Speech by Austin Harney in protest against the attack on Al Aqsa Mosque

Solidarity to all Palestinian Trade Unions and Workers! Not only am I on the National Executive Committee and joint PCS Liaison Officer with Mohammed Shafiq who sends his apologies and greetings of solidarity, but, also, represent a branch that has the largest Muslim membership in the Ministry of Justice! I represent many Muslim members at work, especially against discrimination, ensured prayer room facilities on each floor and organised Islamophobia Awareness Month in my workplace, last year! Every Trade Union should organise Islamopbobia Awareness Month but there is nothing more shocking in the 21st Century when the Israeli forces arrested 450 Palestinians on Tuesday in the ancient mosque of Al Aqsa in East Jerusalem during Ramadan. The Israeli forces and are, still detaining 50 Palestinians whilst the rest were released bruised and beaten. On Wednesday, the Israeli forces fired stun grenades and used rifle buts to beat the Palestinians whilst they were praying. It is these injustices that all Trade Unions must expose on Islamophobia Awareness Month!

Al Aqsa was a sacred place of worship for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem until it was captured and annexed by the Israeli government in 1967 during the Six Day War. There has been a small extremist movement calling for the mosque in Al Aqsa to be demolished and replaced by a Jewish Temple. But this movement has mushroomed and is, now, a powerful organisation supported by Binyamin Netanyahu’s government. Last year in April 2022, Al Aqsa was raided by 48,000 Israeli settlers. In April 2021, the Israeli forces attacked and injured hundreds of Palestinian worshippers including women, children and the elderly seven times in 10 days. At the same time, 700 Israeli settlers roamed outside Al Aqsa but none were arrested.

It is clear that the Israeli government can get away with these atrocities and it is not enough that we vociferate these protests. Two powerful governments are equally to blame of which are in Britain and the United States! These two governments have, cowardly, surrendered to Islamophobia and Apartheid committed within Israel! It is time that we hold all these governments to account. We cannot forget the Sykes – Picot Agreement in 1916 of which the British and French governments partitioned the Middle East. Also, we cannot forget the Balfour Declaration of 1917 of which the colonisation programme of Palestine was started in 1926! I, only, received the last minute invitation to speak at this demonstration at 12.00, last night. But I was happy to give up part of my Good Friday as my family’s country, Ireland, is the first nation in the European Union to impose a boycott of the Israeli Settler goods. The term “Boycott” originally comes from Ireland when William Erskine Boycott was “shunned as a leper of old” for evicting many Irish people from their lands. Balfour was known in Ireland as “Bloody Balfour” for evicting many Irish tenants. It is not enough that one country such as Ireland imposes Boycott Divestment Sanctions on the Israeli government. All governments must do the same including that of Britain and the United States in order to force the establishment of Israel to stop these atrocities committed on the Palestinian people! We must, also, pressurise all political parties in Westminster to hold this British government to account including Her Majesty’s Opposition to speak out and criticise, heavily, in Parliament!

We call on this Israeli government to stop all the bombings of Gaza that was committed last night, the colonisation of the West Bank, the return of the Palestinian Diaspora to their homes in Palestine, and fight for the rights of all Palestinian Trade Unions and Workers! Imperialism can beat us into the ground but it will never break our spirits! If we lose, today, we will never give up! We will come back in the next generation and generation after until we have smashed imperialism and achieved natural justice! Solidarity to all the Palestinian people!

Austin Harney

Austin is standing for re-election to the PCS NEC as part of the Democratic Alliance slate. Click here to see the full Democratic Alliance slate.

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