I attended the Enough! rally for the cessation of the occupation of Palestine, organised by a coalition of over 40 UK organisations to commemorate the 1967 war, in which the West Bank and Gaza were occupied. I did not know there were 40 organisations that cared enough to organise a rally, but things are picking up, the International Solidarity Movement approximate yesterdays turnout at about 10,000, I thought it was more like 20,000, but no mention of it in the press 😦 There were alot of professional looking cameramen documenting the event, who did they work for I wonder?
The rally started at Lincolns Inn Fields, near Holborn tube station in London and made its way to Trafalgar square, the rally took a different route than usual (usually we start at Embankment and then go to Trafalgar square), I preferred this route better, seemed to be more people about, we even encountered a mini counter protest! I will come to that later.
The atmosphere was weird, or maybe it was just me, I felt unsettled, and a bit disconnected. I did not feel the energy that usually goes with such rallie, there were pockets of fervent slogan shouting, and people around tried to get things going with a ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, which recognises the 1948 invasion, and subsequent exile of what now numbers about 4 million refugees. The kabosh was put on that when one of the rallys stewards expressed ‘discomfort’ at the slogan, saying that some people favour a ‘two state solution’ (HA! never met a Palestinian who honestly favoured that), I only got the gist of it, as I was not the person it was addressed to… but I started penning the complain letter in my head, until the same slogan got taken up by other, more vocal, groups… maybe a little heads up to the organisers though.
We continued the march, and encountered a mini- counter demonstration of what appeared to be Christian Zionists, waving Israeli flags and calling for the end of support for terrorism– such irony. The ISM blog entry on this, comment that the smaller counter demo is due to the difficulty of drumming up support for oppression, I tend to take a more cynical approach, they dont need marches in the street, they have the upper hand.
There was a few new banners (usual ones being Free Palestine! and The Wall Must Fall!), of notable additions this year was a few free Alan Johnson placards, the call for his release being vocalised by some of the key speakers as well.
The rally istelf was held in Trafalgar square, on the monument itself, accompanied by a large screen TV so that all can see the speakers… this rally is coming on in leaps and bounds. The speakers included Mustafa Barghouti (Palestinian Minister of Information), Anglican Bishop Riah Abu El Assal, Professor Manuel Hassassian (Palestinian General Delegate to the UK), Natan’l Silverman (Combatants for Peace), Lord Andrew Phillips, Bruce Kent, Richard Burden MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Emily Thornberry MP, George Galloway MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Dr Daud Abdullah (Muslim Council of Britain),
Ismael Patel (Friends of Al Aqsa), Dr Azzam Tamimi, Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Nobel Peace Laureate), Keith Sonnet (UNISON). That is 4 members of the British parliament and 1 member of the European parliament. As well as Mustafa Barghouti (who joked that it was easier for him to come to the UK than travel around the region in which he is an elected official), the coalition had also invited 2 other members of the Palestinian government, one of whom was denied a visa, the other was held hostage/kidnapped by the israeli government. Much focus was placed on the democracy of the most recent Palestinian elections, as well as the worlds hypocrisy at rejecting them. Much was also said about the illegality of withholding tax monies from the Palestinian government.
An interesting and new addition to the rally was the video message from the PM of Palestine, Ismail Haniyeh. His talk was in Arabic dubbed in English. It irks me that people refuse to recognise the peoples choice, Ismail Haniyeh is more the peoples choice than Tony Blair was, 70% of the Palestinian population voted, how many voted in the UK? I found the video message to be an excellent addition.
Halfway through the talks I wandered off, mainly to visit the stalls, and get an idea of who was there and what people did. Of mention was the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign, their work appears to be very hands on. The raise money to help in providing medical and educational support, mainly by selling merchandise produced in palestine–visit their website they have an online shop too. I also had a quick chat with the Interpal stall, Natwest is still freezing their accounts and they have simply moved to another bank.
Neturei Karta once again made it: note, as it is saturday they cannot use transport or technical equipment like a mic, yet every year for as long as I have been attending these rallies they have made it rain or shine… they walk from home to the start of the rally, to trafalgar square and back home again.
Finally: the man on the lion (literally)
He was on there supporting the Palestine Forums’ banner from the moment we got there till I left. 10/10 for perseverance!
More pictures and blog entries: