‘Stop breaking law or we will stop work’ PCS general secretary Fran Heathcote tells Tories and arms industry

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The front of the march as it proceeded down Upper Regent Street

At the start of the rally in Whitehall 14-year-old Abdul Rahman spoke in front of dozens of children waving Palestinian flags and holding big cardboard keys representing the keys that families kept when they were expelled from their homes by the Zionists 76 years ago in the Nakba.

He said: ‘We’re here not just to remember the Nakba of 1948 but also to mark the ongoing genocide in Gaza today for seven months. How many more children must be deprived of their families? We will not stop fighting for a free Palestine – the children will return to a free Palestine.’

PCS General Secretary Fran Heathcote told the rally: ‘Israeli high tech weaponry is made here in the UK. Shame on those who sit in the House of Commons and give cover to Israel. We tell arms manufacturers if you are found to be in breach of international law our members will stop working. We will not be complicit in Israeli genocide.’

Stop the War Coalition vice president Andrew Murray said: ‘Rishi Sunak has betrayed in international law in supporting genocide. Stop supplying weapons to Israel! We tell Starmer no ceasefire no vote! It’s not a threat it’s a promise we fight to defeat Sunak and Starmer.’

SOAS students leader Haya Dunne said: ‘Students at more than 20 universities have set up encampments. I stand here on behalf of my friends and comrades at our incredible encampment back at SOAS. The Zionist entity is trying to erase Palestine but it will never succeed. As members of the student movement we are not spectators but mobilising the student revolution. It is our duty to decolonise our universities. The struggle is not in vain but will lead us to the dawn of freedom by any means necessary.’

Leanne Mohamad, independent parliamentary candidate for Ilford North said: ‘We will bring an end to this genocide and we will not stop until Palestine is free. Gaza is a graveyard not just for children but for the colonial order. If Gaza represents a nightmare it also represents hope. We are freeing ourselves from a system that has politicised our lives. Starmer, you voted against a ceasefire and your hands are as blood-stained as Biden’s. You are an apologist for war crimes. We will be the generation to dismantle the system of oppression. Gaza is our teacher. We will see a free Palestine within our lifetimes.’

Emily Stevenson from Na’amod said: ‘I’m proud to march with the Jewish Bloc. I know my ancestors would be proud of me standing here. My ancestors were driven from their homes in Spain in 1492. I have never been so proud to be Jewish and to be marching with you.’

Palestinian journalist Ahmed Alnaouq said: ‘In the first Nakba in 1948 my grandmother was giving birth to my father. I lost my father, sister, nieces and nephews in the recent months in Gaza. The first Nakba did not end. This is not the second Nakba. This is the beginning of the liberation and not only in Palestine but everywhere. We are all Palestinians. Those who protest for Palestine all over the world, you are all Palestinians. We are beginning our journey to end apartheid. There are many who are complicit in the war crimes in Gaza – Sunak and the Tories and Starmer and Labour. They are all complicit.’

Friends of Al-Aqsa director Dr Ismail Patel said: ‘We are marking 76 years of Nakba. In imposing the state of Israel hundreds of massacres were carried out. It was established on the bones of millions. Above all the Nakba is the dehumanisation of the Palestinians. There is no way of satisfying the Zionist genocide – they have to be defeated. Share prices in companies supporting Israel are plummeting. The Palestinian people are winning their freedom. From the river to the sea Palestine will be free!’

Raghad Altikriti, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: ‘Despite 76 of years of brutal oppression the Palestinian spirit remains unbroken. We stand here 76 years on as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Palestinian people. The Nakba is a call to action. End the genocide and the entire colonial settler system!’

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘We are here to show our undying solidarity with the Palestinian people. On the day that 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes on the Nakba 76 years ago many went to Gaza. We demand a ceasefire now. End the occupation, justice for Palestine. Thank you to the students all around the world, thank you to the artists who refused to perform at the Brighton Festival because it was sponsored by Barclays. We will not give up demanding Britain stops arming Israel.’

Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza said: ‘The Gaza genocide has gone on for 226 days today but hope is in the people not in the governments. I didn’t believe I would stay alive in the bombing. The occupation is using all the weapons against us. We all have to do more to stop the genocide.’

Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell said: ‘There are now only at best two hospitals operating in Gaza. Every child killed by the IDF is a war crime. I want to say that I want to see Netanyahu in court.’

Singer-songwriter Yousef Cat Stevens said: ‘It is beautiful to be here with you today. I’ve seen you on the telly week after week and I’m very proud to be here today. We’ve got to stop the killing and the bombing of innocent children in Gaza. Every human being should have a conscience. You are the peace train that will be coming down the track one day.’

Libby Nolan president of Unison said: ‘We demand an immediate permanent ceasefire now. End the arms trade. It’s four months since the world’s highest court demanded action to prevent the genocide and still it continues. At least 493 of my fellow health workers in Gaza have been killed. Still this government suspends funding to UNRWA. Restore funding now!’

Egyptian Palestinian author and founder of the Palestine festival, PalFest, Ahdaf Soueif, said: ‘There have been eight decades of displacement and genocide. We have seen children, for goodness sake, stamping on aid meant for Palestinian children. A free Palestine means a world free of oppression. It will be won through the resilience of Gaza and the steadfastness of its supporters.’

CND leader Kate Hudson said: ‘We stand with the people of Gaza. We stand with the hundreds of millions across the world and most inspirational are the students. We need to see this work growing, not just among students but with the trade unions as well. We say to our trade unions you must step up, respond to the call from the Palestinian trade unions. We’re seven months into this genocide and still the arms are being sent from the UK. Rise up and stop these weapons. Together we must be an unstoppable force to stop this genocide.’

Lujain Abdullah from the Palestinian Forum in Britain said: ‘I salute the students and our Jewish brothers and sisters who refuse to let the Zionists speak for them. Justice is when we return to our homes. Justice is when we liberate Palestine from the river to the sea. I promise you the flag of the Zionist colonial entity will go down and the flag of the Palestinian state will go up.’

Andrew Feinstein, former South African MP and an independent parliamentary candidate for Holborn and Saint Pancras, standing against Keir Starmer in the next General Election, said: ‘I stand here proudly as a Jew and a resident of Holborn and St Pancras. We experienced a Nakba in 1652 in South Africa when the first European settlers arrived. What brought an end to apartheid in South Africa was the millions around the world, including the students in the UK, rising up for us. Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally and that is why South Africa returned to the International Court of Justice this week. If it doesn’t rule in favour of Gaza then the rule of law will cease to exist.’

Eddie Dempsey, assistant general secretary of the RMT said: ‘To the students who are occupying the campuses, you are an inspiration. Despite the politicians trying to portray you as a hate marchers this is a march for the freedom of the world. Demand your trade unions join in.’

The final speaker was Ben Jamal the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who said: ‘We have marched for the 14th time today and once more we are over a quarter of a million strong. The Nakba never ended. It has been a 76-year process of apartheid colonisation but today we celebrate 76 years of ongoing resistance. We must end the complicity of our government. That demand is echoing in towns and cities and universities across the UK. Tomorrow will be a Palestinian day. Join the pickets of complicit companies and stop the arms to Israel. The day is near when the sun will rise over a free Palestine.’