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Rally for Gaza
9 February 2011
On 18th January 2011 London's Conway Hall was packed with supporters of the Palestinian cause, marking the two year anniversary of Israel's assault on Gaza. Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, chaired the evening which he explained "was to commemorate two years on from the invasion of Gaza.. its appropriate to look back on what's happened in Gaza and to also look forward to what we still need to do.."
Hugh Lanning (centre) chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
He began by reading apologies and messages of solidarity from members of the House of Commons and House of Lords who couldn't attend due to an emergency session in Parliament. Gerald Kaufman's message : "two years after the Israeli invasion of Gaza their crippling blockage continues with dire effects on all the population, especially children and young people. We must continue to campaign until justice is done and Israeli war crimes are punished".
Before a minute of silence for the victims, Hugh Lanning read out the famous quote/poem on Gaza that appeared on many t-shirts at the time:
"They stole my land, burnt my olive trees, destroyed my house, took my water, imprisoned my father, killed my mother, starved us all, humiliated us all. But I am to blame : I shot a rocket back. So they stole more of my land, burnt my olive trees, destroyed my house, took my water, bombed my country...".
Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition linked the Palestinian issue with the wider issue of imperialism and US foreign policy: "The way the Palestinians are treated today has everything to do with the war on terror and US foreign policy.."
Tony Benn, president of Stop the War Coalition
Tony Benn, president of Stop the War Coalition, reiterated the message stating "What we have is an Israeli state which is in effect an American colony armed with nuclear weapons that has made war on Lebanon, war on Gaza.. still preserves a blockade on Gaza which is an act of war, and is calling upon the British government to bomb Iran because Iran is developing nuclear power whereas Israel has nuclear weapons. He then gave a great summary of the history behind the creation of Israel and called for "the dissolving of Zionism" to make way for a one-state solution.
Tony Benn, president of Stop the War Coalition
Reverend Garth Hewitt
Reverend Garth Hewitt, Director of the Amos Trust
Reverend Garth Hewitt, Director of the Amos Trust, talked of the Wikileakes revelations confirming Israel intentions in its medieval siege of Gaza, he said "callously warehousing 1.5 million people is a way of saying they are of no value.. is a form of racism..".
Father Manuel Musallam, Priest of Gaza
He talked of Israel's war on children: "half of Gaza's population are children, in the Cast Lead offensive schools were the most targeted buildings, and schools are not being allowed to be rebuilt.. this is an attack on children's rights, its a deliberate attack on their future".
The Reverend Garth Hewitt also talked of the scandal of the UK buying Israeli drones from ELBIT even though "this company [ELBIT] is making money of occupation and commits human rights abuses against Palestinians..".
Reverend Garth Hewitt read out a new year message he received from Father Manuel Musallam, the priest in charge of Holy Family Church in Gaza: "We don't want to die to liberate our country, we want to live to build it. But if death is imposed upon us, we will all die brave and loyal.."
Reverend Garth Hewitt also read out the message of Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan who had joined the Amost Trusts initiative "Just Peace for Palestine" : "A Just Peace for Palestine reminds us that we are all involved - what happens to one person or nation affects us all because we belong to one undivided humanity. And that's why we cant remain silent or inactive in the face of this injustice. When one country deliberately keeps another on the brink of collapse and thereby destroys its future, we can't be silent - we must end the siege of Gaza!"
Farid Bakht, the international co-ordinator for the Green Party
Farid Bakht, the international co-ordinator for the Green Party, pointed at Israel's nuclear arsenal: "a few dozen miles from Gaza Israel has stockpiles of nuclear missiles weapons and bombs, yet in London and Washington they worry about a state which has no nuclear weapons, and ignore the one that does. So I ask why Tehran, why not Tel-Aviv?". He congratulated the people of Tunisia for overthrowing their dictator and called on Egyptians around the world to help liberate their country from Mubarak and said that "if Egypt is liberated in the near future it will transform the Middle-East because when Egypt stops collaborating in making Gaza an open-air prison for 1.5 million people, half of them children, then we will see the beginning to the end of the suffering, the end of the punishment, and the end of the strangulation of the Palestinian people."
Sarah Colborne, PSC Director of Campaigns and Operations
Sarah Colborne, PSC Director of Campaigns and Operations, talked of the importance of international support for the Palestinian cause. She also referred to the recent Israeli report from the Reut Institute which describes London as a "leading hub of delegitimization [of Israel] with significant global influence".
The poet activist Lowkey, in his succinct clear style went to the root of the problem: "Zionism isn't about self-determination, Zionism is about colonialism, imperialism, and ethnic cleansing. never let them lie to you, never let people make you feel ashamed for being an anti-Zionist or for opposing Zionism!".
He contrasted the perception of the Palestinian struggle to other struggles against occupation: "When we are talking about South Africa.. was there ever a point when people said to those resisting apartheid, did they believe that those people who were resisting apartheid were resisting apartheid out of some kind of hatred for European people? Was that ever put forward? Did they believe that the French resistance was resisting the Nazis due to some form of hatred for German people? Do we believe that those who opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq were opposing that illegal invasion and occupation out of a hatred for American or British people? The answer to all of the above is no. People oppose imperialism because they refuse to live in humiliation, and they want to live with dignity. How much longer do we really expect the Palestinian to live in humiliation, to daily be degraded and subjugated, how long to we expect these people to live in this way? .. pointing these injustices out does not make you anti-Semitic."
Dr Tariq Tahboob
Dr Tariq Tahboob, the Palestinian Forum in Britain
Dr Tariq Tahboob from the Palestinian Forum in Britain, saluted the people struggle in Tunisia but warned that "uprisings and victories are gained through the blood of martyrs but they are often stolen by thieves." Perhaps this is a reference to the shameful betrayals by the Palestinian Authority (Mahmoud Abbas et al) following the valiant sacrifices made by the Palestinian people in their Intifadas. He spoke passionately about the steadfastness of Gazaans and of Hamas, the only legitimate government of all of Palestine.
Mohammed Sawalha,the British Muslim Initiative
Mohammed Sawalha of the British Muslim Initiative also mentioned the recent reports from two Israeli think tanks which point out London as a centre of activism against Israel: "both [reports] said the Israelis are facing two threats in London, the first one is the 'red and green alliance' Muslims or Islamists and the left alliance, and the second one is the 'movement to delegitimizing Israel'". He also told a moving story of one case of ethnic cleansing: "One of our friends here who is working as an editor in one of the main newspapers here went and visited Lebanon, and during his visit he visited a Palestinian camp called Burj Barajneh. It is very close to Beirut. He saw the miserable situation there. He met a very old person, around 80 years old. He asked him where are you from? He replied I'm from Haifa. He asked where exactly from Haifa? He told him the name of the town. How far from Haifa? He replied its about 10km. He asked can you describe the place to me. He started talking about the place. When he came back [to the UK] he told one of our brothers that I feel that I am a thief. Why? He said because my grandfather is living in that man's home, in Haifa, until today.."
Jody McIntyre, Activist Blogger
Jody McIntyre, who despite having cerebral palsy is an incredibly active blogger in the cause of justice, talked of the Intifada taking place in Tunisia and around the Arab world against their dictators and suggested we take inspiration from them in our own protests against our government: "In Tunisia today there is another intifada, we support everyone rising up, whether you are fighting Millbank or fighting Mubarak, if you are fighting for freedom we are with you, if you are fighting for justice we are with you, and if you are fighting for equality then we are with you."
Rob Hoveman of Viva Palestina reads message from George Galloway
Rob Hoveman of Viva Palestina read out a message of support from George Galloway who was in Beirut attending a meeting to discuss the next phase of the struggle to break the siege. He said that ending the siege of Gaza "was a vital step in the struggle to liberate Palestine as a whole" and talked of the importance of the next flotilla which he hoped would head towards Gaza at the end of May.
The evening ended with Lowkey performing "Long Live Palestine".
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"1763 in the Ohio river valley you got Lord Jeffrey Amherst committing to written order an instruction to his subordinate Henry Bouquet, having been defeated by Pontiac Ottawa confederacy in the field. The order essentially says that they have been defeated militarily and is therefore necessary for Amherst forces to request a peace, to sue for peace from Pontiacs people. He instructs Bouquet to convene a parlay with the Indian leadership for that purpose. And as is the custom, as is common courtesy among native populations as was known to the Brits at that time, it would be necessary for those who requested the council to give gifts to those requested to attend. Make those gifts, Amherst says, items taken from a smallpox infirmary in order, I'm going to quote directly now, this isn't a paraphrase: 'in order that we may extirpate this execrable race'. Now key is on this last word, had he said that we might eradicate the opposing combatants, their military capacity, their warriors.. what ever term he wanted to use, it would have been biological warefare. But he didn't say anything about that, he said the 'race'. His intent was to use biological means, to use disease, quite explicitly so, to eradicate an entire population group. And Bouquet was also kind enough to commit to writing in his response the next day, I have done as instructed, dispersing three blankets, two handkerchiefs and sundry other items, hopefully, he says, they will have the desired result. They did.. the lowest estimate of the number of people who died of smallpox as a result of that little gesture of friendship and goodwill is a 100,000!"
American Indian scholar, activist in the struggle for liberation of Indigenous Peoples in America
On the publication of the book 'A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present', 1997 [29min / 10Mb]
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