North Africa, West Asia

Tear down the walls: international solidarity march for Palestine, sanctions for Israel

Israel's assault on Gaza provokes international demonstrations and calls for boycotts and economic sanctions.

Haneul Na'avi
23 July 2014

Around 100,000 demonstrators from around London and the world convened to show their support for victims in the Gaza Strip, and to denounce Israel’s ground offensive against innocent civilians and the silence of the international community.

Around 100,000 demonstrators from around London and the world convened to show their support for victims in the Gaza Strip, and to denounce Israel’s ground offensive against innocent civilians and the silence of the international community.

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Protesters hold a banner in support of Palestinians killed during the weeks-long siege of the Gaza Strip. Photo: Haneul Na’avi.

According to Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com, as of 21 July, the death toll among Palestinians stood at 556, which consisted unequivocally of civilians, with over 100 of them children. Conversely, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) lost 25 soldiers, in addition to two civilians. The lopsided casualties patently validated claims that war crimes were being indiscriminately committed against men, women, and children in Palestine during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” which, aimed at stopping Hamas “rocket fire”, has since escalated the crisis.

These events were precipitated when three Jewish boys—Natfali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach—were abducted and found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron, in which no one has been brought to justice. This led to the retaliatory killing of Mohammed Abu Khedeir by far-right Jewish nationalists and the brutal raid and arrest of over 570 Palestinians, with approximately five Gazans killed. Nevertheless, media whitewashing and bias on the incident has skewed international access to reliable information, including the possible motive of obstructing Palestine’s unity government and economic development. “Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly fifteen percent in 2011 and seven percent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian ‘unity government’ announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority,” states Solidarity Magazine.

London was one of many places around the world where international condemnation resonated throughout major cities. “In Europe, thousands of people took to the streets in London, Paris and Dublin condemning the situation despite France’s recent ban on protesting after pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on two synagogues,” an IB Times article mentioned. The article further asserted that “at least 30 people were arrested in Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, after protestors marched in defiance of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. A similar situation broke out on Saturday night in Tel Aviv, as hundreds gathered in Israel’s second-most-populous city.”

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Children march towards Kensington with Palestinian flags draped across their backs. Photo: Haneul Na’avi.

Organisations from around Britain gathered to help coordinate the protest. Among them, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop the War CoalitionFriends of Al-AqsaAction AWESocialist Party,Revolutionary CommunistCounterfireLeft Unity, and the Socialist Workers Party actively participated in the event. All attending groups used kiosks, signs, banners, posters, and representatives to distribute vital information, sign petitions, recruit members, and to usher the march to the main rally point. Protesters originally gathered in front of PM David Cameron’s residence in Downing Street and proceeded to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, where Israeli security forces and diplomats were obliged to listen.

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Children hold their sign in protest of the Gazan mounting deaths and injuries. Photo: Haneul Na’avi.

Many of the attendees expressed their outrage and indignation towards the actions of Israel’s ground campaign. One vocal Jewish woman in the rally voiced her opinion in a short statement for The Last Defense:

They say that they’re bombing [Israel] with rockets. If they can’t rebuild their houses, drink enough water, or have any food, what are they going to make rockets from? What, the bloody lies? Enough is enough! The truth will be out. Palestine will be free. They want to take more land. It’s a land grab. They’ve taken 75 percent and now they’re going in for the kill. The whole kit and caboodle, and then all of these BBC and media-run Zionists just tell lies.

[Israel] bombed Palestine with depleted uranium in 2012. Did any of the media say [that]? They talk about weapons of mass destruction… Israel is the fourth biggest weapons [manufacturer] on the planet! It has 300 nukes already to fire! Why can Israel have weapons of mass destruction?

The protests converged on several key boycott initiatives, including those of Innovative MindsBlack Students Campaign, and The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. The Palestinian Society created a similar call based on the successes of boycotting practices used against apartheid in South Africa, in order to express clear objectives to sanctioning the Israeli government and economic sectors, with a three-point ultimatum. Israel must:

1. End its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall
2. Recognise the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

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Protesters hold a banner in favour of the BDS initiative and chant to passersby. Photo: Haneul Na’avi.

Approximately 245 politicians, organisations, political parties and trade unions have endorsed these initiatives. Their combined support and advocacy have been instrumental in the push for this resolution and for solidarity with citizens of the Gaza Strip. One representative offered her statement about the effectiveness of divesting from businesses tied to Israel:

Who contribute to the Israeli IDF, and of course, to the mistreatment of the Palestinians? They do this in two methods, either directly or indirectly, so, officially, they may say that this company doesn’t contribute but they try to withdraw millions straight to the IDF. For example, Starbucks, a classic, [and] on top of that, Starbucks has not been paying UK taxes for a long, long time, and has been using that money to send to Israel to kill more Palestinians. So, the only way that we can do this is to all stick together, [in] peaceful protest, and boycott them. If they have less money, they can kill less people.

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Approximately 100,000 men, women and children from countries around the world gather during Tariq Ali’s speech in front of the Israeli embassy in Kensington. Photo: Haneul Na’avi.

Finally, the massive crowd of people from all over the MENA region and the world chanted in union slogans such as “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry! We will never let you die!” After pooling at the rally point in front of the embassy, a host of featured speakers came out to publically condemn the ground, air, and naval assaults on Gaza to their audiences. Tariq Ali, veteran journalist for the London Guardian and New Left Review, gave a passionate, galvanising speech on his thoughts:

One of the most shameful things that has happened in Europe… the government of France has banned all pro-Palestinian demonstrations. And we say to Hollande, ‘You are hated by your population, your ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been, so your time has passed, and we hope a France will emerge which will not challenge the democratic rights, either of Palestine or of its own citizens, because to stop people demonstrating on the grounds that these are anti-Semitic demonstrations… The way that Israelis have used anti-Semitism to try to crush any resistance no longer works! It doesn’t work any longer!

So, what are we going to do? Of course, we will carry on demonstrating, but I tell you something… we can’t just stop at that. The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions must be continued! The BDS campaign is the only way. We can help consistently in the long term to isolate this state, to make its people think that what they’re doing is unacceptable to the world at large. We did it to South Africa, let’s do it to Israel.

To learn more and get involved, please contact http://www.palestinecampaign.org/ andhttp://stopwar.org.uk.

For more information about The Last Defense, please visit thelastdefense2012.tumblr.com

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