A QUARTER of a million, mainly young people, marched from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park in London on Saturday afternoon, demanding trade union action in the UK to boycott Israel and support Palestine.
As the march was assembling John Rees, National Officer Stop the War, one of the march’s organisers, told News Line: ‘The Palestinian General Strike this week forced Israel into submission. My position is the same as that of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) – a democratic secular state of Palestine must be established and recognised immediately by the international community.’
Richard Alcock, Waterloo RMT Health and Safety rep, said: ‘The TUC should organise a boycott of Israel. I was involved in the non-stop picket of the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square and it played an important role in the overthrow of apartheid. Something similar is needed for Palestine.’
Vic Paulino, Unite London Region officer, told News Line: ‘The unions have to fight for a Palestinian state and for it to be recognised as a sovereign state. The Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes. The power of international solidarity has been clearly shown these last few days.’
John McLaughlin, Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary, said: ‘The fight for Palestine is an important trade union issue. The resilience of the Palestinians is an inspiration to anyone who is concerned for social justice.’
Young employment consultant Usman Kazmi from Harrow, told News Line: ‘I’m against colonisation. The British decided to give away Arab land in the name of Zionism. I believe in one state, but not under the rule of the Israelis. People have lived in peace in Palestine for hundreds of years and that’s the only way it can be. The fact that Israel still gets support suggests that white supremacism is still prevalent today.’
His friend, web developer Yasir Yusuf, said: ‘The British government has just done another £700m weapons deal with Israel. The people don’t support it, but the government still thinks it can get away with it. This must end and we’ve got to stop it.’
Dozens of young cyclists were at the front of the march, with Palestinian flags attached to them flying in the wind.
It was mainly young people on the march, keeping up constant chants, including: ‘One State Palestine! 1, 2, 3, 4 – Zionism No More! 5, 6, 7, 8 – Israel is a Terror State!’ and ‘From the River to the Sea – Palestine will be Free!’
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banner read: ‘Victory to Palestine – Smash Zionism Now! Charge Israel with War Crimes! Long Live the Intifada!’, with a lively delegation marching behind it shouting: ‘One State – Palestine’ and ‘Boycott Israel – Trade Unions must Act!’
When the march arrived at Hyde Park someone had placed a Palestinian flag at the top of a huge crane.
Unite Chief of Staff, Andrew Murray, the first of more than 30 speakers at the rally, told the huge crowd: ‘Palestine has risen and the world has risen in support to end the scheme of Netanyahu. Our anger is against the British and Israeli governments. Justice requires addressing fundamental issues – end the occupation of the West Bank, lift the siege of Gaza, establish the right to return. There is no equity between oppressor and the oppressed. Support the boycott of Israel. The TUC last year recognised that Israel operates apartheid. Stop arms exports to Israel. Recognise Palestine. Our message to Labour is “Wake Up. Stand up and fight for Palestine”.’
The next speaker was the Convenor of Stop the War, Lindsay German, who said: ‘Israel is ethnically cleansing Jerusalem. The whole of the Palestinian people have stood up and been joined by huge demonstrations across the world. This is not just Israel. It’s Britain and the US. At the beginning of the week Biden blocked a resolution calling for a ceasefire. Biden changed his mind because there was a general strike in Palestine. We say to our government “Stop arming Israel”. And to the pathetic Starmer leadership of the Labour Party “Stop supporting Israel, start supporting Palestine”.’
- Continues on feature: Teachers leader Courtney calls for general strike