Free Palestine! Downing Street Demo tells PM ‘end apartheid, end the occupation, stop arming Israel’

“While the bombs may have stopped for now… it’s vital we mobilise as much support for the Palestinian people as possible, amplifying their voices & calling on our own Government to end its military & political support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Sam Browse

By Sam Browse, Labour Outlook

Yesterday, large crowds gathered outside Downing Street to protest Israel’s most recent brutal bombing of Gaza.

The demonstration, supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Friends of Al Aqsa Mosque, comes after Israeli bombs rained down on Gaza for three days. The attack killed 47 Palestinians – 16 of whom were children whose names were movingly read aloud to those gathered outside Downing Street.

The onslaught follows an Israeli offensive on Gaza last May that killed 260 Palestinians. Both attacks have further devastated a small, crowded strip of land beleaguered by a siege that has left the population without basic staples, reliable electricity, or an adequate water supply since 2005.

Demonstrators heard from trade union leaders and campaigners who all called for an end to the bombing and indiscriminate killing – and for the UK Government to stop arming Israel.

Speakers condemned the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss’s, statement in response to the bombing raids. Truss, a candidate in the Tory leadership elections, said that “the UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself”, despite the deaths of civilians and children, and the so-called “pre-emptive” nature of the bombing.

The platform also spoke out against the siege on Gaza, the ongoing occupation of the West Bank, and the illegal evictions in Jerusalem, and insisted on the apartheid character of the Israeli state, with one speaker, Daniel Kebede of the National Education Union, saying “our union sends two delegations to Palestine per year… What I witnessed when I went to Palestine was apartheid”. Delia Mattis of Black Lives Matter agreed, likening the struggle of the Palestinians to the antiracist fight in South Africa.

Speakers emphasised the importance of solidarity action here in the UK, with one of the compères of the rally – Stop the War Coalition’s Chair, Shelly Asquith – reading a message from a Palestinian describing the dire situation in Gaza and urging international support.

Jess Barnard, Chair of Young Labour and candidate for Labour’s NEC, likewise urged the crowd to call our own political leaders to account and highlighted the historic Palestine motion passed at Labour Party conference last year.

The demo concluded with further calls to action from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. While the bombs may have stopped for now, as the important rallying cry of “free, free Palestine” echoing down Whitehall reminds us, it’s vital we mobilise as much support for the Palestinian people as possible, amplifying their voices and calling on our own Government to end its military and political support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. As the slogan goes: “in our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinian”.


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