OVER 15,000 workers and youth demonstrated in London on Saturday to mark the 74th anniversary of Nakba Day, marching from BBC Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus to a rally at Downing Street.
The march was led by scores of Palestinians, mostly children, holding keys, representing the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families evicted from their homes in their homes in the Zionist terror that was the Nakba 74 years ago yesterday, on May 15th 1948.
There were hundreds of placards with portraits of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, saying ‘Justice for Shireen – End Israeli Apartheid!’ Shireen was murdered by an Israeli sniper while reporting on Palestinian evictions in Jenin last Wednesday.
Other placards said: ‘Sanctions on Israel – Free Palestine! Gaza – End the Siege! Shireen – Israel can’t kill the Truth! Our taxes fund Israeli War Crimes!’ There were hundreds of Palestinian flags.
The Young Socialists banner read: ‘Charge Israel with War Crimes! End the Occupation! Victory to Palestine!’ Behind it was a loud and lively delegation chanting: ‘End Israeli Occupation – Forward to a Palestinian State! Charge Israel with War Crimes – End Imperialism Now! Stop Israeli Evictions – Victory to Palestine!’
There were speeches outside the BBC while the march was assembling.
NEU teachers union National Executive Committee (NEC) member Louise Regan said: ‘I am very proud to say that the NEU recently passed a motion supporting BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions). I was devastated when Shireen was murdered doing her job in Jenin. The Palestinian people don’t need our tears, they need our voice and our action. Now is the time for justice. Free Palestine!’
Austin Harley, PCS civil service union NEC member, said: ‘On the 74th anniversary of the Nakba we condemn Israel for its atrocities. We condemn the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and we demand the return to Palestine of seven million Palestinians in exile.’
David Rosenburg, Jewish Socialists Group, said: ‘Yesterday in Berlin they banned a pro-Palestine demonstration, claiming that it was anti-Semitic – an outrageous lie. Meanwhile, despite its history, the German state regularly tolerates far right marches.’
Chi Chi Shi, from War on Want, said: ‘Tomorrow is Nakba Day, but the Nakba never ended. Today thousands of Palestinians face expulsion from their homes. Yesterday, the world watched in horror as Shireen’s funeral procession came under attack. British bulldozers are flattening Palestinian homes. Israel acts with impunity but Palestinians stand steadfast. The Palestinian struggle is our struggle. It is our duty to ensure a free Palestine.’
Labour MP John McDonnell said: ‘The Nakba has never ended. This week, journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by an Israeli bullet when she was reporting on Palestinian homes in Jenin being bulldozed by Israeli tractors. And in Britain the government brought forth legislation to make it illegal to boycott Israel. I will oppose the legislation at every opportunity I get. I am calling on the Labour Party to oppose this legislation.’
The march set off with chants of ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4 – Occupation no More! 5, 6, 7, 8 _ Israel is a terrorist state!’
As the march was assembling and then as it proceeded through the busy London streets, people spoke to News Line.
Sana Miah, a taxi driver from Wood Green, north London, who was marching with his young son, said: ‘Palestine is a country which has been occupied for 70-plus years. Israel is brutally killing people every day and evicting people from the houses their families have lived in for hundreds of years. I am going to take part in the protests and do whatever I can do until Palestine is free. Israel must be stopped. Victory to Palestine.’
Nour Jalyuli, a student from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘I’m Palestinian and I believe there should be justice for the Palestinian people. The UK government is complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. With every Palestinian death we mourn the deaths of every Palestinian that was killed unjustly. There must be one united Palestine. Sometimes it’s strange to have to explain our right to existence to others.’
Awoss Al-Salih, a finance worker from east London, said: ‘I’ve always come out for the Palestinian cause, but this time I had to come out after the killing of the Palestinian journalist. And also, even though it was over 70 years ago, it’s very important to maintain the awareness and western media is completely biased and does not show the reality of what’s happening.
‘All you have to do is read the Balfour agreement, it is Zionism. I’m not anti-Jewish in the slightest. Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in peace in Palestine and must do so again. My grandparents told me about how close the bond was between them and their Jewish neighbours. They married into each other’s families.
‘Algeria used to be under French rule and it took a million lives to free the country, likewise with Libya from Italy. I believe the instability of the Middle East works for the western agenda, hence the Balfour Agreement.’
Gareth Murphy carried the Football Against Apartheid banner. He said: ‘We support the rights of Palestinians and are for a boycott against Israel, especially a sporting boycott. We have several banners – Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal against Apartheid. Israeli teams shouldn’t be playing in European competitions, in the same way they shouldn’t be in Eurovision. It’s not just that Israel is not part of Europe, also it is a pariah state and must be boycotted in every way.’
Carrying the Camden Unison banner, David Cohen said: ‘The trade unions have to raise their voices for Palestine. It’s outrageous that the government are moving to outlaw boycotting Israel. The trade unions have to stand up for that right. Most governments are complicit with Israel. The unions must lead the fight.’
Baij Kara, a sushi chef from Leyton in east London, said: ‘I hate inequality and my Palestinian friend told me to come. The journalist getting killed was a terrible pointless death. The Israeli soldiers are trigger-happy.’
Andrew Bashi, a student at University of West London, said: ‘The world is outraged at what is happening in Palestine. The Israeli occupation has to end. The people are suffering and fighting. The media just goes on about what is happening in Ukraine, but what about Palestine?’
First speaker at the rally outside Downing Street, Labour MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana, said: ‘After the Israeli state murdered the brave journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last Wednesday it raided her home. Then it attacked her coffin-bearers and violently attacked the mourners. It is not a democratic state, it is an apartheid state. Remember there was a time when the apartheid state in South Africa seemed immovable. If South Africa can end apartheid, then so can Palestine.’
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘We are here to mark the Nakba and also to honour in our grief the murder of Shireen. Then we saw the mourners attacked with batons and stun grenades. Since 2016 Britain has sold over £400 million of weapons to the Israeli state. Israel has up to 400 nuclear bombs that could destroy the whole Middle East region. Viva Palestine. Viva Gaza.’
Andrew Murray from Stop the War, said: ‘There will never be peace in the Middle East without justice for Palestine. The Israeli regime reveals through its colonial settler nature that it can only exist though violence. The Israeli regime is an apartheid racist regime. We have to defeat Johnson and Starmer and all Israel’s collaborators.’
A young woman, Jenin Hourani, made the most powerful speech. She said: ‘I was named after the city Jenin. I was eight when I watched Shireen reporting on the Jenin Massacre. It is because of her that my generation understands our history.
‘There were over 400 Palestinian villages erased in 1948. The Nakba is ongoing. To Israel’s horror we are still here. Shireen was a voice for our struggle and that is why she was murdered. Shireen is the 55th journalist murdered by Israel.
‘They can try as hard as they can to silence us but our voice is only going to get louder. We will resist until every inch of Palestine is free, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.’
Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy said: ‘It is an honour to join with you today to mark this 74th anniversary of the Nakba. In Ireland we know well the experience of when people are murdered their funeral is attacked. Even in death there is no peace. Israel is aN apartheid state.’
Liz Wheatley, Camden Unison Branch Secretary, said: ‘Unison has a very long and proud history of support for Palestine. We also send our solidarity to the families who lost their homes in the Nakba.
‘We are public sector workers and we demand that our pensions are not invested in the buldozers that demolish Palestinian homes. And the attempt to pass laws making a boycott of Israel illegal we won’t allow. We will boycott Israel. No justice, no peace.’
Hugh Lanning, from Labour in Palestine, said: ‘The last three Labour Party Conferences voted to support Palestine but that is not being represented by the leadership.
‘Labour must oppose the anti-BDS laws. Israel is an apartheid state and must be acted against. We say shame on every politician, every journalist, every human that turns a blind eye. We are stronger together. Justice for Shireen, Justice for Palestine.’
Final speaker, Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘My grandparents were forced to flee their home in 1948, never to return, but dying in Lebanon. On Wednesday Israeli troops assassinated Shireen.
‘Israel’s strategy of colonialism rests on the belief that the old will die and the young will forget. But the Palestinian people will never forget and will never give up. Boris Johnson’s government introduces a law preventing public bodies supporting Palestine, but 50 unions and civil society organisations oppose the bill and will oppose it.
‘Tomorrow the Palestinians will pause on Nakba Day, but we will never stop marching, we will never stop protesting and we will never stop boycotting until we achieve our aims. Free, Free Palestine!’
• More photos in gallery