AROUND 15,000 people last Saturday marched in London from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in south Kensington to show their solidarity with the beleaguered people of Gaza.
They marched in spite of atrocious weather and the fragile ceasefire reached after Israel’s latest bloody and brutal assault on the besieged and defenceless Palestinian territory.
Eight days of brutal bombardment left 160 Palestinians dead, around 40 of them children – along with many more wounded and homes, schools and hospitals destroyed.
And rebuilding from the last incursion four years ago has been impossible because of the Israeli imposed siege that prevents building materials and tools – along with food and medicine – from entering Gaza except by secret tunnels from the border with Egypt.
In London the protesters showed their anger at the British government’s support for the Israeli attack and gave a message to the world that this support was not given in their name.
The crowd was very diverse, with lots of young people and students and “Anonymous” masks mixing happily with hijabs and Palestinian scarves.
The marchers chanted, waved banners and placards and were a constantly vibrant presence as they passed through some of the most affluent parts of London to the Israeli embassy gates, where we were greeted by Tony Benn, president of Stop the War Coalition, the first of the speakers to express solidarity with Gaza.
Other speakers included delegates from the Palestinian town of Jenin, the Egyptian novelist Adhaf Soueif, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain Manuel Hassassian, Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter, speakers from the trade unions, and a representative from the SOAS students who occupied their university in solidarity with Gaza.
The demonstrators were united in their determination not just to protest at this latest outrage by Israel but to call for an end to the siege of Gaza and to see the day – after 65 years of occupation and brutal repression – when justice will be achieved for all Palestinians.
They were encouraged by the sense that Israel had been forced to curtail its attack – at least in part – due to the changed balance of forces in the Middle East since the Arab revolutions, and in particular since the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
But the marchers showed anger at the distorted media coverage, especially from the BBC, which has often seemed little more than an adjunct to the Israeli propaganda machine.
That the reason for Israel's attack may in part have been motivated by a plan to wage war next year against Iran – as Britain's chief rabbi
Jonathan Sachs revealed inadvertently on BBC radio – brought roars of anger.
This particular Israeli attack may have ended, but there is no such thing as a stable Israeli ceasefire where Gaza or the West Bank are concerned.