250,000 workers and youth march for Palestine!

Palestinian nurse AMIRA NIMERAWI with a large delegation of NHS workers addressing the rally

The first speaker at the huge rally in Whitehall at the end of Saturday’s march was the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, who said: ‘They are desperate to silence us, to silence our voice. You are the source of hope for Palestinians and not only for Palestinians but for all of humanity.

‘All of us are facing our darkest days. There have been 120 days of bombardment of Gaza and 75 years of persecution. For four months this country and the US have been standing silent while the genocide has been committed, for four months! Why won’t they call for immediate ceasefire?

‘They are supporting the use of famine and disease as a weapon of war. To suspend the funding for the UNRWA, which is the main source of food for 2.3 million people, is supporting Israeli collective punishment.

‘Ban all settlers, ban all settlement products, don’t send them arms. This is not a demand, it is a legal responsibility of all governments. South Africa has done what all responsible countries should do and now Israel is officially on trial for genocide. This is your moment for liberation. I’m the son of the first Nakba and the child of the first Intifada. We will recover, we will rise, we will rebuild.’

Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse Apsana Begum said: ‘Thousands of people have been killed after the International Court of Justice ruling that Israel must ensure that it does not carry out acts of genocide. The government continues to send arms to Israel while withdrawing aid from UNRWA. Surely this must stop. There is huge solidarity all over the world. The UK must resume aid immediately and end the arms sales. The UK must face the same sanctions from the ICJ as Israel.’

RMT president Alex Gordon said: ‘All over the world workers are rising up in support of Palestine. The British state and establishment backed Israel’s war on Gaza and they thought we would cave in. We have to bring this movement into our political life. On Tuesday 6th February at 7pm there will be a meeting of Unite, UCU and NEU members to discuss action for Palestine, then on Wednesday there is action from members of trade unions all over the country.

‘The trade unions will be taking action in the morning and at lunchtime, supported by Stop the War and CND. We are calling on every trade union to organise a morning protest or a lunchtime walkout. Palestine is the cause of our generation. Our trade unions must be at the heart of our movement for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.’

Fran Heathcote, PCS general secretary said: ‘I’m proud to be here to make my first speech as general secretary of the PCS and to condemn the dreadful role of the West in support of Israel. On average 247 Palestinians are killed every day in Gaza, 629 are wounded, at least 10 Palestinian children have one or two legs amputated every day with little or no anaesthetic. Deaths from starvation and disease are now significantly outnumbering deaths from bombings. This is a list of the numerous horrors occurring and it only scratches the surface. The PCS calls for a permanent and immediate ceasefire. We will be supporting the day of action on Wednesday.’

Palestine Solidarity Campaign chairman Kamel Hawwash said: ‘Thanks for coming out for the eighth time in London since October. Last week, we had 50,000 out in Birmingham, which was the biggest demonstration in Birmingham ever. Israel is pushing all Palestinians to Egypt. Its plan is to expel the Palestinians from Gaza. Israel is an apartheid state. Israel wants to make Palestinians starve and the UK is backing it by stopping funding UNRWA. Israel is a dying state. They are trying to re-occupy Gaza. Rishi Sunak you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.’

Claudia Webbe, Leicester East MP said: ‘Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. Half a million are eating grass to stave off hunger. Britain and the US are complicit in allowing Israel to act with impunity. Britain’s record in Gaza is bombs, bullets and betrayal. Israel flattened the Belgian office in Gaza because Belgium refused to stop funding UNRWA. Nowhere in Gaza is safe. Labour refuses to call for a ceasefire. British made weapons are being sent to Gaza. We have to shout about Israel’s war crimes. None of us is free until Palestine is free.’

Max Farrukh, from the Jewish Bloc for Palestine said: ‘There is quite a large contingent in the Jewish Bloc. There is quite a reconsideration going on in Jewish households and we are growing. The state of Israel does not make Jews safer, quite the opposite. We must push against English politeness. There is nothing polite about bombs being made in industrial estate in England being exported to Israel and bombing families in Gaza. Demand an immediate ceasefire, take a stand now for Justice and Peace. Free Palestine!’

Dr Ismail Patel, Chairman of Friends of Al-Aqsa, said: ‘There have been 12 weeks of war this is a war never seen before in history. 80% of Gaza has been turned into rubble. Israel is carrying out a genocide with the support of Starmer and Sunak. The British government sends the message to Israel – Sunak told Netanyahu “we want you to win”. We will not rest and we will not stop until there is a free Palestine. The British government voted against a ceasefire and is defunding UNRWA, which is aiding the collective punishment and assisting in the genocide.’

Sinn Fein Senator Lynn Boylan said: ‘27,000 Palestinians have been killed. Nowhere is safe in Gaza. We are being witness to the indiscriminate slaughter of the innocents. Where are the sanctions on Israel? This is a defining moment for our generation. Boycott, stop Israel, participate in actions to defeat the genocide.’

Rafeef Ziadah, Palestinian poet, said: ‘They hope to break us but for 75 years the Palestinians have not been broken and won’t be. In the same week as the ICJ decision this government cut funding to UNRWA. I was a child supported by UNRWA. There have been 120 days of genocide. Palestinian unions have set up a picket line. There’s something about a picket line – you have to adhere to its demands – don’t handle Israeli goods, stop the arms trade, no business with Israel. It’s not business as usual. If there is anything to learn from the Palestinian people it is that we keep going until Palestine is free.’

UCU President Justine Mercer, said: ‘We are outraged by Israel’s genocide, a systematic destruction of the education system. 4,327 students have been killed, 231 teachers, have been killed, 97 university professors have been killed during the genocide on Gaza in the past four months.

‘This is the calculated destruction of the Palestinian education system. It is a crime against humanity. There must be an immediate reversal of the defunding of UNRWA.’

MP and former Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: ‘Thanks to the trade union bloc here today, responding to the call from the Palestinian trade unions to take action for Palestine. Also thanks to the Jewish bloc who have marched in solidarity. When Israel continues bombarding after the interim judgement in The Hague this is contempt. The UK and US must also be brought to justice for contempt of the ICJ judgment. They are acting in contempt by defunding UNRWA and continuing to block a ceasefire.’

Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary, said: ‘Despite the hate and bile from the Tories and the racists, the RMT is committed to fully support the struggle of the Palestinians. We are working people all over the world, all the trade union and labour movement, standing up against genocide in every country all over the world.

‘Call out the politicians, stand with the children, protect the vulnerable. Come out for the Palestinians and a Palestinian state and liberty and justice.’

Malik Mohammad, Palestinian Forum in Britain, said: ‘There are more than 250,000 here today. Join us on the 17th of February for the Global Action for Palestine. The ongoing genocide in Gaza must be stopped. They are not allowing injured people to leave Gaza. Palestinians have the right to live and defend themselves. They have the right to end the occupation.

‘They have the right to return. 3,000 Palestinians are held in administrative detention in Israel with no charge. We thank South Africa for their efforts but we must do more. We must see that these criminals go behind bars.’

Zarah Sultana, Coventry South MP, said: ‘Last week, the ICJ ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide. That ruling should have been the turning point in the UK, but what happened was our government stopped support for UNRWA. I brought a bill to Parliament demanding an end to arms sales to Israel and I will bring it back again and again. Support next Wednesday’s national day of school strikes and wider action in the UK.’

Mustafa Al-Dabbagh, from the Muslim Association of Britain said: ‘Nearly 30,000 have been murdered in Gaza. It is genocide broadcasted all over the world. We are fighting for justice. They want to carry out the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.

‘Let us remember how low our politicians have sunk. But they will not silence us. They will not stop our call for justice and an end to apartheid. From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.’

Leanne Mohamad, a pro-Palestine candidate for Ilford North in the next UK General Election, standing against Labour Party Shadow Health Secretary and anti-ceasefire MP Wes Streeting, said: ‘No force will ever be able to silence us. We will remember the names of these politicians who voted against the ceasefire.

‘Over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in four months, with thousands more buried under the rubble. We will never forgive and we will never forget.

‘The government gave the green light to these war crimes and Labour agreed. This year we will make the ballot box a political power. We stand strong and I repeat we will never forget – No ceasefire! No vote!’

Kirklees councillor Ammar Anwar who resigned from the Labour Party two weeks ago, said: ‘I resigned from Labour on Kirklees Council because they are staying silent about the genocide. Go back and get these Labour MPs and councillors out. Keir Starmer and the rest of them must be held to account for supporting genocide.’

Jabu Nala-Hartley, Oxford councillor who resigned from the Labour Party along with ten colleagues late last year, said: ‘I’m from South Africa and South Africa showed up for Palestine in true solidarity. South Africa shows it’s not afraid.

‘I’m very proud of the action in The Hague and I see it as a victory. They are trying to turn Gaza into a settlement state. We’ve both experienced apartheid. Nelson Mandela said our freedom is incomplete until Palestine is free. Ten councillors resigned on Oxford Council. Israel is a pariah to the world. Isolate Israel, sanctions now!’

Andrew Feinstein, a former South African MP, said: ‘My MP here in Britain is Starmer and he claims to be a human rights lawyer but he won’t call for a ceasefire. My former boss Nelson Mandela would not be welcomed in Starmer’s Labour Party because he condemned Israel as an apartheid state.’

Amira Nimerawi, a Palestinian nurse, spoke for Health Workers for Palestine, saying: ‘250 Palestinians are being slaughtered every day. We see their crimes. My daughter has seen many of her relatives killed. The war must end here and now.

‘There must be both a ceasefire and an end of occupation. The movement for health workers for Palestine has grown across 60 cities. Our resilience will endure and I call on you to march and grow until we liberate Palestine.’

The final speaker was Ben Jamal, chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who said: ‘We faced attempts from the Metropolitan Police to stop us marching to Parliament, the seat of government, today. But we would not back down.

‘We marched to stop the genocide right now. Israel has butchered 27,000 in a genocide that Sunak and Starmer still endorse. The UK supports the bombing and the sale of armaments to Israel and cuts the funding to UNRWA. Today’s genocide is built on the foundations of 75 years of genocide.

‘We must do more. We know history is with us. On Wednesday, we need to take action and on February 17th, in two weeks time, it is the second Global Day of Action for Palestine where there will be mass action in 100 cities in 60 countries.’