OVER 800 people attended the latest fortnightly picket outside Downing Street on Saturday to demand: ‘End the siege on Gaza!’
Thousands have taken part in the pickets to demand British government action against Israel and its siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian crisis in the tiny strip of land that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians
Calling for more people to join the pickets, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said: ‘The Israeli army has closed all border crossings of the Gaza Strip since June 2006.
‘This total siege has created a humanitarian crisis, destroyed the economy and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian civilian population, particularly the rights to decent living conditions, health and education.
‘On 19 September 2007, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip “a hostile entity’’ and stepped up its collective punishment.
‘A crime is being perpetrated against the civilians in Gaza which violates international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.’
Demonstrators shouted slogans opposite the gates to Downing Street, including: ‘One, two, three, four – occupation no more! Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a Zionist state!’, ‘Free, free Palestine!’, ‘Occupation is a crime! Israel out of Palestine!’, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’, ‘End the siege on Gaza!’ and ‘Free Gaza now!’
There were placards saying things like: ‘Free Palestine – End Israeli occupation’, ‘The Wall Must Fall’ and ‘72 Palestinians died because of the siege of Gaza from lack of medical drugs in Gaza hospitals or were denied access to hospitals outside Gaza!!’
Members of the Jewish community in London also brought banners showing their opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
A samba band arrived to join the demonstration. Then the shouting stopped as the names of those who have died because of a lack of medicines during the siege were read out to the picket.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who took part in the latest picket, said: ‘I’m in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the siege and the way in which the border has now been re-sealed.
‘I think the government, as I’ve said in parliament, should first of all ensure the necessary aid gets through to Gaza as a matter of urgency and, secondly, it should suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement because of Israel’s breach of the Palestinians’ human rights.’
Jean Lambert, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), told News Line: ‘I was in Gaza on Tuesday this week and what’s going on there is an absolute humanitarian tragedy.
‘There was a delegation of MEPs from nine different countries who visited Gaza and different points on the West Bank.
‘We were being taken round by the United Nations relief agency (UNRWA) and visited a hospital in Gaza.
‘The hospitals are having to use emergency generators for general use.
‘The man in charge of the hospital said there were not enough reserve stocks of fuel to maintain power supplies.
‘The drug list that they’re working to is the one the World Health Organisation says is the absolute basic minimum in a situation of conflict and they’re running low or running out of some drugs, and when we were there it was particularly cancer treatment drugs.’
She added: ‘They’ve got 10 kidney dialysis machines which are out of use because they can’t get an engineer in across the border to fix them and they can’t get the parts.
‘You can see from the posters here naming Palestinians who have died that people are dying because they can’t get out of Gaza for treatment. They estimate that 80 patients have died so far because of this.
‘There was a seven-year-old boy who was on dialysis treatment. He’s in a critical condition and really needs treatment outside Gaza and he’s been refused exit as a “security risk’’! He’s seven years old.
‘The hospital was teetering on the brink of collapse.’
Lambert said that ‘the British government should be immediately exerting maximum pressure at the EU end to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement.’
Clive Bettington, who also joined Saturday’s demonstration, said: ‘I think Israel’s committing human rights violations against the people of Gaza and the Palestinians generally, and it’s time the West stopped supporting Israel blindly.
‘I’m against the occupation and I believe in a Palestinian state where everyone can live together, and the right of return of the refugees.
‘I think the present Labour government is very strongly pro-Israeli and they’re never going to criticise the Israeli government and Blair’s mission in the Middle East is a complete farce.’
Omar, another demonstrator, said: ‘We want the Gazan people to see the pictures of us demonstrating against the siege they are under.
‘The people of Gaza need the world to know that they’re being oppressed.
‘Anyone who is going through any kind of difficulty, when they know there is someone who sympathises with them, then it makes them stronger.’
Lana Hashem said: ‘I’m here to lift the siege on Gaza.
‘I’m of Palestinian origin. I want to see more people turn out every fortnight on these demonstrations to support the Palestinians.
‘Israel has got away with far too much for far too long and people are blinded to what’s going on.
‘I think we need to press the government to change its policy.
‘There needs to be international action to lift the siege and make Palestine a viable state.
‘Palestinians don’t want to live under occupation – nobody wants to live under occupation – and something’s got to change.
‘The British government has to tell the American government to stop supporting Israel.
‘Israel would not be where it is without America. They give billions every year to the Israeli state and give them weapons.’
Citing a United Nations ‘OCHA Special Focus’ December 2007 report, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: ‘Palestinians are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Food imports cover only 41 per cent of demand. 80 per cent of Gazans receive food aid and 80 per cent live below the poverty line.
‘People who are seriously ill are being prevented from accessing essential medical treatment outside Gaza. . .
‘Israel is cutting fuel and electricity supplies, affecting essential health and water facilities. 210,000 people are able to access drinking water for only 1-2 hours a day.
‘Meanwhile, the Israeli army continues its attacks on the imprisoned Palestinian people of Gaza, demolishing homes, factories and agricultural land and carrying out arrests.
‘Fatal bombing raids continue, killing Palestinian men, women and children.
‘The Israeli, EU, US and British governments hope to overturn the results of the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006, declared free and fair by the international community.
‘This siege is punishing the Palestinians for simply exercising their democratic right to choose their own representatives.’