OVER 150,000 workers, students and youth joined the National March for Palestine from the BBC in Portland Place, central London to Downing Street on Saturday, waving Palestinian flags and chanting ‘From the River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free!’
There were also mass rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country including Liverpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Norwich, Coventry, Edinburgh, Swansea, Manchester and Glasgow.
Another mass demonstration has been called for next Saturday.
Marchers chanted: ‘Stop arming Israel, stop bombing Gaza! Free, free Palestine! In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians! 1 2 3 4 Occupation no more, 5 6 7 8 Israel is a terrorist state! From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! From London to Palestine, occupation is a crime! Viva, viva Palestina! We want justice, we want action! We want boycotts, we want sanctions!’
The march was led by a huge Palestinian flag, followed by tens of thousands of Palestinian flags and placards. Trade union banners included London Region UCU and Whittington Hospital Unison.
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banner demanded: ‘Charge Israel with war crimes!’
Many marchers spoke to News Line:
William Sheehan, a National Education Union member and a history and sociology teacher from Blackheath, south east London, said: ‘I’ve always supported the Palestinian people who were pushed out of their own country since 1948.
‘The Israelis are colonisers. The two state solution was totally undermined by Israel.
‘There must be one state of Palestine where everyone can live together.
‘Israel is colonialist and things have gone so far and conditions are getting so bad that there has to be a general strike. It’s like 1926 but worse at this stage.’
Nivine Arafa, an education worker, said: ‘The trade unions should get involved. It’s been an ongoing issue for 70 years and it’s up to our generation to fix it.
‘Palestine is suffering at the hands of Israel. Protesting, spreading awareness is what’s necessary.
‘Britain has the biggest responsibility in my eyes.
‘Britain was the one who caused the whole situation. The Tories have to be overthrown 100%.’
Abi Grant, a cancer researcher from Leamington Spa, said: ‘I don’t agree with what the UK government is doing. Sunak said the British people stand with Israel. Well, I don’t.
‘It feels like we’re standing by and witnessing genocide.
‘There must be a state of Palestine, and the displaced people need to be able to come home.’
Tim Stuart, a watchmaker, said: ‘We need a general strike to defend Palestine. People are being oppressed, held in an open air prison. It’s a disgrace.
‘People are being treated like animals in their own country.
‘It’s an apartheid system. We fought against that in South Africa for many years.
‘People need access to education. It’s a basic human right and that is not the case in Palestine. Stop arming Israel.’
Asmaa El Atrassi, who was wearing a Free Julian Assange banner, told News Line: ‘I met somebody on the bus coming here today. I gave him my Palestine scarf and he gave me his Julian Assange poster.
‘I think Julian Assange is a hero. We must free him. He is a journalist telling the truth. He did nothing wrong.
‘The Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen showed a programme about him which touched me a lot.
‘It showed him when he was young in the embassy and his wife and children and how the British police were spying on him in the embassy.
‘It showed how he has become old and his health has suffered, but he is still strong.’
Carrying the Celtic Supporters for Palestine banner, Peter Morgan told News Line: ‘Celtic is a club born of famine and oppression and built by immigrants forced to flee by an occupying country.
‘We feel the pain of the Palestinian people who have had their land taken from them. There’s always been this element at Celtic.
‘The the trade unions must take action. They represent the working class and they have the moral duty to support Palestine. There must be a Palestinian state.’
Carrying the London Region ucu banner, Roddy, a ucu branch officer at Imperial College, told News Line: ‘We are witnessing a world historic change. The people of Gaza are facing a catastrophe.
‘It’s time for the workers of the world to stand up for Palestine. I’d like to see the unions striking to defend Palestine.’
As the rally outside Downing Street began, it was told that the back of the march was still yet to reach Trafalgar Square.
First speaker was Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, who said: ‘Is it 50,000, is it 100,000, is it 200,000, a quarter of a million here today?
‘Make your voices heard, like you are doing here today. Don’t let them silence you.
‘There are those among the politicians who want to stop you carrying the Palestinian flag. Show me the flag, show me, show me, wave it, wave it. The horror in Gaza is indescribable.
‘Israel is indiscriminately bombing infrastructure, homes, massacring people live on TV, a war crime, cutting food, water and electricity, leaving 1.1 million children with no food, water, medicine.
‘1.1 million children, let that sink in, 1.1 million children, think about it.
‘Patients on life support machines, on dialysis, people are dying.
‘Imagine the choices families are making. What is happening is unconscionable, unconscionable.
‘We will not allow for a second Nakba. The British government is hearing us. Condemn war crimes. We have, you have to speak out. Enough, enough!
‘Where is the commitment to international law? We have been struggling for 106 years. End the occupation.
‘We need more support. This is not just defending the Palestinian people, this is about defending our shared humanity.
‘The path to justice is littered with obstacles, but we are not alone – we have you – and together we will free Palestine.’
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘Young people are being killed in Gaza at the moment. We have to condemn the occupation of Palestine.
‘The demand that the whole population of northern Gaza must leave is monstrous. To deny people water, food, electricity, is a war crime.
‘Millions of people all over the world are demonstrating for Palestine yesterday, today and tomorrow.
‘We must end the arms trade with Israel. This assault on the people of Gaza must end.’
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, said: ‘The order to evacuate northern Gaza is a catastrophe.
‘This is collective punishment of the people of Gaza, a war crime, illegal.
‘We have even heard an Israeli MP call for nuclear weapons to be used against Gaza.
‘Protest is rising across the globe. We must raise our voices to say Palestine will be free. The Labour leadership, who think they are fit to form a government, support war crimes.
‘History will judge them harshly. Long live Palestine.’
Martin Kavanagh, PCS deputy president, said: ‘We support, we defend and we are with, Palestine. Israel’s actions are illegal.
‘Cutting food and water, using white phosphorus is a war crime. This is mass murder.
‘End occupation. There can be no solution without a free and independent Palestine.’
Liz MacKean of War on Want, said: ‘The longest occupation in modern history must end.
‘We cannot and will not stand by as our government supports imperialist violence against the oppressed.
‘End the genocide, end the siege, end the occupation.’
Abdul Akram Hamimi of the Palestinian Forum in Britain, said: ‘They have stripped Gaza of all necessities. It’s a war crime.
‘Over 6,000 bombs have been dropped on Gaza in seven days. My cousins and my aunt who live in Gaza have been told to leave their home. Where are they to go? This is a second Nakba.
‘The Palestinian flag is a symbol of hope and we will continue to carry it higher and higher until the day that Palestine is free from the river to the sea.’
Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition, said: ‘In France and Germany people have been banned from protesting in support of Palestine. We’re here to say we won’t let them stop us.
‘The reason they want to ban us is because they don’t want people to know the truth about Palestine.
‘The people of Palestine are showing tremendous bravery, unlike the Labour MPs who say they support Palestine but are not here today.
‘I say to them, get a backbone. Starmer supports Israel and its war crimes.’
Kamel Hawwash, Vice Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘I’m proud to be from Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine.
‘Britain started the clock in 1917 with the dreadful Balfour Declaration.
‘We know what Israel is doing, creating a second Nakba.
‘Our criminal Prime Minister is supporting Israel committing war crimes, means he is guilty as well.’
Young Palestinian campaigner Leanne Mohamad said: ‘It’s never been about lack of evidence. It’s wrong to say that if there had been the internet in 1948 it would never have been allowed to happen. We’ve got the internet now.
‘It’s never been about lack of evidence. It has always been about not seeing the Palestinians as human beings.
‘The Home Secretary wants to ban waving the Palestinian flag, so I have decided to wear one today.
‘Speaking up for Palestine is not anti-semitic. Criticism of one of the most extreme Israeli governments is not anti-semitic.
‘Not only are the western governments supporting genocide they are part of it.
‘Everyone has the right to live in freedom and dignity, including us Palestinians.’
Ismail Patel, Chairman of Friends of Al Aqsa, said: ‘Truth is the first victim of war. They said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ready to hit Britain within 45 minutes and hundreds of thousands of people died due to that lie.
‘We are now seeing the lie that the victims are terrorists. Don’t let the Palestinians die in silence.
‘This is not about the self-defence of Israel, this is about the genocide by Israel of the Palestinian people.’
Alex Gordon, RMT President, said: ‘The RMT is proud to be affiliated with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
‘Among you are our members marking with you today what is being inflicted on Gaza – a war crime.
‘Cutting water and power is a war crime and the UK government is complicit in this war crime.
‘We say to the opposition party – stop endorsing war crimes. Solidarity with Gaza!’
Jess Barnard, Chair of Young Labour and a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee, said: ‘Israel knows they are carpet bombing civilians. Israel has cut the power and internet access.
‘We cannot let the leader of my party, Keir Starmer, continue supporting Israel’s war crimes. How many Palestinians have to be killed?
‘Millions of people in cities across the world are standing in solidarity with the people of Gaza.’
Hugh Lanning, founder member of Labour for Palestine, said: ‘At the Labour conference in Liverpool last week there was so much intimidation going on.
‘Home Secretary Braverman says you can’t chant From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.
‘But it’s Israel that is trying to say that from the river to the sea there will be no Palestinians.
‘In Rwanda, before the genocide, they referred to people as insects. Israel is now referring to Palestinians as animals.’
Mustafa Al-Dabbagh from the Muslim Association of Britain, said: ‘The British government talks of Israel’s right to cut food, water and power from Gaza.
‘They want to criminalise the Palestinian flag. We will wave our flags and not stop until apartheid is no more.
‘We will continue to chant from the river to the sea Palestine will be free.
‘Are you going to bring people from your schools, colleges, workplace, communities, to our march next Saturday,’ he asked, to a roar of ‘YES’ as an answer.
Emma Rose President of the neu teachers union, said: ‘I’m here representing over 400,000 teachers.
‘We are proud affiliates of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
‘As an educator and trade unionist I see it as my duty to be here today.
‘The children of Gaza have the right to an education. Over half the population of Gaza is under 19.
‘We cannot stay silent. Solidarity has to be action not just words.
‘In the neu we stand in full solidarity with the Palestinian people. We will not stand by and will not stay silent until we have a free Palestine.’
Ben Jamal, the Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the final speaker, said: ‘It matters more than ever that you are here today.
‘We will be marching again next week and we will keep on marching until our demands our met.
‘We all have the responsibility to be clear, Palestinians are fearing another Nakba.
‘The people of Gaza know that if they exit they may never be allowed back.
‘Our political leaders are endorsing war crimes. Government and opposition leaders are saying that war crimes are okay.
‘The Israeli flag being emblazoned on public buildings is endorsing war crimes.
‘We condemn the threat to ban the Palestinian flag. Most of all, I want the people of Palestine to see you raise it high, raise it high.
‘We will be marching with the flag of Palestine next week and calling for an end to the siege of Gaza until the occupation ends!
‘The struggle against racism is the struggle for Palestine.
‘Let us draw strength from the Palestinian people. They will endure, they will prevail, they will break the chains of their prisons!’