James Cleverly urges end to Gaza protests: ‘You’ve made your point’

Home secretary also questions if pro-Palestine rallies add ‘value’ to calls for an immediate ceasefire

Kate Devlin
Wednesday 28 February 2024 13:01 GMT
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The home secretary has urged pro-Palestine protesters to halt their regular marches, saying they have “made their point”.

James Cleverly also questioned if the rallies added “value” to their calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The fortnightly protests were “not really saying anything new”, he said, adding that no MP should feel “bullied” into changing their stance, in an interview with The Times.

But he was accused of seeing the protests as a “hindrance” by organisers the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Ben Jamal from the group also hit back saying that Mr Cleverly did not seem to be “appalled by genocide”.

The government supports an immediate pause in the war to allow hostages to be released and for aid to enter the territory.

But No 10 says any ceasefire would come with conditions, including that Hamas — the Palestinian militant group that carried out the deadly raids on Israel on October 7 that sparked the conflict— can no longer be in charge of the Gaza Strip, to ensure it is sustainable.

They have made a point and they made it very, very loudly and I’m not sure that these marches every couple of weeks add value to the argument

Home Secretary James Cleverly

Mr Cleverly said that protests across Britain since the war broke out were putting a “huge amount of pressure” on police forces.

He said: “The question I ask myself is, ‘What are these protests genuinely hoping to achieve?’

“They have made a point and they made it very, very loudly and I’m not sure that these marches every couple of weeks add value to the argument.

“They’re not really saying anything new.”

Th government has announced a new £31 million safety package for MPs as tensions rise, with protesters targeting politician’s homes to demand action on Gaza.

In chaotic scenes during a Gaza ceasefire debate in the Commons last week, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle broke with parliamentary precedent because he had concerns about the intimidation suffered by some MPs.

Mr Cleverly said: “I think it is really important that no one, no parliamentarian, feels that they should be bullied into taking a position they don’t believe is the right position

“So I genuinely don’t know what these regular protests are seeking to achieve.

“They have made their position clear, we recognise that there are many people in the UK that hold that position.

“We respect that but the UK Government’s position is a disagreement with that for very practical, well thought-out reasons.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is planning further action this on the weekend in support of Gaza.

Organisers are calling on supporters to take part in local protests on Saturday against Barclays Bank, which it says holds “substantial financial ties with arms companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel”.

A march in central London is also planned for Saturday March 9.

US president Joe Biden this week said he was hopeful a ceasefire deal could be in place by next week, with negotiations continuing on Tuesday.

Separately, a protest is planned by farmers in Wales outside the Senedd in Cardiff on Wednesday.

They are opposed to proposed changes to post-Brexit subsidies which will require more land to be given over to tree planting and habitat creation.

Chris Nineham, vice chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, accused ministers of creating a “social panic” around pro-Palestinian protests.

The long-time activist said the government has painted legitimate protests as “attacks” and said there is “no evidence” of threats to MPs from those calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Whatever you may think, there is a social panic being generated by a government that refuses to condemn a genocide, that’s the fundamental situation,” he said.

Left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell said concern was growing “across the Labour movement” about the government’s encroachment on the right to protest.

“There’s a real anxiety now about the way in which fundamental human rights are under attack by this government,” he said.

And Mr McDonnell said a Labour government would likely “reassert some of our basic civil liberties”, including by repealing some of the government’s protest laws.

Meanwhile the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ben Jamal defended the use of phrases such as “from the river to the sea” during demonstrations across the country.

“This is a chant that has been used by the majority of Palestinians for decades… it speaks to the nature of how the rights of the Palestinian people are deprived,” he said.

The three were speaking at a press conference in parliament responding to the news, and said that they will “review” the need for national marches if a ceasefire comes into effect in Gaza.

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