Grenfell to Gaza: Our united struggle against state violence
Six and a half years after the Grenfell fire that took the lives of 72 people, including 18 children, we remember the lives lost in North Kensington in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The bereaved families, survivors and local community still have not witnessed justice for those killed, for the barbarity of those complicit and responsible for the unnecessary deaths and terror people felt before they died.
Grenfell and the immense loss it represents will never be forgotten by all of us who bore witness to the result of sheer negligence and putting profit before people.
As we now bear witness to the horrors that Israel is committing in Gaza, we are reminded of the state violence that occurred on our own doorstep and the unfathomable unnecessary loss of life and grief that enveloped us.
These two grave injustices are intertwined in many ways, and the struggles for justice for both Grenfell and Gaza must go hand in hand as well.
"Despite its historical complicity in enabling Israel’s colonisation of Palestine, there is no conversation about reparations, about bowing their heads over their crimes against Palestinians.
But we only have to look at Grenfell to see that our country has a habit of ignoring those it has wronged"
Robert Jenrick recently resigned as Minister of Immigration after spearheading hostile policies against those seeking asylum in Britain. But we haven’t forgotten his crimes as Housing Secretary, when he left over half a million people in Britain with flammable cladding on their homes. Jenrick was also responsible for helping Tory donor Richard Desmond’s housing scheme to avoid a £45m tax bill.
Recently, he has shamelessly tried to pin Palestine protests as “an example of mass migration not working”, a very racist comment to make. Jenrick has always supported profit before people, most definitely over the lives of Global South and diaspora communities.
We have witnessed a rise in Islamophobia in Britain and anti-Palestinian hate crimes. During a time when Palestinians have witnessed the worst crimes against their people since the Nakba and the Deir Yassin and Tantura massacres in 1948, Britain has continued to criminalise Palestinian solidarity.
Police have arrested Arabs and Muslims for holding signs calling for justice for Palestinians, solely for being written in the Arabic language. They have arrested people for drawing comparisons to apartheid Israel’s war crimes in Gaza and Palestine, comparing it to the brutality Nazi’s used in Europe.
At every turn, our leaders have abandoned the Palestinian people. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly refused to even mention Chevening scholar Dr Maisara Al Rayyes, who was murdered by the Israeli occupation, even though they had previously met and taken a photograph together.
Even more embarrassing was James Cleverly going to Rwanda to visit a genocide memorial, whilst refusing to call out the genocide against Palestinians currently taking place live on our screens, whilst posing with Israeli ambassadors and officials claiming their right to ‘defend’ themselves by murdering over 8,000 children and dozens in the West Bank, including Adam Al-Ghoul in Jenin, who was playing with friends when he was executed.
Despite its historical complicity in enabling Israel’s colonisation of Palestine, there is no conversation about reparations, about bowing their heads over their crimes against Palestinians.
But we only have to look at Grenfell to see that our country has a habit of ignoring those it has wronged.
The links between Grenfell and Gaza do not stop there, they are also materially intertwined.
The council of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the Grenfell fire happened, are directly complicit in the genocide of Palestinians, investing pension contributions into arms companies manufacturing weapons to murder Palestinians such as BAE Systems, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
Just last month, activists disrupted a town hall meeting to demand a ceasefire and divesting from apartheid Israel.
Arconic, the company who made the flammable cladding that was supplied to put on to the refurbished Grenfell Tower, also make materials for Israeli fighter jets used to massacre Palestinians.
Direct action collective Palestine Action targeted Arconic in Birmingham on the Grenfell 4th year anniversary, shortly after Gaza had been attacked in May 2021, spraying the building with red paint and smashing the windows to ensure the Arconic factory was closed down.
"May all the flammable cladding on buildings and homes around Britain be removed with haste, and may bombs and bullets stop raining down on Palestine"
This was the smallest feeling of ‘justice’ the Grenfell community felt when witnessing Arconic shut down by activists and the local Birmingham community, who took to the streets and sat on the roads demanding business would not continue as usual.
Kingspan, Celotex and various companies responsible for the Grenfell fire have continued to make massive profit increases.
Britain is complicit in the continued genocide of Palestinians for supplying the Israeli occupation with weapons from factories made on their soil. Britain is complicit in legitimising and supporting the violence in Palestine, and for failing time and time again to call for a ceasefire.
We demand a ceasefire for Jenin and Gaza, an end to the Israeli occupation, and justice for the Grenfell 72. May all the flammable cladding on buildings and homes around Britain be removed with haste, and may bombs and bullets stop raining down on Palestine.
Shareefa Energy is a working-class poet, writer, activist and creative campaigner originally from Leicester. She was the Youth and Community Coordinator for stop and search in London from 2016-17. She has supported the United Friends and Families Campaign in various capacities since 2011. She was headline poet and facilitator for The Freedom Theatre’s ‘Through The Eyes of Women’ Feminist Theatre Festival 2022 in Jenin Refugee Camp in Palestine.
Follow her on Twitter: @ShareefaEnergy
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