Hundreds of people protested outside Israel’s embassy in central London on Friday, after a week of Israeli raids on Palestinian worshippers in occupied Jerusalem. The protest, called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, demanded that Britain stops selling arms to Israel.
Heavily armed Israeli cops stormed the Al Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem on Friday morning, injuring some 30 Palestinians there. They fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians, who fought back with rocks. It was the latest raid on the mosque this week, as hundreds of Palestinians gather to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
As protesters and speakers at the demonstration pointed out, the attacks on Palestinians this week are just the latest in a decades-long campaign by Israel to drive Palestinians out of the city. Israel says the raids were meant to ensure that Jewish worshippers—who also consider the site holy—could enter during the Passover holiday.
They, and many media reports in Britain, want to present the fighting as an issue of Palestinian Muslims’ hostility to Israeli Jews. It is actually about whether Palestinians can live freely in their own city.
“This happens a lot at Ramadan,” protester Hafsa told Socialist Worker. “That’s not a coincidence. Israel attacks when they know there’s going to be a lot of Palestinians at Al Aqsa.”
She added, “The number of Palestinians living in the area has been falling. I’ve been to Palestine twice and I’ve seen that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace. But Israel wants more and more of the country and the land and it keeps pushing Palestinians out.
“This has been going on for around 70 years—but thanks to social media more people are becoming aware of it now.”
Other speakers and protesters pointed to Britain’s support for Israel—and its hypocrisy in condemning Palestinian resistance. A speaker from the Palestinian Forum in Britain told the protest, “The British government offers unconditional support to those in Ukraine, which it should do, while ignoring the oppression of others all over the world.
“The same colonial body that handed our land to a coloniser lectures us about right and wrong. The same colonial body seeks to silence us in universities.”
And Palestinian ambassador to Britain Husam Zomlot led protesters in chants of “double standards” and “hypocrisy.”
“Palestinians have not failed to notice how purposefully the international community can act—sanctions, boycotts, divestment,” he said.
“Not one of these sanctions has been applied to Israel. Instead, it is the Palestinian people labelled in the media as terrorists. The occupiers, Israel, get military assistance.”
Protester Umama told Socialist Worker, “This is about what Israel is doing to people in Palestine—we have to support them whether they’re Muslim or not. The British government sells arms to Israel—that’s just one reason to be angry.”
Many of the protesters and speakers remembered huge solidarity demonstrations last year when Israel’s assaults in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip sparked an uprising across Palestine.
“Last year was wild,” protester Mohammed told Socialist Worker. “I’m here to protest against the Israeli occupation, the war crimes and the injustice. We need to protest, we put pressure on Israel last year.”
And Palestine Solidarity Campaign chair Kamel Hawwash called on people to join a national demonstration for Palestine on Saturday 14 May.
“Last year 250,000 people marched for Palestine,” he said. “The Palestinians saw that and took so much heart from it.”
Bosses are obsessed with making cuts
Another year of inaction from our rulers
Vote no to new offer