Southampton vs. Israel

Last Saturday, among the festivities of the Christmas market, some weren’t there to join in the revelry – a demonstration was taking place in anger at the recent spate of violence that […]

Last Saturday, among the festivities of the Christmas market, some weren’t there to join in the revelry – a demonstration was taking place in anger at the recent spate of violence that has unfolded in Palestine. This reporter caught up with representatives from the Southampton Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Students for Palestine Southampton.

At least three Israelis and 67 Palestinians have been killed since violence began this week after Israel successfully targeted Ahmed Jabari, the military chief of Hamas, in an air strike on Wednesday in what they called a retaliatory strike to crude rocket fire, but what Palestine saw as an unjustified assassination with unacceptable civilian casualties. Attacks have increased in frequency from both sides. Israel has continued its strikes on supposed Hamas and terrorist positions but with devastating consequences for the civilian population. They’ve also begun readying 75,000 reservist troops, causing many to fear a full on invasion. Meanwhile militants have upped the rate at which they send crudely made rockets into Israel in an attempt at retaliation. Air raid sirens in Tel Aviv, which has not been targeted since 1991 during the Gulf War, signal the seriousness of the current situation.

Israel, whose territory has expanded far beyond its 1967 internationally recognised borders, has the current upper hand in the situation. Their military power, supported politically and financially by both the US and UK, far exceeds that of the Palestinians, and Gaza has been under a blockade for a number of years now.

Egypt’s government, the Muslim Brotherhood, is the first to voice anger at Israel’s tactics in what could be a relatively hefty list of nations that lend new support to an often-outgunned Palestine. Evidently, the current situation is potentially very severe and could have destabilizing consequences for the Middle East.

Opinions on the matter are not being expressed lightly and if you happened to pass by Southampton’s city centre this week you may have heard the chants of ‘Free, free Palestine’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more’ from a sizable group of students and Sotonians determined to spread awareness of the plight of Palestinian civilians caught up in the conflict.

I spoke to one of the organisers of the Southampton Palestine Solidarity Campaign , who told me that the demonstration was a “response to Israel’s latest incursion into Gaza, bombing raids” and rounds of violence which was “provoked purely for completely cynical, political reasons”. The demo was to stand as an objection to further violence and to raise awareness of the atrocities being committed against civilians. Students for Palestine Southampton added that it was their fear that many in Southampton seemed unaware of the situation.

On reasons to get involved, Students for Palestine Southampton stated they were trying to do their part in raising awareness of a humanitarian crisis noting that it was “simply inhumane to watch innocents being slaughtered without taking any action”.

What’s important to remember is that getting involved is not a matter of ‘taking sides’. It is not an issue of Jews versus Muslims or Arabs against Israelis. A fact highlighted by the many Jewish and Israeli groups expressing disgust at the situation and calling for peaceful negotiations. Rather it is to speak out about the unacceptable tactics of governments and the innocent people being caught up in terrible and indiscriminate acts violence with no plausible escape.

Have you been following the events? What are your views on the situation? Give us your opinion in the comment section below.