London, England – Demonstrators of all ages and nationalities have gathered in central London to call for an end to the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Up to 2,000 people stood outside Downing Street on Saturday, where the official residence of Prime Minister Theresa May is located, chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and holding placards reading “Stop Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza” and “Gaza, Stop the Massacre”.
A total of 31 Palestinians have been shot dead in the besieged enclave since the start of the peaceful protests on March 30, when tens of thousands took to the border area with Israel to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The rally in the UK capital was organised by the Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Stop the War groups.
Similar events were held in the British cities of Manchester, Bristol and Sheffield.
‘Not my own’
Among the demonstrators in London were Jews who do not identify with Zionism, the political movement claiming the Jewish right to an independent state.
“Israel is a terrorist state. It is ethnically cleansing the indigenous people of Palestine. Our country [UK] was wrong to give the country to people based on their religion through the Balfour Declaration,” demonstrator Joana Mazouzi told Al Jazeera.
“To think that I could go there tomorrow and live there and yet someone who was born there and has got five generations cannot … It’s appalling,” she added.
“Where is the world?” Mazouzi asked.
Glyn Secker, secretary for Jewish Voice for Labour, said Israel’s actions against the Palestinians are putting it at odds with the founding values of Judaism.
“Core Jewish values are derived from core human values, there is no difference. And therefore you can say you are not being true to Jewish values if you are committing 70 years of gross violation of Palestinian rights.”
UK ‘complicit’ in Israel’s ‘apartheid’
Shabbir Lakha, from Stop the War Coalition, said Britain’s monetary support of Israel makes it “complicit” in the “atrocities” taking place against Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Despite “peaceful unarmed protesters being shot, there is a complete silence and lack of condemnation from our government,” Lakha told Al Jazeera.
“But more deep into the situation, we see that our government has close alliance with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu‘s government as it continues to sell arms to it, despite Israel violating international law.”
Lakha added that it was “absolutely important that we are here in opposition and to shame the government’s actions”.
His view was echoed by protester Molly Dunne, 20: “It is completely against their [UK] interest to show any genuine interest in the Palestinian government because, like the US, they have their claws and economic interest in Israel, and the Zionist have a huge sway over what the government does.”
Luke Farrer, 21, called the UK to “boycott, disinvest and sanction Israel”, while also drawing a parallel between Israel’s practices in the occupied territories and apartheid, a decades-long system of racial segregation in South Africa.
“The only reason why the [South African] apartheid stopped is after America started to sanction South Africa, but [ex-British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher and the UK were a big part of that [lobbying the US to impose sanctions].
“If we were to vocalise dissent about what is going on in Palestine and Israel then maybe … that would set in motion more traction in America, which I think would be really beneficial to freeing Palestine,” he told Al Jazeera.
While May has fallen short of expressing any condemnation against what the Labour opposition party called the “inhumane” killing of unarmed protesters, a statement by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn read out at the protest said, “firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed civilians is illegal … and cannot be tolerated”.
The statement added: “They [Palestinians] have a right to protest against their appalling conditions and the continuing blockade and occupation of Palestinian land, and in support of their right to return to their homes and their right to self-determination.”
Corbyn stressed the urgency of negotiations for a two-state settlement and called on the UK to support a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an independent international inquiry into the killing of protesters in Gaza, as well as a review of its arms sales to Israel.