The depth and diversity of the support for the Palestinian cause amongst the British people was reflected in the march and rally for Gaza that took place in central London on Saturday 26th July.
Police estimate that 45,000 marched from the Israeli embassy in Kensington to Parliament Square, but the actual number looked much higher, as protestors packed out the Square, Whitehall and Westminster Bridge.
Speakers included rock stars Brian Eno and Dave Randall, the children’s poet and author, Michael Rosen, the comedian Jeremy Hardy, and the journalist Owen Jones.
The unions were also represented, with speakers from Unite (Andrew Murray), the PCS (Zita Holbourne), Unison (John Gray), the NUT (Alex Kenny) and the TUC (Lesley Mercer).
The range of organisations represented by speakers was also broad. The massed crowds heard from Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Sarah Colborne and Hugh Lanning), CND (Bruce Kent), NUS Black Students Campaign (Malia Bouattia), Palestinian Forum in Britain (Ziad Elaoul), Stop the War (John Rees), Friends of Al Aqsa (Ismail Patel), Muslim Association of Britain (Mohammed Kozbar), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (Glyn Secker) and the British Muslim Initiative (Ayoub Bsiso).
Walter Wolfgang, the 91-year-old German born British socialists and peace activist addressed crowds outside the Israeli embassy.
In front of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jean Lambert MEP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, and Michelle Gildernew MP all called on the government to impose an immediate arms embargo on Israel.
Speakers also called for economic sanctions on Israel, and for a public campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Quotes from the rally:
Sarah Colborne (Palestine Solidarity Campaign): “It’s shameful, it’s sickening and it’s revolting that Britain sells components to Israel for its weapons. It’s shameful that weapons that Israel has field tested on the Palestinians are bought by Britain. The arms trade with Israel has to end now.”
Glyn Secker (Jews for Justice for Palestinians): “As a voice for our Jewish organisation, I categorically disassociate ourselves from the Israeli government and the Israeli army.We are from a different Jewish tradition – one that stands for human rights, mercy and compassion.”
Brian Eno: “BDS will make the difference. It’s the only thing that will frighten them.”
Dave Randall: “The last time Faithless was on a world tour, we heeded the cultural boycott of Israel. I’m very pleased to see that my colleague and fellow singer, Sinead O’Connor, has also this week said she will boycott Israel. My message to my fellow artists is to join the cultural boycott of Israel. Do not entertain apartheid Israel.”
Walter Wolfgang: “I stand here to protest against Israel’s barbarism, and I do so as a Jew. This is naked aggression by the Israeli government, and it must be treated as such. We need economic measures. We need to end the siege of Gaza. We need a free Palestine.”
Owen Jones: “Today we express our unwavering solidarity with the people of Palestine. This isn’t a conflict, this isn’t a war, this is a massacre. A massacre of the Palestinian people.”
Jeremy Hardy: “I’m here to stand with you in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and I’m here to stand in defiance of my government, of the Israeli government and of the Egyptian government.”
Protests in support of Gaza took place around the country today. A list of participating towns can be found here: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/protests-gaza-across-uk-ireland-26-july/
On Friday 25th July, Palestine Solidarity Campaign delivered an open letter to the Prime Minister at Downing Street, calling for an immediate halt to Britain’s arms trade with Israel. The letter was signed by 21,000 people in two days, including fashion designer Bella Freud, journalist and activist Jemima Khan, musicians Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack, Brian Eno and Bryan Adams, the writers Will Self, Hanif Kureishi, Ahdaf Soueif, Esther Freud, Laura Bailey and William Dalrymple, and the actors David Morrissey, Maxine Peake and Alexei Sayle.