At the start of the rally outside Downing Street a recorded message was broadcast from Palestine from Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.
‘Put pressure on your government. They are supporting war crimes. Collective punishment is a war crime. The Israeli bombardment of hospitals and churches and ethnic cleansing are war crimes.
‘Every minute matters. Every five minutes someone is killed in Gaza, every 10 minutes a child is killed. We need your solidarity, not just in Gaza but in the West Bank. Explain to everybody what’s going on.
‘Nothing will break us, we will never accept being slaves of occupation. Nothing will break us,’ he concluded to enormous cheers.
First speaker at the rally was Lindsey German, Convener of the Stop the War Coalition, who said: ‘At least a quarter of a million people are here today. Sunak went to Israel and said Israel is justified in what it’s doing. We are saying to Keir Starmer we don’t want the same policies from the next government as we’re getting from the Tories.
‘We’re with the Palestinians, we’re part of a world movement. All over the world people are marching for Palestine today.’
Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘The NEU wants to protect the children. The siege of Gaza is creating unspeakable suffering. Thousands of children killed and injured in Gaza in the past two weeks.
‘Half of Gaza’s population are under 18 years of age. At least 100 schools have been damaged or destroyed. There must be an immediate ceasefire.
‘The children of Palestine must have the right to an education and be allowed to develop as children should. The siege of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank must end. The NEU stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine.’
Next speaker was Riccardo la Torre, National Officer for the Fire Brigades Union, who said: ‘The FBU has a long history of practical support for the Palestinian struggle.
‘We’ve sent equipment and we’ve helped in the training of firefighters in Palestine. They’ve endured decades of murder and oppression. What we are seeing in Gaza is an atrocity.
‘The FBU was the first union to affiliate to the anti-apartheid movement and we call for action against the apartheid regime in Israel today. The FBU is affiliated to the Labour Party. Kier Starmer’s comments make me sick to my stomach. Demand an immediate end to the siege, end occupation, end Israel’s war crimes. So-called diplomacy has utterly failed. We must take action to support Palestine.’
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, said: ‘Wake up to what has been happening in occupied Palestine, not just in the past two weeks but for 75 years. There have been numerous war crimes. Israel is bombing churches, ancient churches in Gaza.
‘This is a war against the Palestinian people, a war against humanity. One million people have been told they have to move. Over 1,700 Palestinian children killed so far in the past two weeks.
‘Think about it, children killed. No water. Imagine the choices families have to make, rationing water and food for their children.
‘Israeli bombs on hospitals are killing hundreds of doctors, nurses, patients and people taking refuge there. They claim they didn’t drop the bomb on al-Ahli. Israel claims they did not do it – Lies! Lies! They did it. Remember Shireen Abu Akleh. They lied about her.
‘Stop blaming the victims. Stop saying Palestinians kill themselves. We do not kill ourselves. We defend ourselves. End this injustice, end the occupation.’
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘Israel is killing thousands. They’re using British weapons sold by British companies. These weapons are being used in this slaughter. Our government is making it possible. Ethnic cleansing is a war crime.
‘These companies market these weapons as battle-tested. How are they tested? They are tested on the Palestinians, that’s how. Palestinian trade unions are appealing to the trade unions internationally, to the rail workers and dockers, to refuse to load weapons, to send weapons to Israel and to the engineers, to stop making them.
‘In Naples in Italy, the trade unions are refusing to send weapons to Israel. We have to follow their example. Let’s not be left behind in Britain.’
Mick Whelan, ASLEF general secretary, said: ‘We have seen across the world workers rising up and fighting in support of Palestine. Moving a million people out of their homes in Gaza is breaking international law. We stand with the Palestinians. We fight together. No more arms to Israel.’
Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, said: ‘Seventy-five years ago a whole people were forced out of their homes in what was rightly called a catastrophe, a Nakba. The bombs are still raining on the children of Gaza. Call a ceasefire now.’
Declan Kearney, from Sinn Fein said: ‘Colonisation and occupation must end. Gaza is being annihilated the West Bank is under military occupation. War crimes are being committed under the pretext that Israel have the right to defend themselves.
‘This is a defining moment in our history. Gaza must not become a graveyard for international law. There must be a ceasefire now.’
Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse said: ‘Keir Starmer says he supports Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Collective punishment is a war crime. Cutting food, water, fuel and electricity is a war crime. Mass killings of innocent people must be stopped.
‘The entire globe is seeing in real time the crimes against humanity committed by Israel. They are happening now. Nothing can justify these crimes.
‘The ongoing oppression imposed on the Palestinian people must end, the settlement programme must end and there must be immediate and unconditional recognition of a state of Palestine.
‘We must always stand together against oppression. To the people of Gaza we say this “We see you, we stand with you and we will continue to amplify your struggle”.’
RMT assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey said: ‘The RMT stands with Palestine and we say to the politicians who rushed to support Israel, stop it! The only solution to this crisis is the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.’
Former Labour party leader and Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘Today is the biggest demonstration for Palestine. A massive demonstration is also taking place in Dublin today. The people of Palestine must live in peace and justice in a fully liberated Palestine.
‘There have been 4,000 killed by Israel’s bombardments of Gaza now and the killings are going on in the West Bank too. Well done President Lula of Brazil and the other Latin American leaders calling for a ceasefire with immediate effect. Sunak wouldn’t vote for it and the US vetoed it.
‘Sunak is directly involving our country in the illegal bombing of Gaza. Denial of water and electricity and the bombing of civilian targets is a war crime. Stop the murdering of people. This carpet bombing is a war crime and all those political leaders who won’t call it out as a war crime need to think hard.’
Ismael Patel, of Friends of al-Aqsa, said: ‘Sunak said we want Israel to win. Sunak, does winning mean bombing hospitals and churches? Does it mean piling up corpses? The government must stop this genocide. We will not be intimidated, we will not be frightened, we will come back next week.’
Claudia Webbe, Leicester East Labour MP, said: ‘The people of Leicester are here with you in our coachloads. War crimes are being committed with the support of the British government in the world’s largest open air prison. Entire neighbourhoods are being obliterated by British-made weapons.
‘Shut Elbit down. They market their weapons as market-tested on the people of Palestine. I stand with the demonstrators in Leicester. Shut Elbit down. The stench of political hypocrisy in Britain must be replaced by a ceasefire. Justice will come when the system of apartheid is ended.’
Jo Grady, UCU general secretary said I visited Palestine last December. I saw the terrible impact of occupation. Children are the victims. The events of the past two weeks have been sickening. This government and the Labour Party are pouring petrol on the flames. It is shameful. There’s got to be an arms embargo on Israel.’
Kamel Hawwash, Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘I’m proud to come from Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Israel claims its war is with Hamas. No, it’s a war against the Palestinian people.
‘Sunak says he wants Israel to win. Labour is no better. Starmer said Israel has the right to cut off water, food and electricity to two million people.
‘Are you a human rights lawyer or are you a criminal lawyer who supports war crimes against civilian people? I have an admission to make – I am a Labour Party member. I cannot be a member of a party whose leadership supports war crimes.
‘I resign with immediate effect and I have to urge others to do the same.’
Jess Barnard from Young Labour and a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee, said: ‘The disgraceful politicians who support war crimes must be held to account. Starmer said: “I believe Israel has the right to cut off electricity, water, food and power to Gaza”.
‘I saw him saying these words. Now, he claims that he didn’t say them, but I saw him saying it. He also said to Labour MPs and Labour Party members they shouldn’t come here today.
‘No leader has the right to support war crimes. My message to Starmer is this – apologise for your support for Israeli war crimes.
‘Many in my party have let the Palestinian people down. I say to Labour Party members – speak up! I tell those in my party, we will not accept your bullying! We will be here again next week demanding Free, Free Palestine!’
Asad Rehman, Director of War on Want, said: ‘The Israeli government declares openly that it intends to turn Gaza into rubble. We are the difference between life and death for the people of Gaza.
‘Millions are marching across the world. We have a special responsibility here in Britain. Stop arming Israel, break the blockade, end Israel’s impunity.’
Abdul Rachman Tamimi, of the Palestinian Forum in Britain, said: ‘Over 70% of Gazans are from the occupied territories that surround Gaza. Their families were evicted from their homes.
‘As we mourn the deaths of those killed by the Israeli terrorists we won’t forget or stay silent about those who justify these atrocities.
‘They said today there are 300,000. Next week we will have half a million. Brothers and sisters, comrades, we need a global uprising, we needed global revolution!’
Glyn Secker, Jews for Justice, said: ‘Unspeakable outrages are being enacted today. We unconditionally condemn them. This war did not start on October 7th, it started with the genocide in 1948 and then in 1967. Don’t forget the Sabra and Shatilla massacres.
‘There was a rejecting of the Hamas offer of a two state solution. This is the apartheid state. There have been 17 failed peace initiatives since 1991. Israel has violated human rights over and over again. We are Jews who are always with the oppressed.’
Stella Swain from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Youth and Students Committee said: ‘We’re building a national student movement against apartheid.
‘In the past two weeks, so many of us have experienced silencing and pressure from our universities, many of which receive funding from companies that support Israel.
‘We’re also standing in a proud tradition of student protest. Our government knows that a mass student movement is a very powerful force but they have failed to suppress us. For a free Palestine!’
Hawwaa, from the Association of Students Activism for Palestine, said: ‘Keep your bloodstained hands off Gaza. You threaten hospitals, you bomb them, then you lie to the world. I lost a cousin in the past few days in Gaza. My family is petrified in Gaza. A message to our government – your role will not be forgotten.
‘Instead of calling for a ceasefire you support the bombing. Your encouragement of war crimes will not be forgotten.
‘Finally, a message to our universities – your fearmongering tactics will fail. We will not let you silence us, or close us down.
‘We will fight in the spirit of Malcolm X, who said freedom is not granted it must be taken. And it is our solemn pledge that we will take it.’
Ben Jamal, PSC Director, the final speaker, told the Downing Street rally: ‘I received this message from Palestine – “We see you, we see you. Thank you for standing with us.”
‘Our call today is for a ceasefire. We, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have launched an action today. Please go online and sign it.
‘I have been told by the British Home Secretary that if I raise the flag of my people that I might be arrested for terrorism.
‘We know the violence will not end until we end the system of apartheid. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
‘The Sunaks and the Starmers are on the wrong side of history and history will dishonour them. We must draw strength from the Palestinian people. Palestine lives, Palestine endures, Palestine will prevail, Palestine will be free!’