Thousands of people in Britain protested in solidarity with Palestinians as Israeli soldiers attacked a major demonstration at the fence between Gaza and Israel on Saturday.
At least 30,000 Palestinians marched on the Gaza fence. The demonstration marked a year since the start of the Great Return March—a campaign of weekly demonstrations demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Israel attacked the demonstration with lethal force—killing four Palestinians, including 17 year old Adham Amara who was shot in the face.
He is the 50th Palestinian child killed by Israeli soldiers since the protests began.
Israeli soldiers also wounded some 112 Palestinians according to the Gaza Health ministry—of which 23 were shot with live ammunition.
The violence is characteristic of the way Israel has handled the demonstrations since they began.
More than 240 Palestinians have been killed since the protests started last year, and over 27,000 injured. On one of the worst days of violence—14 May last year—62 Palestinians were killed.
People gathered across Britain in solidarity with the Palestinian demonstrations. Protest organiser the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said these took place in over 25 towns in cities.
PSC director Ben Jamal said the protests had been called to “answer the call from Palestine for global demonstrations today”.
Protesters in Gaza are demanding an end to the siege that has trapped them in the Gaza Strip for more than 11 years.
Sharaf, a protester in London, said, “Gaza is a big prison—the blockade is everywhere. There are shortages of food, medicine and petrol—and there’s a big unemployment rate.”
The protest also marked Land Day—the anniversary of the day in 1976 when Israel killed six people protesting against the theft of Palestinian land.
Another protester told Socialist Worker, “I’m Palestinian myself. Palestinians have been protesting on Land Day since the 1970s.”
She added, “They’re just trying to return to their villages and the places they were expelled from.”
Palestinians are demanding the right to return to the land they were expelled from when Israel was created in 1948. Some 850,000 Palestinians were forced to flee a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing designed to ensure the new state of Israel had a Jewish ethnic majority.
Israel has responded to the demonstrations by attacking them and accusing protestors of violence.
Ofer Gendelman, spokesperson for Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu tweeted a picture of protesters wearing the Niqab. He claimed that “Isis women” were participating in the “riots” at the Gaza fence, despite nothing in the photo linking the women to the reactionary Islamist group.
Zainab, who joined the protest outside the Israeli embassy in London told Socialist Worker, “All the killings in Gaza and the Great March of Return made me want to come here.
“One thing people can do to raise awareness is to have protests like this. That’s why I’m here.”
Other protesters said they were protesting against Britain’s complicity in the oppression of Palestinians.
One told Socialist Worker, “It’s very important that people in Britain protest because Britain has a historic responsibility after handing Palestinian land to Israel.”
Another said, “The least Britain can do to right this historic wrong is to recognise Palestine as an independent Palestinian state. They can sanction Israel and hold it to account for its crimes.”
Speakers at the demonstration also spoke out against attempts to smear criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
Zeid Truscott of the National Union of Students spoke of how student activists had faced attempts to clamp down on campaigning.
Other speakers called for activists to make sure the Palestine Solidarity movement kept mobilising people—including for a national PSC demonstration on 11 May.
Ben Jamal said, “We need you here in great numbers—tens of thousands of us—on 11 May.
“We will stand in solidarity with Palestinians for as long as they continue to resist.
Israel uses Islamophobia
The violence against Palestinians protesters last Saturday was characteristic of the way Israel has responded to the demonstrations.
The Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza says at least 266 Palestinians have been killed on the protests—and more than 30,000 injured.
Israeli politicians have justified the violence with Islamophobia and claims that the protesters want to massacre civilians.
Ofir Gendelman, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson, tweeted a picture of protesters wearing the niqab.
He claimed that “Isis women” were participating in “riots” at the Gaza fence, despite nothing in the photo linking the women to the reactionary Islamist group.
But Israel also makes clear that they will never accept Palestinian demands to be allowed to return home because it would threaten Israel as a Jewish majority state.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon last year claimed allowing Palestinians to return home would mean the “destruction of Israel”.