Youth jailed for protesting against Israeli atrocities

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IN DECEMBER 2008, hundreds of thousands of workers and youth marched to the Israeli embassy, in a number of demonstrations, denouncing the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip where thousands of men, women and children were killed and wounded, and schools, hospitals and homes were bombed, shelled and destroyed.

None of the Israeli politicians, officers and soldiers who gave the go-ahead, or planned and carried out the assault, have been arrested for their crimes. In fact, the Labour government has said that it intends to change the law to make it impossible to arrest Israeli politicians and officers involved in the destruction of Gaza, when they visit London for political or military conferences.

Instead, it is the demonstrators that marched to the Israeli embassy in December 2008 and early January who are under attack.

Many workers on the demonstration were very angry at the blood that was being shed in Gaza and showed that anger by shouting their slogans. However, they did not act violently. They were perfectly orderly.

If they had been intent and determined on disorder, the very large crowds of people involved would have marched right up to the Israeli embassy and treated it in the same way as tens of thousands of Dubliners treated the British embassy after Bloody Sunday, when they burnt it down!

Outside the Israeli embassy in December 2008, the demonstrators were met by the riot police who relished the job in hand, and used their batons on the crowds liberally after hemming many thousands of people into a section of Kensington High Street.

The police acted violently and adopted their kettling technique, imprisoning a large number of people within police lines, and not accepting any arguments about it.

They then refused to allow people to leave until they had given proof of their identity and their addresses.

Four months later at the G20 demonstration, in the City of London, the same aggressive techniques led to a middle aged man, Ian Tomlinson, who was attempting to get home, being knocked to the ground by police, where he died.

Now one year later, seventy young people who marched to the Israeli embassy, many of them Muslims, are being criminalised. They are being put on trial on trumped up charges, with the police claiming that they were identified by comparing photos taken of them while in police custody, with stills from film taken by police cameramen.

Many are pleading guilty to ‘minor charges’ of petty damage, after being told that this is the easiest and quickest way to proceed, and that they will get light community sentences. However, the first sentences passed last week were: one jailed for 12 months, three for 18 months, two for 24 months and one person for 30 months.

Their families have been shattered and reduced to tears. They cannot understand why their children are being criminalised for demonstrating against Israeli atrocities.

One can only describe the imposition of these vicious sentences as acts of solidarity with the Israeli butchers of Gaza by the British judiciary and ruling class.

The whole trade union movement must demand the immediate release of the young protesters and the dropping of all the charges against all those still facing trial.

Stop the War leader Lindsey German told News Line yesterday: ‘I think this is a very big issue. The slogan of the trade union movement is “an injury to one is an injury to all” and the trade union and labour movement has to get behind the campaign and stop these people being treated in this way.’

The Stop the War campaign must call a national demonstration against this attempt to intimidate the youth of this country. It must call on the trade unions to play the leading role in getting all of the charges dropped and the sentences quashed.