Woodcock report should gather dust in obscurity that it deserves

  • Post last modified:May 22, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

The following article is a comment piece from Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

On Tuesday 21 May, John Woodcock (Lord Walney) – inaccurately described by the government as an ‘Independent Adviser on Political Violence and Disruption’ – published his much-trailed report calling for a crackdown on democratic protests. Michael Gove chose the same day to deliver a speech falsely accusing those who have marched for Palestinian rights of antisemitism.

This comes just a day after International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan KC, applied for a series of arrest warrants for war crimes, including for the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Yoav Gallant, Israel’s minister of defence.

Woodcock: a paid lobbyist who should be ignored

John Woodcock is a paid lobbyist for weapons manufacturers and fossil fuel companies and a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Several of his recommendations are transparent attempts to use the law to further his political disagreement with the recent marches in support of Palestinian rights. Others are extraordinarily draconian – including an effective ban on any protests outside council chambers.

Using police resources to suppress political protests might serve the interests of Woodcock’s corporate paymasters but would seriously undermine long-held democratic principles. This comes on the very day that Liberty has won a court case to prevent an unlawful attempt by the government to overturn the will of parliament and restrict the right to demonstrate.

Everyone who truly cares about preserving democratic freedoms will utterly reject these proposals. This thoroughly compromised report should be allowed to gather dust in the obscurity it deserves.

Palestine protests are not antisemitic

Unlike Michael Gove, the organisers of the recent demonstrations against Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza have a proud track-record of challenging all forms of racism.

Every single one of the fourteen London demonstrations for Palestinian rights that we have organised in the past seven months has been attended by thousands of Jewish people, including an organised and highly visible Jewish bloc and Jewish speakers on every platform.

At our demonstration in Hyde Park last month, Jewish Holocaust survivor, Stephen Kapos, spoke to a crowd of 200,000 – probably the largest audience ever addressed by a Holocaust survivor in Britain.

Anyone who was genuinely motivated by a desire to combat antisemitism, as opposed to cynically shield the state of Israel from legitimate accountability, would celebrate rather than attempt to dismiss these facts.

Those who continue to demonstrate against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire, and for Palestinian human rights and international law to be upheld, are driven by consistent anti-racism. They are exercising precious democratic rights and represent the views of the vast majority of British people who, unlike the government, support these noble goals.

Woodcock: trying to distract from Israel’s horrors

These latest smears cannot be allowed to distract from the horrors that Israel continues to inflict on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. The British government must end its complicity with Israel’s criminal violence by halting the arms trade with Israel and give full support to both the ICC and the ongoing work of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where Israel is currently on trial for genocide.

Ben Jamal, PSC director, said:

The resumption of these baseless attacks by Michael Gove and John Woodcock amount to an admission: apologists for Israel’s genocidal violence and system of apartheid have lost the democratic and legal arguments, but continue to attempt to delegitimise Palestinian solidarity. They will not succeed.

At a moment when Israel is on trial in the world’s highest court for the crime of genocide and the day after its Prime Minister has been threatened with ICC arrest warrants for war crimes, it is grotesque that these smears continue.

The real issues are that the UK government continues to arm Israel, refuses to resume funding to UNRWA, and is attempting to protect Israel from legal accountability. Far from stopping the genocide in Gaza as required under international law, the UK is complicit and actors such as Gove and Woodcock attempt to deflect from that fact.

They discredit themselves, not the Palestinian solidarity movement.

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