Lockdown has diverted attention from many important issues going on in the world. One of these is ongoing illegal annexation of parts of Palestine culminating in the plan to annex parts of the West bank.

But lockdown has not prevented the Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign [HRPSC] continuing to fight for justice. Early in July, along with 100 similar demonstrations up and down the country, HRPSC staged a protest in Hastings town centre with a determined crowd of socially distanced supporters, battling rain and strong winds. Earlier that week members of the group had staged a similar protest in Rye.

HRPSC Chair, Katy Colley, said: “… while the world is preoccupied and looking the other way, Israel is pushing ahead with its illegal annexation plans, cementing the facts on the ground and enshrining the apartheid regime in law.” 

She made it clear that, according to international law, annexation is nothing short of land theft, saying: “Israel has as much claim to the Palestinian land as it does to Hastings!” 

And this is echoed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet: “Annexation is illegal. Period. Any annexation. Whether it is 30 per cent of the West Bank, or five per cent.”

While demands that our leaders hold the Israeli government to account falls on deaf ears, there are practical steps that can be taken at a local level. One such is the HRPSC campaign for the East Sussex Pension Fund to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. This follows research that claims the East Sussex Pension Fund invests over £132 million in companies involved in grave breaches of international law against Palestinians. 

Concerned constituents have already written to the County Council on this issue, demanding an end to the investment of local pension money in unethical investments. In a written reply, the Chair of the Pension Committee accepted that the Fund has the right to disinvest or boycott, but that: “In making such a decision the Fund will seek to follow its published Responsible Investment policy, balance the duties they have to all scheme stakeholders, weigh up the potential financial impact and take into consideration the views of beneficiaries.” This appears to support business over ethical policy.

In rejecting the response Gill Knight, HRPSC treasurer, said the council must ensure that our pension fund cannot be invested in companies that contribute to breaches of international law or are complicit in human rights abuses. “It sickens me to think that our money is being used to prop up a regime which systematically oppresses Palestinians through the supply of military weapons and technology.” 

Companies supporting the occupation are also coming under increasing pressure. As part of international efforts to stop whitewashing human rights abuses, HRPSC is campaigning this month to boycott Puma, which sponsors the Israeli Football Association.

Katy Colley said: “We need to give the red card to Puma for breaking its own code of ethics and turning a blind eye to the racism, restrictions and violence aimed at Palestinians. Their branded sportswear is being worn by teams playing on stolen Palestinian land in direct contravention of international law.”

To learn more about the ‘Give Puma the Boot’ campaign visit redcardpuma.com

For more about the HRPSC and how you can help their work, visit the Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign Facebook page or hastingspalestinecampaign.org

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