‘FREE, FREE, Palestine! Free Al-Aqsa!’ shouted participants in an over 1,000-strong lobby of the Israeli embassy in West London on Saturday evening.
They also shouted ‘Israel is a terror state! Occupation no more!’ The lobby was called in response to the Israeli crackdown barring men under 50 from worshipping at the mosque, and on top of that making the over 50s pass electric metal detectors. Palestinians have been worshipping at the entrance with clashes erupting as Israeli police move to remove them.
At Saturday’s lobby, British Palestinian Sahar Faour told News Line: ‘I’m here to support the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and the whole of Palestine. I want the metal detectors removed.
‘Everyone should have the freedom to practise their religion without having the fear of being kidnapped, arrested or killed. The mosque is a place of worship to be protected.
‘The Israeli army is not treating the mosque as it should be. The British government has to apologise for the Balfour Declaration. They have apologised for all the colonisation they did in the world apart from Palestine. Workers in Britain should boycott Israel, everyone in the world should boycott all Israeli products, not just from the settlements. The whole system is apartheid and the settlements are part of the system.’
Laila Bashar, another Palestinian living in Britain, said: ‘We’ve been fighting for years. My parents were kicked out of their land in 1948, from Jaffa. They were kicked out again from the West Bank in 1967. We had to go to Jordan. We had no house, nothing. We had to live in shelters. My father was old and my brother had to go to work in bad conditions. The Israelis keep taking the land, again and again.
‘They demolish Palestinians’ houses and build settlements. The United Nations told them to stop but they ignore that, they think they are above the law. We need an Intifada. No government no law is listening to us. The Palestinians must rise up. They’ve had enough. Workers in Britain should support the Palestinians.
‘The Israelis have taken the land, now they want to take Al-Aqsa. Israeli troops killed a 17-year-old boy yesterday. They wanted to steal his body and keep it in a fridge for two months. But the Palestinians got the body first and took it over the wall so they could bury the boy. The Israelis are violent. They have a 20,000-strong army that uses gas bombs and bullets in a small area of land.’
Salam Ramadam, a Libyan living in London, said: ‘I’m here to support the Palestinians and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israelis want to take all of Palestine without giving the Palestinians rights. All the world will hate Israel because there is no justice. Without justice there is no peace anywhere in the world. All workers should support the Palestinians. They have been so generous. They said they would accept the 1967 borders.
‘But the Israelis don’t want to give them anything, they want to terminate all the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not against the the Jews, they are against the Zionists. Jews have been living with Palestinians for years. Some of them (Jews) are here today supporting us.’
Palestinian student Unar Khattab, 16, said: ‘I came here to support my country. I want the Israelis to understand that what they are doing is not justice – it’s genocide and terrorism. Also, I want them to know their days are numbered and their end is coming soon. If they keep doing what they are doing, there will be another Intifada.’
A small group of Zionists were holding a provocative counter-protest. Rajab Shamalakh, chair of the Association of the Palestinian Community in the United Kingdom, declared over the loudspeakers: ‘To those standing across the road – you are supporting a terrorist state. Shame on you!’ He told the Palestinian crowd that Israel breaks the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
He added: ‘We demand freedom. The Israeli occupying forces are closing our place of religion. This is a deliberate act of humiliation to all Muslims in the world. We are here to say to the Israeli occupation these acts will no beat us down. We will have our freedom. We demand freedom of movement, freedom of religion. We demand the freedom of Jerusalem. To the Israeli occupiers, I say you have no right to deny us our freedom. We will continue to pursue these human rights with determination.’
Iman El-Awad, a Palestinian living in Britain, said: ‘They stole our land in 1948. I was born in Lebanon. My daughter was born here. I still want to go back to my homeland. I’m here today because the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been closed. It’s supposed to be open now. It’s discrimination against Palestinians who are supposed to pray in it. It’s the first mosque for all Muslims. The UK government should take action against Israel. What Israeli is doing is unfair.
‘It not only hurts Palestinians, but all Muslims. The British and other workers should stop dealing with Israel and boycott it. The British government should apologise. Palestine was occupied by the British in 1947 after World War II. In 1948 they gave Palestine to the Zionists. Palestinians were kicked out and into Lebanon because of the massacres in the villages by the Hagannah. My grandad had to leave and went to Lebanon. My family were 70 years in Lebanon.
‘You have to give freedom to Palestine. We must have the right to go back to our homeland. In my town, it’s Jewish land now, they call it a different name. Zionism and Israel is stolen land. There’s no problem with Jews and religion, we all lived together before – it’s not about religion, it’s politics.’
Iman’s daughter Kehemisa, 9, said: ‘I came here to make sure the electric doors at the mosque are gone.’
Hasseeb Sarwary from Afghanistan, said: ‘I’m supporting the Palestinian people and against Israel’s closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Palestinians’ rights are being taken away and that’s wrong. Palestine should be free. Everybody should support them against their oppression.
‘The Zionists and the Americans and other countries nearby steal Palestinians’ rights. The trade unions should boycott Israel. The conflict has been going on a long time. I would support another uprising by the Palestinians against the Zionists and settlers to reclaim their land.’
Sabrina Ali from Slough said: ‘I’m here to support the Palestinians and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the right for Palestinians to be able to pray. The metal detectors must be taken out to allow freedom of worship. The Israelis are bullies. You don’t have the right to take what doesn’t belong to you. Capitalism and nationalism is everywhere and that’s the main source of destruction. Everyone should support the Palestinians, it’s part of humanity.’