Smash the Balfour Declaration! Manchester students lead the way


A racist celebration of the Balfour declaration organised by the Israeli embassy and Zionist Federation as part of the ‘Balfour 100’ programme ended up being kicked off campus by University of Manchester students and their supporters. The event had been due to take place at the university – an insult to all those campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinians – but was moved at the last minute to the Hilton hotel, where fascist Israeli ambassador Mark Regev was forced to enter via a side-entrance. Nathan WIlliams reports.

Traffic on Oxford Road was brought to a standstill. Campaigners against the ‘celebrations’ took over the street and defied police as they marched from the university to the new location on Deansgate. Manchester-based Palestinian solidarity and anti-imperialist activists were joined by activists from Sheffield, Scotland and across the country. The event was organised by students from the BDS Society and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Society, along with Manchester Palestine Action and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and attracted the support of many from the Palestinian community to picket the Zionist celebration of apartheid and ethnic-cleansing. Notably absent was the Labour Party. In fact, neither activists nor the party itself had supported the campaign against the Balfour ‘celebrations’ – demonstrating how Labour’s desire to remain a viable candidate for leading imperialist, racist Britain overrules even the weakest support for anti-imperialist politics. Its Shadow Foreign Minister Emily Thornberry is due to stand in for Jeremy Corbyn at the Zionists' London celebration.

The University of Manchester has over the past year engaged in repeated attacks on pro-Palestinian activities – cancelling meetings hosted by societies, restricting events during Israeli Apartheid Week and censoring event titles and speakers. Proving itself an ally of Zionism the university planned to host the Balfour celebration on its campus. It would have been a symbolic venue for the Israel embassy and the Zionist Federation as Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, was a lecturer in Chemistry at the university while he met with Arthur Balfour to draft the declaration. Middle East Monitor uncovered collaboration between the university and Israeli embassy this year, around Israeli apartheid week, which resulted in the university clamping down on opponents of Israel. The University of Manchester was more concerned with collaborating with the representatives of an apartheid state than the concerns of its own student body.

BDS and FRFI societies campaigned to force the organisers to run away to another venue in fear of a protest. The university, however, did not at any point intervene. Despite nine student societies signing a letter addressed to Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell and Palestinian students expressing their fears and disgust towards the event no action was taken; except, of course, to defend the event. It was fear of the students’ opposition that convinced the Zionists to move their meeting – the new venue was only publicly confirmed at the last minute in an attempt to avoid protests.

Unfortunately for the Zionists, it didn’t work. Their change of venue represents a defeat, however much they will try and dress it up. Regev's presence had not been publicly confirmed, but once inside he gave a speech attempting to smear the protesters outside as ‘anti-Semitic’ – a common and inaccurate portrayal, the last resort of desperate Zionists. The speech was evidence of the disruption and damage pro-Palestinian campaigners caused to the Zionists and their attempted propaganda campaign.

Police and university security personnel attempted to ‘manage’ the protest. First, they tried to prevent the march; protesters refused to co-operate with their attempts at control. Then, as the march began police officers on foot and in cars attempted to divert and block our path. But they were fighting a losing battle. Three hundred people marched into the city centre, occupying the streets and blocking traffic. The march continued, with police officers on the sides still attempting to restrain it. At the Hilton Hotel a lively and spirited picket was formed as Zionists made their way into the meeting. Greater Manchester Police stood side-by-side with the hired security guards of the Israeli embassy to block the hotel’s entrance and allow people into the meeting inside. Police and security officers attempted to convince demonstrators to leave before the end of the event. But the picket stayed in place until 10pm, meaning those leaving the event were forced to confront the chants of the demonstrators.

This year, 100 years since the Balfour declaration, Zionists and British imperialists will attempt to strengthen the link between apartheid Israel and Britain. They will use events like the one on Tuesday 31 October as propaganda, to paint the occupation and ethnic-cleansing of Palestine as a positive. But this protest, the largest mobilisation in support of Palestine in Manchester since 2014's FRFI-led occupations of Barclays and M&S, has shown that Zionist lies will not go unchallenged, even in Britain, the staunchest and most historic ally of Israel.

Smash Balfour!

Zionism off campus!

Victory to the Palestinian people!

We call for further action to break Britain’s imperialist links to Zionism and Israel. Join the Boycott Israel Group in Manchester on 11 November, meeting at 12pm in Piccadilly Gardens, as we take to the streets with a rolling picket of the banks, shops and businesses that support the apartheid state of Israel.

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Fight for Palestine! Smash Zionism! - Statement by University of Manchester Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! society

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! condemns the University of Manchester’s (UoM) attempt to shut down our filmshow and discussion of ‘Leila Khaled: Hijacker’ for Palestinian Land day. Martin Conway, the Deputy Secretary of the university, contacted the Catholic Chaplaincy directly to force the cancellation of our booking. No attempt to contact Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! was made and no reason for this attack has been given publicly.

UoM has joined a growing list of British institutions protecting its connections to apartheid Israel. It is also caving in to Zionist pressure groups like the Northwest Friends of Israel (NWFoI), which engaged in racist attacks on Palestine supporters at a recent BDS meeting and is exerting pressure on the university itself behind the scenes. What has become clear is that UoM leaders take more notice of the fascist agenda of Zionist thugs than the political expression of its own students. Attempts by Conway and other university bureaucrats to cancel Israeli Apartheid Week events and to sanction two students for a pro-Palestine banner drop are political acts, backing up the ruling class attack on political opposition under the guise of the anti-Muslim Prevent strategy. By attempting to shutting down pro-Palestinian campaigns UoM is actively supporting the status quo of apartheid in occupied Palestine.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! students will be supporting the BDS society’s demonstration at UoM on 29 March to demand an end to these attacks. We encourage all anti-racists and Palestine supporters to join us and take action:

Wednesday 29 March

Defend students' right to support Palestine, protest against UoM management sanctions on BDS campaigners

12 noon, Samuel Alexander building, Oxford Road

Fighting Manchester cuts - Communists rain on Labour’s parade

manchester QT

On 25 February Manchester RCG supporters organised to disrupt a ‘march against cuts’ led by pro-austerity Labour politicians. While Labour organisers expected 2,000 people (according to Showsec event workers), their ‘anti-cuts’ parade attracted barely 350, including sellout union leaders from Unison and the NUT who had failed to even mobilise their own members. Flanked by Greater Manchester Labour mayoral candidate Andy Burnham and MP Lucy Powell (who voted to bomb Syria) were councillors who have voted unanimously for cuts budgets every year since 2010. Cutbacks in the Manchester City Council area in that period amount to over £300 million, including youth centres in Longsight and Moss Side, library closures in Northenden and Hulme; council funding has been cut for women’s refuges, dementia support, mental health drop-ins, leisure centres, school crossings and much more. RCG protesters used megaphones to shout down the hollow speeches of Labour council leaders Richard Leese and Rosa Battle about ‘protecting the vulnerable.’ This year the councillors on the ‘march’ are pushing through another £30 million in cuts, hitting adult social care in particular.

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In Memoriam - Debbie Derbyshire

In Memoriam

Debbie Derbyshire

21 May 1957-18 September 2016

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! wishes to pay tribute to Debbie, a staunch friend of the Revolutionary Communist Group and many of its members in Manchester and beyond, and a working class fighter for 40 years. Debbie was for many years a shop steward for the National Union of Public Employees at Prestwich Mental Health Hospital, and later for Unison. In 1997 she was a delegate to the World Youth Festival in Cuba, meeting Fidel Castro’s sister. We send our condolences to our comrade Bob and Debbie’s family on their loss.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 253 October/November 2016

Manchester Events

North West Events coming up..

Every Saturday unless otherwise specified - Information/campaign stalls, Manchester City Centre and environs

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FRFI Statement on Justice for Grainger protest

Who shot and killed Anthony Grainger?