After the wettest winter, you would think nothing would beat a gloriously sunny day, but sometimes you are given the proverbial icing on the cake. Saturday 1st March was going to be a big day. This was the day that the Brighton UK division of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and the Brighton Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) had been anticipating for a long time. It was meant to be the finale of this year’s “Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) at the local Sussex University, which hosted lectures, seminars, and events designed to portray Israel as an “apartheid state.”
After a week of rousing students to action, it was decided that they would march down Western Road (Brighton), stopping at Sainsbury’s supermarket which for it’s sins continues to sell goods from Israel/Disputed Territories and screech and chant at it for a few minutes, before ending up at Ecostream, a Sodastream store which has been the focal point for demonstrations (and counter-demonstrations by Sussex Friends of Israel) for the last 18 months.
The march had been advertised on Facebook and social media, hoping to galvanise mass support, which was why extra police had been drafted in, who were waiting patiently for the huge, angry demonstration to descend upon Ecostream. Two marches had been advertised: One from the BDS/PSC, and one from the IAW students.
SFI had been joined by many people from outside Brighton. They came from London, Oxford, Chichester, Arundel, and Essex, as well as neighbouring districts. We crowded the pavement. Israeli bunting was up, and Israeli flags were flying everywhere one looked.
The allocated time for the demonstration came and went. They were now running about 30 minutes late.
Suddenly, I saw a couple of small Palestinian flags. I walked up the road a little way. The traffic had not been stopped, nor was there any police escort. I couldn’t see any sign of a march coming down the road at all. Then I stopped and stared. For a split second I wondered if I was hallucinating, then I realised my eyes were not deceiving me!
Eight people straggled down the road, dragging a cumbersome Boycott banner, mournfully bleating anti-Israel slogans as they slunk past.
Suddenly, one of the Israel supporters grabbed an Israeli flag and ran up the road and proceeded to head the march back down to Ecostream to cheers and laughter from our side.
The IAW students never bothered to turn up, and about 40 police were deployed onto the streets for a march that consisted of five regular protestors, two camera crew, and one long-haired, bare-foot student who proclaimed his main ambition was to spread peace to the world!
For SFI, the day was a complete success, and for the BDS/PSC, it was a terrible and embarrassing failure. We out-chanted, out-sung, and effectively countered the demonstration. With our saxophonist, we sang and danced to Jewish and Israeli music, cheered to the sound of the Shofar, while having a hugely enjoyable time!
Part of our enjoyment was hearing the excuses made by the boycotters as to why the march was so small: (my personal favourite is the last one!)
“It wasn’t the march!”
“The proper march is going to take place when you don’t know about it!”
“There was never going to BE a march!”
Each excuse added hilarity to the situation!
It was a wonderful day, and to top it all off, it was sunny!