London joins global protests to stand up for Palestine

more than 100,000 people marched through the streets of London on July 19 to oppose Israel;'s war on Gaza. Photo by Denis Rogaty

With tanks rolling through the outskirts of Gaza and the Israeli Defense Force organises new air strikes targeting hospitals and civilians playing football on the beach, almost 100 protests took place right across the world on July 19 and 20, calling for an end to the brutal occupation of Palestine and the bombing of Gaza.

Joining this global support for besieged Gaza, more than 100,000 people marched through the streets of London on July 19. The march filled up almost the entire stretch of the road between 10 Downing Street at Westminster and the Israeli Embassy on Princess St, Kensington.

The rally was convened by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop the War Coalition, Friends of Al-Aqsa and several Islamic groups.

The rally was the largest Palestine solidarity event since Israel's brutal Operation “Cast Lead” attack on Gaza in late 2008-early 2009.

Chaired by Chris Nineham from Stop the War and the PSC’s Shamiul Jorder, speakers emphasised the need for solidarity with Palestine, to build the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel and put pressure on the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government to place an arms embargo on Israel.

Mohammed Abu Al-Kallam, from the Islamic Forum of Europe, said: “It is so important we unite Muslims and non-Muslims, people of religion and without [religion], because this is an issue of humanity. It is an issue of war against the oppressed.”

Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackeney, said: “As we gather in the heart of the British Empire, we should remember that no injustice can stand forever.”

Ben White, a freelance journalist and a prominent writer on the Israel-Palestine conflict, said: “Some of us can sometimes feel powerless and helpless to make a difference, but that’s a lie.

“It’s not true that any of us are powerless or helpless to be able to answer the call of solidarity to the Palestinian people.”

He said there were 31 companies in Britain that export arms to Israel, and demanded Britain impose an arms embargo on Israel.

In between speeches, the masses of people chanted, “Free, free Palestine”, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry! We will never let you die!” and “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians!”

The rally then marched to the Israeli Embassy in West Kensington. Despite an obvious lack of police, the march was calm and peaceful.

At the Israeli embassy, the crowds gathered to hear another round of speeches. Andrew Murray from Unite the Union, Britain’s largest trade union, said it Unite had voted taken a at its recent policy conference to fully support the BDS campaign.

Phillip Harvey, senior vice-president of the National Teachers Union told the rally the NUT was planning to send a solidarity delegation to Palestine later this year, following on from an earlier successful NUT delegation.

Long-time anti-war and anti-imperialist activist George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, said: “Every newspaper, radio and TV bulletin is transfixed on the massacre of 300 civilians, many of them women and children, by bloodless fanatics.

“I am talking of course, about those who were shot down from the sky over eastern Ukraine. The 300 Palestinians are completely ignored by the same news sources!”

“The same political figures who are threatening Russia with sanctions and war, are at the same time supporting Israel with money, political power and diplomacy!

“Why the double standard? Why is the blood in Ukraine so much more newsworthy, so much more noteworthy than the blood in Gaza?”

He pointing out that the recent massacre in Gaza was made possible by last year’s coup that brought Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power.

The next rally was called for July 22 outside the Israeli embassy.

While the mass, peaceful protests took place in London, things across the channel were not quite so peaceful.

The government of President Francios Hollande has banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris. The move came after clashes between the pro-Palestine demonstrators and the members of ultra-right vigilantes from the Jewish Defence League.

As a result, the July 29 demonstration in Paris in support of Palestine resulted in clashes with police making more than 38 arrests.

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