Socialist Worker

Fury at Blair as 100,000 take to the streets over Lebanon

Issue No. 2012

Some 100,000 protesters took to the streets of London on Saturday to demand an end to Israel's assault on Lebanon and Gaza - and to express their fury at Tony Blair's refusal to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

The emergency demonstration, called by the Stop the War Coalition at a week's notice, attracted a broad range of people. Many had decided to come along at the last moment, after the march was featured on the front page of the Independent newspaper.

Protesters booed as they filed past the US embassy in Grovesnor Square. They left 1,500 pairs of children's shoes outside Downing Street to symbolise the children Israel has killed in Lebanon and Gaza.

The demonstration's anger was not just directed at Israel, but also at the US and British governments for their complicity in the carnage now engulfing the Middle East.

The march showed a significant widening of the movement, even in the time since the previous London protest two weeks ago. This was true both in the size and diversity of the march and in the speakers in the rally in Parliament Square. Six members of parliament spoke, including Respect MP George Galloway. The leaders of three major trade unions also addressed the rally.

Many speakers argued that Israel's onslaught had to be understood as part of the wider 'war on terror' and George Bush's plans for a 'new Middle East'.

'First it was Afghanistan and Iraq, now it's Lebanon - this is another imperial war,' said Soumaya Ghannoushi from the British Muslim Initiative. 'This is not just an Israeli war, and Bush and Blair are not just giving Israel a green light. They are partners in war crimes.'

Blair's complicity was also highlighted by Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union. 'Why did our foreign secretary tell the media that she did not know that US planes taking bombs to Israel were refuelling at Prestwick airport?' he asked. 'When faced with protests, they had to stop these flights - this shows that if we protest we can make a difference.'

Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell, who is standing for the leadership of the party, lambasted the prime minister for 'travelling to the US to perform for Rupert Murdoch' while ignoring demands for him to condemn Israel's hostilities.

While the march encompassed all those opposed to Israel's aggression, those speakers who declared their solidarity with the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine received huge cheers.

'They sought to divide the Middle East - but in fact they have united Muslim and Christian, Sunni and Shia, Islamist and secular,' said Daoud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain. 'This war has given birth to millions of resistance fighters across the region.'

John Rees from the Stop the War Coalition stressed the urgency of the situation now facing the Middle East. 'If we don't stop this war, there will be a general war across the region that will make what is happening now pale into insignificance,' he said.

'Only the peace movement can destroy the power behind these wars. That's why we must demonstrate in Manchester on 23 September outside the Labour Party conference - and demand an end to this government steeped in blood.'

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