21 July 2014
This article appears courtesy of openDemocracy.
Around 100,000 demonstrators from around London and the world convened to show their support for victims in the Gaza Strip, and to denounce Israel’s ground offensive against innocent civilians and the silence of the international community.
Protesters hold a banner in support of Palestinians that have died during the weeks-long siege of the Gaza Strip [Photo: Haneul Na’avi]
According to Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com, as of July 21st, the death toll among Palestinians stood at 556, which consisted unequivocally of civilians, with over 100 of them children. Conversely, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) lost 25 soldiers, in addition to two civilians. The lopsided casualties patently validated claims that war crimes were being indiscriminately committed against men, women, and children in Palestine during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” which, aimed at stopping Hamas “rocket fire”, has since escalated the crisis.
These events had been precipitated when three Jewish boys—Natfali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach—were abducted and found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron, in which no one has been brought to justice. This led to the retaliation killing of Mohammed Abu Khedeir by far-right Jewish nationalists and a brutal raid and arrest of over 570 Palestinians, with approximately 5 Gazans dead. Nevertheless, media whitewashing and bias of the incident has skewed international access to reliable information, including possible motives to obstruct Palestine’s unity government and economic development. “Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly 15 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian ‘unity government’ announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority,” states one author of Solidarity Magazine.
London was one of many places around the world where international condemnation resonated throughout major cities. “In Europe, thousands of people took to the streets in London, Paris and Dublin condemning the situation despite France’s recent ban on protesting after pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on two synagogues,” an IB Times article mentioned. The article further asserted that “at least 30 people were arrested in Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, after protestors marched in defiance of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. A similar situation broke out Saturday night in Tel Aviv, as hundreds gathered in Israel’s second-most-populous city.”
Children march towards Kensington with Palestinian flags draped across their backs [Photo: Haneul Na’avi]
Organizations from around Britain gathered to help coordinate the protest. Among them, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop the War Coalition, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Action AWE, Socialist Party, Revolutionary Communist, Counterfire, Left Unity, and the Socialist Workers Party actively participated in functions of the event. All attending groups utilized kiosks, signs, banners, posters, and representatives to distribute vital information, sign petitions, recruit members, and to usher the march to the main rally point. Protesters originally gathered in front of PM David Cameron’s residence in Downing Street and proceeded to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, where Israeli security forces and diplomats were obliged to listen.
Children hold their sign in protest of the Gazan genocide in the West Bank [Photo: Haneul Na’avi]
Many of the attendees expressed their outrage and indignation towards the actions of Israel’s genocidal ground campaign. One vocal Jewish woman in the rally voiced her opinion in a short statement for The Last Defense:
They say that they’re bombing [Israel] with rockets. If they can’t rebuild their houses, drink enough water, or have any food, what are they going to make rockets from? What, the bloody lies? Enough is enough! The truth will be out. Palestine will be free. They want to take more land. It’s a land grab. They’ve taken 75% and now they’re going in for the kill. The whole kit and caboodle, and then all of these BBC and media-run Zionists just tell lies.
[Israel] bombed Palestine with depleted uranium in 2012. Did any of the media say [that]? They talk about weapons of mass destruction… Israel is the 4th biggest weapons [manufacturer] on the planet! It has 300 nukes already to fire! Why can Israel have weapons of mass destruction?
The protests converged several key boycott initiatives, including those of Innovative Minds, Black Students Campaign, and The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. The Palestinian Society, based off of the successes of boycotting practices used in South Africa against apartheid, created a similar call in order to express clear objections to sanctioning the Israeli government and economic sectors with a three-point ultimatum:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Protesters hold a banner in favor of the BDS initiative and chant to passersby [Photo: Haneul Na’avi]
Approximately 245 politicians, organizations, political parties and trade unions, have endorsed these initiatives. Their combined support and advocacy have been instrumental in the push for this resolution and to recognizing the solidarity of citizens of the Gaza Strip. One representative offered her statement about the effectiveness of divesting from businesses tied to Israel:
Who contribute to the Israeli IDF, and of course, to the mistreatment of the Palestinians? They do this in two methods, either directly or indirectly, so, officially, they may say that this company doesn’t contribute but they try to withdraw millions straight to the IDF. For example, Starbucks, a classic, [and] on top of that, Starbucks has not been paying UK taxes for a long, long time, and has been using that money to send to Israel to kill more Palestinians. So, the only way that we can do this is to all stick together, [in] peaceful protest, and boycott them. If they have less money, they can kill less people.
Finally, the massive crowd of people from all over the MENA region and the world chanted in union slogans such as “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry! We will never let you die!” After pooling at the rally point in front of the embassy, a host of featured speakers came out to publically condemn the ground, air, and naval assaults on Gaza to their audiences. Tariq Ali, veteran journalist for the London Guardian and New Left Review, gave a passionate, galvanizing speech on his thoughts:
One of the most shameful things that has happened in Europe… the government of France has banned all pro-Palestinian demonstrations. And we say to Hollande, ‘You will fall yourself in badly, you are hated by your population, your ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been, so your time has passed, and we hope a France will emerge which will not challenge the democratic rights, either of Palestine or of its own citizens, because to stop people demonstrating on the grounds that these are anti-Semitic demonstrations… The way that Israelis have used anti-Semitism to try to crush any resistance no longer works! It doesn’t work any longer!
Approximately 100,000 men, women and Children from countries around the world gather during Tariq Ali’s speech in front of the Israeli embassy in Kensington [Photo: Haneul Na’avi]
So, what are we going to do? Of course, we will carry on demonstrating, but I tell you something… we can’t just stop at that. The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions must be continued! The BDS campaign is the only way. We can help consistently in the long term to isolate this state, to make its people think that what they’re doing is unacceptable to the world at large. We did it to South Africa, let’s do it to Israel.
For learn more and get involved, please contact http://www.palestinecampaign.org/ and http://stopwar.org.uk.
For more information about The Last Defense, please visit thelastdefense2012.tumblr.com.