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Palestine protests across Britain as anger at Israel grows

Plus: Boris Johnson calls on Britain to keep arms flowing to Israel, Hamas sets out ceasefire conditions
Issue 2900
people hold a banner reading ceasefire now on a Palestine protest in Harlow

On the Palestine protest in Harlow

Over 40 protests for Palestine on Saturday and Sunday showed the continuing readiness to mobilise against the Israeli assaults and Western support for the killing.

In many areas, people reacted with anger and horror to the murder of aid workers this week but asked why Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden had not shown similar concern over the murder of 33,000 Palestinians.  

And on every protest, campaigners raised demands for Britain to stop arming and funding Israel.

Speaking from a protest in north London, campaigner Ali told Socialist Worker, “I now see the US telling Israel to change course and kill fewer people. I think it’s too little too late and anyway, the arms keep flowing from the US to Israel. 

“But the fact that Israel then does let in more aid shows that Biden could have done this at any time. Also I don’t think we would have got any of this talk from the US and Britain without a movement on the streets for six months.”

In most areas the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) called the protests, backed by other groups.

Around 700 people marched through Manchester under the slogan, “Rise up with Palestinian women.” 

They heard speeches from Palestinian women before marching around the city, stopping at Barclays Bank. Demonstrations have been held every Saturday in Manchester with a different focus each week. 

Sue reports, “There are now several hundred ‘veterans’ who have attended most of the marches, but anger at the bombing of hospitals and aid workers is encouraging new people to join too. 

“The marches are loud and angry and well received by the public, although on this occasion a tiny group of Zionists attempted unsuccessfully to provoke the marchers. It is unfortunate that trade unions are not consistently represented on the protests, and were largely absent this week.”

Over 300 people demonstrated for Palestine in Cardiff. Following a rally outside the central library, a march went through the city with stops at Barclays and McDonald’s, reports Rob. 

There were around 350 out for Palestine in  Edinburgh, 200 in Nottingham and 200 in Dundee.

Up to 200 people in Hackney, east London, marched through Dalston high street and blockaded a Pret A Manger store, sitting down outside it. Pret has announced a major new store expansion in apartheid Israel.

Protesters chanted, “Your profits are covered in Palestinian blood.” One campaigner said, “When I go to Palestine I have to go as a British tourist because I’m displaced, because I don’t have the right to return.

“We talk about a colonialist Zionist entity and that’s right. It’s important to call things by their names.”

Alastair, a member of the Green Party, referring to Israel’s recent slaughter of aid workers, said, “It shouldn’t take Western aid workers to die for the West to take notice.”

Alistair added, “We’ve got to dismantle the military-industrial complex and our broken system.”

About 70 people in Harlow, Essex, joined a rally, demonstration and banner drop. Around 20 people in Coventry took part in a PSC picket of Barclays Bank.

North Hertfordshire PSC tweeted about a protest in Hertford, “Wonderful to see so many passers-by joining us or showing their support. It’s so clear there’s been a sea change in people’s awareness and attitude.”

people hold a banner on the Palestine protest in Manchester

A clear message on the march in Manchester

Around 75 protesters gathered outside a Pret A Manger in Waltham Forest in east London. Some 30 people lay down in the doorway of the Pret as part of a “die-in” action, blocking anyone coming in. Walthamstow Palestine Solidarity Campaign called the protest.

One protester, Daryl, is a musician who is taking part in a mass social movement for the first time. He said the “ridiculous propaganda” coming from the Tories pushed him onto the street, with Boris Johnson making headlines saying it would be “insane” to stop arming Israel.

Daryl said that he was told what Israel’s doing was “complicated”, but that he “doesn’t think it’s complicated anymore”.

Around ten minutes after the “die-in” started, police started threatening arrests. The cops’ presence remained during the entire protest, but didn’t affect morale.

On the contrary, protester Siobhan said that “networks are growing”. She said that “building people’s confidence so they feel they can protest” is an important goal of the local actions.

Protesters marched through Walthamstow market toward the nearby Starbucks, which closed its shutters as soon as the crowd arrived, preventing anyone from going in. The chants continued outside Starbucks before the protest moved back toward the town centre.

Tony is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and one of the leaders of the protest. He said that the “criminality of the British establishment cheering on and enabling the genocide” is unacceptable.

Chants included, “we are the people, we won’t be silent, stop the bombing”, “Stop bombing mosques”, and, “Viva, viva Palestina.” After the official end to the protest at 1pm, many people stayed and continued chanting. They passed around a petition against the Labour-run council’s investment in Israel via pension funds. 

What began as a PSC campaign stall in Brighton ended with a well-supported impromptu march.

Some 40 people took part in a protest in Chesterfield, there were 50 in Hull and in Dumfries in the Scottish Borders PSC supporters gathered outside the local BBC office to protest against the screening of the Eurovision Song Contest that includes the participation of Israel.

On Sunday the Scottish Stop The War Coalition held a national assembly in Glasgow.

Next Saturday’s regional demonstrations are a chance to bring the anger of the movement onto the streets in big numbers again.   

After the destruction of al-Shifa hospital, the growing famine in Gaza and the murder by Israel of Iranian officials in Syria we need large protests on the streets, more direct action and more disruption.

Thanks to Michael Kabasele for the report from Walthamstow 

Calendar

  • Next Saturday, 13 April, Stop the War, PSC, Friends of Al-Aqsa and others have called some regional mobilisations on the theme of Stop Arming Israel. In London, the march assembles at 12 noon and goes to Parliament Square. Go to Stop The War for London details
  • Thu 18 April, 6.30pm: Palestine and the Unions: the Next Steps for the Movement, Zoom meeting called by Stop the Wra. For link email [email protected]
  • Wed 24 April: PSC lobby of parliament
  • Wed 1 May: Workplace day of action.

Victory against Manchester censorship of Palestinian Voices

HOME, a popular independent arts venue in Manchester, has been forced to backtrack after cancelling Voices of Resilience, an event featuring Palestinian writers and actors.

A group called the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester had contacted HOME and accused one of the authors, Atef Abu Saif, of being a “Holocaust denier” and “confirmed antisemite”.

 The organisers of the event, Comma Press, strongly challenged this and dismissed the claims as “utterly false”. Abu Saif is a writer and Culture Minister for the West Bank. 

HOME initially issued a statement claiming political neutrality, yet it is known as a progressive venue that aims to showcase and encourage the work of those who would otherwise be marginalised.

Hundreds of people contacted HOME to express their anger at the cancellation.

Recently the regular Saturday demo for Palestine marched to HOME where we listened to Palestinian speakers. Over 100 local artists who had been exhibiting their work at the annual Open Exhibition held at HOME took down their artwork en masse.

One of the artists involved in the campaign told Socialist Worker “We as a group of artists came together because we were frustrated and upset with HOME’s decision to cancel the Palestine Voices event. Once we decided to do something it took a matter of days to come together. Taking the artwork off the walls was really sad and very poignant and done with such care.”

The artists released a statement saying, ‘“If political neutrality is the stance that HOME wishes to move forward with then we envision that your gallery walls will be bare, your cinema screens blank and your stages empty. Artistic expression is inherently political: you only need to look at the work in the HOME Open to evidence this.”

A reading of poetry from Atef Abu Saif’s book Don’t Look Left – A Diary of Genocide had been planned for Thursday outside the cinema, and this turned into a celebration after HOME issued a statement saying that they were reinstating the event.

In a statement welcoming the reinstatement, Media Workers for Palestine said: “The struggle for Palestinian liberation has become inseparable from the broader fight for truth and against censorship and repression,” and added that they hoped this would not be a one-off event. 

It remains to be seen whether the event will be exactly the same format as initially planned, but this is a great victory for the right to campaign in support of Palestine

Sue Caldwell


Johnson—keep arming Israel

Not everyone is even pretending to demand a change from Israel. Former Tory prime minister Boris Johnson has said it is “shameful” to call for Britain to end arms sales to Israel.

Writing in his Daily Mail newspaper column, Johnson said it would be “insane” for Britain to end military support. He said it would be “willing the military defeat of Israel and the victory of Hamas”.

Johnson fears the Palestinian resistance is going to win. He wrote, “Remember that to win this conflict, Hamas only has to survive. All they need at the end is to hang on, rebuild, and go again. That’s a victory for Hamas.”


Hamas sets out ceasefire conditions

A senior Hamas source told Al Jazeera newspaper that the group was sending a delegation to Cairo on Sunday after an Egyptian invitation for ceasefire talks.

Hamas has also released a statement saying it will adhere to “the position it presented on 14 March and insisted it would not “back down”.

“The demands are complete ceasefire, withdrawal of the occupation forces from Gaza, the return of the displaced to their residential areas, freedom of movement of the people, offering them aid and shelter, and a serious hostage exchange deal,” it said.

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