Palestine Solidarity Campaign, alongside a number of other peaceful campaigning organisations, has today expressed our deep concern at the inclusion of our organisation in a counter-terrorism police document distributed to NHS trusts, schools, and safeguarding boards. The suggestion that campaigning for peace, for environmental justice, against racism or for the human rights of oppressed peoples, should be regarded by those safeguarding the public as extremist activities is grotesque. This total mischaracterisation highlights once again that the UK Government’s counter-terrorism agenda is a threat to democracy and freedom of speech, and is in desperate need of comprehensive and independent review.
We have written previously about the deeply flawed Prevent agenda and how it infringes on our collective rights to dissent, campaign and protest. The narrative set-out in the latest counter-terrorism police document is a key example of the growing crackdown on civil liberties we are seeing in the UK.
This attack is being carried out in the name of defending ‘British values’ and countering terrorism. The Government’s definition of ‘British values’, and the ideology that its counter-terrorism strategy is based upon, is deeply flawed, counterproductive, and runs directly counter to the values of tolerance, mutual respect and individual liberty that the Government is purporting to defend.
Many individuals and groups are at risk from this draconian strategy, but time and time again we have seen how those who campaign for Palestinian rights and an end to Israel’s violations of international law are specifically targeted. This latest counter-terrorism document must be seen in the wider context of national and global attacks to freedom of expression on Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people.
The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights and of international law. We must be clear that failing to take action to hold Israel account makes one complicit. Israel has been engaged in a global campaign to have laws prohibiting BDS introduced so that it can act with impunity, and the UK is the latest to follow suit.
Right now, the UK Government is preparing to introduce legislation which prohibits public bodies from supporting peaceful BDS campaigns. This proposed law, if passed, would impair public bodies from enacting their social responsibilities not to support violations of international law and human rights, whether through investment or procurement. As such, it threatens the rights not just of those campaigning on behalf of the Palestinian people, but also those campaigning for public bodies to take other issues – such as environmental justice – into account when deciding how to spend public money.
All those who believe in international law, human rights and freedom of expression must vigorously oppose this legislation. We are currently liaising with a number of other concerned organisations to build a campaign to fight this legislation and champion the principles of democracy and freedom of expression.
Campaigning for peace, for environmental justice, against racism and for human rights is not an extremist activity.
***UPDATE (22ND JANUARY)***
Palestine Solidarity Campaign has joined Animal Aid, Extinction Rebellion Peace, Trident Ploughshares, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a representative of the Extinction Rebellion movement in sending a joint legal letter to the Counter-Terrorism Policing National Operations Centre objecting to their inclusion of their organisations and movement in the guidance.