‘I bring a message of defiance from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Palestine, and from besieged and heroic Gaza, and from the refugee camps – we will not be denied any more,’ Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot told the mass rally outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington on Saturday.
More than 150,000 workers and youth marched for victory to Palestine from Speakers Corner in Hyde Park to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington on Saturday afternoon.
Zomlot told the rally: ‘I am told that there are tens of thousands demonstrating in 80 town and cities around the UK today.
‘I bring a message – this time it’s different. This time we will not be denied. United we stand. We have had enormous oppression, apartheid, ethnic cleansing. Enough of war crimes.
‘In Gaza an entire family has been wiped out – eight children. Only eight-month-old baby Omar survived in that family. Omar is Palestine.
‘Only through dignity of freedom will we go on. There are not two sides. We will never waiver. We will remain steadfast.’
There were thousands of Palestinian flags on the demonstration, with tens of thousands of placards, reading: ‘Hands off Al Aqsa’, ‘No more killing of Palestinian children’, ‘End the siege of Gaza’, ‘End Israeli State Terror’, ‘Stop the Massacre – Free Palestine’.
The main banner at the front of the march read: ‘Free Palestine – Exist, Resist, Return.’ Other leading banners were CND, Stop the War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
There were constant chants of: ‘In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians!’
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banner read: ‘Charge Israel with War Crimes! End the Occupation! Victory to Palestine!’
The powerful delegation behind it kept up constant chants of: ‘One State – Palestine!’ ‘Israeli mass murder – Trade Unions must Act!’ ‘From the River to the Sea – Palestine will be Free!’ ‘1, 2, 3, 4 – Occupation no More! 5, 6, 7, 8 – Israel is a Terrorist State!’ and ‘Intifada Night and Day – Zionism you will Pay!’
Speaking to the rally outside the Israeli Embassy at the end of the march, Stop the War Convenor Lindsey German announced a national demonstration for next Saturday, saying: ‘There are demonstrations today all over the country in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, with 77 demonstrations around this country today and we are going to be here again next week.’
Unite Chief of Staff Adrian Weir told the rally: ‘The only acceptable way forward is the ending of the occupation. The Palestinian people are not alone, international solidarity action now. The Palestinian people know we are here today taking a stand against the rotten Israeli apartheid. Unite says that Sheikh Jarrah is a clear example of ethnic cleansing. Our union will not stand aside on apartheid.’
NEU teachers union Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘This is the rebirth of a movement. Our union sends delegations and we visit families in Sheikh Jarrah. The TUC and NEU call on the Israeli government to stop evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. We call on the UK government to put pressure on the Israeli government. In this country we had the biggest anti-apartheid demonstrations against South Africa.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said: ‘Today we are asserting the right of Palestinians to self-defence. Palestine has the right to self-defence. Israel carries out war crimes, it uses white phosphorous. Fighting back against Israel is not a crime, it is a duty.’
Diane Abbott, Hackney MP, said: ‘There are demonstrations all over the world today. Palestinians are being killed in illegal airstrikes. What the Israeli government is doing is illegal. The British government should stop arming Israel and we should recognise the state of Palestine. We owe it to the Palestinians and we owe it to the world.’
Vice Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Kamel Hawwash said: ‘It is shameful that Israel claims Jerusalem for its capital. We are with Palestine whatever they do. Israel’s Netanyahu and Gantz should go to the ICC and be jailed until they die. It is 73 years ago today that the occupiers took Palestine from us. Soon we will take back Palestine and create a state for Christians, Muslims and Jews.’
Musician Samir Eskanda, of Artists for Palestine, said: ‘As Palestine marks 73 years of the Nakba artists from across the world are rising in solidarity – DJs bands, pop stars must take action for Palestine, for a cultural boycott of Israel. Ending Israeli apartheid is in our hands.’
Musician Lowkey said: ‘Israel has bombed the media tower in Gaza because they want to stop the truth. Dock workers in Italy have refused to load weapons for Israel.’ Lowkey finished his speech by performing his world-famous hit rap ‘Long Live Palestine’.
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The tragedy of Israel killing the children of Gaza must be ended. Look at the huge building in Gaza, systematically destroyed by Israel. I’ve been in those buildings when I have visited Gaza.
‘The killings on the West Bank are continuing as well. They are clearing Sheikh Jarrah, I have been there too. End all military cooperation of any sort with Israel.
‘And I say to my colleagues in Parliament and the trade unions, we all have resolutions to recognise the Palestinian state. Do it now.
‘End the occupation – Now. End the settlements – Now. End the siege of Gaza – Now. Next week we’ll be back for a massive demonstration. Peace for the people of Palestine.’
Glyn Secker, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said: ‘We have to put an end to over half a century of occupation, midnight raids, children snatched from their beds, the 1982 massacres of Sabra and Shatila, 73 years of racism.
‘This rotten fruit that is Israel is split open. I’m a Jew. I know what a pogrom looks like. We are the Jews who stand shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians. Israel’s internal stability is fractured. Now is the time for justice. Now is the time for Palestine.’
Sinn Fein’s Joe Dwyer said: ‘We have a proud record of standing with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. In Belfast this week we heard the Ballymurphy Inquiry result after 50 years. People of Gaza shouldn’t have to wait 50 years. Ban goods from the occupied territories. Forty years ago Palestinian prisoners sent solidarity to the Long Kesh hunger strikers. Bobby Sands said: “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”. Today we send greetings to occupied Palestine.’
Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse Apsana Begum said: ‘In Sheikh Jarrah families are being forcibly and violently dragged out of their homes.
‘The illegal programme and the illegal occupation must end. We must have the immediate recognition of the Palestinian state.’
Before and during the demonstration marchers from around the country spoke to News Line.
Kashif Baig, Langley College student, said: ‘There must be a complete boycott of Israel organised by the trade unions and the students unions. The unions must fight for Palestine.’
His father Amjid Baig, Unite rep at Harefield Hospital, said: ‘We will put a resolution at our union branch calling for a trade boycott of Israel. The major powers are turning a blind eye to Israel’s crimes.’
Walthamstow teacher and NEU member Tom Young said: ‘The events this week have shown so clearly that this is a human rights issue. I believe that the best way to affect things is through trade union action and broader actions like this one today. There must be a trade boycott of Israel. Look how apartheid was beaten. It was just last month that Human Rights Watch declared Israel an Apartheid state. If you look at the demolition of the tower block in Gaza that is a text book example of a premeditated war crime.’
Clapham student Hussain Alkaria said: ‘The UK and USA sponsor Israel to the hilt. The Arab leaders have betrayed Palestine. The Gulf states are forming ties with Israel. Iran and Syria are the only Middle East countries standing up against Israel. It’s not a religious thing, it’s a political thing. It’s not a religious war. There must be one state of Palestine where Jews, Christians and Muslims can live in peace together.’
Imran Jassad, Security officer and Unison member at Leicester University, said: ‘Boycott Israel now. Everyone should do it like we did it for South Africa. Zionism is trying to control the media, it must be defeated.’
South Woodford construction worker Intiaz Ali said: ‘We have to stop the killing of innocent children and the bombing of their houses. We have to end the occupation of Palestine, stop the illegal settlements and the illegal evictions. We want a full-scale 100% boycott of Israel. The G7 countries are not condemning Israel, so they are supporting it. The US and UK must stop arming Israel.’