Over 1000 protestors rallied in Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens on Saturday and then took to the streets to voice their anger and disgust at the continuing offensive being carried out by Israel in Gaza; to demand an end to the UK’s trade in arms with Israel; and, also, to call for un-twinning Bournemouth from the Israeli settlement of Netanya.

Saturday’s protest in Bournemouth, possibly the biggest protest ever seen in the town, was one of many local protests on the day right across the country that were all calling for an end to the Israeli onslaught against Gaza.

The 8-month long offensive has resulted in the deaths of more than 36,000 Palestinians and has also included the recent horrific air strikes against tent camps within so-called “designated safe zones”, killing more than 70 displaced men, women and children, and wounding and
maiming hundreds of others.

These protests in towns and cities across the UK also called for an end to the UK’s complicity in these acts, which results from UK government-issued licences to manufacturers in this country, and in BCP itself, which produce and sell arms and related, ancillary products to the Israeli state.

However, protestors on the Bournemouth streets and speakers at the rally in the Gardens, among them the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Husam Zumlot; two Green Party candidates standing in the upcoming General Election – Councillor Joe Salmon (Bournemouth
East) and Sarah Ward (Poole); Rob Ferguson of Dorset PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign); and the Reverend Jonathon Herbert, all voiced the additional demand that Bournemouth’s twinning arrangement with Netanya, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, should be urgently and immediately reevaluated.

Dr Zumlot, speaking over a live link to the crowd, advocated for a new twinning arrangement with Gaza City, while others demanded that the twinning arrangement be terminated as soon as it can be achieved, or at least suspended, as Exeter City Council did with their town twinning with Yaroslavl in Russia due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In 1995, Bournemouth Council, before the days of the unitary authority, was one of a small number of UK councils that chose to institute twinning arrangements with towns in Israel. Bilal Yasin, is the Chair of the Bournemouth-based Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM).
He told the rally: “”This event marks a turning point in our struggle. We are here to say, unequivocally, that Bournemouth’s partnership with an apartheid state is unacceptable. Our voices will not be silenced, and we will continue to fight until justice is served. Bournemouth
Council made the decision to twin our town with one in an apartheid state, unbelievably, just five years after the collapse of South African apartheid.

“For over 25 years, Bournemouth residents have marched, signed petitions, and submitted letters to the council and twinning committee, but until now, they have been ignored.

“It’s now, surely, time to urgently review this arrangement, as Bournemouth residents quite rightly no longer want our town to be associated with a country that operates an apartheid system which disenfranchises and oppresses a section of its population, that discriminates, brutalises and dehumanises them; a country that is currently standing trial for carrying out a genocide at the International Court of Justice”

Sam is a Bournemouth resident who came to listen to the speakers and to march with them in a large gathering through Bournemouth’s streets yesterday.

She said: “It is absolutely sickening to me that my hometown is associated with this twinning arrangement with the horrifying events that I see on my social media every day. Thousands of completely innocent children have been murdered, and unknown numbers of the dead are still lying buried beneath the rubble of their homes, schools, and hospitals.

“BCP Council needs to get this sorted. Vikki Slade has publicly committed to look into how we can un-twin our town and I hope that she has made some progress with this. It’s unacceptable to me and to everyone I know for Bournemouth to remain linked to a town in a country that is openly breaking international law on a daily basis, not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank too. I do not want Bournemouth to be linked to this apartheid and genocide for a day longer.”

The event not only demonstrated a huge level of local support for ending the twinning but also showcased the existence of a broad coalition of individuals and organizations committed to this cause. The diverse crowd that gathered and marched embodied the growing interest in
the movement for Palestinian rights within the UK.

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