Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hits youth trail

By Marcus Dysch, January 27, 2011

The efforts of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to appeal to younger activists are causing concern among pro-Israel supporters.

A PSC rally last week to mark the second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead and the Gaza conflict heard speakers including veteran campaigner Tony Benn and the organisation's campaigns director, Sarah Colborne.

But it was two youthful, energetic speakers who roused the crowd. The appearance of hip-hop artist Lowkey, and political activist Jody McIntyre, gave what had been a staid rally a vibrant, contemporary atmosphere.

The combined age of the media and technology-savvy pair is just over half that of Mr Benn, who is 85.

One expert studying anti-Israel activity described the increasing influence of performers such as Lowkey as a "potential nightmare," and compared the impact of his backing for the campaign to the effect of artists such as Annie Lennox and Elvis Costello attacking the Jewish state.

He said the addition of "celebrity support" could revitalise campaigners who have spent the past decade seeing the same faces at every meeting.

The PSC has traditionally relied on parliamentarians such as Baroness Tonge and Jeremy Corbyn to back their campaigns.

Lowkey, real name Kareem Dennis, is a 24-year-old poet, playwright and hip-hop artist who has performed at Glastonbury and had his music played on mainstream radio across Europe.

Born in London to an Iraqi mother and English father, Lowkey has been described by poet Benjamin Zephaniah, a PSC patron, as "one of the best lyricists in the western hemisphere".

At last week's rally he spoke of his pride at being an anti-Zionist and called Israel a "terrorist state". The event organisers and audience later successfully persuaded him to perform his track "Long Live Palestine", written during the Gaza conflict.

It accuses Israel of bombing hospitals and mosques and criticises everyone from Barack Obama to Coca Cola and Huggies nappies.

In 2010 the track was number one in the UK's hip-hop download chart.

Mr McIntyre came to national prominence in December after he accused police of pulling him from his wheelchair during student protests.

But the 20-year-old, whose great-grandparents were Lebanese, has a long history of anti-Israel and anti-western activism. In November he was profiled by the Observer as one of a new breed of political activists using the web to promote their campaigns.

He regularly writes about the Middle East on his blog, and last August wrote of a trip to Ni'ilin in the West Bank, where he claimed to have been tear-gassed by Israeli troops.

Since the student protests, Mr McIntyre has become a poster boy for the left, writing columns for the Guardian and Independent and speaking at numerous rallies including at the launch event of the Equality Movement in London last Friday.

Lowkey was this week performing in Australia, but found time to tweet that Israel was "founded upon racism" and would "always divide itself internally along racial lines". They are unlikely to be his last words on the subject.

Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011