‘A world where Palestine is not free is a world in chains–let us break our chains’

Khan Younis school was bombed by Israeli aircraft killing young children and injuring many others

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First speaker at the rally in Parliament Square was Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, who said: ‘They thought that after 100 days of genocide you would get tired. Yet here you are in your hundreds of thousands. We will not stop until we reach a ceasefire, until we have a free, free Palestine.
‘I stand before you with a broken heart. 10,000 children have been killed by Israel and the entire population of Gaza is being starved and pushed further and further out of their homeland.
‘Ours is a nation of freedom fighters. This week South Africa has presented a formidable case in the ICJ (International Court of Justice), a formidable challenge to the world.
‘South Africa’s case is also a challenge to the courts of the UK and US, the very countries who stood longest in support of apartheid in South Africa. The US and the UK are today the same ones supporting Israel genocide.
‘Nelson Mandela said a world where Palestine is not free is a world in chains. Let us break our chains,’ Zomlot concluded.
Next speaker was Apsana Begum Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, who said: ‘71% of British people want a ceasefire. The UK is launching air strikes in the Red Sea which is horrifying, and it’s illegal without a recall of Parliament.
‘Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. We stand here today and say to this government “not in our name”. No to putting profit over people. How many children are lying under the rubble in Gaza, sent to their deaths from weapons provided to Israel by the UK?
‘This is an exercise in imperial power. Arms to Israel must end immediately. End the bombing of Gaza, end settler violence in the West Bank.’
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said: ‘We will not remain silent when Palestinians are slaughtered for nearly 100 days. There has been a crescendo of apartheid in Gaza, the graveyard of children.
‘Israel acts with impunity, terrorising children, stealing their lives. We see Netanyahu’s lies for what they are. We demand the rule of international law for Gaza and the West Bank. The Nakba has gone on for too long. This week South Africa has shown what it means to lead. World leaders act now! Ceasefire now!’
Libby Nolan, Unison President, said: ‘We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the children of Gaza. At least 137 of my fellow health workers have been slaughtered by Israel in Gaza. Israel has bombed hospitals! This was a health service! 59,000 people in Gaza have been injured. As a nurse I can’t imagine what my colleagues in the health service in Gaza are going through. There must be a viable Palestinian state. We will not stop marching on the streets of this city.’
Stop the War Coalition Vice President Andrew Murray said: ‘Congratulations to South Africa. The UK and US governments should have been in the dock in The Hague alongside Israel. Sunak and Starmer are up to their waists in Palestinian blood. There could be peace in the Red Sea tomorrow if Israel stopped bombing Gaza. Royal Navy out of the Red Sea, get back to Portsmouth! Imperialism out of the Middle East!’
Friends of Al-Aqsa Chairman Dr Ismail Patel said: ‘Thank you South Africa for the ICJ action. Israel has killed over 23,000, there are 8,000 missing. There are global protests across the world today. The reason Israel is stepping up its genocide is because it is losing. It is losing across the Lebanon and Yemen. It is being defeated, they are losing. The ICJ must rule. We charge Israel with genocide and it is guilty!’
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, said: ‘The average age of a child killed in Gaza is five years old. There is now a new acronym in Gaza – w.c.n.s.f. – Wounded Child No Surviving Family. Here in the UK we have to recognise the state of Palestine NOW!’
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘Thousands of people have been killed because they are Palestinians. In South Africa today they are showing solidarity with the people of Palestine. I was in the court in The Hague where a brilliant and compelling case was made by the South African lawyers exposing Israel’s genocide. It’s now up to the judges. There has to be a ceasefire now. Starvation, dehydration, diarrhoea in Gaza are caused by Israeli actions. These are examples of the genocide of Israel. There must be a ceasefire. Have there not already been enough bombs dropped on Yemen, made in and sent from Britain?’
Mohammad Alcad, Palestinian writer, said: ‘We must reject Zionism in all our institutions. Zionism is apartheid, Zionism is genocide, it is murder. Zionism is a death cult. Zionism is indefensible. Our day will come but we must not be complacent.’
NEU teachers’ union General Secretary Daniel Kebede said: ‘It is a disgrace that the Labour Party will not call for a ceasefire. South Africa says it has an obligation to prevent genocide. But the US and UK are escalating the conflict through their airstrikes on Yemen. What kind of a world is it where children can be slaughtered while the world looks the other way? Labour must call for a ceasefire now.’
Mustafa Al-Dabbagh from the Muslim Association of Britain said: ‘There are 250 Gaza children killed every day. That’s a primary school killed every day! Our government is yet again on the wrong side of history. Genocide is not just a word. Israel has violated every side of the genocide convention with the support of our government and the USA. Israel is taking the world to the brink of a Third World War. We want action we won’t accept anymore dodgy dossiers. The South African government has shown what resistance truly means. South Africa has shown that apartheid can be overthrown and defeated.’
CND chairman, Tom Unterrainer, said: ‘UK politicians demand Israeli genocide must continue. The British government has taken the side of a nuclear armed rogue state seeking to pursue relentless genocide. They are escalating and escalating. Stop arming Israel.’
Jess Barnard from Young Labour, said: ‘This week’s UK airstrikes on Yemen happened with Labour backing. Starmer is less a human rights lawyer and more a human rights liar. He said that armed action would only take place after a parliamentary vote. He lied. We Stand against illegal wars. We will not be complicit in genocide. We are Labour members for Palestine.’
Three health workers newly returned from Gaza were introduced as Health Workers for Palestine and spoke very movingly about treating children with no anaesthetics.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: ‘There are demonstrations taking place in 120 cities today, in 45 countries on six continents.
‘Millions are marching to stop the genocide in Gaza and demanding a ceasefire now. A charge is formally laid in the ICJ against Israel for genocide. History will not forget the complicity of the US and the UK.
‘For the next two Saturdays please go to your towns and cities around the country and demonstrate in support of Palestine. On Saturday February 3rd, we will be back here in London. Bring five friends, make it the biggest demonstration yet.’