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British media quiet (again) on huge pro-Palestinian rally - Daily Star, Lebanon

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  • Zafar Khan
    British media quiet (again) on huge pro-Palestinian rally Thousands turn out from across religious, political spectrum Rime Allaf Daily Star correspondent
    Message 1 of 1 , May 20, 2002
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      British media quiet (again) on huge pro-Palestinian
      Thousands turn out from across religious, political

      Rime Allaf
      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
      war criminals.

      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
      Jenin Square.?

      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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