Two years after the start of the Israeli attack on Gaza, protesters gathered for a vigil outside the Israeli Embassy calling for an end to the siege on Gaza and for a free Palestine. London, UK. 27/12/2010
Exactly two years after the start of the Israeli attack on Gaza, protesters gathered for a vigil outside the Israeli Embassy calling for an end to the siege on Gaza. London, UK. 27/12/2010
'Operation Cast Lead', Israel's war against Gaza began on 27 Dec 2008. By the time this illegal attack came to an end on 18 Jan 2009, it had killed more than 1400 Palestinians and devastated the Gaza strip, destroying homes and infrastructure.
Israel's continuing blockade of Gaza prevents the import of building materials and other essentials. Many of the families whose homes were destroyed are still living in tents and even the UN has been unable to rebuild its shattered schools.
The protests was organised by a large number of groups - the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, Friends of Al Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Viva Palestina, Palestinian Return Centre, War on Want, Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Amos Trust, The Green Party, Friends of Lebanon, Public and Commercial Services union, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK.)
ICAHD UK supports the activities of the Jerusalem-based ICAHD, founded in 1997 by a group of peace activists in Israel with the aim of ending the occupation and achieving a just peace between Israel and Palestine and in particular to work by non-violent direct action to end the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories.
A densely packed crowd of around 700 people assembled in and around the barriers the police had erected opposite the Israeli embassy at 1pm. Among them were many Palestinians including a large number of young men and women, as well as supporters from the various organising groups and others.
Among the speakers were a trade unionist who encouraged the crowd with the news that the demonstrations in London against the Israeli occupation were having a significant effect across the world and urged them to keep up their efforts, and Lindsay German of Stop the War. There were also a few short speeches by young Palestinians and others, and one man performed a short rap, but much of the time was taken up by chants calling for a free Palestine "from the river to the sea".
Many of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause in the UK are Jewish, and among the banners was one for J-BIG, a Jewish group calling for a Boycott of Israeli goods. There were also a number of men from the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta, anti-Zionist Jews who regard the Zionism and the state of Israel as being against the Torah.
Although most Palestinians are Muslim, Palestine is also the 'Holy Land' for Christians as well as for Jews and the events around two thousand years are celebrated in churches across the land at Christmas. One woman had brought some updated versions of such carols as 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' with words that reflected the current conflicts in the area. Quite a few of those present were unhappy at the idea of people singing carols - even these secularised versions - but after she had sung one powerfully through the megaphone I think they were mollified as the verse pointed out that the city is now surrounded by a fence making it a virtual prison for its Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens, with just 3 gates controlled by Israeli soldiers, and most of its land where once "shepherds watched their flocks" confiscated for illegal Jewish settlements.
The peaceful vigil was on the busy Kensington High Road was for two hours, with traffic control lights for nearby road works making traffic wait alongside the protest and then move slowly by in one direction at a time. Many bus passengers waved and motorists beeped to show their approval for the protest, which lasted two hours.