Having attended the Stop the Siege of Gaza rally on tuesday night at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London I have an apology to make. In my last post I suggested that Haita might not be high on these people’s minds but i was wrong. It was. Well, sort of.
More than one speaker made the point that if the soldiers could rush out to a disaster like the Haiti earthquake, then why could they not do the same for Gaza?
Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Institute spoke of “crocodile tears” over the crisis in Haiti and questioned why no troops had been sent to Gaza (at this point I was dying to put my hand up and mention the relief brought to some Haitians by the Israel medical team, outdoing medical teams from all around the world and even the USA, but I thought I could be lynched).
Jeremy Corbyn MP, said that now it was time to call for economic sanctions against Israel. Then a moment of hope. He was concerned with the people of Haiti but ruined it all by saying that the cause of Haiti was an earthquake but the cause of the problems in Gaza is Israel. So the death and destruction in Haiti was mentioned again but mainly in the context of promoting the Palestinian cause.
Joseph Healey of the Green Party spoke. This is the same Green Party that is supposed to be lobbying our politicians to create alternative sources of energy and lobbying industrial companies to stop chopping down the rain forests. But environmental damage takes a backseat when Israel is on the agenda. Mr Healey spoke of the Green Party’s policies of sanctions and divestment from Israel. In all fairness he did denounce Egypt for building its own wall and he said that Caroline Lucas, his supreme leader, also thought Egypt a disgrace.
Then there was Simon Dubbins, the UNITE union’s head of international affairs, who spoke. The aim of UNITE is to “meet the great challenges facing working people in the 21st century”. These workers can be forgotten though when there is an opportunity to denounce Israel. Mr Dubbins called for boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel to be put into concrete effect (not much care for Israeli workers then). He committed himself to continue his work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to end the “siege” of Gaza, to bring the Israeli war criminals to trial and, get this, bring justice and peace. Thank the Lord for Mr Dubbins!
Then up popped Ismael Patel, of the Friends of al-Aqsa , who gave a stirring speech. Apparently Operation Cast Lead was all about Israel restoring its deterrent factor which it had, apparently, lost in Lebanon in 2006. He spoke of the friends of Israel who might be powerful but they are few and far between. He screamed his closing paragraph to the delight of his salivating audience: “We will bring down the Zionist state so Christians, Jews and Muslims can live as one people from the river to the sea”.
Then there was Lowkey, a rapper. Lowkey is half-British, half-Iraqi and very, very angry about what is happening to the Palestinian people. He almost rapped his way through his speech. History, or maths, isn’t his strong point though. He spoke of 60 years of military occupation. Seeing that the occupation started in 1967 that just doesn’t add up, Mr Lowkey.
Daud Abdullah, director of Middle East Monitor, gave an interesting comparison. He said that Israel had destroyed 45 mosques in Gaza but then asked us to “imagine the reaction in Britain if one synagogue was destroyed”. He then praised Hugo Chavez and signed off by calling Israel a “brutal, totalitarian, racist, apartheid state”. Cue, huge applause.
For me though biggest insult was given by the Chairman for the evening. Hugh Lanning, Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Deputy General Secretary, started off by saying that 1400 Palestinians had been killed in Operation Cast Lead but “just 13 Israelis”. Sorry, Mr Lanning, was that not enough for you? I suggest that next time you state that “1400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis”.
Then it was time for the big denouement. The creme de la creme of Palestinian activists who sat silently throughout as 15 or so speakers came and went, George Galloway.
George mentioned how he is now banned from Egypt while “this dictatorship” is in power which he prayed will not be for very much longer (rather ironically George can freely visit Israel). He also gave Israel some advice: They should not even think of going back into Gaza or it would cost the lives of thousands of Israeli soldiers. He also asked why a “tiny settler state of six million people” can be allowed to repeatedly imperil the security and stability of the world.
Charmingly, George then went on to say that Israel has very few supporters outside the “cesspits” of the Zionist Federation, the Centre for Social Cohesion and Harry’s Place (Cesspit: covered pit for liquid waste and sewage). But, he continued, Israel has friends in the British police who committed brutal attacks against supporters of Palestine during last January’s London protests. He failed to mention that a British bobby had been knocked unconscious
Finally, George turned to the situation with Turkey and said that in a couple of months time Turkey will lead a flotilla of ships into Gaza to break the siege. He finished off with pointing out that the borders to Gaza may be locked by Israel and Egypt but the sea is open to those who have the courage to take it, “we do, you’ll see”. Cue, standing ovation.
Fighting talk, George. Yes, we will see.