Occupations and firebombs

Today, activists occupied the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in protest of the war in Palestine. The occupiers have issued the following statement:

I’m currently writing this message from the Brunei Gallery Suite. A group of SOASians have done this with the following aims as stated to media outlets and the general public:

1. To ensure that the director of the school, in line with motion ‘a’ of the most recent UGM, issues a statement of condemnation regarding the recent atrocities in Gaza, as part of the illegal 60-year occupation by the state of Israel.

2. To end the racist exhibition currently on display in the Brunei Gallery Suite. This exhibition ignores the reality of the minority experience within the British army, which was tainted by racism, forced conscription and colonialism. This is inappropriate, especially given the current colonial occupation of Palestine.

3. To draw attention to the lack of student control over student facilities. Many SOAS-owned spaces, including the Brunei Gallery, are currently subcontracted to Sodexo, which provides catering for Abu Ghraib prison, immigration detention centres in the UK, private prisons, military mess halls among other facilities.

We aim to achieve our aims by raising awareness through the organisation of an alternative series of events including public talks, teach-ins and exhibits. No damage will be inflicted upon the property – this is a peaceful operation.

So, the aim of this message is to urgently request your support. Assuming we are able to continue, we will be putting on as much as we can. Come and join in! (This won’t affect lectures, in case you’re worried)

Photos can be found here. Outside, protestors hung banners from trees.

Elsewhere in London, protestors disrupted disrupted the offices of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre, a pro-Israeli media group.

BICOM arranged briefings, conference calls and interviews for months in preparation for the attack, laying the groundwork for Israel’s public justifications for the onslaught (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/04/israel-gaza-hamas-hidden-agenda, para. 16).

Since the bombing began, BICOM has sought to downplay the number of Palestinian dead, deny the reality of Israel’s military occupation and manipulate the news agenda in Israel’s favour.

Bicom, which claims to be an independent organisation devoted to seeking a more supportive environment for Israel, is at the forefront of the campaign to win over the British media. Foreign reporters are bombarded with press releases and invitations to interview senior Israeli ministers and advisors at top London restaurants. Set up in 2001, it has regularly flown journalists to Tel Aviv.

As the attack on Gaza enters its third week, with 900 Palestinian lives lost, including over 250 children, BICOM’s continued operation in London must be urgently challenged.

Meanwhile, police are investigating the firebombing of a Starbucks cafe in Whitechapel. It is believed by many to be linked to the war in Gaza. A boycott page explains why:

Howard Shultz, the chairman of Starbucks is an active zionist.

In 1998 he was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services to the zionist state in “playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel”. The Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah funds israeli arms fairs chaired by the butcher of Jenin – General Shaul Mofaz, and the zionist propaganda website honestreporting.com.

His work as a propagandist for Israel has been praised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as being key to Israel’s long-term PR success.

Somewhat predictably, media coverage (such as this article from the East London Advertiser) have chosen to identify anti-Semitism as the cause of the attack, ignoring the very public action Schultz has taken to help Israel. While a link to the war has not as yet been confirmed, if this should prove to be the case, one may expect more of the same from the press.

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