AROUND 5,000 people marched from the University of London Union (ULU) to Trafalgar Square in central London on Saturday, to mark the 61st anniversary of Nakba Day – the Palestinian ‘catastrophe’.
There were demonstrations all over the world against the setting up of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.
A huge Palestinian flag led the march in London, followed by banners from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop The War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
There were many other Palestinian flags and placards as well as banners from the PCS civil service union and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banner called for victory to Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Hundreds of marchers joined in the Young Socialists slogans of ‘One, two, three, four – occupation no more!’, ‘Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a terror state!’, ‘One state – Palestine!’, ‘Israel – terrorist!’, ‘From the River to the Sea – Palestine will be free!’, ‘Victory to Palestine – smash Zionism now!’, ‘What do we want? Palestinian state! When do we want it? Now!’ and ‘Intifada night and day – Zionism you will pay!’
Before the march, Andy Reid, from the civil servants’ union PCS national executive, told News Line:
‘The topic of Palestine comes up at our national conference in Brighton in the coming week.
‘There’s a resolution condemning the Israeli attack on Gaza and part of the motion is for a boycott of Israeli goods within the context of the trade union movement.
‘Speaking personally, I would favour a total boycott of Israel.’
A couple from Beckenham, Linda and Chris Pepper, came to the march.
Linda said: ‘What’s happening in Gaza and the West Bank is atrocious and must be stopped.’
Chris said: ‘The Palestinians have to have their state.
‘At the checkpoints, the Israelis change the rules from day to day.
‘One day they may let people through and the next day not.
‘Israel must be boycotted.’
Joy McKnight was holding the NUJ London Magazine Branch banner.
She said: ‘We are doing a lot of work with the journalists union in Palestine.
‘It’s really important to support brothers and sisters, especially those working in dangerous situations in Gaza, trying to get the news out about the terrible oppression and attacks by the Israeli state.
‘The TUC has a very close tie to Histradut, which is the Israeli trade union confederation, which is why it won’t organise a boycott.
‘The Scottish TUC and ICTU (the Irish Congress of Trade Unions) both have a boycott position.
‘But the British TUC, to its shame, hasn’t.’
Hugh Lanning, PCS deputy-general secretary and chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told News Line: ‘The STUC recently passed a motion for boycotting Israel. So has (shopworkers’ union) USDAW.
‘Next week the PCS has a delegation of Palestinian trade unionists addressing our conference.
‘We are building up to the TUC in the autumn.
‘A lot of unions are debating a boycott of Israel at their conferences and there will be calls for a TUC boycott.’
On the march, Fouad Hakim, an interpreter, told News Line: ‘Sixty-one years is enough. The only country still under occupation.
‘The inhuman siege of Gaza must be broken.
‘I went on the Viva Palestina convoy with George Galloway and the moral response from the Gazans was very, very positive.
‘They told me they wished they could come to London with us to join our demonstrations.
‘They couldn’t believe people from Britain would do so much to support them, although I don’t think it was enough.
‘The trade unions must organise a total boycott of Israel.’
Angela Mansi, a chartered psychologist, lecturer at the University of Westminster and UCU member, said: ‘I don’t think there will ever be peace in the world until we resolve the gross injustice in Palestine, and the unfairness that the Israeli government constantly gets away with, abusing UN resolutions against Israel.’
Theresa Delaney was holding a United Campaign Against Police Violence banner.
It read: ‘Remember Ian Tomlinson, Defend Freedom to Protest, Protect Civil Liberties’.
She said: ‘We’re quite a new organisation, which came into being after the G20, following the death of Ian Tomlinson.
‘It’s not just the G20. Anyone who was at the Gaza protests would have seen a huge increase in police intimidation and violence.
‘Many of the families of people who have died in police custody – 3,000 in the past 20 years without a single conviction of a police officer – also support us.
‘Next Saturday, we are meeting at Trafalgar Square at 3.00pm and we are going to go down and “kettle’’ Scotland Yard.
‘In recent demonstrations, police have surrounded demonstrators and not allowed them to leave.
‘We are going to link arms and have speeches.’
There were many speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square.
Daniel Machover, chairman of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, said: ‘We should ban completely the import of Israeli settlement products and the preferential EU trading relationship with Israel should be suspended.
‘War crimes suspects must be made to understand that they face arrest if they enter the EU.’
Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, said: ‘After 61 years of nakba and 42 years of occupation, Israel is still ruling us with policies of apartheid and humiliation.
‘We haven’t seen any move from the international community to stop the aggression.
‘But we believe our steadfastness means that one day we will have our independent Palestinian state.
‘We solemnly swear that we will do our utmost to fight until victory.’
West Bank trade unionist Hana Joma, from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, said:
‘The Nakba was followed by massacres and barbaric assaults by Israel, the latest the assault on Gaza.
‘I’m here to express our gratitude to you from the working women.
‘Aggression does nothing but increase our determination.’
Labour MP Martin Linton said: ‘Many Israelis are in denial about the nakba but Israeli historians have confirmed that there were 31 massacres in 1948.’
Tamina Bax was introduced as a student who led occupations of universities during the onslaught on Gaza in January.
She said: ‘There are still air raids on Gaza.
‘Since January and February, we have proudly shown that we support the Palestinians.
‘We should demand that MPs stop supporting Israel and until they do, we won’t vote for them.’
Alison Shephard, Unison international committee, said: ‘I bring greetings from our 1.3 million members. Solidarity with the Palestinian people, and particularly with the people of Gaza!
‘Our members were horrified at events earlier this year.
‘Peace will only come if we end the oppression of the Palestinian people.
‘We will work within the TUC and with our colleagues in the STUC and ICTU until we win justice for Palestine.’
Akram Salham, from Jerusalem, said: ‘Today the Israeli state is trying to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem.
‘They do it in many ways, including by building the Apartheid Wall.
‘In the northern part of Jerusalem, the town of Arral – the town where I grew up – has been completely surrounded by the wall.
‘The town of 16,000 has been turned into a ghost town.
‘But despite their brutality and their attacks and their attempts to kick us out of Jerusalem, we are still there and we aren’t going to move!’
Guiva Natalie was introduced as someone who has been in Gaza for the past seven months.
She said: ‘The most overwhelming sense in Gaza at the moment is isolation.
‘I was in Gaza during the war, working as a volunteer with the ambulance service.
‘Sixteen paramedics were killed during the war.
‘The level of politicisation has increased.
‘In Gaza, they are still living in an open air prison, but they are steadfast.
‘They are victims of the Israeli genocide, but they are also survivors.
‘We have to take direct action against the arms manufacturers and dealers.’
Other speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, George Galloway MP, Alexi Sayle, Jenny Tonge and Hugh Lanning.