Letter: Why doesn’t Stand Up To Racism stand up to the racism against Palestinians?

Women of Colour GWS sent this letter to some of the organisers of the rally but had no reply.

Dear BLM Enfield, BLM Croydon, Black Lives Matter Plymouth, and others organising the 29 April “Shut it Down” rally.

We are writing to ask how Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) was allowed to take over the Black Lives Matter event Shut it Down outside the Home Office, considering SUTR’s track record of promoting Zionist — that is racist — organisations on its anti-racist marches and the mistreatment of rape survivors within its parent organisation, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Black Lives Matter has taken a stand on these issues before. In 2020, Black Lives Matter in the UK issued a public statement supporting Palestinian rights. In 2016 Black Lives Matter was among signatories of a letter calling for a boycott of SUTR’s conference featuring Weyman Bennett, Stand Up To Racism’s co-convenor and a central committee member of the Socialist Workers Party. This was because of:
“…the SWP’s well documented failing of two women members who accused the then central committee member of the SWP, known as “Comrade Delta”, of rape and sexual assault.”

SUTR wasn’t on the leaflet for the 29th April rally. We went and one of our members spoke there about asylum seekers, on the theft from Africa and the global south, in support of Palestine and Haiti and on the problem of people coming into the movement not to build it but for a purpose which is contrary to the movement, or to promote themselves or to build their career.

After the speakers, the march set off for Downing Street when we saw that most of the placards were SUTR’s and Weyman Bennett, SUTR convenor, was at the front stewarding. He said “I’m in charge”.

Together with an IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) member, we spoke with people letting them know that SUTR was an organisation that promoted groups representing Israel’s apartheid state. Most dropped the SUTR placards or tore off SUTR lettering, horrified that those in charge of the march have been undermining the Palestinian movement. How did this happen? SUTR has no business leading an anti-racism march, or operating under the name Black Lives Matter.

When we asked Delia Mattis, who had convened the rally, why SUTR was in charge, she said they’d been asked “to help with stewarding”. Another organiser said that Weyman Bennett had also been asked to liaise with the police. If SUTR was asked to steward and liaise with the police, they were in effect put in charge.

Others have been speaking out against SUTR:
In 2014 London Black Revs (LBR) issued a statement protesting Weyman Bennett and SUTR’s “bombardment” of threats and bullying in order to highjack a demonstration for Michael Brown /Ferguson. LBR said that SUTR members threatened to give organisers’ names to police if they were not allowed to take over the event and to include their chosen speakers. LBR’s statement addressed to SUTR says: “We are disappointed that individuals are using the police as a way to threaten and bend the democratic decisions made on behalf of our organisation as a method to get what they want.”

See full statement here: Reply to Weyman Bennett/ Sabby Dhalu / Stand Up To Racism & Socialist Workers Party from London Black Revolutionaries.

On Palestine: SUTR has repeatedly backed COFIS (Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland) and GFI (Glasgow Friends of Israel) joining their annual march against racism in Glasgow, and refused repeated calls from Palestinian, Muslim, women’s, and Jewish anti-zionist groups, to disallow them.

The comprehensive statement on the Glasgow march protests states: “Organisations that actively support Israel while it continues the murder and racist oppression of Palestinian people are as out of place on an anti-racism march today as organisations supporting apartheid South Africa would have been on an anti-racism march in the 1970s.”

See more about COFIS and GIF’s outrageous islamophobia, and anti-Palestine and anti-refugee position in IJAN’s letter to SUTR (2019). No Black Lives Matter and/or anti-racist group can ignore that Israel is perpetrating ethnic cleansing and the “slow” genocide of Palestinians, and that its government includes self-proclaimed extreme racists, islamophobes and homophobes. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year alone – including women, children, young people and journalists. Thousands have been injured, deliberately maimed for life, and hundreds detained, tortured and imprisoned.

Israel has passed laws labelling African asylum seekers “infiltrators”, detained people in horrendous conditions and was first to initiate the Rwanda plan (which was defeated by a movement led by African asylum seekers) a policy the UK government is now trying to implement. Prominent politicians in Israel spew hatred so that the attacks on and killing of Palestinian people has soared, including distinguished
Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh.

George Floyd’s horrific murder sparked another wave of the Black Lives Matter movement which lifted and strengthened anti-racists everywhere. We can’t allow that movement to be highjacked and abused in the service of those supporting an apartheid state.

We look forward to hearing why those speaking in the name of Black Lives Matter have entered into this relationship with SUTR, supporters of Zionism.

Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike