon – dubbed the ‘butcher of Beirut’ by Arabs (after his callous and brutal actions in Sabra & Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon that saw thousands of innocent men, women and children massacred over 48 hours in dark September 18 – 20 1982). If the late Mandela is to be renowned for being a leading anti-apartheid and a humanitarian figurehead of the last century, then Sharon’s legacy is to be the former’s antithesis, arguably the most notorious apartheid leader of modern times (post 1945 era), and a war criminal that escaped being tried in the International Criminal Court.
It was around then, approximately thirty years ago, that pro-Palestine groups in Scotland came into existence. Fast forward twenty years (post 9/11 era, at the height of anti-war movement) we now have multiple pro-Palestine groups coming into existence, either as offshoot groups from previous incarnations or completely new groups with new strategies, attracting new generation of fresh young blood.
One thing Scotland is well known for is its’ vibrant political activist scene on various social justice and humanitarian issues at home and on international questions, from participating in international brigades in the 1936-39 Spanish civil war against fascism, to the Red Clydeside trade union movement, to more recently its leading role in the antiwar movement in UK. The issue of Palestine and work on solidarity campaigns has always been at forefront of our political agenda in Scotland. In comparison to how ordinary Scots participated in boycotts against apartheid South Africa with our international friends and allies, and fought for the liberation of late Mandela and his comrades, in recent times, similar strategies have been initiated and adopted in the case of Israel/Palestine.
After Mandela’s visit to Scotland over twenty years ago, we have designated areas named after him in Glasgow. Thanks firstly to leading pro-Palestine figures like George Galloway and others, Glasgow is now proudly twinned with Bethlehem, Dundee with Nabulus and various Scottish universities have links with Palestinian institutions as well.
After Palestinian civil society’s call for international boycott campaigns against Israel came in 2005, popularly known as Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions, this BDS strategy has now slowly but surely become popular and mainstream gaining momentum across various spectrums within civil society in western capitals, amongst ordinary workers, institutions and political figures alike.
This leads us nicely back to reasons as to how and why we have so many pro-Palestine groups existing in Scotland and the UK. This is not necessarily a bad thing I’ve come to realise, as prominent figures in Scottish left and Palestine solidarity groups hold a wide range of ideas, strategies and even resources (and as often than not, strong egos can get in the way too) but they all have one objective in mind: to see liberated Palestine, an end to illegal occupation; an end to apartheid and for Palestinians to be in control of their own destiny.
Whether one state or two state or no borders at all, the one solution in the minds of pro Palestine groups and leading left figures should be one clear of our own motives and intentions. We must be genuine and not use or misuse global injustice issues to further our own domestic (often petty) political agendas, in order to increase our own PR ratings through paper sales on wet Saturday afternoons or to inflate egos whilst speaking from large public platforms at demos or antiwar conferences. It makes those in the left appear weak, fragmented and ineffective – even having over two million on streets of Glasgow and London over a decade ago did not stop the UK’s involvement in illegal wars aboard and we are now having to live with all the blowback and consequences today in those very streets we had all protested in. It is only when we settle our own differences, learn to actually work with one another when we disagree and strive to build true grassroots movements against oppressive systems at home and abroad, only then can we be effective in defeating the true evils of neo-colonialism. Imperialism is one that will continue to exist (in one shape or another) within our shores regardless of which way the vote goes post the September 18 2014 referendum.