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Palestine protest, London

Palestine protest, London. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Following the recent escalation of violence by Israel forces against Palestinians, protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy to show their opposition, reports John McGrath

Hundreds of demonstrators flooded Kensington High Street across from the Israeli Embassy in London on Friday to protest the recent atrocities carried out by Israeli forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The attacks on Al Aqsa this time of year are becoming an annual event, tragically.

Last week, on the second Friday of Ramadan, a militarised Israeli police force attacked unarmed worshipers in the Mosque, injuring dozens with stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. The assault was filmed by observers from inside and outside the mosque and has been shared widely on social media. Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in the 24-hour period leading up to the attack on Al Aqsa Mosque, with over forty killed since January.

The emergency demonstration on Friday was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, CND, the Muslim Association of Britain, and Palestinian Forum of Britain. The crowd, which spilled into the streets at times, was lively and chanting, and placards and Palestinian flags elicited support from traffic driving by. The dozen speakers who addressed the crowd highlighted the hypocrisy of the Government’s silence and inaction to the violence being levied on Palestinians compared to the economic interventions and military aid supporting Ukrainian resistance in recent weeks.

“We see the whole array of international tools short of warfare being applied over Ukraine- sanctions, boycotts, and divestments,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot explained to the crowd.

“We see the British and Ukrainian press laud the Ukrainian resistance, we see them praise their motivations, their mobilisations of every able adult. The response has been significant since the invasion of Ukraine, which has lasted only two months. The dispossession of the Palestinian people has lasted seventy-four years, yet not one sanction has been applied to Israel. Instead, it is the Palestinian people labelled in this media as terrorists, as being violent. The occupiers, Israel, get military assistance.”

The UK government approved over £400 million worth of military technology and arms exports to Israel between 2015-2020.

“Why are some lives worth more than others?” the Chair of Muslim Association of Britain, Raghad Altikriti, challenged the crowd. “The only way to peace is justice, so Israel must be brought to justice for its crimes.”

Other speakers criticised the lack of support for Palestinians by leaders in neighbouring predominantly Muslim countries. The anti-war movement was well represented by Carol Turner of CND and Lindsey German of Stop the War who both spoke of the need for the UK to stop arming Israel. “We have to hold our own government to account. We have to say ‘no more arms sales to Israel’”, Lindsey German told the crowd.

“We have to say: we do not want our government doing deals with Israel, we do not want our government giving them a free pass, where the settlers are allowed to spread their settlements, where there’s more and more violence against the Palestinians, where bombing goes on all the time.”

Palestinian student activists Leanne Mohammed and Salim Nusseibeh were well received by the crowd, many of whom were students as well. The coalition of speakers included trade union representatives from PCS, NEU and Unite who spoke of their support for BDS and the Palestinian cause. “The trade union movement has a proud history of supporting struggles for freedom and justice and equality across the world, and we’ll make our voices heard for Palestine,” PCS representative Austin Harney said from the stage. “We stand in solidarity with all the Palestinian workers.” 

A national “End Apartheid - Free Palestine” demonstration has been called for Saturday 14 May. Participants will assemble at Portland Place, London at noon.

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