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UK Black Lives Matter rejects Israeli annexation of West Bank

BLM under fire from UK Board of Deputies, which accuses it of propagating an 'antisemitic trope'
Palestinians came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement when Trayvon Martin was shot dead by police in Florida in 2012 (AFP)

The UK chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) said it "proudly" stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel's plans to annex large areas of the West Bank, which it intends to carry out on 1 July.

Posting a series of tweets on Sunday, BLM also criticised British politics for being "gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel's settler-colonial pursuits".

The tweets led to criticism from senior British Jewish figures.

The Board of Deputies president, Marie van der Zyl, described the "gagging" comment as "beyond disappointing" and accused BLM of propagating an "antisemitic trope".

"[A] supposedly anti-racist organisation has leaned into the antisemitic trope that British politics is 'gagged' in terms of debating Israel, a claim particularly preposterous because Israel is one of the most-discussed foreign policy issues in the country," van der Zyl told the Jewish News.

Following van der Zyl's criticism, BLM took to its 60,000 followers, reiterated its support, and shared a quote from renowned academic and former Black Panther Angela Davis, who has long supported the Palestinian cause.

"One more time for those at the back," BLM UK wrote on Twitter.

"From the British Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter, solidarity and learning from Palestinians in the fight against systematic racism has always been part of our shared struggle and shared strength."

The growing row between BLM UK and the UK Board of Deputies comes only days after the UK Labour Party fired shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey for alleged antisemitism.

Long-Bailey shared an article that suggested that the US police officer who killed George Floyd had received training from Israeli forces.

The article in question was a wide-ranging interview with British actor Maxine Peake for the Independent website, which was published on Thursday. 

In the interview, Peake is quoted as saying: "Systemic racism is a global issue... The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd's neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services."

Israel's planned annexation of the Jordan Valley: Why it matters

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Israel's planned annexation of the Jordan Valley: Why it matters
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The annexation of the Jordan Valley could effectively kill whatever hopes remain for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict as it would render completely impossible the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.

In April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement with his rival Benny Gantz to form a unity government that seek to impose Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Legislature could be discussed from 1 July.

The Jordan Valley accounts for around one-third of the occupied West Bank (almost 2,400 square kilometres), where 30 Israeli agricultural settlements house around 11,000 settlers.

Some 56,000 Palestinians also reside in the Jordan Valley, including in the city of Jericho, where their daily lives are deeply impacted by Israeli occupation policies. 

The area is rich in minerals and agricultural soil and is a highly strategic area, as it lies along the Jordanian border.

Jordan, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and senior officials in the European Union openly oppose the annexation plan, while the administration of US President Donald Trump has encouraged such moves.

An initial version of the article referred to a 2016 Amnesty International report on training programmes for US law enforcement officers in Israel. The reference has since been removed.

Peake later retracted her claim in a tweet, saying: "I feel it’s important for me to clarify that, when talking to The Independent, I was inaccurate in my assumption of American Police training & its sources."

In a statement, Amnesty International said it had "documented appalling crimes under international law and human rights violations meted out to Palestinians by members of the Israeli security forces".

But it said it had never reported that "neck kneeling" was a tactic taught by Israeli secret services.