Not Excepting Palestine
This is the text of undelivered opening remarks by Dr Ayça Çubukçu at the public event, “Not Excepting Palestine: Law, Humanity, Politics,” which took place at the London School of Economics on November 7, 2023. Since LSE regulations stipulate that chairs of public events should not be “expressing their own views on the subject matter of the event,” these remarks were left unuttered. The event can be watched here.
On Saturday, October 14, 2023, I marched through London with some hundred thousand others at a demonstration for a free Palestine. While we were chanting as loudly as we could, “Free, free Palestine! Free, free Palestine!,” UN officials were issuing emergency warnings about Israel’s ethnic-cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza.
That morning, right before the demonstration, we inscribed in dark black ink the names and numbers of a few lawyers on our arms’ bare skin. Already, Home Secretary Suella Braverman had instructed the police across the UK to deploy “the full force of the law” against demonstrators waving the Palestinian flag.
Today, the British state is attempting to criminalize any meaningful action, speech, slogan, and symbol of solidarity with Palestinians and their long tradition of resistance to settler colonialism in their struggle for freedom and liberation.
It is in this legal and violent context that we gather tonight on November 7, 2023 at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Our aim is to reflect broadly on how and why Palestine gets rendered an exception with respect to “humanity” in law and politics and becomes the allegedly deserving target of Israel’s genocidal violence sponsored by the US, UK, EU, and their allies.
On Saturday, October 28, we—now half a million Londoners—demonstrated again for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Our aim was to stop Israel’s bombing of hospitals, schools, and residential neighbourhoods; it was to stop Israel’s murder of Palestinians in their thousands—children and adults, now totalling over 10,000—to be protected as civilians in international law.
In response, Home Secretary Braverman attacked our demonstrations across the country as “hate marches,” herself promoting hate by calling us haters to delegitimize the very expression of our beliefs, demands, and politics.
By then, hundreds of human rights scholars had warningly identified a case of potential genocide in Gaza, now unfolding through Israel’s use of chemical weapons and carpet bombings; its cutting of food, water, and electricity supplies as collective punishment; its forced displacement of Palestinians trapped within the walled and wired borders of a brutal occupation built through the long duress of settler violence and domination.
As we marched in our millions around the planet on October 28, our slogans echoed in multiple tongues from Glasgow to Istanbul, Berlin to Baghdad, Barcelona to Cairo, New York to Islamabad, Paris to Jakarta, Kochi to Johannesburg. “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians,” we declared to the world from London: “Free, free Palestine!” Free from apartheid, free from decades of domination, free from settler colonialism and occupation.
By November 4, images of Palestinians abused naked in scenes evoking the torture of Iraqis by American forces at Abu Ghraib, images of Palestinians bombed en masse in hospitals and refugee camps, images of Palestinians treated as “human animals” by the Israeli military—these images and more were circulating widely for all to see the attempted extermination of a colonized nation before the world’s eyes.
Today, the fact that we who seek to stop this catastrophe are being criminalized—perhaps even as we speak tonight at the LSE—reveals just how rotten “liberal democracy” has become, especially when it comes to the question of Palestine and the matter of Palestinian lives.
In front of our eyes, across university campuses and city streets—in the US, UK, Germany, France and elsewhere—scholars, students, citizens, and migrants acting in defence of Palestinian lives and in solidarity with the Palestinian freedom movement are once again censored, threatened, targeted, and investigated in the name of “combatting hate” and “fighting terrorism.”
It is in and against this legal, political, and violent background that we must gather and enact “the ruthless criticism of everything existing” in order to defend our demand and yearning for justice, equality, and freedom for all—not excepting Palestine.
Read Testimonial 3 in our Palestine Uncensored series →
 Home Secretary Suella Braverman was sacked on November 13, 2023.
 This is still the case, even after up to a million people marched for Palestine in London on November 11, 2023.