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Is Your Placard Offensive? Arbitrary Police Power at Palestinian Protests


Niall McCrae

21st Century Wire

Back in my gallivanting days, a group of female acquaintances often referred to ‘The Rules’. But their boyfriends would never know what the rules actually required. The code of conduct was unwritten and arbitrary, depending on what the girlfriend wanted at the time. I’m reminded of this rather jokey application of feminism by the attitude of the authorities to pro-Palestine protests.

At the latest rally in London, two women were arrested for offensive placards. That got the headline in the mainstream media, not the vast gathering on a march for peace, The two protestors were not causing any harm to others, but expressing legitimate concern about the murderous strategy of Benjamin Netanyahu and his use of devastating military force against civilians with no escape.

Sticks and stones are breaking bones in Gaza, but words are somehow more hurting.

The Metropolitan Police has obviously been instructed by the British establishment to quash outrage over the genocidal bombardment of Palestinians. Until recently it was considered acceptable to oppose the actions of the Israeli government, but after the incident of 7th October, such criticism is smeared as hatred or extremism.

If a demonstrator called for extermination of Jews that would clearly be a crime of incitement justifying arrest and charge. But the protestors, some of whom are Jewish themselves, do not blame the massacre in Gaza on an entire religion, or on the people of Israel. Their wrath is reserved for the Zionist tyranny and its backers in Westminster and Washington.

Why are the British police and judiciary protecting the government of a foreign country two thousand miles away?

The Holy Land is not so holy today, and arguably hasn’t been since the Zionists took control of Palestine in 1948. Zionism, of course, is not the same as the religion of Judaism, but a political project to ensure ethno-nationalist supremacy. What not often said in our mainstream discourse is how many Jews find the concept of Zionism distasteful. Aggressive Zionists tend to lack religious observance, but identify as Jews and cry ‘antisemitism’ as a tactical device. .

Yet the distinction between Jews and Zionists has deliberately been blurred. Congress in Washington is likely to pass a motion that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Journalists and commentators in mainstream media spread propaganda that conflates Jewish faith with the theft of Palestinian land, naively playing the tune for a distorted concept of the ‘chosen people’. To be sure, the state of Israel is no friend of ours, murdering hundreds of British soldiers in the 1940s, and supplying weapons to Argentina during the Falklands War.

In November I attended the largest protest to date, with my handwritten placard: ‘Zionists: persecuting Muslims and Christians since 1948’. I believe that message to be factual.

Western media persistently ignore the large Christian minority in Gaza (about 30%), who are pulverised no less than their Muslim neighbours in the Israeli air force’s carpet-bombing carnage.

Like the aforementioned ‘Rules’ of young women to keep their boyfriends in check, the Metropolitan Police does not want you to know whether your slogan is lawful. That way, you will err on the side of caution, and perhaps come empty-handed, or take the safer option of a mass-produced Socialist Worker (controlled opposition) placard.

This is the epitome of totalitarianism: arbitrary state power to arrest you for anything an officer decides at the time. It is impossible to attend a protest without either offending or inconveniencing other people – that is fundamental to protest as a form of political engagement. But you can be apprehended for either of these ‘crimes’ just by being there.

Obviously the authorities cannot detain hundreds of thousands of people, but they will pick off placard bearers whose message pierces too close to the bone of a corrupt, treacherous ruling class that serves not us but a global order – with Zionists at the vanguard.

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Niall McCrae is a researcher and educator, and author of ‘The Moon and Madness’ (Imprint Academic, 2011), and ‘Moralitis: a Cultural Virus’ (Bruges Group, 2018). See his 21WIRE archive here

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