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The News Line: Feature ‘FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA PALESTINE WILL BE FREE’
Palestinian footballer MAHMOUD SARSAK (left) with London Palestinian hunger striker AYSAR SHAMALLAKH (right) and his wife
‘FROM the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ shouted Palestinians and their supporters demonstrating opposite the Israeli embassy, west London, on Saturday to mark Nakba (Catastrophe) Day.

Usually held on May 15 Nakba is the annual commemoration of the displacement by terror that preceded and followed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Bilal Mohd, a Palestinian studying in London, told News Line: ‘I’m here for Nakba. My grandparents left their homeland in 1948. My grandmother still has the key for her house. She is till hoping to go back to where she lived in her home in Palestine. She now lives in a refugee camp in Nablus in the West Bank. I visited Palestine five years ago. I was born in America and came to London to study. I want to go back to Palestine.’

Referring to the Freedom and Dignity hunger strike by 1,600 Palestinian prisoners, he continued: ‘The Palestinian prisoners went on hunger strike for very simple demands. They want medical help and their relatives to be allowed to visit them. They want more services for disabled and ill prisoners.

‘They also protest against administrative detention where you can be held without charge or trial – that’s against human rights. The hunger strike is the only way for the prisoners to protest against the violence and discrimination against them.’

Faris Ayesh, 10, was with his mother Khadra. He said: ‘I came here to stand for Palestine and make the world aware of what is going on. I’m here to support the struggle going on in the Middle East – Palestine, Syria, Iraq. Israel has taken Palestinian land and built settlements in the middle of the West Bank which I believe is an obstacle to peace.

‘The hunger strikers should be freed as they are doing this for Palestine and the Palestinian people. The workers of Britain should make the government recognise a Palestinian state. The British unions should not accept any Israeli goods or trade with Israel, most of the money goes to Zionism and the Israeli government which kills Palestinians.’

His mother Khadra said: ‘We go to these protests so we still take care of Palestinian culture, and we want support for the rights of Palestinians. On Nakba Day it’s important to support the right of return to the homeland. We teach our children that you can’t forget Palestine and the occupation has to end. The wall that they built should be destroyed.’

Roberto Cardenas, an Ecuadorian living in London, said: ‘I’m here to show my solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the hunger strikers in Israeli jails. They have had to take extreme measures. I’m against Zionism for oppressing the Palestinian people who demand the right of their own government and a Palestinian state.

‘The British government must recognise the Palestinian state as they created the problem in themselves. The British government should support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination as much as they supported Nelson Mandela fighting against apartheid in South Africa. They’ve got a statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, why is support good enough for one country but not another?

‘The British trade unions should organise a boycott of Israel, have a one-day national strike as a principle. The unions should force the British government to apologise for Balfour and stop trade with Israel.’

Nas Mohammed from Gaza, now living and working in the UK, told News Line: ‘I was born in Britain but I want to return to Palestine. It’s my parents’ homeland. I’m here today to support the 69th Nakba memory. We have been going on for over 69 years trying to explain our pain. It shouldn’t take this long to get back what is yours!

‘Our land was taken unjustly by terror. There have been massacres – Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatila. We believe the occupation should end. This is a war against Zionist thieves, not Jewish people. There are more Jewish people supporting the Palestinian cause, which is good. It shows the issue is that Zionism is a bad political movement and not a religious one.

‘The British government should apologise for Balfour, but an apology is not enough – they should be undoing the damage they caused by supporting Zionism. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is growing. The trade unions should impose a boycott on Israeli goods and trade – support BDS!’

Mahmoud Sarsak was with a delegation from Football Against Apartheid. He said: ‘I work in London. I want to return to Palestine. One day we will be there. I was in an Israeli jail for three years. I went to play with my national team and was travelling from Gaza to the West Bank.

‘That day, the Israeli army at the Israeli Erez checkpoint in north Gaza stopped me. They put me in a jail for no reason. There were no charges, no court. Most of the time they stopped my lawyer from visiting me. No-one from my family could visit me for all the three years. I started my hunger strike for three months – 96 days.

‘The Israeli government had pressure from FIFA and UEFA to release me or kick Israel out of FIFA. After that, the Israelis released me. I am proud of the hunger strikers led by Marwan Barghouthi. They are fighting for their right to be dealt with as humans, not a number. The workers of Britain should take action to demand their freedom.’

Eman Bahij told News Line: ‘I’m originally from Palestine. I was born in Denmark. My grandparents were living in Haifa. They had to flee the Zionist terror to Syria and to Lebanon where my parents were born. My mother was born in Syria. My father was born in Lebanon. They got married and went to live in Denmark. They told us children about the Palestinian cause.

‘Our grandparents told us stories about how they had to flee. We Palestinians must have the right to return. I still consider myself Palestinian. I should be able to go home and see my family house. My grandfather wanted to see Palestine before he died. I’m here today to stand for Palestine, for the Palestinian prisoners, this is the least we can do.’

Aysar Shamallakh was at the protest with his wife. ‘I am on day twelve of my hunger strike in support of the over 1,600 Palestinians on the Freedom and Dignity hunger strike in Israeli jails. My message to British workers is to pressure the British government to pressure the Israeli government to comply on human rights, international law and Geneva Convention 4.

‘This is the basic demand of the Palestinian prisoners, which is mainly humanitarian. Palestinians are dying in Israeli jails, fighting for their dignity. I salute their courage.’
 
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