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Conflict surrounding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories have been a consistent and horrifying reality.
Amnesty International has listed a number of human rights abuses that have occurred in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in just the year 2020. These abuses range from forced evictions, excessive use of force, torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials, amongst others.
In the past two weeks, the violence has increased again. It was sparked by numerous events, but primarily from a protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem on 6 May 2021 against the forthcoming decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to evict Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah. This protest escalated to violence, and the next day saw Israeli police storming the al-Aqsa Mosque, a key Islamic holy site, which left hundreds of Palestinians injured. This led to rockets being launched in Gaza into Jerusalem and Israeli airstrikes in return.
The non-governmental organisation International Crisis Group has warned that the recent confrontations are “well on the way to becoming one of the worst spasms of violence there in recent memory.” This is an incredibly worrying statement as it comes from a group that has worked on trying to build peace between Israel and Palestine since 2002.
Protests marching in solidarity with Palestine have been sparked across the UK, including protests in London on the 15th May which saw thousands of demonstrators march from Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy.
On the 14th May Lancaster saw their own ‘Speak out for Palestine’ protest based in Dalton Square, organised by the Lancaster Friends of Palestine Society. The protest was part of a week of action organised by the society to raise awareness and engage in protest about the eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah. The society describes the purpose of the protest as a way to show solidarity with Palestine and amplify Palestinian voices.
The protest included speeches, spoken word and poetry from individuals chosen by the Lancaster Friends of Palestine Society. They made clear that the space was not meant for people who hold anti-Semitic or Islamophobic views of any kind, writing on their Facebook page that any hate speech would be reported to the relevant authorities and making clear the protest could not be weaponised by those who hold such views.
Friends of Palestine activists also gathered in Alex Square earlier in the day with a banner reading ‘UK Unis Fund Apartheid’.
We thank Tom Morbey for the photographs of the protest.