By Socialist Worker journalists
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Thousands on the streets in Britain as Israel continues bloody assault on Gaza

Push for action in workplaces, schools and universities. Join the national demonstration on Saturday
Issue 2884
Protest for Gaza in Edinburgh. Raging students led by person with a megaphone.

The student section was very lively on the Edinburgh march

Thousands of people marched or rallied across Britain on Saturday against the Israeli assault on Gaza and in solidarity with the Palestinians. 

The biggest march was in Edinburgh where 8-10,000 took part. Lorna reports, “This was the largest Palestine demonstration in the city since 7 October by far. It was twice the size of the previous biggest one.

The student section was “absolutely huge,” she adds, with groups from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee on it. A Stop the War block was also lively and had trade union banners.

A big demonstration in east London saw marches merge with 500 from Newham and 300 from Barking, Redbridge and Dagenham. 

Some 400 turned out in Lancaster. Eugene said, “It was the biggest protest we’ve had so far. 

“The fact that people have carried on is important. There have been meetings every week too and everyone is doing stuff—new and old activists. Lots of people want to be active and there’s lots of wider support. Banners are still up from a previous banner drop.

“Today was very good—a lot of Palestinians joined. It was very lively and angry. People spoke about the importance of solidarity and want to keep turning out.”

In Bristol, where around 1,000 took party, Aimee said the march was “the angriest one we’ve had”. “It was great to see—it was the loudest too. We marched around the city. We walked past the BBC and chanted shame on them, the same when we went past the university too.

“At the end two Palestinians spoke, it was very emotional. One read a letter from a doctor in Gaza about the horror.”

In Oxford, 400 people joined a march through the city centre. City councillors voted unanimously this week to support a ceasefire. “We had a really good response in the streets from people,” Shaun reported.

“Both people who want a prolonged ceasefire and those who want a more radical solution were angry. And the placards that read ‘From the river to the sea’ were extremely popular”.

Gaza protest in Hounslow. People with giant Palestine flag

Protesting in Hounslow

In Leeds, up to 500 people joined a static protest. And in Coventry, some 300 people joined a march.

Protester David reported that the “really lively” demonstration marched through the city centre to a rally at the cathedral. “It was really diverse with a lot of people from the local area as well as students.

“Trades councils and the Unison union also backed the protest.  The main chants were for a ceasefire, and people were clear we need to keep up the support.”

Around 150 people also marched in York. The Labour-led council refused to even discuss a motion on calling for a ceasefire. Julie said, “The protest felt radical. A group of retail workers also sent a statement.

“The chants and placards saying ‘From the river to the sea’ went down the best. Police were asking people what that slogan meant to them.”

In Liverpool, 120 people joined a protest outside Barclays to draw attention to the bank’s funding of arms sales to Israel. John reported, “A new group called this and it’s the first time there’s been action outside the bank.

“So many new activists are trying to put demos and things together, and older activists have been reinvigorated too. Some who came had never been on a demonstration before.

“There was a lot of discussion and debate about the ceasefire, arms sales, the US’s role and what more people can do today and going forward.

“There was a vigil the night before held by health workers, and people are keen to keep up days of action.”

In Sheffield, 250 attended a rally that was boosted by eight feeder marches. “All the marches were organised by local people,” protester Collette said.

“A lot of young people said that in schools they’re not able to ask questions about Palestine so were grateful for the opportunity to get educated. There’s also been meetings, fundraisers and events—this rally was one of at least five things happening in Sheffield for Palestine today.”

Around 400 people attended a Stop The War (STW) rally in Tower hamlets, east London, in the afternoon. Andrew Murray from STW said, “We oppose the Israeli government but our main enemy is at home—the British government. Their policy is endless war—ours is end the war.” 

Apsana Begum, one of the Labour MPs in the borough, said “I’ll keep raising my voice in Parliament and on the protests.” She told the audience to, “Keep joining the protests.” 

Sean Vernell is a UCU university and college union member and STW trade union network activist. He said, “100 different workplaces had actions last Wednesday and there will be another workplace day of action Thursday next week”

Jeremy Corbyn finished the rally saying, “The message has got to be—it’s up to us to do more and more for the Palestinian people.” 

There were also protests in smaller places such as Cromer and Haverfordwest.

The protests came as Israel relaunched its attacks on Gaza which have so far killed almost 300 Palestinians after the end of a seven-day truce with Hamas.

The Israeli army said on Saturday that it hit more than 400 targets overnight, including in the Khan Younis area in the south, to which tens of thousands of civilians evacuated over the past month.

“Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office.

The US has made some hypocritical calls to limit civilian deaths. But the Wall Street Journal reported

Gaza protest in Southampton. 30 people with large banner "Stop war crimes"

Protesting in Southampton against the assault on Gaza (Picture: Guy Smallman)

that the US has sent Israel some 15,000 bombs and 57,000 artillery shells since 7 October, including 2,000-pound “bunker buster bombs”.

“The Israeli occupation continues to expand its targeting of civilians and has left not an inch of the Gaza Strip without bombing,” Gaza ministry of health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said on Saturday.

Across London, Palestine supporters gathered at a total of 14 borough-wide protests. Hundreds gathered in each of Hackney, Camberwell, Lewisham and Tottenham. In Islington, reports Paul, “There were around 400 at the town hall with speakers from City University Palestine Society, Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Islington Palestine Solidarity, two councillors, and local trade unionists.

“They focused on the unfolding horror of Gaza and the West Bank and the need to build support for the walkouts for Palestine on Thursday and Saturday’s national demo.”

Everyone must build that demonstration. But there also have to be bigger numbers joining action and walkouts at workplaces, schools, and universities.

The push for that won’t come from the trade union leaders or the Labour left—still less from Keir Starmer who continues to refuse calls for a ceasefire.

The people rightly raging on the streets now have to be ambassadors and organisers of wider and more militant revolt.

Hundreds of angry protesters in east London had a message for local Labour MPs and politicians. The front of one protest, which began in Forest Gate in Newham, had a banner which read, “No ceasefire, no vote.”

Anger at Labour in east London 

Hundreds of angry protesters in east London had a message for local Labour MPs and politicians. The front of one protest, which began in Forest Gate in Newham, had a banner which read, “No ceasefire, no vote.” 

Up to 500 protesters chanted it as they marched to Plashet Park in East Ham, where they joined up with around 300 demonstrators who’d marched from Redbridge. Shabana told Socialist Worker, “We feel abandoned. 

“I don’t think I could vote for any candidate who voted against a ceasefire. I think I’d have to really think about voting for Labour again.” 

Education worker Khadija added “I don’t think any politicians are really listening to us properly. Labour isn’t Labour anymore— and, of course, the Tories are always bad.”

At the end of the march, people chanted, “Lyn Brown, shame on you”—the West Ham Labour MP who abstained in the ceasefire vote in parliament.  

When a protester defended East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms—who did vote for a ceasefire— another protester hit back saying he should go further. They argued that Timms should have been at the demonstration. 

Protester Samira added that she thinks that the movement must keep going even if there is a permanent ceasefire. “To me the seven-day pause wasn’t really a ceasefire,” she said. “How can it be when really one side, Israel, has all the power? They’ll still attack the Palestinians in other ways even if they stop bombing. 

“Of course I want the bombing to end. But we need to keep fighting for Palestinians if that does happen because the violence won’t end even if there is a ceasefire.” 

Khadija added, “We need to keep up the protests. They need to be in every school and workplace.” 

Luton student campaign forces break with arms-maker

Student action has forced a college in Luton to “suspend” links with a military firm that suppliers Israel. But the campaign continues for a total break with this company and any others involved in similar work.

Luton Sixth Form College, which teaches over 3,000 16 to 18-year-olds, released a statement this week announcing it would cut ties with Leonardo. This is an Italian engineering firm that manufactures aircraft parts used by Israel.

The move follows a student campaign including a walkout by hundreds of students on 17 November. This was the day school students in several areas took action in protest at the bombing of Gaza.

Last week, the student council sent an open letter to the college leadership team demanding it cut its partnership with Leonardo “immediately”.

College bosses then issued a statement that said, “Leonardo attends career fairs for schools and colleges in Luton to offer work placements to students and has been in attendance at our Job Fairs and has offered work experience opportunities to some of our students.

“That is the extent of our relationship with Leonardo and we are currently reviewing our position with them in conjunction with Luton Borough Council and other schools and colleges. All further activities with Leonardo will be suspended until further notice.”

While making this declaration the College management disbanded the student council, which organised the pro-Palestine protests. It has and announced plans to invite a group called Shout Out UK on campus. 

Shout Out UK also posted on its social media pages that it had been invited to visit the college to provide a series of lessons on media literacy and “prevent radicalisation and extremism”.

Hassan Sajjad, who chaired the student council, told Middle East Eye website, “We’re going to continue placing pressure till the college cuts ties with Leonardo and ensure that the college has transparency in its decision”

Sajjad said the head of the college had told him that he planned to speak to Leonardo representatives to hear their perspective, “so nothing is concrete at this time”.

Sajjad added: “The decision to disband the student council was done behind closed doors without informing them of whether or not they want to finish this year’s session early. So we want that element of student input to be stronger within the college.”

In June, the Israeli ministry of defence selected Leonardo to supply the Israeli army with air surveillance and radar technology. The company has also previously supplied the Israeli Air Force with warplanes.

AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Leonardo, makes components for Apache attack helicopters used by Israel in Gaza.

Earlier this month, activists from Palestine Action occupied the roof of a Leonardo factory in Southhampton to oppose its involvement in Israel.

What’s next

Demonstrations on Sunday 3 December

Portsmouth: assemble at Victoria Park, 1.30pm

Slough: Assemble in the Town Square SL1 1DD (opposite the former Empire Cinema), 1.30pm.

Woking: Commercial Way, 1pm-3pm

  • The next national demonstration is in a week. Saturday 9 December, assemble 12 noon, Bank Junction, London. Details here 
  • Workplace day of action for Palestine, Thursday 7 December. Details here Online meeting to build for the workplace day, and the national demonstration, on Tuesday 5 December at 6.30pm. Details here

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