At least 200,000 people marched for Palestine in London on Saturday, a sign of the continuing mass anger against Israel’s genocidal assault in Gaza. Some speakers at the march rally said it was 250,000.
At the same time around 10,000 people were on the streets in Edinburgh (see below). It was the biggest march in the city since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
In London, Amara, a young Muslim woman from Tower Hamlets, told Socialist Worker, “Israel needs to give Palestine its land back. And those who were forced to leave Palestine have to be allowed back.
“Just like the British Empire was forced to give land back—the Israeli state has to do the same. It’s not theirs to keep.”
Marchers chanted, “Rishi Sunak you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” and, “Keir Starmer, you can’t hide, you support a genocide.”
Farah, who lives in London but is from Iraq, said, “I have no words for what Israel is doing except genocide. But I’m not shocked at the response from the West, or Arab leaders. They care about their own interests.”
Safa and Meenal from west London said, “Cutting Unrwa aid funding is unacceptable and the accusations against it are bullshit—respect to Spain for actually upping their funding. The labelling of Houthis as terrorists is ridiculous—the British and US armies are two of the world’s biggest terrorist organisations.
“Police trying to scare people into silence and off the streets won’t work. We know what we’re standing for, everyone protesting today is on the right side of history.”
Sophie from Northampton said, “In Yemen the Houthis are standing up for what’s right, Britain needs to stop bombing them.”
The police were noticeably more aggressive than previously on the demonstration. They had issued a ban on face coverings—a studied insult to Muslim women—in advance. They arrested a protester for this at one point.
And later they pushed into the Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) section of the march, seized the lead banner with its slogan, “Victory to the resistance”—but then returned it.
There were at least 31 trade union banners in the special section of the march, and many others sprinkled throughout the rest of the demonstration.
The workplace and student day of action on Wednesday, 7 February, is now a chance to deepen the movement among workers and students. Pete from King’s College London UCU union branch said, “We need more direct action targeted at the arms industry.”
On 7 February, he said, “We are doing a staff and student lunchtime walkout for Palestine.”
Jane, a teacher, told Socialist Worker that in Cambridge the NEU union “linked up with the Stop the War Coalition and is planning a series of protests. There will be five different protests at schools and a teach-in at the university.
“We have no choice. Our government is not speaking out so we must speak out. We can’t do nothing.”
Everyone can do something on Wednesday—and the actions need to be as militant and disruptive as possible.
Tomorrow, Sun 4 Feb, day school Palestine, imperialism and the struggle for freedom, 11am-4pm, central London. For details and to book go to http://tinyurl.com/Palestine0402
Marches in Edinburgh and Cardiff
Up to 10,000 people joined a demonstration for Palestine in Edinburgh. Hector reports, “It’s the biggest demonstration in Edinburgh since the start of the movement—and the biggest demo in the city since the big Scottish independence marches. It saw the best trade union turnout so far, which we hope is a good sign for the day of action on Wednesday.
“There were contingents or banners from the PCS, Unison, Unite, Aslef, EIS, RMT and NASUWT unions. “There was also a sizeable Jewish bloc for the first time too.”
Around 400 people marched in Cardiff, reports Helen. “A loud and dynamic demo in a wet and windy city. Chants against Sunak and Starmer, calling Israel a terror state.”
Five damning facts
Earlier this week World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing that “Over 100,000 Gazans are either dead, injured, or missing and presumed dead.”
In the week since the International Court of Justice ruled Israel could plausibly be carrying out genocide in Gaza, the Israeli military has killed at least 874 Palestinians.
Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant has officially declared, “Victory will not be complete until the military expands into Rafah.” Rafah is the enclave in south of Gaza where 1 million or more Palestinians are sheltering.
“Most of Gaza’s population is in Rafah,” Emad, a Palestinian, told Reuters News Agency. “If the tanks storm in, we will be left with two choices—stay and die or climb the walls into Egypt. It will be a massacre like never before during this war.” Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a briefing in Geneva, “Rafah is a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear for what comes next.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released a report this week on the social and economic destruction in Gaza since 7 October. It says that if the current military operation were to end immediately with reconstruction starting right away and the 2007-2022 growth trend persists, it would take Gaza until 2092 just to restore the economic production levels of 2022.