Last weekend (18th/19th July) Bournemouth Action for Israel had a stall at the Tolpuddle Festival in Dorset. The festival is the largest gathering of trade unionists in the south of England, and commemorates the “Tolpuddle Martyrs” who were transported as convicts to Australia for trying to form a trade union.
Unfortunately the spirit of tolerance was in short supply as the people manning the stall experienced intimidation and harassment and – lacking any support or protection by the festival organisers – were forced to pack up their stall and leave. The organisers claimed that ‘this wasn’t the right place for this debate’, but this did not of course prevent assorted anti-Israel groups having stalls there. For those of you who can access it, the following is a link to a BBC local news report on the incident.
Of course we express our solidarity with and admiration for the brave people from Bournemouth Action for Israel and all those who went to support them. But we need to do more.
Although as we understand it this is not an official Labour Party event, it is a big date in the annual Labour movement calendar, and it seems to us that senior Labour figures have a responsibility to speak out on this. The issue is – are supporters of Israel welcome within the Labour movement, or are they to be subjected to bullying and intimidation?
Having found out that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign were going to have a stall in Palmers Green (Saturday 11th July) we took them by surprise and had a presence there ourselves. There were more of us than them, and we were there as long as they were. We gave out plenty of leaflets, and didn’t let them push their hate unchallenged. They no longer have things all their own way. Well done everyone who came to support us.