Rallying in Leicester over Israel’s assault on Gaza and the attack on Rafah

Protesters against the Israeli genocide in Gaza and the attack on Rafah took to the streets on Saturday in around 50 places from Abergavenny to Wolverhampton.

Several of the demonstrations were big. Around  2,500 marched in Leicester where protester Joseph reports, “It was one of the biggest local protests we’ve had here—probably the second biggest in the last four months.

“There was a warm reception as we went through the city centre. And we heard speakers from Leicester Active Muslims, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War, plus UCU and other unions.

“There was a huge cheer for the slogan ‘No ceasefire, no vote’.”

Some 2,000 demonstrated in Leeds and 1,000 in Glasgow.

Another large march was in Bristol where a protest themed around the destruction of education in Gaza saw “around 1,000” taking part according to protester Lin. “There were students, including school students on the platform at the end. One very young school student made a short and simple speech, ‘Stop killing all the kids’.”

A Palestinian student told marchers that the Unrwa relief agency that is presently under attack has been a “window of light” to her and many others. She called for everyone to defend it against the funding cuts from Western countries and added that she looked forward to “returning to a free Palestine, from the river to the sea”.

Some of the events were smaller than in previous weeks. That’s partly because of how long the Israeli assault has continued.

But also many activists are preparing for a massive march in London next Saturday. It will take place on a global day of action with demonstrations planned in more than 100 cities.

The organisers of the previous major protests in London say, “This is not just a call to protest. It is an invitation to be part of a global movement that transcends borders and speaks to the collective conscience of humanity.

“Let our message reverberate globally: Stop the Genocide in Gaza and demand Freedom for Palestine.

Around 60 activists protested on a boycott tour of Hackney, east London, going round Starbucks, McDonalds and other Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions targets.

Diana, who works at Homerton hospital, said we need mass mobilisations for Palestine but, “Every action, every boycott, every protest, every workplace walkout is important.”

“Our employers tell us to turn a blind eye but we can’t.”

The protest started at Hackney town hall, where the council meets. Protester George slammed Hackney council, saying it “is complicit. It has investments in arms companies.

“It’s morally obscene that the council continues to hold these investments in the context of the current genocide.”

The Labour council is still refusing to divest. Hackney borough is currently twinned with Haifa, a city in Israel. Protester Mike said, “We don’t want to be twinned with Haifa. we want to be twinned with Gaza.”

In south London pro-Palestine protesters marched to the Blue Fin building which includes the BAE Systems arms company offices.

They chanted, “Your hands are covered in Palestinian blood” outside the building.

Elsewhere around 100 protesters marched from Plashet Park in Newham to East Ham town hall.

They chanted against Barclays Bank and McDonald’s to call out their complicity in funding Israeli apartheid.

Marcher Shalina told Socialist Worker that after four months, the horror of what’s happening doesn’t get any less.

“I don’t really understand how things can go back to normal,” she said. “But I’ve also learnt so much since this started. I’ve read more and wanted to educate myself.”

“Nothing has happened in terms of a ceasefire. The governments are still not listening. Unless we take more action, primarily actions that hit back at banks and the bosses’ money, nothing is going to happen.

“We must talk about this at work, even if it’s hard.”

There was particular anger at local Labour MP Lyn Brown and the Labour Party as a whole.

Protesters chanted, “Labour Party, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”

Stop the War trade union network meeting, Thursday 15 February, 6pm, online. Details here

Israel begins mass murder in Rafah

In Gaza the Israeli assault on Rafah on the border with Egypt has begun—and threatens a new bloodbath.

According to reports within Israeli media, Binyamin Netanyahu has said to his war cabinet that he wants to smash Palestinian resistance before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin on 10 March.

That means that whatever the hesitations of the Western allies, the Israelis are going to attack an area crammed with over a million people who have nowhere else to go.

Israeli slaughter has previously driven many from their homes in north and central Gaza.

“Any Israeli incursion in Rafah means massacres, means destruction. People are filling every inch of the city and we have nowhere to go,” said Rezik Salah, who fled his Gaza City home with his wife and two children for Rafah early in October.

Now many penned into Rafah say they wouldn’t leave even if they could because they fear it might lead to another permanent displacement in a repeat of 1948’s Nakba, or “catastrophe”.

Egypt, meanwhile, has kept the border firmly closed. Its repressive rule president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fears that the arrival of Palestinians would detonate the simmering mood of revolt in Egypt.

The Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists wrote last week of a social emergency sweeping through the poor as prices soar.

“High prices are hitting bread, rice, sugar, grains, cooking oil, and vegetables—the basic commodities that let people survive.

“Prices jump from week to week and even from day to day. Providing the cheapest meals on a daily basis at the levels of income and wages for the largest sector of Egyptian families has become practically impossible.”

The RS statement says that what’s missing is organised resistance against profiteering, and calls for generalised mobilisation.

Combined with the feeling over the failure of Egyptian leaders to deliver real solidarity with the people of Palestine this economic pressure could trigger mass upheaval from below.

Thanks to all who sent reports from the protests

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