Conter reports from the weekend's protests in solidarity with Palestine in Edinburgh and Glasgow
The streets of Edinburgh (15 May) and Glasgow (16 May) were alive with the chants of “Free, Free Palestine” this weekend, as thousands joined many more around the world in protesting the latest crimes of the Israeli state against Palestinians. In recent days the state has continued the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, and launched air-strikes against the Gaza strip, among other violent acts. Protest vigils also took place at smaller towns and cities around Scotland, including Inverness in the Highlands.
The Edinburgh demo was called by Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and also commemorated the clearance and massacre of Palestinian villagers in Al Dawayima 73 years ago. Speaker after speaker drew parallels between the eviction and murder of Palestinians today in the Jerusalem community of Sheikh Jarrah with the expulsion of Palestinians 73 years ago during the Nakba – the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homelands by the Israeli colonial settler state.
Alice, a protester from Edinburgh, echoed these parallels when asked why she came to support the demonstration. She said,
“A massacre is underway, another phase of the ongoing Nakba and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians which began in 1948. Our governments are complicit so it is imperative that those of us living in the imperial centre do what we can.”
Another protester who came along to support the Palestinian people, Peter from Fife, said that he believed,
“It is the duty of every citizen to stand up for the oppressed, those that take no action stand with the oppressors.”
Although Scottish politicians have been among the most rhetorically supportive of the Palestinian people in the West, this is often more bark than bite. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently shared her solidarity with the Palestinian people while claiming there was nothing she could do because of the devolution settlement.
One Palestinian activist who spoke at the march demanded more action from the Scottish Government. After the march moved from the US Consulate to Bute House, Sturgeon’s official residence, she shouted:
“Nicola Sturgeon you want your country’s independence, we want our country’s independence!”
She demanded the Scottish Government take concrete steps to boycott, divest and sanction Israel at a Scottish level.
Alice made similar comments in response to Sturgeon’s condemnation of Israel arguing that,
“It is a start, and it is definitely better than Westminster, but I think it goes without saying that’s too low a bar. If the SNP are the party of independence, they and the government should extend that right of sovereignty to the Palestinian people in a show of internationalism.”
Thousands marched from Glasgow’s George Square to BBC Scotland HQ in Pacific Quay the next day. In the square, Beth said:
“It’s an absolute horror what’s happening in Palestine right now and what Israel is doing. I’m Jewish so it affects me. I don’t want them to be doing this and claiming it represents all Jews.”
The man standing next to her, Razza, said:
“I’m here to show solidarity and unity with the Palestinian people who have been oppressed.”
As protestors surrounded BBC Scotland HQ, they chanted: “BBC, shame on you!” in reference to BBC reporting which has consistently reported attacks and ongoing ethnic cleansing against Palestinians as a two-sided conflict, instigated by the Palestinians.
At both demonstrations, Police Scotland seemed unprepared from the numbers in attendance. As with many other demonstrations around the UK, Europe and the world, the strength of feeling and scale of demonstrations seems to be at its highest in years. In the UK and beyond, those expressing solidarity with the Palestinians have been subject to slanders of antisemitism. The events of recent days have been a setback for this campaign of political censorship.
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