‘Free, free Palestine!’ shouted crowds at a 10,000-strong rally for the women and children of Gaza on Saturday, called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition.
It was one of dozens of events across the country.
Placards read ‘Stop the genocide in Gaza’, ‘Stop killing children’, and ‘Justice for Palestine’ as well as ‘Free Palestine’.
News Line spoke to some of the participants as they assembled.
NHS doctor Nusrat Cheema from west London said: ‘I’m here to protest against the tragedy which is continuing in Gaza against the Palestinians by Israel with the help of the international powers. They are all together.
‘It’s a planned massacre they are doing.
‘They are killing everything that moves.
‘And it’s economical, social and financial destruction of the Palestinians – that’s what they are aiming to do.
‘We believe they will fail in their design.
‘The Palestinians will not give in. When you occupy a country you can’t expect you’ll get a hero’s welcome in that country.
‘Human blood is very precious. There should not be blood shed for nefarious designs.
‘The British people should give voice to affect the foreign policy of this country to stop the Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians.’
Amir Hasan, a marketing manager, told News Line: ‘I’m here to demonstrate against Zionist occupation of Palestinian land, to peacefully protest against the failure of governments, both Western and Arab, to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
‘I also call for the UN to be radically overhauled over its failure to stem this crisis.’
School youth Aliya Alidina and Kirsty Murney spoke to News Line.
Aliya said: ‘Our government needs to open its eyes and stop supporting Israel.
‘The Israelis are the only terrorists.’
Kirsty added: ‘They should stop killing the women and children and just get the Israeli troops out.’
Aliya continued: ‘They should lift the siege on Gaza.
‘They’ve been starving them and strangling them for ages.
‘There definitely should be a boycott of Israeli goods.’
Hungarian student Zsuzsa Nago said: ‘I’m protesting against the shameful, aggressive over-militarised Israeli massacre and bombardment of Gaza, supported by the American and the British government as well.
‘Everybody should take action.
‘I hope no more people are going to die, no more civilians are going to die.’
The first speaker Tony Benn told the rally: ‘When women and children are killed it becomes a moral question.’
He added: ‘Royal Navy warships should escort all ships taking humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
‘The RAF should fly supplies and journalists to Gaza.
‘We should recall the Israeli ambassador, recognise the Palestinian state and negotiate with Hamas now, and not let any Israeli planes land in the UK.’
Campaigning journalist Victoria Britain condemned the Gaza ‘nightmare of bloodshed and death, and wounded and mutilated children’.
‘We’ve seen tanks, bombs and phosphorus bombs full of fire fall on hospitals, schools and mosques.
‘All of you know that over 1,100 people have been killed, three hundred of them children.’
She added: ‘People have been asked is this the blackest time for Palestinians.
‘Since 1948, there have seen black times. In 1982 at Sabra and Shatilla thousands were killed. In Tal al-Zat’ar thousands were massacred.
‘The world must not forget Gaza. It has been under siege for two years.’
She concluded by calling for ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ against Israel ‘enough is enough’.
Eleven-year-old Palestinian Relah Adema said: ‘I live in Manchester and come from Gaza.
‘In 22 days Israel has killed 1,172 people and injured over 5,000. over 300 of these are children.
‘In Gaza, 800,000 children still go to sleep to the sound of fighter planes and missiles.
‘This criminal behaviour must be stopped.
‘What Israel is doing in Gaza is unacceptable, it’s a crime against humanity.
‘I want to see an end to Israeli occupation.
‘I want to live in a free Gaza – Free Palestine!’
Palestinian Forum speaker Sumaya Almari declared: ‘Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry – We will never let you die.
‘I’ve a message to the world leaders. They teach us in college that for every action there’s a reaction.
‘They told us this is for objects.
‘What about human beings – are they not allowed to react, are they not allowed to protect themselves?
‘Gordon Brown, it’s time for you to listen to your people.
‘Stop the support for Israel now.
‘Don’t send and don’t support the arms for Israel.
‘Hamas will continue to fight for their right to their land.
‘Israeli ambassador, we don’t want you here.
‘The NUS is shameful not to take a positive stand.
‘To take the side of the oppressor is shameful.’
GMB trade union international officer Jenny McDougall read out a message from Venezuela condemning the killing of women and children and calling for an immediate end to the Israeli bombing.
Liberal Democrat peer Jenny Tonge said: ‘If we are going to use the word courage, we have to use it for the women and children of Gaza.
‘Bombs tear people apart. It is a disgusting, obscene outrage what is going on in Gaza.
‘We have to persuade our politicians – no more arms for Israel, embargo.
‘Suspend the EU trade agreement and if necessary a full-blown embargo.
‘This must be stopped. Gaza is the result of 60 years of illegal occupation.
‘The resistance must continue. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.
‘Dawn will come. Palestine must be free.’
Lindsay German of Stop the War Coalition condemned the shelling of another school.
She pointed out: ‘Israel could not do what it does without the support of the US, British and Arab governments.’
She added: ‘This weekend it’s goodbye to George Bush. Don’t let America continue what it’s doing with Obama.’
Condemning the terms demanded by Israel, she added: ‘It’s not a ceasefire if the Palestinians don’t have the right to defend themselves.
‘Self-defence is no offence and that applies to the Palestinians more than anyone.’
German called on the Brown government to ‘expel the Israeli ambassador and to stop exporting arms to Israel.’
She called on young people to ‘occupy schools and colleges’ and called on unions to ‘organise against this’.
Palestinian singer Reem Kelani said: ‘Israel is appropriating our culture. Israel is stealing our anthem.’
She added that ‘1948 Arabs have demonstrated against the bombing of Gaza.
‘Ten thousand Bedouin demonstrated. In Nazareth 120,000 demonstrated.
‘We are reclaiming our culture, we are reclaiming our national anthem’ and proceeded to give a passionate rendition of the national song.
NUS black students officer Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy condemned the NUS national leadership for ‘not supporting the people of Gaza’ and ‘refusing to support a demonstration’.
London School of Economics occupier Mira Hammond said: ‘We have to take action.
‘Israel cannot claim self-defence.
‘The ceasefire will mean nothing to the people of Gaza.
‘We need to provide an end to occupation and free Palestine.’
The meeting was also addressed by Labour MP Diane Abbott and Betty Hunter and Jane Chalice of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
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