Thousands marched through London, sixty years after the Palestinian Nakba, to demand an end to the siege on Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and for the right of return of refugees.
The demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and the Palestinian Forum in Britain, was supported by trade unions UNISON, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite the Union, Communication Workers Union, GMB, TSSA, RMT, Fire Brigades Union, and the National Union of Miners, who joined organisations such as the Association of Palestinian Community UK, Amos Trust, Friends of Al Aqsa UK, Palestinian Return Centre, War on Want, Jewish Socialist Group, Pax Christi, Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Britain Palestine Twinning Network, ICAHDUK, Friends of Lebanon, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and Midlands Palestinian Community Association.
Dr Mustafa Barghouti, elected Palestinian Legislative Council member, told the rally of the situation of Apartheid existing in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “Israeli citizens make 30 times what Palestinians do, settlers take 48 times the water of Palestinians, Palestinians are denied entry to Jerusalem…” He said that the ‘peace process’ of Annapolis was an illusion: “Since then Israeli attacks have tripled and even more checkpoints have been set up.” He stressed the importance of re-establishing Palestinian unity and accused western governments of hypocrisy, in undermining democracy in Palestine, but supporting an Apartheid state.
Speakers also included Richard Burden MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, who reminded people of the ongoing plight of the refugees from 1948, especially those in Gaza: “Gaza is dotted with masses of cesspits of raw sewage, as deadly as any bomb or missile.” Like many speakers, he called for the lifting of the siege of Gaza and withdrawal from all the Occupied Territories: “The peace process cannot work while people are imprisoned in their own land.” Both he and Caroline Lucas stressed Israel cannot continue to enjoy a privileged trading relationship with Europe while it persists in violating international law.
Referring to the founding of Israel, Tony Benn said: “Nothing that happened in the WWII can justify Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land.” He found room some optimism: “Wherever you go you find people understand increasingly what is happening to the Palestinian people. There will never be peace in the Middle East till the Palestinians are treated decently.”
Manuel Hassassian, the General Delegate to the UK said: “Our problem is not a humanitarian problem, it is a political problem, which must have a political solution.” He also said: “The right of return is a sacred right for the Palestinians. Jerusalem is our capital, and we will never compromise on Jerusalem.”
Respect MP George Galloway reminded the crowd of Britain’s historic responsibility for the tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people, from the time of Balfour onwards, and remembered the “thousands upon thousands of martyrs” created over decades; he also demanded the release of Marwan Barghouti and other political prisoners, and declared: “If there is no justice in Palestine there can be no peace in Palestine, and peace in Palestine is the key to peace throughout the Middle East.”
Video messages came from a PLC member from Gaza, Dr Jamal Al-Khoudary, and from Ismail Haniyeh.
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