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Editorial: Cynical attacks on the peace movement are fuelling brazen racism

THE weekend explosion of Islamophobia shows exactly how dangerous cynical smears against the peace movement are.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle may not have intended to fuel the fires of racism when he cited MPs’ safety as the reason for tearing up parliamentary procedure last week.

Confronted by furious MPs and escalating demands for his resignation, he reached for an explanation to counter accusations he had caved to threats from Keir Starmer. But his face-saving bid came at the cost of slandering the millions who have marched for a Gaza ceasefire as thugs and bullies.

It has unleashed a carnival of reaction. Labour turncoat John Woodcock (now Lord Walney, having been ennobled for betraying his party to campaign for Boris Johnson in 2019) wants to use it to bar protesters from getting anywhere near the places where political power is exercised — not just Parliament, but even council offices.

The Tories have turned Hoyle’s excuse against him — not disputing the entirely mythical threat from demonstrators he cited, but saying by conceding to it he has “surrendered” to extremism.

Those words from the Prime Minister gave the green light to the ridiculous, race-baiting assertions we have seen since.

Suella Braverman’s claim that the “Islamists are in charge” is irresponsible nonsense. Political Islam is a political irrelevance in Britain: it simply doesn’t exist on a significant scale. 

Braverman is continuing her bid to ban peace marches even though the demand for a Gaza ceasefire commands majority support in Britain and indeed right across the world, where Britain and the US stood shamefully isolated this month as the only countries not to support a ceasefire resolution at the UN security council.

Lee Anderson, in the guise of moderating Braverman’s claim (“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country”) actually took it a step further (“they’ve got control of [Sadiq] Khan… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”)

Leftwingers will be incredulous at the implication that peace demonstrators are Khan’s “mates” — the London mayor is no socialist and enthusiastically joined in the character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn when he led Labour. 

But Anderson’s subtext is clear: Palestinians are Muslims (not all are, of course, but nuance is not Anderson’s strong point), people marching for justice for Palestinians must therefore be controlled by Muslims, the big marches in London haven’t been banned, and this must be because its mayor is a Muslim.

This is incendiary stuff. So rattled are British authorities that they have repeatedly misrepresented Palestine solidarity demos: the attempt to ban the huge Armistice Day demo rested on a baseless assertion it posed a threat to the Cenotaph (which the fascist thugs riled up by Braverman’s propaganda actually did). 

The Metropolitan Police delayed the start of the last major London demo by an hour with the outrageous claim it posed a threat to a bar mitzvah happening in a synagogue near the route — its public tweet about this somewhat undermining its pretence at concern for the event’s security.

Not only is this designed to poison relations between the Muslim and Jewish communities, it is now escalating into open racism painting Muslims as a threat to democracy. Labour might deplore Anderson’s comments, but Starmer’s role in last week’s parliamentary stitch-up means it shares responsibility for the eruption of gutter politics.

Living standards are falling, public services falling apart. There is fertile ground for a politics of grievance and resentment — and the Tory right are ready to flirt with fascists if that heads off a class confrontation over who owns and controls this country. 

The left, taking inspiration from the massive, multicultural Gaza demos — which include a large and growing Jewish bloc — needs to call out the lies, expose the attacks on our protest rights as the real threat to democracy, and unite people of all faiths and races in a popular counter-attack.

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