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Warning that Palestine Flag Market rally must focus on ‘betterment of welfare’

Posted on - 14th October, 2023 - 12:48pm | Author - | Posted in - Flag Market, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston News
A view across the Flag Market Pic: Tony Worrall
A view across the Flag Market Pic: Tony Worrall

One of the organisers of a rally being staged in Preston to show solidarity with the Palestinian people caught up in the conflict in Gaza says that the situation unfolding in the narrow stretch of land “should horrify anybody with an ounce of decency”.

Michael Lavalette told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the “Preston for Palestine” event – taking place on the Flag Market on Sunday afternoon – was a response to Israel’s retaliation following the murder of more than 1,300 of its citizens in last Saturday’s attack by Hamas militants.

He said that the bombing campaign mounted against Gaza in the week since – and the widely anticipated ground offensive to come – amounted to “the biggest act of ethnic cleansing in the 21st century”.

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However, a member of Preston’s Jewish community has warned that the event, which has been advertised as a “peaceful demonstration”, must not be used to sow antisemitism in the city – nor to show support for Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, but is classed as a terrorist organisation in the UK, United States and EU.

Michael, a former Preston city councillor, says he is “not supportive of Hamas in terms of their political ideology in any shape or form”.  But he condemns the ongoing Israeli action, which is so far reported to have killed over 1,500 Palestinians –  and deplores the evacuation order issued on Friday telling Gazans to flee south to save their lives.

“You have 2.2 million people in a 22-mile strip, who have been bombed to smithereens – civilians being bombed.

”If they move south, you’ll have whatever is left [of the population] in an area half the size of Gaza – and it’s already the most populated spot on earth,” Michael said.

However, Preston Jewish resident Jeremy Dable said that there was “a massive moral distinction” that divided the actions of the Israeli state and Hamas.

“There is a huge difference between deliberately pointing a gun at an infant and pulling the trigger, and trying to use guided artillery at particular, legitimate military targets, which [in the process] very regrettably kills civilians.

“[Last weekend] was the first time since the holocaust that entire communities of Jews have been wiped out,” Jeremy stressed.

He told the LDRS that he was concerned whether the speeches at Sunday’s demonstration in Preston – organised by the city-based Children of the Ghetto group and backed by the Preston and South Ribble Stop The War Coalition and the Lancashire Association of Trade Union Councils – would include “anything positive in support of Hamas”.

“That would be criminal and increase the risk of extreme violence, because people will be inspired by that,” Jeremy warned.

“If they’re just doing good, philanthropic work…for the betterment of the welfare of Palestinians, we couldn’t possibly take exception to that, because we agree – we would back them up and hold their hands.”

Michael, who served on the city council for a decade from 2003 – first as a representative of the Socialist Alliance, then the Respect Party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and, latterly, as an independent –  said he found it “astonishing” that some people spoke of the troubles in the Middle East “as if they started last Saturday”.

“Gaza has been an open prison for 15 years, it’s been surrounded. People can’t get out and 95 percent of the water is undrinkable.

“[It is] dangerously overcrowded [and] cut off from the world by Israel.- that’s the context. So why do people want to start with last Saturday? Why don’t they start 15 years ago when Gaza was cut off?” he asked.

Jeremy agreed that a long history did indeed provide the backdrop for the latest flare-up of violence, but said he felt a sense of “injustice and indignation” on the many occasions he has heard “facts twisted out of recognition” during discussions about the current and past Arab-Israeli conflicts – including a lack of acknowledgement of the “savage” way Jews have previously been treated in the region.

However, he added:  “If people see the politics and the history in a way that I find I’m doing to [have to] grit my teeth – and I’ve got a different version –  then I can just about live with that.

“If [it becomes] something else, then we’re worried.”

The Preston for Palestine rally begins on Sunday at 2.45pm.

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