This is no time to slow down the pace of the Palestine solidarity movement or shut down for Christmas. That was the determined message from an over 300-strong Free Palestine organising assembly in east London on Monday night.
The London-wide event felt like the new movement that has burst onto the streets—young and radical with Muslims to the fore.
The loudest cheers went to those who backed the Palestinians’ right to resist and for an end to Israeli settler colonialism. Ghada Karmi, the veteran Palestinian writer, said, “What happened on 7 October is precisely what you should have expected since the Israelis imposed the siege and made life so difficult.
“It was no wonder that a group, some fighters, broke through the cage that the Gazans have been locked into. If you treat people the way the people of Gaza have been treated, you must expect that there will be a reaction.”
She added, “We want your help in dismantling the state of Israel—such a state does not deserve to be a member of the world community of states. In its place, we need to rebuild Palestine.
“There are two sets of people between the river and the sea. One set is the original inhabitants, the other set is settlers and their descendants. They are there and we are not inhumane. We must live together in a democratic state.”
The last two months have shown the power of mass struggle and shaken up British politics. Hundreds of thousands of people have joined six national demonstrations in London, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop The War (STW) and others.
PSC vice-chair Neha Shah said, “We’ve seen the regeneration of the global solidarity movement.” She celebrated the mass mobilisations from the “capitals of Western empire” to the “cities of Dublin and Havana where people know all too well what it means to struggle” against imperialism.
“We shouldn’t underestimate what our movement has achieved,” Shah said. “We cannot underestimate the impact of these demonstrations.” She said they had “built up the confidence of people to stand on the right side of history” and “to undertake a variety of other direct actions”.
Lindsey German, the STW convenor, said, “When Israel says it’s a war against Hamas, it’s a lie. It’s a war against the Palestinian people.
“Hamas is a product of the situation the Palestinians are in—it is a product of Nakba, it is a product of the occupation, it is a product of two repressed intifadas. That’s why there is always resistance among the Palestinians. Whatever happens to Hamas, there will continue to be resistance and Israel will not be able to destroy it.”
As well as the national marches, many people have turned out for local protests, walked out of classrooms and lecture theatres, shut down stations, blockaded arms factories and staged workplace action.
Sophia Beach is a Jewish anti-Zionist and a national organiser for the Socialist Workers Student Society, which has been at the heart of organising walkouts on campuses. “There are two sides—the side of the oppressor and the side of the oppressed and we’re with the oppressed,” she said.
“We’ve seen what our movement can achieve. We got rid of one of the most toxic and reactionary home secretaries we have seen in a long long time. But we can’t stop with just Suella Braverman, we can’t stop because of what Israel continues to do.
“We want to keep fighting and come back bigger and stronger next year, we have to go on the streets for justice for the Palestinians.”
Saudah Badat from Friends of al-Aqsa slammed the “shameful MPs who displayed their lack of humanity” by not voting for a ceasefire. “We’re saying to them, ‘Enough is enough’,” she said.
“For far too long our MPs have taken our votes for granted. If you’re not putting Palestine in the forefront, if you’re not voting for a ceasefire, we’re not voting for you.”
She added, “The most important thing is that we don’t become complacent, it’s important we keep mobilising in our communities.”
There were cheers for Jeremy Corbyn MP who slammed the US and Britain for protecting Israel at the United Nations (UN) last week. “This government has manoeuvred this country into a position of being one of three that vote against a ceasefire the UN—the US, Britain and Israel,” he said.
Richard Boyd Barrett, a People Before Profit TD in the Irish Parliament, sent a solidarity message to the assembly.
After hearing the speakers, there was a buzz in the room as the assembly split into three break-out sessions—students, trade unionists and local areas. One big focus was building the national day of action called by PCS, STW and others in towns and cities across Britain on Saturday.
Everyone needs to push for the local protests on Saturday to be as big and militant as possible—and be ready to take to the streets over the holidays. Another major national demonstration is planned in the New Year.
Israel and its backers in Downing Street won’t let up the terror. We can’t let up our solidarity and opposition.
Vigil for Gaza: stop killing children, Wednesday 13 December, 4.30pm, opposite Downing Street in central London. Called by PSC, STW and others.
Join the day of action for Palestine this Saturday 16 December. Go to STW for a list of protests
Next national march called by STW, PSC, FOA and others, Saturday 13 January in London