The activist comedian Mark Thomas has praised Palestinian Christians for their role in the growth of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation.
Thomas recently walked the length of the wall surrounding the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in preparation for a book and a film on the subject. He met with Muslims, Christians, Jews and others who are opposing the occupation without violence.
Thomas, an atheist, said, “When Christians get it right, they really get it right”.
He applauded the decision of Christian churches in Jerusalem to describe the occupation as a sin. And he quoted one Christian priest who told him that he was resisting the occupation to “save our Israeli brothers and sisters from committing a mortal sin”.
Thomas made his comments while drawing links between military occupation and the arms industry in a speech to the annual National Gathering of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in London on Saturday (6 November).
He said that seeing the wall in Palestine reminded him that campaigning against the arms trade is part of a wider struggle against militarism and all that keeps it in place. Thomas has used comedy alongside more traditional campaigning methods to work against the arms trade over the last decade.
CAAT's National Gathering brought the highest turnout in years, with people from across Britain and beyond meeting for a day of talks, networking and campaigning workshops.
The event allowed participants to explore the elements of the arms trade that concerned them the most, as well as the forms of campaigning that they were most interested in.
Subjects offered in workshops included the arms industry's role in relation to the new government, next year's arms fair in east London and the growth of mercenary armies. They were followed by workshops to develop particular campaigning skills, such as organising local activism or using social media.
A key aim of CAAT is to bring an end to the influence of arms companies within the UK government.
The organisation is urging the government to close the arms wing of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of the Department for Business that promotes British exports. While arms account for less than two per cent of UK exports, UKTI devotes more staff to arms than to all other sectors combined.
Mark Thomas said, “There is an odd air of expectancy about the arms trade - that it has access to ministers, that it has access to governments, that it has access to the highest levels”.
He added, “One of the great things about CAAT is that it makes room for everyone”. And he insisted that all actions against the arms trade can make a difference. “Every bit counts," he said, "It all counts".