Chants of “Israel is a terror state” filled central London on Saturday as 100,000 angry protesters marched in solidarity with Palestinians fighting Israel’s military might.
The protest follows Israeli settlers attempted eviction of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, east Jerusalem, cops’ attacks on Al Aqsa mosque and airstrikes on Gaza. Israeli bombs have murdered at least 137 Palestinians, including 36 children.
Palestinian protests were met with police brutality, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Aysha, who travelled from Cambridge to the London protest, told Socialist Worker, “We need to amplify the voice of the Palestinians. Seeing the terror on social media over the last few days has turned me into an activist—this is my first protest.
“Children have been killed during Ramadan yet the news ignores it.”
Protesters vowed to keep up the pressure on the British government—and its arms sales to Israel. Huda, who travelled from Sunderland, told Socialist Worker, “My heart is broken, I see my brothers and sisters oppressed by Israel's crimes.
“I stand in solidarity and demand that the occupation of Palestine ends.”
“Britain is complicit. Boris Johnson must see the protests and feel pressured to end arms sales to Israel.
“But we need to make more noise and keep protesting.”
The protest was called on the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe. It saw Zionist paramilitaries, which would go on to form the Israeli army, ethnically cleanse around 800,000 Palestinians as part of the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.
College student Jihan told Socialist Worker, “The racism Palestinians face every day in Israel must be opposed.
“Children are being killed and families are separated.”
Western media portrays Israeli apartheid and occupation as the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
But protestor Wali said this is a “false narrative”—and hit out at supporters of Israel who try to smear the Palestine solidarity movement. “When people resist colonialism in Palestine they are labelled antisemitic,” he told Socialist Worker.
“It’s ridiculous as we’re against Israel, not Judaism.”
Outside the Israeli embassy in west London, Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) general secretary, addressed the crowd. “There is endless talk in the media of Israel's right to defend itself,” she said. “When do they ever talk about the right of Palestinian self defence?
“Israel uses all forms of brutal force against the Palestinians—fighting back is a right.”
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) called the demonstration alongside other organisations. It said, “The British government must take immediate action and stop allowing Israel to act with impunity.
“It must demand an end to current proceedings to evict these families, and start holding Israel accountable for all its actions which contribute to the crime of apartheid.
“In the face of Israel’s brutal crimes, we can’t remain silent.”
The magnificent demonstration in London was young and militant, with many Muslim protesters, especially young women.
After five years of Israel’s supporters smearing the Palestinian movement as antisemitic—and constant retreats by the Labour Party—the movement was back on the streets with renewed confidence.
It’s on the streets that the movement has its strength.
Protesters were determined to stand against Israel’s crimes and its Western backers—and are taking hope from the Palestinian resistance that’s burst forth.
The PSC, and other organisations, have called a national demonstration in London next Saturday 22 May. It will be another day of rage at Israeli colonialism and apartheid.
Protests against Israeli terror across Britain
There were large protests in almost every part of Britain—many loud, dynamic and with a life of their own.
One activist in Birmingham, Hope, estimated there were at least 2,500 people in Birmingham where “There were about five or six different soundsystems.”
“People split off in all directions,” said Hope. “It went off on a bit of an impromptu march that went through the Bull Ring shopping centre. It shut the shopping centre down and the shops closed their doors.”
The march followed a protest of 400 people in Birmingham earlier in the week. But “This one seemed significantly bigger and angrier,” said Hope.
It was a similar atmosphere in Manchester, where at least 1,000 people joined a protest beginning in a park in Rusholme. One of them, Martin, described an air of “chaotic enthusiasm” with several splinter marches of hundreds breaking away to march towards the city centre.
He said lots of people were angry at how the press has covered Palestine, but that many also wanted to talk about its history. Some protesters set up tents to represent the refugee camps that Palestinians lived in after they were expelled when Israel was established in 1948.
Up to 1,000 people protested for hours in Cardiff. Young Muslim people took charge of the demo and tried to lead it on a march to the BBC headquarters, in protest at its coverage of Israel’s crime.
When police blocked the road to stop them getting there, they marched all through the city centre instead. They chanted in anger at the British government for selling arms to Israel, at the BBC for its coverage, and at the rulers of Arab countries for betraying the Palestinians.
One protester, Helen, told Socialist Worker the protest began at around 11:30am—before its given start time, as people gathered early—and that people were still chanting at 3pm.
Some 1,200 people gathered for a rally outside Sheffield town hall—the second big demonstration in the city in a week.
A Palestinian speaker from Nazareth told the rally, “A message from all my friends and family—it is extremely worrying what is happening inside Israel right now. You don't see it on the mainstream media.
“They are scared, settlers and right-wing fascists are armed, attacking Arabs in their villages and their cities at home, dragging them out of their cars, beating them.
“That is happening in Haifa right now where my friends are begging me to relay that message. It’s happening in Nazareth. It’s happening everywhere under the watchful eyes of the police and army who stand by and doing nothing about it.”
“Israeli politicians and public figures are publicly announcing on TV for the fascists to go and attack Arabs.”
There were also at least 1,000 in Nottingham and 1,500 in Derby. Richard, who joined the protest in Nottingham said it “evoked the feeling from 2014 after the invasion of Gaza.”
He added that the rally followed a Kill the Bill demo earlier in the day, against the police and crime bill, which seeks to criminalise protest. Protesters that turned up early for the Palestine rally got involved.
“People saw the links between the two—how the bill could make it harder to protest for Palestine,” said Richard. “There were a lot of Kill the Bill placards on the Palestine demo.”
Around 1,000 also attended a protest in Liverpool. And well over 1,000 marched from Manzil Gardens on Cowley Road to Bonn square in Oxford city centre.
Protesters took off on long marches in Edinburgh and Brighton. Speakers at both also linked the Palestinian struggle today to the Nakba—the expulsion of Palestinians when Israel was created.
There were loud and angry protests in Coventry, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Cambridge. Organisers reported 1,500 joined the protest in Newcastle.
In Coventry, a march of hundreds took off on three different impromptu marches, with people still chanting three hours after the protest began.
Protests were called by the local Muslim community in Huddersfield which was attended by around 500.
In Wigan up to 90 people attended a rally and march and in Barnstaple in north Devon there was a lively protest outside the Pannier Market.