Protesters gathered in London on Palestinian Prisoners Day, 17 April, in a protest that was organized as part of the “End Security Coordination” day of action in response to a call by Palestinian youth. The day of action, which marked both Prisoners’ Day and the 40th day anniversary of the assassination of Palestinian youth leader Basil al-Araj, included gatherings and protests in Malmo, Stockholm, New York, Washington, DC, Boston Los Angeles, San Diego, Berlin, Vienna and London.
The protest gathered outside the Palestinian Mission to the UK, where participants spoke, chanted and hung signs on the mission emphasizing their demand that the Palestinian Authority end its policy of “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation. In the case of Al-Araj, he and five of his comrades were imprisoned without charge by the Palestinian Authority for over five months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas trumpeted their arrest as a victory for PA/Israel security coordination. Following the assassination of al-Araj by Israeli occupation forces on 6 March, popular anger spilled into Palestinian streets in rejection of security coordination and the policies of the Palestinian Authority. This was intensified further when protesters against security coordination and a continued PA trial of al-Araj and his comrades, four of whom are imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, were attacked by PA security forces.
In London, Palestinian journalist and rally participant Lara Khalidi said that “a great number of Palestinian strugglers would not have been imprisoned if it wasn’t for the PA’s warm ties with the occupation’s security – the ongoing security coordination between the PA and the Zionist occupation.”
In relation to the location of the protest and other demonstrations against security coordination, Khalidi said that “these embassies do not represent us, nor do they speak in our name. Those who coordinate with the occupier are collaborators and must be held accountable; it is that black or white; you either stand with the resistance or with the collaborator.”
The speakers addressed Basil al-Araj’s life of struggle, PA security coordination and the Palestinian prisoners launching a hunger strike in Israeli prisons. “Such protests are gaining momentum here is Britain, as more and more Palestinian youths are speaking out against the PA elite and challenging the Oslo agreement and its leadership,” said Khalidi.
Later on the same day, another protest gathered in London across the street from the Israeli embassy in support of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Protesters, including the former hunger-striker Mahmoud Sarsak, carried signs and chanted while engaging in a street-theater performance with mock shackles.
Participants expressed their support for the hunger strikers and called for the implementation of their demands and the freedom of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This group is planning a second rally in London on Saturday, 22 April at 3 pm at the Israeli embassy in support of the hunger strikers.
Both protests on 17 April followed a protest on Friday, 15 April organized by Inminds, in which protesters gathered on the Southbank of the River Thames to highlight the struggle of Palestinian prisoners and support the forthcoming hunger strike.
“We are here to show our solidarity and support their collective hunger strike, they are demanding basic human rights which Israel as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions should already be providing. We demand international pressure be put on Israel to adhere to the Geneva Conventions and sanctioned when it fails. The demands of the hunger strikers must be met,” said Inminds chair Abbas Ali in the group’s report.
Participants in the protest distributed over 1000 leaflets urging the boycott of Hewlett-Packard (HP), because of the corporation’s profiting from Israeli apartheid, occupation, colonization and imprisonment. Among other involvement in Israeli apartheid, including checkpoint technology and the apartheid wall, HP also has a contract for database services with the Israeli prison system.
Ali noted that the rally also highlighted Basil al-Araj, marking the 40th day after his assassination. “Basil was an intellectual freedom fighter with an unwavering commitment to the liberation of his people. We celebrate his life and learn from it. And we condemn his murder and condemn the PA’s part in it, and their security co-ordination agreement with the occupation,” said Ali. Participants in the event also expressed their solidarity with New York activists who were attacked by police while participating in an anti-war demonstration.
In addition, another group supporting Palestine in London, the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, rallied at St. Martins in the Fields Trafalgar Square on 20 April, distributing material, including testimonies from students in Palestine about their experiences, and highlighting the imprisonment of Palestinian children. The protest urged support for the hunger strikers and their demands.