Thousands of people joined furious protests in towns and cities across Britain on Tuesday in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
At least 1,000 people rallied outside Downing Street in central London. Some 400 joined a protest in Manchester and 250 were out in Cambridge.
Hundreds more joined protests in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Waltham Forest.
The emergency protests were called after Israeli soldiers killed at least 61 Palestinians as they protested along the Gaza border on Monday. That more than doubled the number of Palestinians Israel has killed since protests began six weeks ago—at least 109 in total.
Protesters were angry at the massacre—but also at the years of oppression the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Israel.
One London protester, Sameen, told Socialist Worker, “I’m here to support the Palestinians. I’ve been coming to these protests for years. The fact that I still have to come here is horrible”.
People were also outraged at the relocation of the US embassy to the Palestinian city of Jerusalem, which took place on Monday as Palestinians in Gaza were slaughtered.
The move aimed to legitimise Israel’s claim to own Jerusalem—and encouraged the theft of even more Palestinian land through settlement building.
Many speakers said the embassy move was another reason to protest against Trump when he visits Britain on Friday 13 July.
Mohammed told Socialist Worker, “52 Palestinians were killed while Trump and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu celebrated the move of the embassy after 70 years of occupation.”
Tuesday’s protest also marked Nakba day. It’s the day that Palestinians commemorate the creation of the state of Israel in 1948—and the resulting expulsion of 850,000 Palestinians from their homes.
Israel’s military has prevented them and their descendants—including the majority of Gaza’s population—from returning ever since.
One protester, Faaiqa, pointed out, “It’s the Nakba day, and there’s always violence against Palestinians when they protest on the Nakba.
“It was the start of the situation and what’s happening today.”
And speaking from the stage, Abdurrahman Tamimi from the Palestine Forum in Britain said, “This struggle started 70 years ago when my people were forced out of their homes because of a racist ideology—Zionism.”
Protesters were disgusted at attempts by Israel and its supporters to blame the Palestinians for the deaths.
Israel’s ambassador to Britain Mark Regev said on Tuesday morning that Palestinians were killed for approaching the border fence.
But on the London protest, Ali told Socialist Worker, “Israel is one of the most powerful armies in the world. If you look at the Palestinians, you can see they’re a lot less powerful.
“When you see the protests you can see what’s going on. The Palestinians are being oppressed. How is it provoking the oppressor just to protest against it?”
Speakers on the platform, including MPs, also condemned the demonisation of Palestinians.
Labour shadow justice minister Richard Burgon said, “These weren’t 'clashes'—this was a slaughter. Approaching a fence is no reason to use live fire on protesters.”
Other speakers pointed out that Britain has sold Israel millions of pounds worth of arms, including sniper rifles likely used against Palestinians.
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard called for a report into how British weapons sold to Israel are used. “Until the report is produced then arms sales must be suspended and stopped,” he said.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said it was “time for the British government to stop trading arms that can be used against innocent civilians.” She also called for an independent investigation into the killings
But Labour MP Chris Williamson said, “We don’t need an investigation. We can see Palestinians are being massacred.”
He added, “Surely now is the time to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign”. This is a boycott campaign targeting Israel that has come under attack, including from some Labour MPs.
Protester Aaron said, “Britain has a historical responsibility for Israel and Palestine. It has sold Israel the sniper rifles that they used.”
He added, “I joined this protest as a knee-jerk reaction after I saw the news about what happened in Gaza. If we have a few thousand protesting in London, a few thousand protesting in Edinburgh, and thousands across Britain we can force a response.
“It can put pressure on the Israeli state and our government.”