A left-wing poetry publisher that receives £100,000 a year in taxpayers’ cash put out a statement backing “Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation” just 11 days after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 men, women and children.
The Arts Council-funded 87 Press, whose output includes essays on anti-colonial art, poems and lectures on Marxism, added in their October 18 statement that “conditional liberation is not liberation".
The Arts Council is now investigating whether the organisation is in breach of its funding agreement.
The JC can also reveal that the publisher’s director, Azad Ashim Sharma, reposted a claim made on October 10 - three days after the Hamas atrocities - that Israelis could not be considered civilians.
Writing on X/Twitter, he also asked: “Has anyone got any good piece debunking the myth about beheadings/rapes etc that the British rags have been circulating?”
On October 12, Sharma wrote: “No one on the side of Palestine and Palestinian people is saying innocent people should be killed or celebrating death - quite the opposite.
“We want an end to killing - but the buck for that lies with the [...] militarised apartheid state where the majority of adult 'civilians' have been conscripted into an army (the Israeli occupation forces) which DAILY commits human rights and international law violations.”
The October 7 attack, he added, had been a “small episode of Palestinian resistance”.
Sharma continued: “It's quite clear who has not got the backbone to hold this burden of remaining principled and objective. The objective truth here is condemning Palestinian resistance is absolutely vile in the context of what we are seeing here.”
The writer retweeted a claim made that “settlers are not ‘innocent civilians’ they chose to live there and are just as guilty as the violent acts on Palestinians as the government [sic].”
The post shared by Sharma also included a screenshot of a New York Times article about Israelis in Sderot gathering to watch airstrikes on Gaza with the caption: “This is y’all ‘innocent civilians’?”
The statement published by the 87 Press last month featured claims that Israel was ethnically cleansing Gaza.
“Settler Colonialism and Racial Capitalism are necropolitical systems that continue to dehumanise the majority of the world’s population,” it read. “What we are witnessing in Palestine brings these facts of history into focus without the luxury of equivocation.”
The document added: “We have always been a literary publisher whose context was anticolonial from the beginning and we recognise anticolonialism as a guiding context for the activities of a vast array of organisations in the UK who receive public money to continue our important work in the UK.
“We make this statement as a public cultural organisation and encourage other organisations to make formal statements in support of the Palestinian people, unreservedly.”
The 87 Press receives funding from the Arts Council England, an arm of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).
The publisher also received a bridging emergency grant during the Covid pandemic, and two "small Arts Council grants" before that, they say on their website in an appeal for donations.
In their Palestine statement, 87 Press add: “We believe our strength is in numbers and we are calling on other NPO’s and organisations who receive money from Arts Council England (or other public bodies) to make statements through their own social media channels…
“We demand that public cultural organisations show their solidarity with Palestinian people and apply pressure to government institutions and politicians to ensure the UK is on the side of justice and not genocide.”
Sharma vigorously denied supporting Hamas’s atrocities.
An Arts Council England spokesperson said: "As a distributor of public funding we have clear guidelines about the use of public money, and we are investigating whether The 87 Press is in breach of their funding agreement with us.”