Union chief laments being blocked from selling Palestinian badges to civil servants

Former Department for Work and Pensions executive Fran Heathcote tells union meeting about her ‘profound anger’ over the situation in Gaza


Fran Heathcote at the StW meeting

A union boss complained about being unable to sell pro-Palestinian badges to civil servants, the JC can reveal. 

In a gathering organised by Stop the War (StW) on Tuesday, Fran Heathcote, who is a former executive of the Department for Work and Pensions and the newly elected head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), voiced her “profound anger” about the situation in Gaza and spoke about her union’s attempts to fundraise for the Palestinians inside a government department.

Heathcote told the meeting: “In response to a government department’s refusal to allow our reps to sell pin badges in support of the people of Palestine – in case it was seen as too political and not in line with government values – we immediately made a further donation of £10,000 [to Gaza]”.

Heathcote criticised the recent ceasefire vote in Parliament, describing it as "revolting", and accused Keir Starmer of "hijacking" the vote. 

“I represent members that are directly employed by government and our members were disgusted. It was hijacked by Keir Starmer and his Labour Party who torpedoed the SNP motion and replaced it with a deliberately feeble one of his own which removed the reference to collective punishment,” she said.

She added: "Calling on your MP to not support the genocide in Gaza isn't abuse, it's accountability."

Heathcote’s address at the meeting comes after civil service “Diversity Lead”, Mohammed Shafiq was found to have campaigned for George Galloway.

Speaking via a video link at the StW event on Tuesday, Irish MP Richard Boyd Barrett condemned "imperialistic power" and advocated for dismantling the alleged "horrific apartheid colonial genocidal regime."

Meanwhile, Goldsmith’s student Samira Ali told the meeting she had spent the last two weeks sleeping on the floor of a lecture theatre as a means of disruptive protest, but added: “The real extremists in our society sit in the Houses of Parliament.”

Ali called for a "huge political earthquake with Palestine at the centre of it" and endorsed further occupations and roadblocks. "We want Palestinians to keep fighting," she said.

Lindsey German, a key figure in the anti-war movement, said: “The attempt to scapegoat people who in any way say the Palestinians have the right to resist is real but our movement is real as well”.

German added, “We see the lies of the Israelis now”.

She also criticized the arrest of individuals in Newham after a Jewish councillor was heckled. She declared: "They are terrified of our movement and the scale of our movement".

In a nod to International Women's Day, German announced that every speaker at an upcoming anti-Israel rally would be female, saying: “Women’s oppression matters to us”. No mention was made of the female victims of Hamas.

Palestinian activist Ghada Karmi told the meeting: “The Israelis went into Gaza in this very brutal way thinking they would actually overcome enemies – what they call terrorists.” Karmi went on, “They [the Israelis] are still burning and smarting from the shame of that, the failure of theirs.”

Several of the speakers, including Karmi, spoke in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Karmi’s presence at the meeting comes after she was filmed at Lewes Speakers Festival in January describing Hamas as “a quite straightforward resistance movement”. Karmi said at the event that on October 7 Hamas “reacted” because they could not “meekly go on taking it”.

Heathcote and the DWP were contacted for comment. 

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