Sheffield Green Party were pleased to support the Small Park Big Run in Meersbrook Park this weekend. Cllr Alexi Dimond opened the event with this speech. (see below for text version)
On Sunday six Sheffield Choirs combined forces to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone in a moving climax to the weekend. The song was live-streamed to people in Palestine.
Many thanks to everyone who took part and especially all the organisers. You can donate to the charities the Big Run was supporting here.
Here is Alexi’s speech.
It is my great privilege and honour to once again open the Small Park Big Run. This event is in my view one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the most vital events in Gleadless Valley ward and in Sheffield as a whole; as it highlights and combats one of the most stark issues of injustice of our time; but it does so in a joyous way, involving the community and linking us in solidarity to people in Palestine who are in a daily struggle against oppression and military occupation.
This year’s event seems even more crucial than ever following the election of the most far-right Israeli government in years, some of the ministers of which are openly racist and described as fascist even by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. There has been an increase in settlement expansion, backed by the full force of the government, and against a backdrop of an intensification of the media campaign against Palestine solidarity.
The focus of this year’s event is Israeli Apartheid. In Feb 2022 Amnesty International released a report in which it recognised the regime in Israel for what it has always been. The report was entitled “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of domination and Crime against humanity”, and I would encourage everyone to read it. The report found that a system of apartheid, defined as an “institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group”, extends from inside the borders of the Israeli state established in 1948, to all the occupied territories, and also outwardly through Israel’s discriminatory “law of return” and the denial of the right to return to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. This has been confirmed many times by the pronouncements of Israel’s leaders. For example in 2019 Israeli PM Netanyahu declared that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them”.
Despite this, speaking the truth about Palestine has become a revolutionary act in the 21st Century. Frequently the media describes how unarmed Palestinians are killed in “clashes” with Israeli tanks or snipers’ bullets. Just last week in the Guardian there was a particularly egregious example of biased reporting with a story about the shooting of Palestinian journalist Moamen Sumreen titled: “Palestinian journalist hit in the head by bullet”. Pink Floyd’s popular Rock Opera The Wall, recognised for decades as a powerful critique of fascism, is now mischaracterised as the opposite, and lifelong anti-racist campaigners can be ostracised as racists for speaking out on Palestine.
In Sheffield, we have seen the Council censor a public question referencing Israeli apartheid (due to the Council’s previous adoption of the IHRA’s flawed definition of antisemitism) and a Palestinian lecturer and refugee was hounded out of her job at Sheffield Hallam – which purports to be a “University of Sanctuary”.
So what can we do about this? The answer is to raise our voices louder and to collaborate more to ensure that people rise up against this long-standing oppression. In Sheffield this year the Sheffield Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid was launched, seeking to emulate Sheffield’s contribution to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. I am pleased to report that since its launch many individuals and organisations have signed up including my union branch – “Sheffield Unite – Not for Profit” and the Sheffield Green Party. Please consider signing up individually and/or taking a motion to your union branch, political party or organisation. Please see the Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign website for details or ask one of the organisers of this event about this.
This year’s Small Park Big Run also focuses on the ecological impact of the occupation. Many here will be aware of Israel’s land grabs, the separation wall, and the continual demolitions of houses and entire villages. But what is less well known is the impact of water apartheid – with Palestinians forced to pay for water to be delivered to fill their roof-top water tanks, to have to go buy it in tankers for their farms, and to have to pay for and drink bottled water, whilst the water of the land is piped to illegal Israeli settlements for their domestic use and used for industrial agricultural production and the upkeep of golf courses. Some may also be unaware that untreated sewage and rubbish is often dumped by settlers to contaminate Palestinian farming land, or of the deliberate burning of Palestinian olive groves by settlers. Please join us at 3pm outside Meersbrook Hall for a tree planting and a talk on Climate Justice for Palestine by academic and activist Mahmoud Zwhare.
Please also join the BIG SING at Midday on Sunday which will bring together 6 Sheffield choirs for a rendition of “You’ll never walk alone” which will be live-streamed to Palestine.
Thanks again for all the hard work of the many organisers and contributors and of course, everyone taking part in this year’s event. Let’s continue together the struggle for equal rights and justice for Palestine!