“Nothing can justify the complete disregard for Palestinian life & dignity. It’s up to us to demand an end to the violence & demand lasting peace for all based on justice and human rights for everyone”Apsana Begum MP
Labour Outlook’s Sam Browse reports from Saturday’s historic demonstration in solidarity with Palestine.
Today, over 300,000 people marched to protest the ongoing bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli military. This weekend’s protest doubled the attendance of last week’s demonstration and was joined by campaigns, trade unions, Members of Parliament, and individuals opposed to the attacks on civilians in the beleaguered strip.
Organisers said it was the largest ever mobilisations in the history of the UK Palestine solidarity movement.
Ben Jamal of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign explained that “we want the violence to end. We’re calling for an immediate ceasefire so necessary humanitarian supplies can be safely delivered to the people of Gaza. And we’re marching once again to Downing Street to say that our government’s complicity with Israel’s commission of war crimes must end.”
Only three days ago, the UK abstained on a UN Security Council resolution, brought by Brazil, calling for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in the bombing. The US vetoed the proposal.
As crowds flocked to Marble Arch for the start of the march, the numbers were so great the underground station had to close. Demonstrators were instead forced to walk from Bond Street station, causing crowds to surge along Oxford Street.
Even as the speeches were starting outside Downing Street, protestors continued to join the back of the march at Marble Arch. The crowds were so big, stewards urged people into Parliament Square to make room for the thousands entering Whitehall to listen to the rally.
Addressing the audience from a stage outside Downing Street, Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador, said “this is a war against humanity. One million people have been forced to leave their homes. There is a humanitarian crisis like never before. Oxfam says this is unprecedented.”
“Imagine the choices families have to make – to ration water, to ration food. These are acts of collective punishment, these are war crimes, these are crimes against humanity.”
Speaking passionately to roars of approval from the crowd, Apsana Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, said “the entire globe is seeing in real time the crimes against humanity that are being committed, and so we say together ‘not in our name’. the UK government need to hear us loud and clear – not in our name.”
“Nothing can justify these crimes being committed against humanity. Nothing can justify the complete disregard for Palestinian life and dignity. It’s up to us to demand an end to the violence and demand lasting peace for all based on justice and human rights for everyone.”
“And so we must also be clear that the ongoing dispossession and oppression imposed on the Palestinian by the State of Israel must end. The illegal occupation must end. The forced evictions must end. And in line with international law, the Geneva Accords and the votes of the UN General Assembly, the settlement programme must end. And there must be unconditional and immediate recognition of the state of Palestine.”
Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, told the crowds that “half of Gaza’s population are under eighteen years old. Just over a third of those killed in Gaza are children – one Palestinian child killed every 16 mins.”
“Collective punishment of civilian populations categorically breaks international law. Denying the people of Gaza access to food, water electricity and to fuel categorially breaks international law.”
“The UK government bears a particular responsibility to ensure that the current violence is halted. The government and the opposition are not living up to that responsibility. Only the pressure from a mass movement for peace can force the change the world so desperately needs to see.”
Now more than ever it’s time to build that movement – and demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to the siege, and justice for Palestine.
See below for pictures of today’s demonstration.
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