British media quiet (again) on huge pro-Palestinian rally - Daily Star, Lebanon
- British media quiet (again) on huge pro-Palestinian
Thousands turn out from across religious, political
Daily Star correspondent
LONDON: BBC One?s News at 10 on Saturday featured a
few seconds of footage showing a group of women in
headscarves, with the presenter referring vaguely to a
demonstration having taken place on that day to
protest the Israeli occupation.
Indeed, a massive rally called by the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign brought an estimated 50,000 people
(according to the organizers, although the police
halved that number, as they have on previous
occasions) marching from London?s Hyde Park Corner to
Trafalgar Square, demanding the cessation of all trade
with Israel and an end to Israeli occupation.
But apparently, one would have needed to be there to
know, for British media has been particularly
tight-lipped about this event, especially when
compared with the coverage given by print and
audiovisual media to the pro-Israeli rally of May 6.
One would also have inferred, watching the BBC?s
?coverage,? that this demonstration was limited in
number and restricted to nationals of the Arab world.
In fact, Saturday?s rally was impressive not only
because of the massive number of people it attracted,
but also because they came from every side of the
national, social, political and religious spectrum.
A large number of organizations participated in the
rally, from various Palestinian and Muslim
associations, to the Stop The War Coalition, CND
(Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), UNISON (with 1.4
million members, the largest trade union in the UK),
the University and College Lecturers Union and the
Trades Union Congress. Twenty-five speakers from
varied backgrounds and varied professions addressed an
orderly but warm crowd, giving short, powerful
statements, and eliciting regular applause.
Egyptian feminist icon Nawal al-Saadawi was the first
to speak, reminding people that it was not enough to
demand an end to the occupation, but also that those
whom she said were responsible for atrocities against
Palestinians ? US President George W. Bush and Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ? be brought to justice as
Some of the MPs most active in supporting the
Palestinian and Iraqi causes, Jeremy Corbyn, John
Austin and George Galloway (all from Labor, since the
Conservatives were absent after MP Alan Duncan?s
withdrawal on Thursday) were among the highlights of
the rally, each lending a strong voice to the
resistance and condemning the British government for
its relations with Israel.
While all three interacted well with the crowd, it was
certainly Galloway who provoked the most excitement
when he recalled that Bush referred to Sharon as a
?man of peace,? at which people laughed and jeered.
When he went on to say that the person who must have
laughed most at this depiction (and who must have
thought Bush crazy) was Sharon, the crowd roared with
laughter and burst into applause. After he finished
talking, a man in the crowd shouted that Galloway
should be president of the Arabs.
Galloway introduced the famous Palestinian activist
Leila Khaled, who announced that she did not feel she
was standing in Trafalgar Square: ?I am standing in
Similarly encouraged by the turnout of so many people
from so many different backgrounds, Ghada Karmi of
CAABU (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British
Understanding) declared: ?We have to build a mass
movement like the anti-Apartheid movement.? In fact,
the latter was mentioned by several speakers, not only
because of the perceived similarities between the
apartheid regime of South Africa and the government of
Israel, but because of the physical proximity of the
South African Consulate (to the side of the square)
where many had picketed years ago. Supporters were
reminded that Downing Street was also close enough for
them to be heard.
Also standing at the foot of Nelson?s column
throughout the rally were three distinctive men
holding big placards denouncing Israel, stating ?Jews
against Zionism,? and slogans to this nature. They
were British rabbis who refused to accept the right of
Israel to exist. Although they did not address the
crowd, they were given an ovation.
Their message was similar to the one Mike Marqusee,
from Stop The War Coalition, made loud and clear.
Denouncing the ?monstrous lie of the ?war on
terrorism,?? he told a delighted crowd: ?As a New
York-born-and-raised Jew, I say ?not in my name!??
This sentiment was later echoed by Michael Rosen, who
explained to deafening applause that as a British-born
Jew who had never been to Israel: ?I renounce my right
of return, and I make that pledge in front of all of
Reiterating that this was not an event dictated by a
specific religious faction, the Reverend Garth Hewitt
said that this did not just concern Jews and Muslims,
but also Christians and nonbelievers, a point that was
repeated by Muslim speakers, including Sheikh Messaoui
who explained that the words ?Allahu akbar? were for
everyone. Palestinian delegate Afif Safieh also spoke
against anti-Semitism: ?We are the coalition of
Muslims, Christians, Jews and nonbelievers who stand
for the UN Charter and international law. We firmly
believe there is one mankind and not different kinds
of men and women.?
As well as condemning Israel for its actions, British
actor Colin Redgrave appealed to artists to refuse to
perform in Israel, and to encourage Palestinian
artists. Redgrave was probably remembering a protest
against apartheid under the slogan: ?I ain?t gonna
play Sun City.?
While every speaker was welcomed and cheered, only one
left the stage without finishing: Tirza Waisel, from
Just Peace UK, was encouraged only as long as she
criticized Israel. When she said, ?suicide bombings
are not helping the Palestinian cause,? however, the
crowd did not seem ready to hear and turned against
her, booing loudly until she gave up.
Following the British media?s poor coverage of the
pro-Palestinian demonstration held in mid-April, the
organizers of Saturday?s event were conscious of that
renewed possibility, although they were clearly
challenging British media to prove them wrong ? a
challenge left untaken. Asking the supporters not to
be discouraged should low coverage of the rally follow
again, the organizers urged everyone to take heart
from the amazing turnout and keep attending subsequent
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