‘Every government, including the UK, must be made to boycott Israel’ – Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot tells Trafalgar Square rally

HUSAM ZOMLOT left the stage at Trafalgar Square to personally greet the crowd at the front of the rally on Saturday

IN TRAFALGAR Square, the chairwoman introduced the 11th national demonstration for Freedom and Justice for Palestine on Saturday 30 March, as of special significance as it commemorates the Land Day of 1976 when Israeli police killed six Palestinians protesting against the expropriation of their land.

The first speaker, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, said: ‘Londoners, thank you for coming out on Land Day today, after 175 days of genocide. It is because of you and millions like you around the world that we have witnessed a sea change.

‘The UN Security Council has finally issued a binding resolution for a ceasefire. It was you who achieved it. This the power of the people. But it hasn’t changed the situation on the ground. Israel continues to bomb and has imposed a famine on Gaza. 12,500 children have died in Gaza. Israel has allowed no refugees to return since 1948. It has committed war crime after war crime. Every government, including the UK, must be made to boycott Israel.’

Ragad Al Takriti, from the Muslim Association of Britain, said: ‘We gather in solidarity with the Palestinian people and for the end of the genocide in Gaza. Palestinians have endured occupation since 1948 but their minds remain free.

‘There must be justice and freedom for all. We salute especially the women in the Arab world, in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco. Free Palestine.’

Actor and Comedian, Alexei Sayle spoke next, saying: ‘I am here for myself and the Jewish bloc. Israel does not represent the Jewish bloc. Today, artists and musicians have a difficult time to get comedy out of this situation. Gladiators, football or Eurovision – how can you think or sing or talk about anything other than the genocide right now? A holocaust is going on and our government is complicit with it.’

MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott said: ‘I am proud to be speaking at this demonstration. Nothing could be more tragic than the war crimes and genocide in Gaza. The supporters of massacres and ethnic cleansing have already lost the argument in the court of public opinion. In the UK, six out of seven people support peace in Palestine. A tiny minority support Israeli genocide.

‘British politicians talk of a ceasefire. Then call for it in Parliament! Vote to end arms sales to Israel! Restore funding to UNRWA (United Nations Refugee Agency), stop the bombing of Yemen! The politicians are just paying lip service to a ceasefire.’

Vice Chair of Stop the War Chris Nineham said: ‘Israel is being isolated and turned into a pariah state because of this magnificent global movement. We take no lectures from a government that backs genocide and tolerates a party donor who is a racist and speaks of shooting a sitting MP.’

Daniel Kebedi, general secretary of the NEU (National Education Union) said: ‘After five months, the UN Security Council finally voted for a ceasefire. We cannot be complacent. The violence and death toll continues, with more than 32,000 dead and over 13,000 of them children. UNICEF testifies to severe malnutrition for 1.1million. Over half the population have catastrophic food insecurity. Children are dying from malnutrition. People are forced to forage due to a man-made catastrophe. Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war.

‘I tell our government to stop arming Israel, restore and increase funding for UNRWA.’

Palestinian journalist Mansour Shouman said: ‘People in Gaza check their phones for news of their relatives and note your support. The negotiating table is affected by the strength of your support for Palestine. Gaza is not alone. The Zionist state is being isolated.

‘The UK was the birthplace of the Zionist state. Gaza is the tip of the spear striving on behalf of the whole world for positive change. Unite! Unite! Unite! Do not stop what you’re doing; demonstrate, lobby politicians, learn about the history of the Zionist project and Free Free Palestine!’

Dr Ismail Patel, the founder and chair of Friends of Al Aqsa, said: ‘Our movement is growing globally. Israel talks of putting up beechfront villas in Gaza. Israel damages all the hospitals in Gaza. The United Nations says that Gaza is a graveyard for children. The International Court of Justice says that Israel is committing genocide. Using food to starve Palestinians is a war crime.

‘The BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement is growing. The following countries have suspended arms supplies to Israel; Belgium, Italy, Spain, Japan and Canada. Only the US, Germany and the UK are still arming them – a trio of genocide supporters.

‘The UK government wants to ban those of us calling for a ceasefire, calling us extremists. Well we tell Michael Gove we will not be intimidated, we will not stop opposing genocide. Over 150,000 are now starving in Gaza and we will not stop fighting for them. Opposing genocide is not anti-Semitic.’

MP for Poplar and Limehouse Apsana Begum said: ‘At last, the UN Security Council voted for a ceasefire. Still the UK withholds funds from UNRWA and sends arms to Israel with a chilling disregard for Palestinian lives.

‘There is aggressive targeting of any expression of Palestinian identity such as the Palestine national flag. Illegal occupation and mass killing is ongoing. The demonisation of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is undemocratic, in fact anti-democratic, attacking the right to protest.’

Maisarah Ibrahim from the Palestine Forum in Britain said: ‘Gazans are standing up against Zionist ethnic cleansing. We, the Palestinian people, existed before Zionism and we will exist when Zionism ceases to exist. Men, women and children are being bombed. The steadfast people of Gaza are our inspiration. We must intensify our efforts. We, the Palestinians, belong in Palestine.’

The chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Louise Regan, said: ‘We will not be silenced by this government or anyone else. We are not a march for hate, we are a march for peace.’

Jeremy Corbyn, Independent MP for Islington North, said: ‘This is the week the UN announced a ceasefire but our government still can’t say it wants a permanent ceasefire and can’t stop the grisly flow of weapons from itself the USA and Germany.

‘Biden calls for more aid, while US planes are are bombing the aid. Your solidarity is increasing. We’re becoming a political movement which will never go away. The message to all Palestinians is you are not alone and never will be.’

Khalid Abdullah, Scottish and Egyptian actor, said: ‘We are the inheritors of the struggle for a free Palestine. This generation must not pass the same legacy onto the next generation. We stand on the threshold of victory. We have reached the moment when the genocide must end. We need a world built on freedom and justice for all.’

Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, said: ‘After six months of bombing, starvation, collective punishment and war crimes, at last the United Nations passes a resolution. The International Court of Justice warns of “plausible genocide”. We need a permanent ceasefire and stop the Netanyahu threat to move into Rafah.’

Richard Bergen, MP for Leeds East, said: ‘I was the first MP to bring a ceasefire motion to Parliament six months ago. This week’s United Nations ceasefire resolution was welcome but now our government must be made to end arms sales to Israel and we must back the creation of a Palestinian state. We also must see justice. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished. Justice for Palestine. Ceasefire now.’

There were then songs from three great singers, Rou Reynolds, Alexi Murdoch and Oscar Jerome.

Ben Jamal, Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was the final speaker, saying: ‘We march because despite Israel being on trial in the world’s highest court our government sells it arms and cuts funding to UNRWA. 1.7 million Palestinians are facing catastrophic hunger.

‘This genocide did not begin on 7th October. When all means of survival are cut off it is genocide. I want to quote the words of a young woman who wrote during the height of the Second Intifada in 2003 when Israel was demolishing Palestinian homes. She wrote from the USA: “We must drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.” Rachel Corrie wrote that 21 years ago this month. One month later she was crushed to death in Rafah by an Israeli bulldozer.

‘We have to stop our government supporting Israel and arming Israel. Our task now is to escalate all of our actions.’

Finally, world famous Palestinian singer Reem Kelani told the rally: ‘I’m here today to sing the unofficial Palestinian National Anthem, Mawtini, which translates as My Homeland, and which will one day soon be the official Palestine National Anthem.’

And as she sang, thousands of Palestinian flags were waved in Trafalgar Square and the whole crowd joined her in singing the inspirational Palestine national anthem – ‘MAWTINI!’