‘Bush, Blair terrorists!’ shouted workers and youth last Saturday as they passed the American embassy in central London on a 100,000-strong demonstration against the Israeli war on Lebanon.
Marchers had set off from Hyde Park to go on to a rally in Parliament Square. There was a sit-down in the road opposite Downing Street and children’s shoes were laid at the Cenotaph in the name of the murdered Lebanese children.
Called by Stop the War Coalition, the main slogan was ‘cease-fire now’ but the feeling of the march was for the victory of Hezbollah and defeat of the Zionist entity and its imperialist backers.
There were banners and placards on the march saying ‘we are all Hezbollah now’ and a number of trade union delegations including the PCS national banner; City of Plymouth, Camden and SOAS UNISON branches; London CWU, RMT TfL No1: NUJ Book Branch and TGWU Region 1.
A lively Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists delegation attracted big support as it shouted ‘Victory to Hezbollah – Smash Zionism now!’, ‘Victory to Palestine – Smash Zionism now!’, ‘End the occupation of Iraq – Troops out now!’, ‘Bush, Blair – Terrorists!’.
News Line spoke to several of the marchers.
Lebanese student Abed Bashir said: ‘I want an immediate cease-fire for Lebanon and to stop the Israeli crimes – save children.
‘I’ve a message for Tony Blair and George Bush, if they really care about democracy, they should stop Israeli crimes now.
‘They are the only leaders in the world that refuse to call for an immediate cease-fire.
‘Their action will create in every country a new Hezbollah, a new resistance.
‘We have had support from the people of Britain, they show they are with the real democracy.
‘They should go further and go on strike against the government for its support of Israel.
‘A little advice for Tony Blair from a student in London, if he wants to keep his position, he should change his mind now.’
Teacher Zeinab Khadra, also from Lebanon, added: ‘We are here to support our sisters and brothers in the Lebanon and the resistance.
‘The help Israel is getting from America and Britain is worsening the situation.
‘I think it is wrong that Tony Blair supports Israel.
‘I support Hezbollah. I want Israel to stop attacking Lebanon, get out of the land and free all the political prisoners that are held by Israel unjustly.
‘The workers of Britain should take action against Blair.
‘I don’t see why he should be prime minister. He’s not doing what the people want, he’s doing what Bush wants him to do.’
Nadim, a bank worker from Lebanon, said: ‘Hundreds of billions of pounds have been spent on weapons for the US, UK, Israel and the Arab governments.
‘The Israelis and the Americans have the right to use the weapons to attack, but not one bullet has been spent by the Arab regimes to defend their people.
‘If the Americans and the Israelis knew the Arabs would use their weapons to defend Lebanon maybe they wouldn’t attack it.
‘I want to see a cease-fire. I’m very surprised that this very big scale Israeli campaign started without one attempt to negotiate – nothing.
‘The same day as the Israeli soldiers were captured, they went to war, even though Hezbollah was offering negotiations.
‘We should go through negotiations, it’s better than war.
‘Israel, the US and UK governments have the same way of thinking.
‘I don’t think that Blair has the same thinking as the majority of the UK.
‘They are against the war and the killing of civilians.
‘The world will soon discover what happened in Lebanon, the human catastrophe, when the war is over.
‘Dead people are discovered by their odour. The roads are closed, food can’t arrive and the hospitals aren’t open because there is no fuel.
‘The British people will judge Blair.
‘The British union leaders should call on their members to strike against Blair and his support for Israel.
‘George Bush says he wants to put a democracy in Lebanon but Lebanon has been a democracy since the 1920s.
‘He has a lesson to learn. Hezbollah is a real resistance, it’s not terrorism, they are carrying out resistance.
‘We don’t want the “new Middle East”.’
Andy Porritt, a student artist told News Line: ‘I’m disgusted with the way Israel is killing the Muslim community and its blatant disregard for life.
‘When you think of the history of the Jewish people, it seems no lessons have been learned.
‘Israel, thanks to the backing of the Americans, is getting away with murder, literally.
‘The workers of Britain and all over the world, should take strike action against governments who support this war.
‘Their only agenda is profit and oil. We should get rid of Blair.’
Raissa Panni from London said: ‘It’s disgusting. Blair should call for a cease-fire now.
‘He’s supporting Israel. The Israelis should stop invading other countries and taking other people’s territory.
‘British workers should take action against Blair over his support for Israel.’
Graduate Miriam Foley added: ‘I’m concerned about the innocent lives being lost and Blair not representing the people of this country.
‘Workers should take action, take Blair out of government.’
Mark Bowes, a freelance writer said: ‘I’m here because bullies are bullies whatever you call them.
‘Blair’s unconditional support for Israel is preposterous.
‘We want to see a cease-fire. I support Hezbollah. What do people expect them to do? If someone hits you, you hit them back.’
North London teacher, Bridget De Courcy told News Line: ‘It’s appalling. I feel embittered with rage because no one listens to us.
‘Politicians we put in power do not recognise our feelings or listen to us.
‘What is happening in Lebanon is a massacre, a holocaust.
‘I wonder what world does Blair inhabit.
‘As far as his Middle East polices are concerned, where does he live, because he isn’t in my world.
‘Workers in Britain must take action – who else can?’
Chef John Williams told News Line: ‘The unions should all come out and stop the country over this.
‘Lebanon is an Israeli/US attack on the Middle East in general.
‘The support for Israel from the US is clear by the millions of pounds of weapons they’ve supplied over they years,.
‘They are being used as we speak. It’s absolutely disgusting.
‘My heart goes out to the Lebanese people.
‘I just crave an end to the bloodshed – it’s outrageous.’
Tim Nicholls, PCS Dorset DWP branch chair, said: ‘We are the only government in the world that are backing up Bush.
‘We need pressure on the UN for an immediate cease-fire and on Blair to condemn the invasion of Lebanon.
‘The unions should take strike action to bring Blair down.
‘It’s time the union leaders organised national action.’
Jamie Ritchie, Kilburn TGWU branch secretary said: ‘I’m here to protest against the war crimes being committed in Lebanon and Palestine.
‘The trade unions need to stand up for a Labour Party that supports our members’ interests and not one which sides with the bosses.
‘Blair and New Labour should go.
‘Blair’s support for the US and its Middle East policy is disgusting.
‘The Israelis should withdraw from Lebanon and there should be reparations and an exchange of prisoners.
‘There should be an immediate cease-fire.
‘I don’t believe Blair when he says he is working for a cease-fire, he’s working for what suits American interests.’
Jeremy Guise, Plymouth UNISON said: ‘I’m here because of the completely disproportionate Israeli reaction to the capture of two of their soldiers.
‘I believe that was a pretext for a pre-conceived attack.
‘It’s terrible what Israel has done – the slaughter of innocent Lebanese and the destruction of the infrastructure of the whole country.
‘Hezbollah are right to defend their country.
‘Blair has been weak and inadequate.
‘I would support a trade union boycott of Israel.’
Paul Dovey, NW London CWU said: ‘Israel is invading a sovereign state, the type of lawlessness which is the consequence of our invasion of Iraq.’
Andy Salisbury, RMT, added: ‘I support the Lebanese people. It’s overkill.
‘All those innocent people are dying.
‘What the Israeli military has inflicted on those people just for the capture of two soldiers is over the top.
‘I want to see an immediate cease-fire.
‘Blair is Bush’s puppet, he goes along and does what he’s told.
‘I would support strike action, if everybody came out, against Blair.
‘The man’s a Judas to working people, he attacks us all.
‘Today’s turnout is very impressive.
‘What’s happening has implications.
‘This is just Bush grabbing for the Middle East oil.
‘It’s time we had proper socialism.
‘I voted for Blair in 1997 – never again. He broke all his promises.’
Speaking at the Parliament Square rally Somaya Ghanoushi of the British Muslim Initiative condemned the massacre at Qana.
She added: ‘Lebanon has a history of Israeli massacres.
‘This has to stop – no more occupation.’
Barry Camfield, TGWU assistant general secretary, said: ‘Cease-fire now.
‘A year ago when Walter Wolfgang cried “nonsense” during the debate on Iraq he was physically thrown out of the Labour party conference.
‘Today he is on the NEC. we are going to win back the Labour Party from Blair and the right wing.
‘We have written to the prime minister and every MP demanding the call for a cease-fire now, immediately and unconditionally.
‘Blair is sanctioning murder in the Middle East. he does not speak for us.
‘Israel is targeting schools, hospitals, houses, targeting UN observers.
‘Britain is a poodle in the relationship between Bush and Blair.’
Labour veteran Tony Benn said: ‘The US is working with Israel to deal with Syria and Iran in order to establish its supremacy in the Middle East.
‘There will be no peace until every Israeli soldier leaves the Middle East.’
Stop the War Coalition leader Lindsay German said: ‘Britain and America could put an end to the killing tomorrow if they called for an immediate cease-fire.
‘They are covering for Israeli aggression.’
She added: ‘The US, UK and Israel are demonising Hezbollah.
‘We don’t agree with all Iran, Syria and Hezbollah’s politics but I am on their side against imperialism.
‘The arc of extremism is the one across the Atlantic through britain to the Middle East.
‘Make sure Blair goes.’
Respect MP George Galloway said: ‘Yesterday Israel massacred 33 Kurdish farm workers from Syria.
‘Parliament is silent about these murders.
‘We come together as with one demand for an unconditional cease-fire.’
He added to cheers: ‘Hezbollah is not now, nor has it ever been, a terrorist organisation.
‘If Bush, Blair and Israel were to win in Lebanon, I warn you not to be a Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian.
‘If Bush and Blair and Israel are defeated I warn you, do not be Husni Mubarak, do not be Abdullah do not be, any of the belly dancing Arab leaders.
‘Hassan Nasrallah is the real leader of the Arab people.
‘Marwan Barghouthi is the real leader of the Arab people.
‘Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro are real leaders of the Arab people.
‘Victory to the Intifada. Long live the resistance.’
Rose Gentle whose son was killed in Iraq, spoke for Military Families Against the War.
She said: ‘Tony Blair will never win. We want him locked up.
‘I promised my son I would fight for him.
‘Tony blair is nothing but a murderer.
‘We want to be in court with Tony Blair. We want our troops home.
‘Get rid of Tony Blair. Get our troops back.
‘I blame the government for what is happening. Get Tony Blair locked up and get our troops home.’
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes told the rally: ‘This rally is a demonstration of the real views of the British people.
‘We’ve been seeing bombing and killing of innocent people on our TV screens.
‘The TUC and the trade unions call for a statement calling for a cease-fire.
‘Tony Blair said a renaissance is needed of democratic government in the Middle East.
‘Blair you were wrong on Iraq and you are wrong in the Lebanon.
‘MPs should get back off their holidays and tell the British government to call for a cease-fire now.’
Deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Daoud Abdullah warned Israel: ‘If you bomb Tyre there will be a response.
‘If you bomb Beirut there will be a response.
‘This is the new Middle East of resistance.’
In a warning to Bush, he added: ‘You thought you’d divide but you’ve united Muslims and Christians, Shia and Sunni, secularists and fundamentalists.
‘We will come back and ask for the war criminals to come to court, we will not rest until they are behind bars.
‘The Israelis dropped leaflets on Tyre today telling people to leave their homes.
‘When the Palestinians left in 1948 they never came back.
‘We tell the people of Tyre, of Lebanon, don’t leave or you will not come back.
‘The Litani river is not for sale, stay put.’
Other speakers included PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.