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Saturday, June 12, 2010
End the siege of Gaza!
by a New Worker correspondent
NEW WORKER supporters joined thousands of protesters who marched through London to the Israeli Embassy to express their anger at the murder of nine activists by Israeli forces who raided a convoy of ships bringing emergency aid to the blockaded people of Gaza.
Demonstrators in Whitehall carried placards demanding “Gaza End the Siege” and “For Freedom We Sail” and chanted “Stop Israeli piracy”.
Some 20,000 turned out to show their solidarity with the Palestinians in the march organised by groups including the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative, CND, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Viva Palestina and Palestinian Forum of Britain.
People from all faiths and cultures expressed their anger against the Israel’s attack on the flotilla on Monday. The attack which happened while the ships were sailing in international waters left nine killed and 54 others injured.
At the rally near the Israeli embassy, speakers said the number of people killed in the Israeli raid was more than nine. Six activists, they claimed, were still missing. Ismael Patel of Friends of al-Aqsa group said the attack was wholly “unprovoked.” “No warning was given,” he said demanding an independent international inquiry.
A number of prominent politicians and activists, including witnesses from the Mavi Marmara – the ship on which nine Turkish aid workers were shot dead at close range – demanded the end of the siege and called for the British government to take an active role in condemning Israel.
Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn said: “The recent killing of innocent aid workers is a catastrophe.”
He compared Israel with South African apartheid, saying: “This is not only the struggle of Palestinians but now a struggle for all of us.”
Recently elected Green Party MP Caroline Lucas demanded justice and freedom for Palestinians. She said: “Gaza is the biggest open air prison in the world. We are here to demand the end of the siege of Gaza and to demand the end of the occupation.”
Amid cheers from the crowd she continued: “The UK government has been complicit in these horrors and this must come to an end.”
She asked people to write to their Members of Parliament and demand action.
Novelist and political campaigner Tariq Ali said the British government needs to go one step further to break off all diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.
“I am calling on David Cameron to end the siege now”, he said.
Jews against Zionism speaker John Rose who has given up his right of return to Israel said: “There is no democracy in Israel.”
He said a number of prominent Israelis including academics such as Avi Shlaim have publicly denounced the occupation and asked for people to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
British hip-hop artist Lowkey called for the British and US governments to stop the 62-year occupation of Palestine. He ended his speech with a rendition of his famous rap Long Live Palestine.
“How many more resolutions have to be violated, how many more children have to be annihilated?” he sang.
Louise Thomas, a civil servant from London said: “I think the events of the past few weeks have shown Israel in its true light. For too long the Israel government has been able to get away with violating international laws and it needs to stop now.”
While the demonstration was happening Israeli forces stopped another aid ship, the Rachel Corrie, from proceeding to Gaza with a ship-load of aid.
This time there was no violence but it was still an illegal act of piracy by the Israeli forces designed to prevent any aid of help reaching the people of Gaza.
Since then the Iranian government has offered a protective escort for future aid ships.
Many of those attending last Saturday’s march were from London’s Turkish community, such as 38-year-old Ali Seylan who said his brother had been on board the flotilla.
“Thank God nothing happened to my brother – if anything happened to him I was going to get my revenge myself,” he told reporters.
“Israel made a big mistake, Israel’s government managed to get all Turkish people the enemy of Israel.”
He said many London-based Turks were joining the march, adding: “Religionists are here, socialists are here, even Turkish drunks are here.”