November 02, 2005

Rachel Corrie cantata: pickets, police and counter-pickets

Here's an account of the counter-picket against the ghoulish Zionist Federation picket of the Skies are Weeping Cantata for Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie, of course, was the American International Solidarity Movement activist, killed when an Israeli bulldozer ran over her once and then back just to make sure she would die.
I'm just back from our counter-picket to the Zionist demo of the Hackney Empire. I think it was a successful intervention, and it was really important that we were there and didn't leave the Zionists unopposed.

They were extremely hostile, and I felt more threatened by them than on any occasion than I can remember. At one point, I was actually glad of the police presence. We were surrounded by aggressive thugs (one of them wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "Hebron now and forever")[and claiming to be from the Jewish Defence League], demanding to know whether we were Jewish, and muttering threats under their breath. Many of them took photos [and film], demonstratively thrusting cameras into our faces. After the police separated the two pickets (with us to the left, naturally), they had to return several times to remove Zionists who were haranguing and threatening us. Apparently other people -- nothing to do with us -- had also been threatened by the Zionists, who cannot have won many hearts and minds this evening.

The counter-picket was called by Jews Against Zionism, but many others joined us, forming over half of the leafletters. Some of them were passers-by, including local Jews who hadn't known that there were other Jews who thought like them and were happy to change their plans and join us. There was a lot of interest, both in our presence and our leaflet, with several people commenting that it was good, or unexpected, to see us there.

I didn't seriously expect to be attacked violently, since this would have seriously discredited the Zionist claim that they were demonstrating for peace; but their behaviour was certainly worrying, and we made sure nobody left alone. If they think that they can intimidate us off the streets, they will surely attempt to do so; so it would be good if more people supported any further such interventions. You don't have to give out a JAZ leaflet if you don't agree with it. One of your own, or simply a presence in support of our right to oppose the obscene Zionist demo, would be fine.
Just to add that there was a small contingent from the Socialist Workers Party and there was a local anarchist and some Respect people with us but all leftist and anti-war groups should be rallying to the cause of Palestine and the street must not be turned over to a well-resourced zionist movement intent on keeping Palestine wiped off of the map.

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