DEMOCRACY is the cornerstone of society. It has taken a livestreamed genocide of Palestinians for us to realise how fragile it is.

Throughout the world we are seeing peaceful protests being met by increasing state and police brutality. From university professors and students in America, the Netherlands and France to doctors providing eyewitness accounts of the horrors of working in Gaza, our democratic right to peacefully speak out against what we know to be wrong is being attacked and quashed.

It seems no-one is exempt.

Despite this, pro-Palestinian protests, part of one of the biggest global movements in history, show no signs of slowing down. Week on week, people across the world are joining forces to highlight the plight of occupied Palestinians dying cruelly from Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment, starvation tactics and disease.

The public continues to call out the role our governments play in providing political and financial cover to Israel, not only in its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestine but in what the International Court of Justice has described as a plausible genocide against occupied Palestinians.

For more than seven months – and more accurately 76 years since the Nakba, when Palestine was carved up by colonial Britain, followed by the mass massacre and displacement of Palestinians – there seems to be no let-up in the numbers of Palestinians dying and suffering.

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The “incremental genocide”, as described by Ilan Pappé, a prominent Jewish Israeli historian, that has been perpetrated over the past decades is being accelerated.

International law – applicable to all other nations – appears to be absent when it comes to Israel, the longest illegal occupation in modern history. It seems there is no limit to the political and military support from the West for their ally as it charges on with the theft of Palestinian homes and land and its latest military campaign under the auspices of self-defence in which more than 36,000 Palestinians have died – more than 15,000 of whom were children – and leaving a further 81,000 Palestinians injured.

Palestinians have suffered immensely for almost eight decades as our media and politicians have worked hand in glove to distort the reality and portray the occupied as the enemy and perpetrator.

Still, never have I seen this level of destruction and brutal loss of life. Certainly, neither have the younger generations including the students across the world resorting to hunger strikes and peaceful demonstrations as they push for a ceasefire, and an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

They do not rely on traditional media and the narrative pedalled by politicians. They can see the unfiltered death and destruction of Palestine and Palestinians as the suffering and injustice is livestreamed daily.

They won’t back down. They know too much and refuse to unsee.

So, it should be of no surprise to our police force and politicians when an increasing number of young people stick their necks out, put their conscience before their degrees, set up encampments and push for change by calling on their university leaders to divest from investments that hurt people and the planet.

Nor should they be surprised by peaceful protests organised outside the headquarters of companies supplying arms to Israel as it annihilates whole communities.

After all, this is no different to the resistance to past atrocities such as South African apartheid or Nazi Germany when people stood shoulder to shoulder against injustice and fascist ideologies. Today, they are not remembered as criminals but as good humans, on the right side of history.

So, what went wrong on May 15 at a peaceful protest outside Thales, an arms company in Glasgow that supplies Israel? Why did the police come in excessive numbers and charge towards the protesters without a dialogue? What did they want to achieve?

Video footage taken on the day shows the police arrive in disturbingly large numbers, take a visibly heavy-handed approach and break through the picket line, creating panic and fear. Four people were arrested. During the same protest, a journalist was threatened with arrest under Section 20 of the Police and Fire Reform Act as he covered the protest.

What was the protesters’ crime? What was the journalist’s crime? Does the behaviour of the police at the protest at Thales signal a change in tactics from Police Scotland? Will they be cracking down harder on protesters from now on? This week, following a series of proposals put forward by the UK Government adviser, Lord Walney, we heard that the Government could introduce sweeping measures to repress protests, including making activists pay to protest and potentially spying on campaign groups.

We are not a police state, and peaceful demonstrations are not a crime. Standing up against an apartheid state killing Palestinian men, women, and children in their thousands with the active support of our politicians and companies on our soil, doesn’t warrant arrests. Exercising our democratic right to oppose it is a basic right – and we should be allowed to practice it without fear of aggression from our police force and governments.

In the words of Michelle Bachelet, a Chilean politician, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights and a torture survivor: “Democracy is not a spectator sport; it requires active participation, vigilance, and a commitment to upholding democratic values.”

We’re entering the eighth month of pro-Palestinian protests demanding an end to the horrific war on Palestinians and the illegal occupation of Palestine. As governments ignore their citizens and continue to fuel Israel with armaments and political cover then the public will continue to stand against what is one of the most merciless attacks on a people in history.

What happened at the peaceful protest at Thales is extremely concerning, as are plans to criminalise demonstrations such as the pro-Palestinian protests calling for an end to the Israeli illegal occupation and genocide.

These desperate attempts to silence the public from speaking out against atrocities cannot become the norm. Our politicians and the police force must take heed of democracy, of our plea for humanity and sense – and to remember they work for us and not against us.