9 April 2010
We write to you as academics and student representatives of all academic institutions in the besieged Gaza Strip.
We support and salute your willingness to suffer the consequences that come with demonstrating in a “free” Western country against the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against us, the Palestinians of Gaza, crimes that the entire world witnessed. Crimes perpetrated when the Israeli forces, the fourth most powerful military machine in the world, bolstered yearly by £27.5 million of UK arms supplies, killed an estimated 1,440 people–more than 430 children–and injured 5,500 others.
According to citizens of the UK living here in Gaza, the prison terms handed to the demonstrators–mainly British Muslim young men–appear to be the norm, befitting the lower standards Muslim men and women are treated to by the UK state apparatus. We believe that this norm is vile, and scandalous, in a country that claims to be democratic and secular, a country that claims not to discriminate against its citizens according to ethnic background. This is clear-cut racism! Taking previous precedents as a guideline, such sentences were many times greater than the normal punishments, not to mention the violent attacks by the Metropolitan Police Force that same evening.
And how typical of the UK establishment and police to overlook what it is these men and women were so angry about – a massive act of bombing and mass murder of our civilian population, sealed in the Gaza concentration camp, 1.5 million people crushed by a hermetic siege, and with the direct use of equipment supplied by Britain, as a House of Commons report on strategic exports controls recently admitted. And why? Because, like you, we didn’t fit the right “ethno-religious grouping” for those who wield the whips and batons in the region. The hegemonic system controlling our daily life is one of apartheid , described as such by many South African anti-apartheid heroes, including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
When will the world”s countries act according to the basic premise that people should be treated equally, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or colour? How many Declarations of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions and continuous Western rhetoric of freedom for all will we hear before peoples such as the Palestinians can live in their homes without fear of demolitions, on their land with fear of expulsion with no right of return, in their cities without fear of imprisonments without charge, in their villages without fear of the continuous confiscation of arable land and clean water supply? Here in Gaza, how much longer shall we, as Palestinians, exist without the prospect of leaving, or returning to, a strip of land the size of your Isle of Wight, without facing sporadic acts of collective punishment such as the one in late 2008 when 430 of our children were killed with no place to run or shelter, without safety even inside United Nations schools or aid depots? How many more people will suffer from still-born and deformed children, since Israel can now drop white phosphorous around the Gaza Strip with no fear of international outrage? We wonder why it is that in our global justice system dropping white phosphorous on children goes unpunished but demonstrating against barbarity in the capital of a free Western country merits one to two years of imprisonment. Where is the fury?
We will continue to show our support for those who stood up for our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, here in Gaza, and we call on others to do so by joining the UK Gaza Demonstrators Support Campaign. We also call on the UK and international civil society movements and grassroots organizations, to stand up against Israeli Apartheid just as you did against the South African regime. The Israeli regime is also based on racial segregation and discrimination – and is similarly a suppurating wound on the conscience of humanity–one that demands treatment.
As our teachers and professors used to tell us, there was no negotiation with Apartheid South Africa. There was only one word: BOYCOTT. To you brave protesters against Israel”s mass murder and apartheid policies, you have now joined many other Palestinians and South Africans who suffered a similar fate for standing on the right side of history before many others had begun to do so. We call on civil society around the world to enforce and accelerate the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement of Israel’s apartheid regime, saying no to the Israeli siege, no to genocide with impunity, no to apartheid and no to severe punishment of the people of the world who demonstrate against these crimes, while the international community remains, at best, indifferent. At worst, in callous repose.
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers Association in Palestine