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The front banner on the march in Oxford Street
OVER 20,000 workers and youth along with Palestinians living in the UK, marched through the streets of London on Saturday to ‘Make it Right for Palestine’.

The protest marked the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration that led to the violent creation of the Zionist state and denounced Apartheid Israel. The marchers held signs reading ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Justice for Palestine,’ while they chanted: ‘Free, free Palestine’ and ‘Occupation no more.’

A lively Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists delegation received support for its slogans ‘Recognise the Palestinian State – Kick the Tories out!’ and ‘Apologise for Balfour – Kick the Tories out!’ as well as ‘End occupation – Free Palestine!’

The march assembled outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square where there was a short rally before proceeding to a rally in Parliament Square. There was a large police presence and the march was held up on several occasions as police moved on a provocative small counter-demonstration by Zionists waving Israeli flags and one Union Jack Flag.

At the initial rally, Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan said: ‘There’s been a great affinity between the Irish and Palestinians, who have both endured occupation. Balfour is known in Ireland as bloody Balfour. You can go to Belfast and see the Palestinian flag flying. I visited Palestine recently and saw the horrors going on. Israel is an Apartheid state. About 7,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, several hundred on administrative detention, which we know as internment. I call on my government to recognise the state of Palestine and to boycott Israel.’

Young British Palestinian Leanne Mohammad told the crowd: ‘Balfour condemned an entire population to occupation and Apartheid. The British government must take responsibility and apologise. Why do people still question the existence of Palestine? Israel has no right to steal our land. We are demanding justice. The Palestinians have the right to their land and freedom. We shall return. We must wake up, speak up and make a change.’

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘Nelson Mandela was right when he called on people to boycott the state of Israel and called it an Apartheid state. Palestinian students don’t have a right to study. It is right to say that any government that represses others is wrong. We have a responsibility to right that wrong. Balfour was 100 years ago, our responsibility starts now.’

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian told the opening rally: ‘Free Palestine! This (UK) government has no right to celebrate Balfour, it should apologise. Israel is not a democracy, it is an Apartheid state. It is oppressing our people. You (the crowd) are the ones who can make a change, you can vote in a different government that will recognise the state of Palestine.

‘We want to end the occupation and end the siege of Gaza. Imperialism is over. Our people will struggle until the complete freedom of Palestine. The UK has responsibility and the will of the people, you, are going to make a difference.’

News Line spoke to protesters as they assembled. Young Palestinian living in Britain, Ali Ahmed, 13, said: ‘I’m here to support my country about the Balfour Declaration. It’s unfair. Balfour gave our country to another people who took over half the country aggressively. This year is the 100th anniversary of Balfour. We want peace and an end of war. British workers should stand up for Palestinians.’

Palestine Solidarity Campaign Director Ben Jamal told News Line: ‘This demonstration is first of all protesting about the Balfour Declaration. And giving a message that the British government should not be celebrating the Balfour Declaration but apologising for an act of imperialism that disregarded the rights of Palestinians.’

Sarah Palmer, Coventry Friends of Palestine, said: ‘I have family in Palestine. Because what is happening there is not on the general media, I can tell my family how in Europe we are fighting their cause. Palestinians feel they are not getting a lot of help because people are not aware of their situation.

‘Workers in Britain should be approaching our MPs and telling our government more. We shouldn’t be allowing this – genocide, the imprisonment of children, the lack of Palestinian rights, destroying Palestinian homes – to happen. British workers should take strike action – anything that helps. We should get rid of this Tory government. A lot of Tory ministers have interests in Israel.’

History teacher Russell Brandwood said: ‘We want a fair peace for the Palestinians and that implies a nation state for the Palestinians. We would also like the UK government to recognise the Palestinian state and stand up for all the UN resolutions, especially 242 which would rule out all the annexations by Israel.

‘The Tory government should apologise for Balfour. They should regret that declaration was ever issued and condemn the non-compliance by the Zionists of the conditions that were attached to it. British workers should take action – support the boycott of Israeli goods and sanctions on Israel.’

Unison and Palestine Solidarity Campaign member Andy Kilmartin said: ‘I’m here to support Palestine and to speak out against the iniquities dished out by the racist, Apartheid state of Israel. We need a change of government, because this Tory government are too busy putting their noses in it.

‘They are sitting down with (Israeli PM) Netanyahu. They are talking about a two-state solution. But nobody in Israel is interested in a two-state solution. The British working class needs to be informed of the truth about what’s happening. The Israeli state is not democratic. The unions are taking action and supporting the boycott of Israel.’

Angie, Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘We came to protest at the hundred years of Balfour and to call on the British government to apologise for giving away a land that a wasn’t theirs, and to call for an end to the brutal occupation.

‘We’re calling for the protection of the human rights of Palestinians. British workers should stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and refugees everywhere. We should support the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and not buy Israeli goods, particularly from illegal settlements.’

On the march, Naz Mohammed from Guyana, said: ‘I feel very strongly that workers must support the Palestinian people. It’s a real disgrace what’s happened to them all these years. The British unions should take action. The British and American governments only give lip service. They don’t stop the settlements and America keeps giving money for Israeli arms. The unions should strike to bring down the Tories over Palestine and the things happening here – the benefit cuts and so on.’

Jewish man Adam Sutcliffe said: ‘I’m critical of Israeli policies and want to stand in solidarity with Palestinians for justice. I want people to know there is a significant number of Jews who are critical of Israel. I don’t agree with Zionism.’

Unite Community member Edward Williamson from Sheffield said: ‘We should have a general strike to kick the Tories out and overthrow capitalism. Britain should apologise for Balfour and the UN should give the Palestinians the right to return.’

Gail Cartmail of Unite addressed the final rally in Parliament Square on behalf of the TUC General Council. She told the crowd: ‘One hundred years ago, the British Empire drew a line to divide the world up. Palestinians face a life under occupation. Generations of Palestinian children have grown up in refugee camps in the shadow of settlements.

‘Trade unions in Palestine, our brothers and sisters, are true campaigners for a settlement that workers need. They demonstrate their support for the trade union movement everywhere and we need to do the same for them. I’ve come from Geneva where a meeting of the international trade union movement decided to step up our resolution for every Palestinian to have the right to health care.’

Philipa Harvey, National Education Union, NUT section, said: ‘We are here because of the Balfour Declaration that has caused a devastating effect. It’s impossible not to stand here and see what’s happening to Palestinian children. Israel is signatory to the UN Rights of the Child, yet they ignore them. Thousands of children should have the right to identity, to privacy, to be listened to.

‘Children in Palestine are barred from healthcare because they are stopped at checkpoints. Palestinian children should have the right to clean water, a right to education, and children should have the right to play!

‘In refugee camps, with their narrow streets, they don’t. Children should not live in perpetual fear of being taken from their beds, blindfolded and held in solitary confinement. We call on teachers in every land to make this a global demand.’

Jews For Justice For Palestine’s Glyn Secker said: ‘Yitzhak Shamir, the former prime minister was also a leader of the Stern Gang which was responsible for the Deir Yassin massacre. In the past years more than 2,300 Palestinian children have lost their lives. In Gaza the blockade continues, the bombardment destroyed homes and hospitals. This is the world’s biggest prison.

''Balfour did destroy the rights of Palestinians, this is the legacy of Balfour. Chief Rabbi shame on you. Netanyahu you do not speak for me, nor for hundreds of thousands of Jews across the world.’

Rajab Shamalakh, Palestinian Community in the UK, told the crowd: ‘We thank you for coming here today to show your support for truth and justice. Thank you for coming here to show the prime minister (May) does not have your support – celebrating Balfour, shame on her!

‘This government should feel ashamed that the Palestinian people have been subject to decade after decade of oppression. No action against settlements, only you (the protesters) condemn the atrocities. You give us strength. We are many and our support is growing every day. More and more countries and people around the world are recognising our right of a Palestinian state. Nelson Mandela said the freedom of the world is not complete without freedom for the Palestinian people.’

PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was right not to dine with Netanyahu. We have to step up the boycott campaign. This is not a battle of equals, Israel is a nuclear-armed state with one of the most powerful militaries in the world.

‘Every day there are acts of oppression against people who want to live in their land, to live in their own state.We side with Palestinians for an independent Palestinian state. Instead of celebrating Balfour, we say two fingers up to it, for us it’s a disgrace. Freedom for Palestine.’


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