The first speaker at the Downing Street rally, Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, said: ‘Thank you for showing you will not relent until there is a full ceasefire and thank you for showing you will go all the way to a free Palestine. Israel’s assault is not only happening in Gaza but also in the West Bank. Armed settler militias are running amok. The Israeli military is bombing towns and villages and arresting thousands of across the West Bank.
‘Gaza is suffering industrial scale savagery. 2.3 million people are being exposed to disease, famine and thirst. It is a scar on humanity. Israel is engaged in all-out war against the Palestinian people wherever we are. And it is also making war on international law. Israel has trashed all the rules, not just in the last six weeks but over 75 years.
‘We all should feel concerned, the consequences will not only be felt by the Palestinians but all humanity. Israel has normalised mass killing, it has normalised mass destruction and Israel is also trying to normalise ethnic cleansing. We must stop this, we must pull back from the brink. We can still save humanity and we must do so. Let this be an unstoppable movement that will not stop, will not relent until Palestine is free. Raise your Palestinian flag, fly it high.’
Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse said: ‘This pause is just a temporary lifeline. It is just that, temporary. There are over 20,000 killed including 6,800 missing under the rubble. Why is this astonishing level of civilian slaughter being tolerated? We know why! It is because the US and the UK have a brazen disregard for Palestinian lives. I feel a deep sense of pride and belonging here today. We will keep standing together against injustice. End the siege of Gaza and end the oppression of the Palestinian people.’
Mohammed Balaawi from the Palestinian Forum in Britain said: ‘Palestinian people still love life if they find a way to keep it. We want a permanent ceasefire and until it happens we need to increase the pressure in every way. Netanyahu, Biden, Starmer, Sunak must all appear before the International Court for genocide. I’m originally from Palestine. In the past it was only thousands who would act in solidarity with Palestine but now it is clear that all over the world millions upon millions are fighting for Palestine and we will win.’
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP for Streatham, said: ‘All those who continue to oppose a ceasefire are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Britain should not be flying RAF planes from Cyprus to Tel Aviv delivering weapons to be used to commit genocide. The US is paying for the whole thing – Biden is funding the onslaught on Gaza. There must be a permanent ceasefire.’
Ismail Patel, Chairman of Friends of Al-Aqsa, said: ‘We must end the 16-year siege of Gaza. Israel has killed thousands of children with the support of the British government. Our government is also murdering our freedom of assembly and also introducing a two-tier legal system. People are liable to be arrested simply for flying a Palestinian flag. In Israel they have open apartheid, we have to stop the apartheid system emerging in Britain. We are the majority and we will win.’
Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah said: ‘I’m a refugee from Palestine, I’m proud to say. I’m also a proud member of the UCU. Yesterday we passed a motion to boycott Israel. It’s not enough to demonstrate, although that’s important. We have to strike. A pause is not a ceasefire and a ceasefire is not freedom. We will not rest. No Palestinian today is okay. No Palestinian is okay. Today, we are barely keeping ourselves together. Factories in the UK are making arms and sending them to Israel. It has to be stopped. Take your rage and organise everywhere until every inch of Palestine is free.’
CND Chairman Tom Unterrainer, said: ‘CND demands a ceasefire now. Not a few days of respite, but the complete end to the murder. Six weeks ago Keir Starmer was asked why he would not call for a ceasefire and he replied “not now”. British naval vessels have been sent to the area to ensure security. But it’s not to ensure the security of the Palestinians, it’s for the security of the nuclear armed state of Israel. Britain is complicit in Israel’s war crimes. We have to say if not now, when? And if not us, who? We must achieve a ceasefire now. Long live Palestine.’
Chairman of the National Education Union International Committee Louise Regan said: ‘Our union has a long history of a strong relationship with the Palestinian people. 50% of the population of Gaza are children. I’ve seen images of children writing their names on their arms and legs so that their body parts could be identified and my heart bled. My union demands an indefinite and immediate lasting ceasefire.’
Labour and Palestine chairman Hugh Lanning said: ‘I’ve got a confession to make, I’m still a member of the Labour Party and I’ve never been so ashamed to be.’
Ragad Altikriti, President of the Muslim Association of Britain said: ‘Our government is complicit in war crimes. Israel’s goal is the complete extermination of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. We must bring an end to Israel’s impunity. They know the masses are not with them. We must turn the temporary pause into a permanent ceasefire. We demand an end of the siege of Gaza and a free Palestine.’
Stop the War Coalition National Organiser John Rees said: ‘We will have a permanent ceasefire. If this pause does not turn into a full ceasefire we will have a demonstration the size of which this country has never seen. And we pledge to bring down this government or any government that doesn’t bring freedom to Palestine. On the United Nations Day for Palestine every trade unionist must go to their bosses and say we are on strike. And we must tell the Metropolitan Police you have no role in political policing. You will not tell us what we can chant. The report on the Met found that the Met is institutionally racist, institutionally misogynistic and they have lost the faith of Londoners. We will not be the generation that gives up the right to demonstrate.’
Emily Stevenson of Na’amod, said: ‘When I look at Gaza it’s heartbreaking. There are hundreds of Jewish people here today. Our government and our opposition refused to call for a ceasefire but they don’t mind mobilising far right mobs. Our government doesn’t care about you, they just want to use Jews as a cover for their anti-Muslim objectives. Jewish safety and Jewish liberation stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with Palestinian liberation. We won’t be intimidated, we are firm. We stand here as Na’amod not despite the fact that we are Jewish but because we are Jews.’
Jess Bernard, Labour NEC member, said: ‘After this march we’re going home tonight but hundreds of thousands in Gaza won’t have the luxury of returning to their homes. When the truce ends and the bombs fall again, our government is complicit and my Labour Party is complicit.
‘We can accept no less than a ceasefire now. Sunak was cheering Israel’s bombarding, saying he hopes Israel wins. Just 56 Labour MPs voted for a ceasefire. Labour has failed us. We will remember their moral cowardice. We don’t not need a second Tory Party. We will not rest and we will not be told by the police that we cannot protest. Long live Palestine.’
Massaya Ibrahim of Families of Gaza, said: ‘As I speak my entire family can’t make it back to our home because we no longer have a home. A few weeks ago my brother-in-law and his three children died in the bombing. Last Sunday, three days after our government voted against a ceasefire, Israeli bombs brutally killed the remainder of my wife’s family.
‘If you ask how we feel, I tell you we are not okay. My wife is not okay. But we will fight until we achieve a free Palestine. so many questions are swirling in my head. Families in Gaza today are having their last hours together, maybe their last meals together. Our politicians are flagrantly supporting the genocide. Today we need to send a strong and clear message – An immediate and indefinite ceasefire now!’ They think we forgive and forget, but I tell you, we do not forgive, we do not forget!’
Final speaker was Ben Jamal, Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who said: ‘We have been marching and protesting for seven weeks calling for an end to the bombing of Gaza, an end to the siege and an end to the apartheid. A temporary truce has only come about because of the international pressure. Once Israel is ready it will resume the bombing. So far there are 14,500 killed including 6,000 children, plus 7,000 missing, presumed dead.
‘1.6 million people are not in their homes and are sheltering where they can, fearing epidemics and starvation. Israeli politicians called for a nuclear attack on Gaza. An Israeli minister of defence called Palestinians human animals and the head of security welcomed the outbreak of epidemics because he said it will kill more Palestinians more quickly.
‘They want to wipe us out. Next Saturday, we are demonstrating in towns and in regions all over Britain. Palestinians will only be free from the river to the sea when apartheid ends. In the words of Nelson Mandela until Palestinians are free none of us are free. Come out in your local town next Saturday. We will never stop fighting until Palestine is free from Jerusalem to Jaffa to Gaza.’
• See photo gallery