‘IT IS TIME to get serious. It is time to go all the way and uproot the virus of occupation. We demand sanctions on Israel now!’ Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Said Zomlot told the more than 8,000-strong demonstration outside the gates of Downing Street in central London on Saturday afternoon.
The rally was called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, CND, Stop the War and Friends of al-Aqsa to coincide with the G7 Summit in Cornwall.
Zomlot told the predominantly youthful cheering crowd: ‘We are gaining momentum. It was London that led the anti-Apartheid movement. In the 1980s it was ordinary people like you who forced the issue of Apartheid.
‘We have heard a lot of talk but now it is time for action. It is time to get serious. We demand sanctions – ban all illegal settlement products, an arms embargo immediately and end Israel’s exceptionalism.
‘Israel can’t continue occupation. Stop evictions. We have the right to return, this is non-negotiable.
‘For 15 years Gaza has been besieged from air and land. 15-year-old Gazan children have seen four wars. Enough! End Israel’s occupation that began in 1967.
‘The UK government has voted to recognise the state of Palestine. What are they waiting for? Do it now,’ Zomlot concluded to huge cheers from the crowd, who responded with chants of: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’
The first speaker was Unite international officer Simon Dubbins, who said: ‘I’m here representing 1.2 million Unite members in solidarity with Palestine. It is Israel that has occupied Palestine, Israel that has blockaded and bombed Gaza, Israel that violates international law and nothing is done about it.
‘End arms sales, sanction Israel. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement played an important role in ending apartheid in South Africa. We must do the same for Palestine.’
Glyn Secker from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said: ‘Israel boasts of highly targeted bombings – yes, it has hit six hospitals, 27 Covid clinics.
‘Weapons factories here in the UK are being occupied – magnificent. We must support those comrades in court.
‘It is also a magnificent example from the Italian and South African dockers who have boycotted Israeli goods.
‘What we saw in South Africa is happening in Palestine. Yes, Biden called a halt to Israel’s attacks, but they do this every four years. It’s time for freedom and justice for Palestine.’
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) London Chairman Carol Turner said: ‘We are here standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Palestine against the nuclear-armed Israeli state.
‘There are more than 8,000 of us here today and thousands more in towns and cities around the UK.
‘Our message to the G7 countries meeting in Cornwall today is – stop arming and supporting Israel. Free, free Palestine!’
Stop the War Coalition Convener Lindsay German said: ‘The Palestinians will not stand back and allow themselves to be ethnically cleansed and bombed.
‘The annexation turned into an insurrection. We don’t want an apartheid regime. We want BDS and the right to return.
‘Israel could not do what it does without the support of the UK and US. We have a mass movement here and we’re not going to stop.’
Dr Maha Azzam, from the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, said: ‘The Palestinian cause is at the heart of the struggle for the oppressed.
‘We will not accept a Bantustan. If the Zionists feel cornered they will offer us a Bantustan. No! There is no such thing as a two-state solution.
‘This is a struggle for the freedom of the region and at its heart is the struggle for Palestine. The people’s young are leading the movement and we need to win.’
Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, said: ‘It was the British banks that funded the apartheid regime in South Africa and is doing so now in occupied Palestine. The City of London must stop funding the apartheid regime in Israel.
‘Mass demonstrations stopped the bombing of Gaza, now we want action to stop the City of London funding Israel.’
University and College Union General Secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We stand united with the global solidarity movement for Palestine. Israel denies the Palestinian people their inalienable rights.
‘For over 100 years Palestinian schools have been under siege, first by the British, then by Israel since 1948.
‘Israeli occupation forces raid Birzeit University in Ramallah. In the past two decades 28 Birzeit students have been killed. Israel razes Palestinian schools to the ground.’
Former Labour Party leader and MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘We are united in support for the Palestinian people. The demonstrations since the bombing of Gaza and the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah have reverberated all over the world. Especially pleasing is the power of the movement in cities all over the USA.
‘Our demands are clear: End the occupation of the West Bank. Withdraw all settlements. End the siege of Gaza.
‘I’ve been to Gaza many times where there are constant power cuts, shortages of water and medicines. Occupation is wrong, siege is wrong. End the occupation, end the sale of arms to Israel.
‘We demand the end of British complicity in Israeli war crimes.
‘I was proud to put into our manifesto in the 2019 election recognise Palestine. This must now be achieved.’
Shamal Aja, of Friends of al-Aqsa, said: ‘In Parliament on Monday they will debate sanctions on Israel. However, the government has made their position clear to oppose.
‘We stand strong. We want justice, we want action, we want boycott, we want sanctions.’
Leanne Mohamed, 20-year-old British Palestinian student, said: ‘They really thought a ceasefire would silence us and lead us to forget Palestine.
‘But the war crimes, occupation and apartheid continue. We need to take action. We want sanctions and an end to all military occupation.
‘There is a student protest and day of action for Palestine on 9th July at London University.’
Chi-Chi Shi, Campaigns Officer for War on Want, said: ‘War on Want has a proud record of standing with Palestine. Across the West Bank there are land grabs. Israel’s brutality in Gaza is written in the rubble. Palestinians are united in defiance. It is our duty to act for Palestine.’
Musician and rapper Lowkey said: ‘We say to the 12.5 million Palestinians around the globe “we are your siblings”. Palestinian resistance is morally and legally right. All occupied people have the right to protect themselves.
‘Schoolchildren in this country are being victimised and expelled for supporting Palestine. Tell your trade unions, the teachers union, Unite, to act on the motions they have passed to stop the arming of Israel.’
Writer Barbaby Raine said: ‘We must build a world where all the checkpoints are gone. The Palestinians have taught us that however many guns you have, however many bombs you drop you will never destroy the human spirit.
‘Zionism cannot imagine Jews, Christians and Muslims living in peace together. But we will raise high the flag, from the river to the sea Palestine will be free.’
The final speaker was Kamel Hawwash, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chair, who said: ‘I have just come off a call from my cousin’s family in Sheikh Jarrah, who are threatened with eviction. We say to Israel we will not stand for their ethnic cleansing. I for one want to be able to return to Palestine.
‘Boris Johnson wrote to Conservative Friends of Israel that he supports the International Criminal Court (ICC) except in relation to its position relating to Israel.’
Pointing to the middle of the crowd, he continued: ‘Look at that banner with Nelson Mandela’s wonderful saying “Our freedom is not complete until the freedom of Palestine.”
‘The British people have spoken – they stand with the people of Palestine against apartheid Israel.’
After the rally, nurse David Cwagon told News Line: ‘I’m against Israeli apartheid. There must be a state of Palestine and the state of Israel must be boycotted. Israel is a terrorist state and must be boycotted.’
Transport worker Robert Latham said: ‘America continues to fund and give military aid to Israel. There are massive demonstrations all over the world led by the young. The new generation won’t tolerate it any more.’
Tamara Hammudeh, paramedic and Unison member, told News Line: ‘The BDS campaign helped end apartheid in South Africa, it must be stepped up for Palestine and the trade unions have to get involved. There must be a state of Palestine.’