‘The Zionist project is coming to an end; we are freeing Palestine inch by inch, foot by foot,’ a defiant Hamas representative told a Free Palestine mass rally in central London on Saturday.
Speaking in Trafalgar Square at the end of a 5,000-strong march, Azzam al-Tamimi said the Israelis are ‘killing our women using F-16s and carrying out assassinations of our leaders.
‘Now they are starving us – do you think it will end the resistance? We give our lives for Palestine!
‘Now they are trying to drive us into a civil war. We will not allow that, we are brothers – Fatah and Hamas – together we will be free.
‘I say to the gangsters being paid by Cheney and his gang, you can go to hell! These intrigues will not work.
‘I welcome the true Jews, not the Zionist gangsters, and look forward to a free Palestine where Jews, Muslims, and Christians can live in peace.
‘Free Palestine! End the occupation!’
Large numbers of young people were on the march that set off from the Embankment.
There were banners and delegations from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Teachers branches, GMB London Region, the TSSA rail union national banner, Hammersmith and Camden trades councils, School Students Against War, and Jews for Justice for Palestine.
A lively Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists delegation won big support, keeping up chants of ‘Stop starving the Palestinians, bring down Blair!’, ‘Victory to Palestine, smash Zionism now!’, Smash imperialism, forward to socialism!’
News Line spoke to several of the marchers before they set off.
Jomana Jowhar, 18, a student from Palestine, said: ‘It’s ridiculous what’s happening. I just don’t understand how the Americans can see this behaviour by the Israelis and not do anything, and Britain as well.
‘Cutting off the aid is inhumane. It’s not for Hamas, it’s for the Palestinians.
‘The Hamas government was elected by the Palestinians. It was a democratic election.
‘The West should recognise Hamas as a democratically-elected government.
‘I agree with Hamas saying Palestinians have the right to armed resistance.’
Lamiya Dukali, 18, a Moroccan born in Britain, added: ‘Governments should help the people who are dying every day, not just in Palestine but all over the world.
‘I don’t understand why Britain and America are cutting off aid to the Palestinians because of Hamas.
‘Hamas is a party. Cutting off aid is not just to Hamas but to the whole of Palestine and causing unnecessary deaths.
‘I’m for the victory of the Palestinians and kicking out Bush and Blair.’
Luay Alrifai, a civil engineer from Birmingham told News Line: ‘I’m extremely unhappy with the world attitude toward Palestine. I feel it’s unjust and unfair.
‘It’s about Palestinian rights, the West’s denial of those rights and the failure to back an honest position.
‘America in particular, is utterly unfair in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It’s utterly one-sided in favour of Israel.’
Mohammed Burzel, a Palestinian from Lod living in the UK said: ‘It is a continuous struggle, we don’t have a choice.
‘We appreciate the support of the people here.
‘I sent an email to Dr Richard Seaforth from Exeter University. He has taken a courageous stand in boycotting an Israeli doctor because of the attitude of her government.
‘It’s important at a time when the Israelis are elimiating the West Bank universities.
‘The British and American governments are supporting the Israeli government.
‘They support each other. They have the same interests.
‘I welcome any organisation that takes sides in support of the Palestinians.
‘I was a political prisoner for four years. My brother has been for 18 years.
‘I want to see the end of Zionism. I think that all human beings would want to see that.’
Steve Bonham from Leicester Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) added: ‘I find it ironic that there are economic sanctions against the Palestinians but not the aggressor state, Israel.
‘It’s important that the Labour movement stands up for the rights of Palestinian workers and farmers.
‘I know just how difficult it is for them to go about their day-by-day life with all the restrictions. It takes hours to move around with all the checkpoints.
‘The British unions should take action. I certainly believe the Labour Party needs to have a change of leader.’
East London PSC member Miriam Scharf said: ‘Hamas must be supported.
‘The government here wanted the Palestinians to have free and fair elections, which they have had.
‘Hamas is now a freely elected government which is standing up for its people. We must support this governement.
‘We are demanding that aid for the Palestinians is immediately re-instituted and there should be sanctions against Israel.’
Ann Seuret, Southwark NUT joint divisional secretary, told News Line: ‘The NUT is in total support of the Palestinian people and their struggle against the repression of the Israeli state.
‘The suffering of children, women, men and teachers in Palestine is an international disgrace.
‘My 12-year-old son is on this demonstration with me because he supports the Palestinian people.
‘The US and its allies in thinking are totally hypocritical in their attitude towards democratic governments with whom they disagree.
‘The aid must be restored and Hamas recognised as a legitimate government, elected democratically by the people of Palestine.’
PLO representative Dr Emmanuel Assassian told the Trafalgar Square rally: ‘Almost one million Palestinians over the past two months have been deprived of food and medicines.
‘It is ironic that the West, who have been preaching democracy and the rule of law, have reneged on it.’
He asked: ‘Do we have to be subservient to occupation? Do we have to continue paying the price of Israeli state terror?
‘I stand before you with tears in my eyes because of what is happening in Palestine, to see the pain of the children.’
He concluded: ‘The Palestinians want a just and permanent solution, not unilateralism. The answer is simple – end the occupation.’
Zaher al-Beerawi of the Palestine Forum in Britain saluted Palestinians’ ‘magnificent example’ in ‘resisting occupation, exercising democracy and staying steadfast under a brutal sanctions regime’.
He added: ‘To the American government and those who stand in their camp supporting sanctions imposed on our people in Palestine and stealing the milk of Palestinian babies – to them we say that the Palestinians will never forgive them if they do not put an end to this inhumane policy.’
Beerawi warned the British government that ‘continuing the unethical policy of forcing the victim to give in to the aggressor’s demands and policies will reinforce the belief that the British government is a collaborator in the conspiracy against the Palestinians’.
He concluded: ‘This demonstration confirms that the majority of the people in the West support us by still calling for our right to independence, freedom from occupation and to establish our state on all our occupied land, with Jerusalem as its capital.’
Demonstrators were prevented from using loud hailers near the Houses of Parliament.
As the march approached Westminster, protesters were told by police, ‘If you use load hailers we will have to arrest you.’