A-QUARTER-of-a-million workers and youth, including whole families, marched and rallied in central London on Saturday demanding ‘stop the killing’ of Palestinians in Gaza.
Demonsterators shouted ‘Free Palestine!’ ‘Lift the siege!’ ‘Israel is a terror state!’ ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!’ and many carried placards calling for an arms embargo on Israel and calling to boycott Israel.
The protest assembled for a short rally outside the BBC before marching off and going along Oxford Street, turning off to pass the US embassy and on to a rally in Hyde Park.
The BBC rally was addressed by Jean Butcher of Unison’s international committee, who declared: ‘We need to stand together.
‘Our voices are beginning to be heard. When a Foreign Office minister resigns and the Deputy Prime Minister says an arms embargo should be considered, you know a red line has been crossed. The blockade on Gaza must be lifted and the border opened.’
She called on people to donate for medical aid to Gaza, adding, ‘think of the ambulance drivers, hospital workers and medical staff who need help. The emergency has been created by bombs and bullets.’
She said: ‘It’s time for some soul searching to take place in Number 10.’
The BBC rally was also addressed by speakers from Unite, the NUT, FBU and ASLEF.
News Line spoke to some of the marchers before they set off.
Danah Khabbass from a Palestinian family, who was born in England and lives on Teesside, said: ‘I’m here with my friends in solidarity with the Palestinian people all over the world.
‘We’re demanding that the British government stands up for the basic human rights of the Gaza people, that it acknowledges them as humans.
‘Trade unions here should boycott Israel and its allies.
‘America supports Israel directly and indirectly. American workers should take action against their government over its support for Israel.
‘We don’t believe what Cameron and Obama are saying that Israel is acting in self defence, Israel is attacking Gaza and Palestinians in the West Bank with missiles and shells.
‘America is supplying Israel with sophisticated weapons.
‘I support a new Intifada.’
Luis Torres, an architectural assistant from Finsbury Park, said: ‘We’re here supporting Gaza and Palestine, for peace in Gaza, the lifting of the siege and everything that means a free Palestine.
‘There must be a boycott and arms embargo on Israel by the government and the trade unions.
We need to do everything to pressure Israel until the occupation is ended.’
Luis’ wife Odette Farrell, added: ‘Israel is a terror state and we have to support the Palestinians until the occupation is over.
‘Both Gaza and the West Bank are united. Israel launched its attack because the Palestinians formed a national unity government.
‘I call for the trade unions to take action here and boycott all products that come from Israel and the USA, because without the support of the USA, Israel wouldn”t exist.
‘Obama criticised Israel then immediately sanctioned more US weapons for Israel.
‘The British trade unions should take action against the Cameron government, too.’
Sophie, with a group of friends from High Wycombe, said: ‘I’m here over what is happening in Gaza.
‘Obviously, I’m against the killing of the children and all civilians.
‘There’s all sorts of people on this demonstration, young and old, so you can see this is not about religion, it’s about humanity.
‘It’s all about greed, bullying the weak and helpless. Everybody needs to take action, not sit back and watch it happen.
‘The trade unions need to organise a boycott of Israel until the occupation is ended.’
Sophie’s friend Sam Yasin added: ‘What Hamas is asking for is basic human rights, what any individual would, wherever we are.
‘We want to end injustice, not just in Palestine but all round the world – it’s the whole system that’s corrupt. It’s all about money, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
‘It’s time for a change, it’s time for the common man to wake up.’
Marie Noelle from Teesside, comes from the Central African Republic (CAR). She said: ‘I’m here to support Gaza.
‘I’m upset about the killing of children. It makes me sad. I want Israel to stop. They must stop treating Palestinians like animals.
‘In my country, the CAR, I want Muslims to stop killing Christians. I want all the killing to stop. We want peace in our own land as do the Palestinians. We should all boycott Israel. We should stop governments supporting Israel. I want Palestine to be free.”
Nicola Fisher from Muswell Hill, a manager at an old people’s home, said: ‘I’m here to support the end of the genocide.
‘We need an arms embargo on Israel until the occupation is ended, not just until there is a ceasefire. People should remember that America has blood on its hands from Iraq, to Iran to Cuba, every country that it”s intervened in.
‘The unions should boycott Israel. I agree with a general strike to bring down the Cameron government.’
Amjid Ali from Halifax told News Line: ‘I’ve been following the bombing of Gaza on the news. It’s just relentless. No matter what Hamas or anyone else does, killing children and civilians can never be justified.
‘What’s happened is people in government have lost their sense of humanity. I just wanted to register my objection to it and the support that Israel gets from the British government and the Americans.’
Sixth Form pupil, Zain Zaman, 17, also from Halifax, said: ‘I’ve been learning about the history and context of the conflict and I don’t see Israel has a right to exist as a state at the expense of the Palestinians.
‘I’ve been hearing about the atrocities that have been going on – they’re murdering innocent children and civilians.
‘I just feel it’s not right that the people who gave refuge to the Jews after the Second World War should be forced to live in poverty and terrible conditions.
‘I just wish it to be the way they were living before when Muslims, Jews and Christians were living in harmony and peace.
‘Workers and youth should take action here in Britain, because Britain was involved in starting the whole conflict when they gave Palestinian land to Zionist settlers without any right.
‘There should be a total boycott of Israel, especially of arms and ammunition. When other countries broke international law, there were sanctions but there are not sanctions on Israel.’
At the Hyde Park rally, Aaron Kiely of the National Union of Students, told the vast crowd: ‘We say end the siege of Gaza now.
‘The NUS will be boycotting companies and corporations that support Israel’s military capacity. Shame on the British government for arming Israel. Shame on the American government for arming and re-arming Israel.
‘The tide is turning, the world stands in solidarity with Palestine. End the siege on Gaza now! Free, free Palestine.’
Labour’s shadow education secretary Rushanara Ali said Cameron ‘has failed to stand up against injustice’ and called on people to ‘keep the pressure on Cameron to fight injustice’ to ‘keep the pressure on the government to stop the conflict and fight for peace’.
There were cheers for Baroness Warsi’s resignation from the crowd.
LibDem MP David Ward said: ‘Words are not enough. Action is needed. BDS (boycott, disinvestment and sanctions) economic pressure is the only thing to make a change.’
There were cheers for Hebron’s Dr Tareq Tahboub of the European Palestinian Doctors, when he declared: ‘This is not about just the past month, it’s about occupation for sixty years and the blockade on Gaza for eight years!
‘We have all the Ds – death, destruction, disease but also the big D: defiance! defiance!
‘We all have to support Gaza – what to do? Demonstrate every week this goes on. Demand an end to the killing, write to MPs, and Ban Ki-Moon.’
In a message to the Israelis, he added: ‘I’ve got bad news for them – 4,500 newborns came to life in Gaza, they are the fighters of tomorrow!’
PCS vice president Sue Bond pledged: ‘Palestine does not stand alone. My unions is saying boycott disinvestment and sanctions.’
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman asked: ‘What justifies the massacres of children and of women?
‘I say to the powers of the West, enough is enough. Why can’t sanctions be imposed on Israel.
‘Stand up for the oppressed.’
Other speakers included Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Glynn Secker of Jews for Justice for Palestine, and Raghad Osama of the Muslim Association of Britain.