A sea of solidarity on the London Palestine march (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The solidarity movement for Palestine roared back onto the streets in vast numbers on Saturday. Around 500,000 people took to the streets in London on an angry and loud march that was full of fight and determined to stop the slaughter by Israel.

This was the biggest march since 11 November—and was part of a global day of action. It was expected to see demonstrations in over 120 cities, across 45 countries and on six continents to demand an end to the bombing of Gaza and Yemen.

Many marchers said this week’s genocide hearing against Israel had made them even more determined to be active for Palestine. “The evidence wasn’t a surprise to me, but it put it in front of the whole world,” marcher Faiza, a teaching assistant from west London, told Socialist Worker. 

“And it didn’t just show that Israel is guilty but also those who support Israel in the US and Britain are also just as much to blame for the killing of children. 

“And I can add Keir Starmer to the list of shame because he has not backed a ceasefire. It’s so important we have come out in such numbers today.”

The movement went into something of a lull over Christmas. There’s no lull now. Protester Sam said she has no illusions in international bodies like the United Nations or the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“I see that a genocide ruling is important, but for me, I don’t see the point in the UN or the ICJ if they don’t do anything,” she explained. “It also makes me mad that millions of people can take to the streets, and people in power just don’t listen.

“I feel like I can’t vote for Labour or the Tories. But then, who do I vote for? The Greens of the Lib Dem, I’m not sure I want to do that. For me this entire political system is broken.” 

Marchers denounced the US and British assault on Yemen. Yemeni cousins Joe Al Shujaa and AK Al Shujaa from Birmingham, said, “It’s the entire population being targeted, not the Houthis as they claim 

“To Starmer and Sunak, we say stop the bombing, stop supporting Israel’s war, for humanity. We protest not just for the Palestinians but we come out for everyone whether it’s for Sudan, Yemen, Syria or anywhere else.”

Marcher Sam said, “How do the Tories have money for their wars when homelessness is through the roof, the NHS is collapsing, and thousands go to foodbanks? To me, it’s disgusting.” 

Julia, a Unison union member, said, “The Tories are playing with fire. And Keir Starmer should’ve condemned Israel and stood up against what the Tories are doing, especially now in Yemen.”

It wasn’t just the size of the demonstrations that was impressive. People are increasingly radical as well.

Three months ago many thought that a giant turnout on protests could win a ceasefire and perhaps blunt British support for Israel. Now they know no scale of murder that will satisfy Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu. And the West will mutter warnings but in the end back him.

So many people want more militant methods. The big marches are crucial to show the size of the movement and give people confidence to speak out and organise. It’s important to build the Stop The War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s events.

But other disruptive actions and workplace revolts are needed now as well. Halima, from Tower Hamlets in east London, said, “We need to keep momentum going.

“ Interrupting public services and disruptive actions such as sit-ins will have more of an impact. People should not go about their everyday lives. We can’t return to normal.”

Tobi from Tower Hamlets said, “We also need more workplace actions to put a stop to the economy. There has not been enough so far.”

It was a good sign that more workers than before joined the London demo. But the numbers are still far too low because the trade union leaders don’t build support. It has been up to grassroots groups to build the turnout. 

On the London demonstration, Jess from CWU Members for Palestine said, “Bombs wouldn’t be built without workers. It’s on us to withdraw that labour while it is being used to kill civilians. 

“We want the CWU union to do something, because it’s not. My union is the United Tech and Allied Workers union and our parent union is CWU. We need more big marches more often and more direct action. Normality can’t just resume while this is going on.”

John from Surrey said, “We need to look at what Just Stop Oil is doing and replicate that for the Palestine solidarity movement. What we are doing now is not enough—politicians are not listening.”

He described the attacks on Yemen as “disgusting”. “Why are a few rich countries attacking a poor country like Yemen?” he said. 

Robina, a Unison union member from Leeds said, “We mustn’t lose momentum and we have to keep up the pressure on our government.” 

She is frustrated by the lack of action from trade unions and has “not heard anything from my trade union”. “Trade unions should take a position with Palestine and stand in solidarity,” she said.

Everyone should be building for action on 7 February, a day of workplace and student action across Britain. 

Climate Activists for Palestine formed a sizeable bloc on the demonstration that was much larger than in previous times.

Sean from Just Stop Oil said that anyone who can should take direct action for Palestine and against the arms trade. “We need to use every tactic we have,” he said. “We need big marches. We need to shut down arms factories and take up boycotts.

Matt, who’s also in Just Stop Oil, added, “We’re here to show that Palestine is a climate issue. We must keep repeating that there is no climate justice on stolen land.”

It’s time to raise the movement for Palestine and against imperialism to new levels.

Trade unions for Palestine

Trade unions on the London demonstration included:

Unison Salford branch, Cambridgeshire NEU, Birmingham Unison, Camden Unison, Waltham Forest NEU, Homerton Hospital Unison, UCU Soas, CWU Essex, City and Islington NEU, Camden NEU, Bolton Unison, Goldsmiths UCU, UTAW (CWU) tech workers, West Sussex NEU, York Unison, Southend-on-Sea Unison, South Central CWU, London and Eastern region Unite, Brighton UCU, Lancaster and Morecambe NEU, IWGB—workers for a free Palestine,

Marches in Scotland 

Around 1,000 marched for Palestine in Glasgow, 500 in Edinburgh and 150 in Aberdeen, for a protest at Barclays. After the main protest for Palestine at the Glasgow City Chambers, Stop the War activists led a march to the Ministry of Defence to oppose Britain bombing of Yemen.

Day of action in north west of England

Monday 15 Jan, 1pm, North West England day of action against Barclays. Barclays Bank holds over £1 billion in shares, and provides over £3 billion in loans and underwriting to nine companies whose weapons, components, and military technology have been used in Israel’s armed violence against Palestinians.

Full list of actions

Actions called by PSC, Stop the War and others:

Wednesday 17 January: Why Palestine is a trade union issue. Stop the War Coalition trade union network meeting, online, 6.30pm. 
Saturday 20 January: National Day of action for Palestine—local demonstrations.
Monday 22 Jan – Saturday 27 January: Stop Arming Israel Actions, including local Barclays protests on Sat 27 Jan.
Saturday 3 February: National Demonstration for Palestine in London.
Wednesday 7 February: National day of workplace and student action for Palestine

Oxfam report reveals scale of Israeli murder 

Israel’s military is killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day which massively exceeds the daily death toll of any other major conflict of recent years. That was the message from the charity Oxfam this week.

Its statement shows that almost everyone outside the imperialists and their friends knows the full extent of the horror flowing from Israel’s onslaught on Gaza.

Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East Director, said, “The scale and atrocities that Israel is visiting upon Gaza are truly shocking. For 100 days the people of Gaza have endured a living hell. Nowhere is safe and the entire population is at risk of famine.

“It is unimaginable that the international community is watching the deadliest rate of conflict of the 21st century unfold, while continuously blocking calls for a ceasefire.”

Oxfam calculated that the number of average deaths per day in Gaza is significantly higher than “any recent major armed conflict” including Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The aid agency goes on to warn that Israel is forcing people into smaller areas due to constant bombardment, as they are forced to flee from places they have previously been told are safe.

Oxfam staff in Rafah on the border with Egypt report massive overcrowding, with very little food and water, and essential medicines in desperately short supply. Oxfam doesn’t say it, but it’s precisely the central elements of the “international community” that allow the murder and suffering to continue. 

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