By Owen Cooper
The Big Ride for Palestine is an annual cycling event, which this year marks the seventh anniversary of Israel’s brutal bombardment of Gaza in July and August 2014, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians, over a quarter of whom were children.
In May of this year, we saw a resumption of the key features of the 51-day hostilities of 2014: a policy of targeted military attacks against family homes and whole residential blocks, with again over a quarter of the casualties being children. The world has been outraged by this the collective punishment of Palestinians which was a disproportionate response to their human right to protest and resist the 54 year old military occupation – in particular, to protest against the planned evictions of Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, and against the Israeli armed forces’ attack on worshippers in the Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
This year marks a turning point in national, and worldwide, support for Palestine and The Big Ride wants to do all it can to maintain that momentum. Palestinians are living under a brutal, decades-long, system of apartheid that can only be sustained by violence, and have asked for the support of ordinary people like us.
Israel’s laws and practices, and organised violence are designed to cement the supremacy of one racial group over another racial group, a key aspect in meeting the legal definition of apartheid. The Big Ride therefore stands in solidarity with Palestine and the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with international law, and for the end of the illegal occupation. We believe that peace and a resolution to the situation in Palestine/Israel is not possible until apartheid is dismantled and there is equality for all.
As well as raising awareness of the plight of the Palestinians, our other key aim is to raise funds for sports programmes for children in Gaza as an act of practical solidarity. The UN estimates that up to 300,000 children in Gaza show signs of severe psychological distress.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world, with few places for children to play. Since 2015, we are proud to have raised over £230,000 for sports programmes and secure playground facilities for the Middle East Children’s Alliance to help these children. Last year The Big Ride for Palestine successfully fundraised for a secure playground in Khuza’a Village in Gaza. This year we will be fundraising for a similar project in Rafah.
The Big Ride for Palestine is an act of solidarity that shows there are many people all around the world – Muslims, Jews, Christians, and people of other faiths or no faith – prepared to stand up for Palestine and against the human rights abuses Palestinians continue to suffer.
You don’t need to be a Muslim to be concerned about Gaza, you just need to be human.
This year we had to close the bookings at the end of June, as we’d reached our limits. It just shows the level of interest that’s out there in wanting to show solidarity with Palestine. We will have 250 cyclists riding the 170 miles from Bristol to London, raising awareness of Israel’s apartheid regime, and demonstrating practical solidarity by raising funds for another secure playground in Gaza.
WHAT WE CAN DO
● Join a local group supporting Palestine. Details of many available from The Big Ride’s major supporter: www.palestinecampaign.org
● Support the calls by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. For more information go to www.bdsmovement.net
● Support by not buying Israeli goods. Israel exports fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK, the sale of which helps fund the oppression of the Palestinian people.
● Buy Palestinian produce. Palestinian olive oil, dates, ceramics and embroidery can be purchased in the UK from www.zaytoun.org
Owen Cooper is a member of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign and National PSC, and has been one of the organisers of The Big Ride for Palestine since its creation in 2015.
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