Ahead of the Exist! Resist! Return! demonstration for Palestine on Saturday 11 May, Counterfire asked leading activists about why joining this protest is so important
Dave Randall is a musician and author of Sound System: The Political Power of Music
This is a critical time to march for Palestine. President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have escalated their attempts to make what was already a miserable situation for Palestinians into an intolerable one. We must march to let the Palestinians know we stand with them. I first went to the region with the band Faithless to play at a festival near Tel Aviv. On a day off I made the short but complicated journey to Gaza to see what life is like for Palestinians living there. I subsequently returned to Gaza and made several trips to the West Bank. What I saw made things very clear. Our full solidarity should be with the Palestinians. We must do everything we can to support their efforts to end the brutal occupation and apartheid policies of the Israeli government. I support Palestinian calls for a cultural boycott of Israel and I will be marching for Palestine on May 11th. Join us.
Dani Abulhawa is a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, and has been visiting Palestine since she was a small child
The Israel/Palestine conflict is not likely to be solved without international pressure. It’s important to keep reminding our government that we condemn the occupation and the siege on Gaza, and its effects on Palestinians' and Israelis' lives. Demonstrating also helps to raise awareness about what is happening, and it is an act of solidarity.
Shadia Edwards-Dashti is a political activist and journalist
This is a critical time for Palestinians, and so it is a critical time for Londoners to show solidarity. Israel’s latest spate of violence has resulted in 28 people dead and 254 injured. That includes 2 toddlers and 2 pregnant women. Those toddlers had a right to grow up, a right to learn and go to school. A right to be free from dodging bullets and avoiding bombs. Those unborn babies had a right to life… Their deaths mark the worst onslaught in 5 years. And whilst it may have ended momentarily with a potential ceasefire deal… the question is when will Palestine be free? Under international law the siege on Gaza is illegal, under every UN report the occupation must end. Not only have thousands of Palestinian people been massacred, injured and displaced, but they have suffered years of blockades, cuts to vital foreign aid and now fuel entering Gaza has been stopped as well as electricity cut. Make no mistake this is an apartheid state. Yet Britain stands idly by, aiding and abetting the oppressor. March with us on Saturday to tell our government that if you don’t back Gaza, you back bloodshed. #FreePalestine
Lindsey German is the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition
An emergency is taking place in Palestine and we have to shout it from the rooftops. There has never been a more important time to demonstrate our solidarity with the Palestinians. Trump and Netanyahu’s ‘Deal of the Century’ will make life even harder for them, denying them their land, decent livelihoods and political freedom. Illegal settlements are proliferating. Trump has backed Israel control of the occupied Golan Heights, and the next step is large parts of the West Bank. He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem in contravention of international agreements. Netanyahu is able to get away with what he does because he has the support not just of successive US governments but of Britain, the EU, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. We have to hold our own governments to account. The Palestinians have kept their cause alive through repeated waves of resistance. They need our support. The solidarity movement we built in Britain is under attack - and we have to fight back against these attacks.
Sybil Cock, PSC National Executive, in a personal capacity
As a socialist I have always understood that Palestine is a key issue. When I was a student in the 1960s and 70s I wore a keffiyah and had Leila Khaled as a hero.
But none of this prepared me for the horror of my first visit to Palestine in 2011. The sheer daily brutality is astonishing. I volunteered in a school where teachers and students alike had to undergo twice daily humiliating searches at a checkpoint between the West Bank, where the school is, and Occupied East Jerusalem, where they lived. An Israeli military encampment just up the road from our apartment made regular raids on the school and the University. Tear gas was always in the air.
Now, the years of ‘peace talk’ are over, as Trump imposes Israel’s solution on Palestinians. Israel wants the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan, and it wants it free of Palestinians.
I’m marching on Saturday because Palestinians need to see our solidarity, and because the world needs to know that Israel is a rogue state.
Dana Mills, activist
I will be marching for Palestine because I’ve been marching for Palestine since I was 13, when I joined the human rights movement in Israel/ Palestine. It is crucial for the people of Britain to show solidarity with the people of Palestine. Many mechanisms of oppression used by Israel were imported from British colonialism. We are all implicated in global struggles, whether we recognize that or not. Anti-fascism and anti-racism can only triumph internationally.
I will be marching because two days ago bereaved families from Palestine and Israel came together for a joint memorial service, and I hope no one joins the list of these families. I am marching because Palestinian lives matter. And I wish for my homeland to finally live at peace.
I am marching because the words of Nelson Mandela “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians”. And no one is free until everyone is free.
Shabbir Lakha is a political activist and officer of the Stop the War Coalition
The situation in Palestine is very dire at the moment. According to leaked documents from the Israeli Foreign ministry, Trump’s “Deal of the century” is even worse than anticipated. The deal will allow the Israeli state to annex huge chunks of the West Bank – which is what Netanyahu is planning to do anyway. The leaked plan also says that if the Palestinians reject the deal, the US would cut all aid to Palestine, and support Israeli to launch a war on Gaza.
This is incredibly serious and it looks likely that one way or another the already limited rights that Palestinians have are about to be significantly eroded. This is coupled with an intensification of the violence perpetrated on Palestinians in Gaza with targeted sniper fire and mass aerial bombardment.
For this reason, it’s imperative that there is a big show of solidarity internationally with the people of Palestine – particularly here in Britain, where our government plays such a significant role in supporting Israel.
That’s why I’ll be marching on Saturday 11 May, to show my opposition to our government’s actions and to show the Palestinian people that they’re not alone.
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