Thousands of protesters marched through London on Saturday showing that solidarity with Palestine in Britain hasn't gone anywhere, reports Shabbir Lakha
An estimated 10,000 people marched through the streets of London on Saturday 11 May to show their solidarity with the people of Palestine. Protesters came from around the country and were undeterred by outbreaks of hail and rain.
The demonstration received international coverage and has shown our leaders, and Palestinians, that solidarity with Palestine in Britain is alive and well. It was full of energy and there was an electric mood of defiance and determination. Protesters closed down the streets of central London carrying Palestinian flags and placards condemning the barbaric attacks on peaceful protesters in Gaza and Israel's apartheid system.
Speakers addressing the rally represented a wide range of trade unions and campaigning organisations, as well as cultural figures and activists including Benjamin Zephaniah, Lowkey, Owen Jones and Leanne Mohammed, and senior Labour figures including Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon. Diane Abbott read out a message from Jeremy Corbyn who said:
"Peace cannot be achieved while the illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land continues, along with the multiple human rights abuses faced by Palestinians on a daily basis and actions of the Israeli government in flagrant disregard of international law.
If President Trump’s Middle East plan is, as expected, an attempt to bury the Palestinians’ right to a viable state alongside Israel, we will call on our government and the international community to reject it decisively."
The demonstration was also joined by Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian activist who was arrested last year and spent 8 months in jail for slapping an Israeli soldier after he shot her cousin in the head and then invaded her house. Her case became a prominent international story and she quickly became a symbol of Palestinian resistance. She marched with the front banner on the demonstration and addressed the rally on Whitehall to roaring applause, saying:
"I want to thank you all. It was your voice that kept me strong while being in the Israeli prison. I want to thank you for your support and solidarity, for everything you are doing to help our cause.
Injustice anywhere, injustice everywhere. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."
The message delivered loud and clear was three-fold: to the people of Palestine that they are not alone and that there are thousands of people who are determined to defend them. To Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt that their uncritical support of Israel, their insistence on condemning Palestinians for their own murder at the hands of the Israeli army and their silence (and often support) for the attacks on Palestinians and deterioration of their living conditions is not in our name. To supporters of Israel and the right inside and outside the Labour Party that their campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism will not push us to retreat, self-censor or abandon Palestinians and that we will be clear in our anti-Zionism as anti-racists and anti-imperialists.
This message could not be more important and more well-timed as it looks likely that Donald Trump will soon be announcing his so-called "Deal of the century" which will be a catastrophe for Palestinians. Saturday's demonstration was a warning to our leaders that they will face the full force of the mass movement that stands with the people of Palestine should they go along with Trump and Netanyahu's plans. And Donald Trump, who will be visiting London on 3-5 of June, can expect no stateman's welcome from the people of Britain, and defenders of Palestine will be a large, visible and vocal part of the mass show of opposition against him.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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