Saturday, February 07, 2009

Defying the Gaza aid bans

MEMBERS and supporters of the Stop the War Coalition in Bristol and Lewisham last weekend challenged bans on raising humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.
Last Friday protesters forced the Bristol Lloyds-TSB Bank to close amid scenes of chaos on Corn Street, as police and security guards failed to hold back a surge of chanting demonstrators reaching the doors of the bank. It hurriedly closed its doors and remained shut for the rest of the afternoon.
A crowd of over 60 Gaza campaigners assembled on Corn Street in the afternoon and sent a message into the bank to ask to see the manager. They wanted to discuss the “Early Day Motion” which is being circulated in Parliament accusing Lloyds Bank of blocking charity money reaching Gaza.
When no reply was received they laid out boxes of dolls wrapped in blood-stained shrouds on the steps of the Bank. These represented the extra deaths which will have occurred in Gaza due to Lloyds-TSB action.
Lloyds TSB recently ordered the Islamic Bank of Britain which it owns, to close the accounts of Interpal, a highly respected international humanitarian relief charity – working in Occupied Palestine
Interpal is a respected UK charity which helps alleviate the agony of Gaza. It has been thoroughly investigated by the Charities Commission (following malicious complaints by US Government) and had been given the all clear!
By doing this, Lloyds TSB is on the verge of ending humanitarian aid for up to five million Palestinian refugees in desperate need. It will only serve to escalate the horrific suffering of innocent people.
At first Lloyds TSB denied any hand in the affair however it has now transpired that Lloyds TSB (acting as a clearing bank) to Islamic Bank of Britain (with whom Interpal bank), wrote to the IBB on 8th October 2008 stating: “We are writing to you to give you notice that…we do not wish you to transfer, receive, process or in any way deal with any funds, or in any way whatsoever (acting either as banker or agent on behalf of the Customer) be involved with any type of banking arrangements for Interpal”
Even for a Goliath like Lloyds TSB, which has itself recently received billions of pounds in bailout funds from the British taxpayer, this is indeed uncharacteristic behaviour. Why would the bank take such a callous action? Remarkably no official reason has been given.
The Muslim community in Bristol were also supporting this event.
Imam Assad Ali Shah, Imam of St Marks Road Mosque said “The people of Gaza are suffering now – women, children, and the elderly. They have shortages of food, medicine, and all the basic necessities of life. The people of the world, for humanitarian reasons, are reaching out to help them. How can it be, that charities working on the ground like Interpal, have their work obstructed by Lloyds-TSB closing their accounts? This is a moral crime. This extra suffering far the people in Gaza will be on the shoulders of those who made these callous decisions.”
In Lewisham Norma and Mukhtar Rana, members of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign and New Worker Supporters’ Group, horrified at the death and destruction inflicted on Gaza, wanted to raise some money to help the victims.
They applied to the administrators of the shopping mall – owned jointly by the London Borough of Lewisham and Grosvenor Estates (the Duke of Westminster) – to collect money for the registered charity, Medical Aid for Palestine, but were rejected on the grounds that it was “too political”.
So members of Lewisham Stop the War last Saturday entered the mall, armed with nothing but leaflets and collecting buckets for the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal for Gaza.
Almost immediately they were challenged by security staff, followed by a discussion. The collectors were forced to leave when the security guards called the police – but not before they had collected £186 for the people of Gaza.
The Stop the War comrades then proceeded to picket the local Lloyds TSB Bank, echoing the tactics of their Bristol colleagues the day before, carrying dolls swathes in “bloodstained” bandages and getting the message across to shoppers of the role that the bank was playing in preventing vital humanitarian aid reaching the people of Gaza.
photo: demonstrators in Lewisham

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