Palestine solidarity goes mainstream in UK as 100,000 march in London

Tens of thousands marched in central London in solidarity with Palestine on 26 July 2014.

Justin Tallis AFP/Getty Images

For the second consecutive weekend, tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of London on Saturday, 26 July, in a massive show of support for the people of Gaza and all of Palestine.

That support is growing fast — and public opinion is leaving the politicians and traditional media, still stuck in their backing for the colonizer, Israel, far behind.

The protesters and the speakers who addressed the crowds on Saturday reflected the depth and the diversity of support for the Palestinian cause in the UK, and, in terms of speakers, a new willingness among the mainstream to speak out for Palestine.

Official police estimates for the march, which began at the Israeli embassy and continued past the Prime Minister’s residence to the Houses of Parliament, was 45,000 people.

However, police estimates for demonstrations are notoriously low, and the numbers who packed Parliament Square, Whitehall and Westminster Bridge for the final rally looked to be closer to 100,000.

Outside Parliament, rock stars Brian Eno and Dave Randall spoke to the crowd, as well as the children’s poet and author Michael Rosen and the comedian Jeremy Hardy. Representatives from major UK trade unions also spoke in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Support for boycott

Protesters rallied in front of the British Parliament building. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Lesley Mercer of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the body representing 54 affiliated unions and 6.2 million working people in the UK, expressed the TUC’s support for Palestinians in Gaza and reiterated the TUC’s official backing of a boycott of Israeli settlement goods.

Calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) were made by many of the speakers.

Dave Randall of the band Faithless told the massed crowds outside Parliament: “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.”

Brian Eno also called for BDS. He said it was “the little things” he saw on a visit to the West Bank which made him realize the scale of Israel’s occupation.

“It was things like the whole village that had been evacuated and was living in caves so that three Israeli settler families could take their land and be protected by the army,” Eno told the rally. “BDS will make the difference. It’s the only thing that will frighten Israel.”

Walter Wolfgang, the 91-year-old German-born British socialist and peace activist, who was too frail to climb the stairs onto the stage, but spoke from the floor, echoed those calls.

“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,” he declared.

Israel arms embargo

Ola, a young Palestinian from Gaza whose home was bombed by Israel, spoke at the march on Saturday. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

A young Palestinian named Ola, whose family home in Gaza was bombed last week, also addressed the rally at Parliament, defiantly telling the crowds:

Not only have they killed more than 1,000 people, they have destroyed 55 percent of this tiny strip of land. They have destroyed what little land we had left. What they have not destroyed is the hope and the resistance that exists inside every single Palestinian.

This is a regime that was built on massacres and murders. They said of the Palestinians that the old would die and the young would forget. Well, I am a young Palestinian, and I have not forgotten.

Outside the Israeli embassy, before the march set off, Owen Jones, the journalist and commentator, told protestors: “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.”

Sarah Colborne of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign emphasized one of the central demands of the march and rally — a halt to the UK government’s arms trade with Israel.

“It’s shameful, it’s sickening and it’s revolting that Britain sells components to Israel for its weapons,” she told the crowd. “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.”

Flying the Palestinian flag

The London demonstration this past weekend was organized as part of a wave of protests in support of Gaza across the UK on Saturday, from Edinburgh in the north to Hastings on the south coast, and from Cardiff in the west to Cambridge in the east. On 19 July, approximately 100,000 people participated in the march through London in support of Palestinians.

The diversity of support for the Palestinian cause is also expanding. On 20 July, the well-known band Massive Attack used the Longitude Festival in Dublin to shout out for Gaza. A lit-up message on the huge backdrop to their set read “Gaza has been occupied or under restrictions since 1948.”

And a letter demanding an arms embargo on Israel — which was delivered to the Prime Minister’s residence on Friday by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — was signed not just by members of Parliament and academics, but many prominent cultural figures as well.

These signatories included rock stars Peter Gabriel and Ken Loach, as well as 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.

Two town halls in English cities — Preston and Bradford — are now flying the Palestinian flag alongside their local banners.

People are no longer afraid to speak up for Palestinian human rights, and the strength and the breadth of the support which has been visible across the UK recently is a sign of that. It puts to shame those politicians and mainstream media organizations who, with their pro-colonizer agendas, are showing themselves up as the out-of-touch anachronisms that they are.

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Why is the UK government doing nothing?! Why are world leaders doing nothing?! I am a mother of 2 and have never been driven by such helplessness and frustration as I am feeling now. I am losing faith in human kind.

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The briefest answer to your question is this Jo.... The UK Government is doing nothing because they support Israel, & always have.. The US (most of all) & other Western Govnmnts do too..
The UK Govnmnt were the ones who gave Palestinian land to create the state of Israel on 15th May 1948.. Which caused approx750,000 Palestinians to become refugees.. The Israeli occupiers have been stealing Palestinian land ever since, resulting in millions of refugees, & now occupy at least 80% of the land.. Israel has been doing this since 1967, despite MANY UN resolutions to halt their ILLEGAL settlements.. The Israeli regime are international criminals & human rights abusers..

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It goes even further back to 1917 when the British Government signed the Balfour Declaration in which the British Government promised Palestine to the Zionist movement.

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I feel exactly the same, I'm sickened by it, it's a double blow, the inhumanity of what is actually taking place in Gaza and the inaction of the world leaders.

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Imagine it was the UK being on the receiving end of Israeli action .. we would be hearing a great deal more about STOPPING this GRAVE INJUSTICE ..

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After writing to my MP Geraint Davies, he has come out in support of the Palestinians and recently spoke at a rally here in Swansea calling for an end to violence and a 2 state solution. Put pressure on your MPs since the leader of the opposition Ed Milliband has previously gone on record as a Zionist and our prime minister has previously gone on record as being a nasty cunt. Neither if whom are likely to act without significant pressure from their parties, so get writing people.

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The Israelis with all their technology at their disposal and their US and Western sympathisers should realise that they would never be able to win a war against humanity.These 'brave' soldiers have been killing unarmed Palestinians including babies without mercy.Let them go to Afghanistan and Iraq and show how brave they are and fight the Taliban and the ISIS insurgents.I am sure they will turn tail in no time as the US and it's Western allies have done .

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-UNITE for economic sanctions against the illegal occupier!
Buy ONLY from states RESPECTING the UN resolutions.
This may mean that grocers need to be informed to sell only legitimate goods.

-Do not buy from companies who make charity donations ( check charity books available in national libraries) to the illegal occupier and transgressor of UN resolutions.

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#BOYCOTTTAXES this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The terrorist state of israhell has been methodologically killing and displacing Palestinians since 1920's, they broke more than 75 UN resolutions and still counting, slaughtered whole villages like Der Yassin, bombed entire neighbourhoods in minutes, assassinated Palestinian leaders on international soil, created the largest open air prison in the world, have been ethnically cleansing an entire population, and committed many war crimes under the eyes of there war brokers, etc ........

All of this will not break or even scratch the will of Palestinians. And the young will NEVER forget

Peace

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next step in UK should be action against the BBC

Unite and ask for a reduction in TV license for unfair representation of the illegal occupation of palestine and the pro-zionist approach of the news editor.

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To all the Muslim brothers and sisters who are so brave to stand up to this government and speak for the innocent Palestinian civilians being killed I want to add my support we are all right behind u let's hope the uk changes it's foreign policy lets hope for change

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I have never been more proud to be a Palestinian as I am today.
Long live Palestine !!!

The lucky ones are the ones who have already departed this cruel world. May The Almighty give strength to those remaining.

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Together as one pray and boycott isralei goods. We cannot feel proud for thriving off items from companies who support this most criminal act happening to innocent children and dependents. Their blood on our hands....no thank you.the products must have accurate distribution I.e. Palestinian rather than West Bank.give these dignified people their credit.
The reserves that are called up should be there on a humanitarian basis .....Palestinians do not have an army. Hence what is there sole purpose to call up so many reserves. A war on children and dependents.
Pray that these Israelis who belief such action is justified first walk in the steps of a Palestinian for an hour,a day,a week. Invite a Palestinian to their home meet a Palestinian.. Adopt many of the beautiful children who have been sadly orphaned and love them as their own. Give them safe haven before destroying their homes. The injured take them to Israel to tart them
With these small steps of kindness will the journey towards free occupation bring peace as one be compete. War will only create waves of aggression not. peace.....
Please read miko peled....a generals son.watch him on u tube, A Jewish citizen who became a peace activist. Truly inspirational and a caring person.

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o people of gaza you r my brothers,my sisters,my kids and i am ashamed of being alive on this earth but still unable to help you.please forgive me.when i stand for prayer i feel my self how dare me to stand infront of ALLAH.OH ALLAH FORGIVE ME.

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From land sea and air where there should be blue skies, crisp blue waves,sea shells healthybolive tree instead our Palestinian family are being rained on by shells of ammunition. May God give them strength we will support them to the hilt....for both a Palestinian child and Israeli child to share a happy childhood.
I paray that this Israeli force,Even armies have mercy and protect women and children and dependents,as I always believed.
We pray this Israeli force puts down their ammunition and find in their hearts instead of tearing the land of Gazza apart....work for peace all children deserve a childhood,
Wear your Palestinian bracelet with dignity and pride like a Palestinian you wear it for the Israeli children that they will understand and accept the importance of their Palestinian family to be free.....a bracelet based on peace,kindness,care .
We already know this lets hope these children will learn to share.
Peace,

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not trying to lessen the overall cause - but does there not seem to be something very very scary and wrong in culturally boycotting a nation? what about all the israelis who through cultural means (art, film, music, theatre etc..) critique and oppose the institutions who perpetuate these wars. a cultural boycott seems to be such a dehumanising, colonialist and whitewashing approach for us to take.

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist, working with Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza with PSC. More information on PSC’s solidarity work is available at www.palestinecampaign.org