Socialist Worker

Anger on streets at Israeli flotilla attack

Issue No. 2205

Up to 20,000 people poured onto the streets of London last Saturday to condemn Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla on 31 May. In Edinburgh, over 5,000 marched to the US embassy against the Israeli attack.

People came from all over Britain to London express their rage at Israel’s murder of activists on a humanitarian aid convoy.

As thousands of demonstrators gathered outside of Downing Street, Tariq Ali told the crowd, “This should be the last straw.

“The Turkish government should break off all diplomatic and trade relations.

“This is the end for those who thought they could deal with Israel by going on their knees.”

Young

Many people on the demonstration were young and had not been on protests before.

Zoë came from Manchester to London. She told Socialist Worker, “I went to the protest in Manchester last week outside the BBC.

“I was still furious and wanted answers so I thought this would be the place to come.

“I have learnt a lot about the history of Palestine and Israel from the speakers at the protests.

“It’s a really interesting forum for education—it goes around the lies of the media.”

The BBC and other news outlets came under heavy criticism.

Mathew Hail, a further education student in Leicestershire, said, “The BBC let the Israelis have the first and last word.

“They let them stand there and say that activists are terrorists—that fully armed soldiers were under attack from unarmed civilians.

“It’s disgusting really.”

Tony Benn, veteran Labour party member and anti-war campaigner, led the march with some of the survivors of the flotilla massacre, including convoy organiser Kevin Ovenden.

Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas marched with them.

Many trade union members joined the protest. PCS union member Austin Harney told Socialist Worker, “All the people on the flotilla were doing was delivering food and aid.

Unarmed

“They were unarmed, yet Israeli forces shot them in the head. It’s a violation of human rights and we need to build international pressure on Israel.”

The protesters chanted in unison, “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians”, as Muslims and non-Muslims marched together.

People were angry and were also looking for the next step and the most effective way to keep up the pressure.

Salim and Nede came from west London.

Salim said, “We have to keep protesting to make our government feel like they don’t have our support and should stop being so friendly with Israel.”

Nede said, “We have to do more than that though. We should boycott goods from Israel too.

“Those herbs and oranges and olives are grown on occupied land. We shouldn’t be giving Israel money for that.”


Edinburgh

Thousands of people also took to the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday.

Led by an “End The Siege Of Gaza” banner, around 5,000 demonstrators marched to the US consulate and then to Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s official residence, twice passing through the city’s main shopping route.

Protesters chanted “Victory to the intifada” and “In our thousands and our millions, we are all Palestinians”, drawing crowds of shoppers who stood cheering and clapping. Many people joined the protest as it passed.

Several hundred people symbolically blockaded the entrance to Israeli goods retailer Marks & Spencer, with a chant of “Boycott; sanctions; free Palestine!” ringing out.

This was soon followed by a short rally outside Salmond’s Bute House residence, demanding that the Scottish Government breaks its relationship with Israel, and pressures the UK government to stop selling weapons to the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.

From the steps of the house, Glasgow MSP Sandra White said every local authority in Scotland must now refuse to stock Israeli goods and end all relations with the country.

The demonstration made its way to The Mound precinct for the main rally – but not before staging a sit-down in Princes Street, blocking traffic in one direction.

Leading campaigners, trade unionists and politicians made short speeches at the closing rally, co-chaired by STUC deputy secretary Dave Moxham and Scottish Friends of Palestine's Waelid Shawish.

Edinburgh postal worker Theresa McDermott, who was part of the flotilla, described the brutality of the Israeli soldiers.

Scottish Fire Brigades Union organiser Jim Malone called for the expulsion of Israeli Zionist trade union Histadrut from the International Federation of Trade Unions, and that a boycott of Israel is launched by workers’ organisations around the world.

Stop the War Coalition’s Angela McCormick told the crowd that Israel had managed to make the “unbelievable believable” with its premeditated murder of peace activists on aid ships.

To huge cheers, she said: “The Israeli embassy in London should be shut down now. “Every Israeli diplomat and ambassador must be expelled from Scotland and from the rest of Britain now,” said Angela.


People protested all over the world last week including in Sydney, Australia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Auckland, New Zealand; Vienna, Austria; Barcelona; Cairo, Egypt; and many more places.


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