Al Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, is held on the last Friday of Ramadan each year. It’s a day when people around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims come together to demonstrate their support for the oppressed in the world, in particular the oppressed Palestinians who have been living under zionist occupation for over 60 years.
In the west Al Quds Day is commemorated on the weekend following the Friday, in the UK it was held on Sunday in preference to Saturday as it makes it easier for our Jewish friends to attend - Saturday being their Sabbath. For the last 10 years the anti-zionist rabbis of the Neturei Karta have formed a corner stone of the Al Quds Day rally. Other supporting groups included Crescent International, FOSIS, Friends of Al Aqsa, Friends Of Lebanon, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Innovative Minds, Islamic Centre of England, Islamic Human Rights Commission, MCB, Palestine Internationalist, Palestine Return Centre, Respect Party, and Stop the War Coalition.
We gathered at 1pm under the arch at Marble March. It was wonderful to see so many people from such diverse groups: Muslims - from all schools of thought, Jews - ranging from ultra-orthodox to secular, Christians, socialists and peace activists. There were babies, young children, mothers and fathers, and the elderly - some even in wheel chairs - all coming together to demand justice for Palestine.
Muslim Imams and Jewish Rabbis lead the march against Zionism
It was a great opportunity to shatter prejudices and share each others perspectives. Young Muslims could be seen engaging the rabbis in conversation, no doubt smashing the zionist lies of equating Zionism with Judaism and Jewishness which can easily lead to anti-semitism. It was also an opportunity for socialists and peace activists to engage with Muslims, in particular Muslims whom they may see as 'fundamentalists' , in order to clarify misunderstandings which can very easily lead to islamophobia.
Thousands march for Palestine
The turnout was great; no doubt the fantastic weather having played its part as did the radio adverts. Listen to the radio advert which was played on the many Ramadan radio stations which spring up around the country during this month.
There were two other reasons for the many new faces that we had not seen previously at Quds Days. Apparently there was an inter-faith programme at a London mosque the previous evening where Rabbi Ahron Cohen had urged the largely Muslim audience to come and attend Al Quds Day - as one Muslim explained he felt ashamed that a Jewish Rabbi was telling him to give up a few hours of his Sunday to support his oppressed brothers in Palestine - this was why he was attending for the very first time!
Rabbi Cohen - 'Zionism does not represent world Jewry'
The other reason was that in July 2008 the Terrorism Act 2000 was amended to include the military wing of Hizbullah on the list of Proscribed Organisations. Whilst this specifically does not apply to Hizbullah the organisation as a whole, as the Prime Minister clarified to parliament on 2nd July during Prime Minister’s Questions:
"Proscription will not affect Hezbollah’s legitimate political and social wings, but we continue to call on Hezbollah to end its status as an armed group, to participate in the Lebanese democratic process, and to do so on the same terms as other political parties"
and hence the amendment has no legal effect on the continued support the organisation enjoys from Britain’s Muslim and non-Muslim community, but never the less the community felt outraged as did most of the world at the labelling of any portion of Hizbullah as terrorist and this being the first demonstration after the proscription, no doubt felt they had to make their voices heard.
a sea of 'We are all Hizbullah'
'What if it was YOUR child'
'Right to Resist'
The proscription is seen by most observers as purely politically motivated. Having failed to destroy Hizbullah by blocking the UN ceasfire resolution and thereby giving Israel more time to destroy Lebanon and with it Hizbullah during the summer 2006 war, the British government is now launching a political attack with the same intention and hoping it can pressure the EU to follow suit (which it has rejected so far).
The official reason given in parliament for the proscription is that Hizbullah’s military wing is accused of supporting the Jaish al-Mahdi (the Sadr movements Mahdi Army) in Iraq which is accused of attacking coalition forces:
"We now have evidence that further parts of the organisation are directly concerned in terrorism, and this is why the entire military wing, including the External Security Organisation, is specified in this order. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that I am limited in what I can say about the evidence in support of this belief, as much of it is intelligence material and of a sensitive nature. I can, however, say unequivocally that Hezbollah’s military wing is providing active support to Shia militant groups in Iraq, including Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), which has been responsible for attacks on both Iraqi civilians and coalition forces." The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead), Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2008, 17 July 2008
Without digressing and dissecting these claims it is sufficient to point out that no part of the Sadr movement, including its Jaish al-Mahdi which Hizbullah is accused of supporting, is on the UK proscribed list of terrorist organisations. In fact the Sadr movement has many elected MPs in the Iraqi parliament (forming one of the largest blocks), thus enabling it to voice the Iraqi peoples opposition to occupation of their country in the corridors of power. For more on the Sadr movement please watch the talk given by Sheikh Zargani of the Sadr movement at a Stop the War function.
'What if it was YOUR home' - 'Right to resist'
'We are all Hizbullah'
After Zuhr prayers we started preparing for the march - choosing our placards and joining the long winding queue to leave Marble Arch.
preparing to leave Marble Arch..
..leaving Marble Arch
With the unjust proscription in people’s minds everyone wanted to register their protest by holding the placards which read "We are all Hizbullah" - only when those placards had run out did people consider holding anything else.
The most popular placards - 'We are all Hizbullah'
'Whose side are you on?'
Many of the other placards continued with the theme that resistance to occupation is not terrorism - "defending your home is not terrorism" - it is in fact a right - enshrined among other places in the United Nations Charter (Article 51).
The other theme running strong among the placards was a call to end the ongoing siege on Gaza and a call to boycott Israel.
'End Gaza Siege'
'We are all Hizbullah' - 'Boycott Israel' - 'End Gaza Siege'
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor
is the mind of the oppressed." Steve Biko
"Nobody can give you freedom.
Nobody can give you equality or justice.
If you're a man, you take it." Malcolm X
Powerful, thought provoking quotations from Malcolm X and Steve Biko on the theme of freedom, justice, and oppression were chosen to adore the back of the placards. Our initial concerns that the quotes contained too much text for a placard were proven to be unfounded - with many people actually turning the placards around so that the quotation was front facing - this gave a better mix to the procession.
"If you're not ready to die for it,
put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."
"The only way we'll get freedom for ourselves is to
identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world."
"You can't separate peace from freedom
because no one can be at peace
unless he has his freedom."
The march proceeded down Park Lane, then turning left on to Piccadilly and after passing Piccadilly Circus turning right on to Haymarket and then on to Trafalgar Square for the rally - a total distance of just over 2 miles.
March proceeding down Park Lane
An unusual sight - the pole bearer of the main Quds Day banner is wearing a giant red cross not disimilar to the Knights Templar! In fact its the away football shirt for Italian team Inter Milan (the red cross is the flag of the city)
March proceeding down Park Lane
March proceeding down Park Lane
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of Al Quds Day (29 solar years but 30 Hijra lunar years hence 30 Ramadans). It was on 16th August 1979, on the first Ramadan after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, that Imam Khomeini declared the last Friday of the holy month as Al-Quds Day - a day for solidarity with the oppressed, in particular with the oppressed in Palestine. Every year from that day, without exception, we have seen Al Quds Day demonstrations around the world including in Britain.
Al Quds Day is unique in that it not a historic day, an anniversary of something that happened in the past that we commemorate, rather its forward looking, a day of action, a day to achieve our future, our victory, to free Palestine, thats why Imam Khomeini called Al-Quds day a day in which Islam is to be revived. Al Quds Day is also the oldest annual international protest in support of Palestine.
Icons of resisting empire - Imam Khomeini (RA) and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Imam Khomeini always believed that the victory of the Islamic Revolution (11 February 1979) was a victory for all oppressed people in the world and that oppressed people everywhere should benefit from this victory. One of the first actions he ordered was to place sanctions against the two apartheid regimes of South Africa and Israel. At the time Iran, under US control, had been the main supplier of crude oil to both these regimes fulfilling most of their oil requirements - overnight they lost their main source of crude oil - it hit them hard. According to the United Nations Centre against Apartheid (30th January 1981), this action alone by Imam Khomeini made an effective oil embargo against South Africa feasible for the very first time.
In March 1979, the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid commended Iran for its action and appealed to all other petroleum exporting countries to follow the example of Iran and to implement a strict oil embargo against South Africa, and in December 1979 they pushed for a UN resolution calling for an oil embargo against South Africa.
P.W. Botha, President of apartheid South Africa, later admitted this had a devastating effect on apartheid: "There were times when it was reported to me that we had enough oil for only a week.. we couldn't bring our motor cars and our diesel locomotives to a standstill as our economic life would have collapsed." [Windhoek Advertiser on April 25, 1986]
'End Apartheid Israel'
It was the United States and Thatcher's Britain that having voted against this UN resolution gave apartheid a life line. Thatcher authorized "swap" arrangements through British Petroleum (BP) to break the embargo and ensure a supply of oil reached South Africa. Similarly, the United States through Mobil and Caltex (a joint venture of Chevron and Texaco) broke the embargo.
Catch A Fire
By the way, it was during this critical period just after the Iranian oil embargo against South Africa that the movie "Catch A Fire" is set. If you haven't already seen it, it’s a must see - view the trailer here. "Catch A Fire" is an inspiring real-life story of Patrick Chamusso, an ordinary apolitical black man in apartheid South Africa who goes on to join the armed struggle for the freedom of his country. Following the Iranian oil embargo, South Africa’s two coal-to-oil refineries have suddenly become very important to the apartheid regime and are now prime targets for the armed wing of the ANC. Patrick Chamusso is a foreman at one of these refineries which is attacked by the ANC. He is falsely arrested and then tortured along with his family. This transforms him in to a revolutionary and he goes on to join the liberation movement and plans a second attack on the refinery. The screenplay was written by Shawn Slovo, the daughter of Joe Slovo, the leader of the military wing of the ANC. It was he who suggested to his daughter that if you wish to make a movie about the struggle - show Patricks life. In 1991 when Patrick Chamusso was finally released from Robbin Island Shawn Slovo was waiting. She spent 3 days interviewing him. But she felt the world was not ready to hear his story so she put it away. It was not until after 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, some 10 years later that she felt it was the right time to tell Patrick's story. The most powerful line in the movie is after Patrick is captured his torturer turns to him and says "You people will never learn. They'll probably hang you. Or if you're lucky you'll spend the rest of your life in jail. [Was it worth it?]". Patrick beaten on the floor, speaking to the audience as much as to the torturer, replies "There's nothing else you can do with me. My life is finished. I may never see my children again, but when they speak of their father, they will say, "He was a man who stood up for what was right. A man who said, 'I must do something now. '" What will your children say about you?"
AL-QUDS DAY 2008 AROUND THE WORLD
Nigeria, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain (left, top to bottom)
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia (right, top to bottom)
Al Quds Day, being the oldest annual international protest in support of Palestine, it has been a key vehicle for people around the world from countries in Europe to those in Africa to show their support for the Palestinians. This has hurt the Zionist regime, and it is actively working to stop the practice of observing Al-Quds Day worldwide. Students identified as key supporters of Palestine have seen their student unions pressured in to remove Al-Quds Day from their calendars. The Zionists have tried to portray Al-Quds Day as an anti-semetic "kill the Jews" hate fest, but with the abundance of Jews amongst the demonstrators and speakers at the Quds Day rally these lies have failed miserably. They have launched vociferous campaigns of intimidation against those brave Jews to terrorize them in to not attending Al-Quds Day, this has also failed with wider segments of the anti-Zionist Jewish community every year standing together with Muslims for justice in Palestine.
Many reactionary regimes around the world also fear Al-Quds Day because they understand its call for justice goes far beyond Palestine. In the past Al-Quds Day rallies have been attacked by security forces, demonstrators including children have been shot dead.
Zionists unite with the white extremists for a counter-demo against Al Quds Day
The zionist hiding his face is wearing a Zionist Federation (ZF) cap
In recent years in the UK we have seen small counter-demonstrations against Al-Quds Day. With the drums of war beating against Iran, the event has been portrayed by Zionist elements on the left as a demonstration in support of Iran rather than Palestine in order to recruit gullible lefties, who still mourn the "loss" of Iran to Islam, to the Zionist cause.
The right wing didn't need much convincing - one self-confessed BNP supporter who has previously been arrested by the police for inciting racial hatred promoted the counter demo on his blog as "demonstrating for everything we hold dear within our ancestral homeland, which is the protection of OUR women and children.. These Moslems on our British streets are our enemies.. This is OUR Country so what right have these Molems to be doing and saying what they are on OUR streets? The anti-Al Quds demonstration this weekend is the start of the uprising amongst the people who have said ‘enough is enough’ we don’t want these people on OUR streets" Another fascist, who was arrested on the day, later bragged in an internet forum "we showed this scum whos country this is" and referred to the demonstrators as "rag heads". He signed his post "i'm white, i'm english and i'm proud of them facts, if that means i'm racist .. so be it".
So this year as we passed Piccadilly Circus we saw a small counter-demo which included Iranians - mainly royalists no doubt mourning the demise of American rule in Iran under their stooge Shah; racist skin heads from the following right wing umbrella groups: UBA (United British Alliance), MfE (March for England) and SIOE (Stop Islamisation Of Europe) waving union jacks and St George's cross; Zionists waving Israeli flags; and socialists from Workers Liberty, all standing united against a demonstration in support of Palestine!
Fascist counter demo against Al Quds Day
Many bystanders were shocked to see Jews with Israeli flags standing with the white extremists hurling racist abuse at Muslims and elderly Jewish Rabbis; it was a practical lesson for them in understanding what separates a Zionist from a real follower of Judaism. Whilst Workers Liberty is well known for its Zionist leanings with its vociferous opposition to any boycott of Israel, it took Quds Day to expose them in their willingness to side with the fascists. The chant from their side included "Go back [home]!", "White pride: no surrender!", "Terrorist bombers, off our streets!" and "Hang them! Hang them!". We responded with "Fascists!", "Bye Bye Nazis!", and boos and "Shame" depending on which part of the counter-demo we were facing.
The cowards waited until the body of the march had past them and then with the tail end disappearing they decided to attack the demonstrators. For the socialists from Workers Liberty the verbal attack was enough for them and decided to sit out the physical attack. As the mob of skin heads and royalist Iranians went over the barricade and charged at the few demonstrators left behind from the main demo the police it has to be said reacted very quickly to protect the demonstrators. They scuffled with the mob and we later learnt from the police that 5 public order arrests were made.
Police made 5 arrests when the fascists went over the barracade to attack the Quds Day marchers
It must be acknowledged that the policing this year was refreshingly mature and considerate. Gone were the FIT team and their intrusive police cameras which last year had even hounded people during their prayers. Gone was much of the heavy handedness that the police have come to be known for. It would be fair to say that for once we felt the police were there for us as much as for anyone else. A full report on the counter-demo is available here.
giant screen at Trafalgar Square
Unknown to us at the time, many elderly who could not manage the march and who would not normally attend, had heard of the giant screen being erected at Trafalgar Square showing films on Palestine from 2pm onwards (including our own Zaynab's Story and contributions from B'Tselem ), had made a b-line to Trafalgar Square. They greeted us when we finally arrived at 4pm. It was wonderful to see so many tourists in Trafalgar Square glued to the screen, and we received many favourable comments from them. One tourist was surprised that Muslims would even show a programme made by an Israeli human right group, hopefully they stayed for the rest of the rally to hear the speeches and better understand our position.
Taji Mustafa of Hizb ut-Tahrir
The rally began with a recitation from the Holy Qur'an followed by a speech by Taji Mustafa of Hizb ut-Tahrir. After reminding people about how the Palestinians are suffering this Ramadan he spoke of the need for Muslim unity in order to liberate Palestine. His powerful message of unity was followed by a poem on unity by Shabbir Rizvi.
Warming the crowd up with chants
The world stopped NAZISM
The world stopped APARTEID
The world must stop ZIONISM
Al Quds Day is no longer just about the unity of Muslims and encompasses, as was originally envisioned by the father of Al-Quds Day, unity of all who oppose oppression and strive for justice. And justice means rejecting so-called solutions which are inherently unjust; that reward the oppressor for their crimes, and grant them legitimacy for returning a few crumbs of what they have stolen. Justice rejects Zionism as a racist ideology which alongside Nazism and Apartheid must be confined to the dustbin of history. A solution to the Middle-East that leaves a Zionist state intact is no more a solution to the middle-east as would be a solution to southern Africa which left intact an apartheid state, or a solution to post-war Europe which left intact a Nazi state. For a solution we have to look beyond Zionism, to a future where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live together in peace in a Holy Land free from colonial occupation and institutionalised racism. Many of the speakers, especially the Jewish ones, addressed this issue.
The Quds Day rally apart from uniting people together to show our support for the Palestinian cause should also be a place to learn something, where a person can get a better understanding of the issue and a direction of what needs to be done. Les Levidow, from "Jews Against Zionism", wonderfully fulfilled this criteria in a well prepared talk.
In 10 minutes he managed to cover the entire issue starting with the racist roots of the Zionist project. He compared and contrasted Israeli apartheid with South African apartheid explaining why people who have lived through South African apartheid describe the Zionist version as far worse. He also emphasised that the occupation must be challenged on its colonialist/imperialist basis rather than any religious basis. He also qualified what is meant by occupation: "when we say 'end the occupation' we should make clear the occupation IS the Israeli state itself, not simply its control of the West Bank and Gaza."
He touched upon Naomi Klein’s observation of the Zionist strategy of 'warehousing' Palestinians: creating a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorised as 'surplus humanity', and how Israel has became a political laboratory for the so called war on terror. He explained that Western governments only give aid to the Palestinian authority (Arafat, then Abu Mazen) so that it can better police the Palestinians and prevent resistance to the occupation. Les Levidow ended his talk by suggesting ways in which ordinary people in the UK can play their part in the struggle, including boycotting Israeli goods and twinning their towns and schools to Palestinian ones.
Sister Yvonne Ridley
End Gaza Siege
Near the end of August the 'Free Gaza' movement broke the siege of Gaza by sailing two boats - the SS Liberty and the SS Free Gaza in to the port of Gaza which is under Israeli naval blockade. They were the first ships to sail in to Gaza since 1967. Yvonne Ridley was one of the peace activists on board. She talked of the brutal aggression of the settlers and how the army and government do not know how to control them, it has exposed the internal destruction, decline and disintegration of the Zionist project. She also talked of the success of the Free Gaza movement in breaking the siege of Gaza - it "showed that when people lead and take the initiative we can achieve great things.. Shows what real people power can do, and today’s al-Quds day should be seen as a rallying call marking the beginning of the end of the Zionist state."
The next speaker was Rabbi Ahron Cohen of the Neturei Karta (Orthodox Jews against Zionism). He explained that Judaism was opposed to Zionism, that Zionism was the creation of secular Jews who had left their religion and he blamed Zionism for much of today’s anti-Semitism because in their cruelty and oppression of the Palestinians the Zionists claim to represent the Jewish people (an example of this was when Olmert told a UJC audience in America on August 7th 2006 that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was “a war fought by ALL the Jews”). Rabbi Cohen further explained that "the Jewish orthodox view is that the whole so called state of Israel is a flawed concept, it’s an illegitimate criminal concept and is the underlying cause of strife in the Middle East and there will never be peace in the Middle East until the so called state of Israel is totally dissolved and disbanded".
Rabbi Ahron Cohen
Dr Daud Abdullah of the Palestine Return Centre (and deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain) talked of the zionification of Bayt al-Maqdis: "The city right now is totally circled by the illegal settlements which house more than half a million colonizers on the land" He gave the example of the Palestinian village of Silwan which is just on the other side of the wall of Haram al Sharif where 250 Palestinians have recently been "driven out of their homes under gunpoint so that these colonisers can illegally occupy their homes". He warned that the Masjid Al-Aqsa may soon collapse due to the illegal excavations the Israelis are undertaking, including at Bab al-Maghariba, cracks are already visible in the walls of Masjid Al-Aqsa.
'What if it was your child' - 'Right to resist'
The last speaker was Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission - the key organisation behind Al Quds Day in the UK. In an interview on 1st December 1978, two months before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, an american reporter asked Imam Khomeini about his support for the Palestinians. Imam Khomeini replied "We support the oppressed. We support whoever is oppressed wherever they may be, and the Palestinians are oppressed, the Israelis oppress them. For this reason, we support them." In his brief speech Massoud Shadjareh expounded on these words of Imam Khomeini to go to the core of what Al Quds Day is about. He explained "we are not here because we want to support the Palestinians because they are Muslims or they are Christians or Jews or anything else. We are here to support those who are oppressed. We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians because they are oppressed, not because of their religion, even if they were any other religion, or indeed secular, and they were being oppressed in the way they are being oppressed in the last 60 years it would be our Islamic duty to stand up and say we will not allow this oppression to continue and speak out against it. This is why we are here."
Included below is streaming video of all the speeches in full and for those that like to listen to the speeches on their mp3 players they are also available for download as MP3s tracks organised as an album with its own embedded album art.
Recitation of the Holy Quran
Brother Hassan, recited verses of the Holy Quran followed by an english translation by Brother Qaunain.
'The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor
is the mind of the oppressed.' Steve Biko
Hizbullah cap and flag, and a
placard of Sheikh Nasrallah
- ready to march
For Palestine to be liberated this Ummah has to unite
Taji Mustafa, Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Why is it year after year, we feel the pain, we shed the tears, but Palestine remains occupied? What is the role of the Muslim governments? Why is it that there are so many Muslim nations surrounding the land of Palestine? Why is it that the Israelis can commit their crimes knowing full well that nobody will lift a finger? The reason is because we have treacherous rulers ruling over the Muslims. The Israelis know no matter how much they kill, no matter how much they bomb, no matter how much they murder, Hosni Mubarak will not lift a finger, Assad will not lift a finger, King Abdullah will not lift a finger. The rulers of the Muslim world despite the armies, despite the wealth, have betrayed the Muslims of Palestine.
And my message to you brothers and sisters, for Palestine to be liberated this Ummah has to unite, for Palestine to be liberated the Muslim world needs to become one again.
Look at us at Ramadan, we face one Qibla, we have one Prophet Muhammad (SAW), we pray to one creator Allah (S) so why should the Muslims not have one land? We have 70% of the world’s oil resources, we are blessed with over 50% of the gas in the world, we have over a million soldiers - brave people willing to fight, looking for martyrdom, to liberate this land from the Zionist entity. And so my message to you: for Palestine to be liberated, for the Muslim world to be free from interference, this Ummah has to unite. This is a message we have to take away from here.. This Ummah is one Ummah, Allah says in the Quran "this Ummah of yours IS A SINGLE UMMAH and I am your Lord and Cherisher: Therefore Fear Me (and no other)" [23:52]. This Ummah is one Ummah, with one Prophet, with one Quran, with one Deen - don't let people say to you there are Sunni there are Shia; there are moderates there are extremists - we reject. We are Muslims..
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor
is the mind of the oppressed." Steve Biko
When we say 'end the occupation' we should make clear the occupation IS the Israeli state itself, not simply its control of the West Bank and Gaza
Les Levidow, Jews Against Zionism.
We are here to oppose the racist apartheid state of Israel to support Palestinian rights to national self-determination. As one of many Jews who support these rights, I am pleased to be a speaker here today. In many ways the Zionist state pushes Jews to take sides in this conflict. The regime claims to be the state of the Jews, as if it were an essential safe refuge from anti-Semitism. It also offers citizenship to any Jew emigrating there under the so-called ‘law of return’. This name of the law based on a historical myth that all Jews today are descended from inhabitants of that region. From the beginning of the Zionist movement it attacked Jewish culture, especially the Jewish struggle for justice and democracy against the oppressive regime of Europe at that time. Zionism tried to replace that culture with the 'new Jew' who would identify with European colonialism as the model to imitate in the Middle East. The new Israeli state was meant to have a secular basis, independent of religion, yet it has adopted reactionary forms of Jewish religion in order to justify its control over Jews as well as over Palestinians. Many Jews such as me have rejected the entire Zionist project as racist, not only because it oppresses Palestinians but also because it attacks our own Jewish culture and political heritage. When governments and celebrities joined in the celebration of Israeli independence last June, nearly a hundred of us signed a letter to say we cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that was founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land.
Just as the South African apartheid regime had no right to exist, neither does the Israeli one. But the analogy breaks down when we look at how the Zionist regime has been extended. When South African veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle visit Palestine they remark that the Palestinians face an even worse situation than they did in apartheid South Africa. Black South Africans were pushed in to townships and Bantustans but the economy still depended on their labour and this dependence was eventually turned in to a weakness of the apartheid system, eventually leading to its collapse. By contrast the Israeli economy today has been replacing Palestinian labour with migrants from all over the world. Israel now seeks to isolate and expel the Palestinians. Since the removal of Jewish settlements from Gaza, it remains an open prison which can be more easily strangled economically and attacked militarily. This is an extreme case of the general Zionist strategy, namely to 'warehouse' Palestinians as the Canadian writer Naomi Klein has said. Israel has constructed a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorised as 'surplus humanity'. All of this means that the so called peace process is deceptive. In reality there never was a peace process, instead there was a one sided Zionist war against the Palestinians. This war has had many weapons. From the very start of the Zionist project the Jewish National Fund (JNF) set out to acquire Arab land for exclusive use by Jews and the Israeli state. Economic restrictions and physical attacks have sought to destroy Palestinian civil society. More recently the wall has separated Palestinians from each other and from their means of livelihood. Since the 1990s Israel has demonised all resistance to the occupation as terrorist, even as Islamist enemies of western civilisation. In this way Israel became a political laboratory for what became the so called ‘war on terror’. All of these strategies in all of these languages are meant to disguise the continuing colonisation and plundering of resources from the Palestinians land. This oppression arose from the original Zionist project.
Israeli Peace - "In reality there never was a peace process, instead there was a one sided Zionist war against the Palestinians"
When we say 'end the occupation' we should make clear the occupation IS the Israeli state itself, not simply its control of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s existence as a Zionist state poses a continuous threat to peace and democracy in the Middle East. Israeli colonisation has destroyed any basis for an independent Palestinian state. There are basically two possible futures - either Israel forces more and more Palestinians to leave or else Israel is de-zionised, de-colonised so that there are equal rights for all. In our efforts to undermine the Zionist regime we need to understand the basis for its power. The occupation is accepted or actively supported by leading western governments. Israel receives more than 5 billion dollars every year by the USA. Britain has provided nuclear material and other military equipment. When Israel lost its recent war against the Lebanon, the US and UK governments tried to prevent a cease fire, thus allowing more time to weaken Hizbullah or so they hoped. Western governments give aid to the Palestinian authority so that it can better police the Palestinians and prevent resistance to the occupation.
Boycott Apartheid Israel
From this understanding of the occupation I would like to mention some ways not to oppose it and then some ways to oppose it. We would achieve little by appealing to humanity of western governments which support Israel’s terror because it serves western strategic interests and imperial plunger. It would also be misguided to propose a particular religious basis for a solution to the conflict there. Such appeals reinforce the Zionist narrative of a religious conflict as if it were a conflict between Jews and Muslims. This creates political divisions among those who oppose the occupation and diverts attention from its colonialist basis. We do have several ways to undermine the racist apartheid Israeli regime. Firstly we have a duty to undermine our own governments support of Israeli occupation and Israeli terror. Also we can boycott Israeli goods; all of us who are academics should boycott Israeli academic institutions. And all of us can support links between civil society and Palestine here especially through local twinning projects like Tower Hamlets - Jenin and Camden - Abu Dis. in these ways we can contribute to different visions of the future based on equal rights for all those who live in Israel and Palestine. This is already being promoted by a movement there under the slogan ‘Taayush’ which means 'living together'. In such ways the Palestinian struggle for national self determination can inspire an alliance of all of those that resist imperial plunger, an alliance of all those that are being targeted by the so called ‘war on terror’. Victory to the Palestinian struggle!
The Free Gaza movement showed that when people lead and take the initiative we can achieve great things
Yvonne Ridley, Respect Party.
The battle for a free Palestine is entering a new phase, one that is much more dangerous, much more violent, much more bloody than before. But as the number of deaths amongst our Palestinian brothers and sisters continues, what we are witnessing is the internal destruction and decline of Israel. This man made Zionist project is failing and Israeli society is beginning to collapse, they are turning against each other. In recent months there has been a vast increase in the number of violent incidence driven by the settlers, not only against Palestinians, but against their own people and the soldiers who are supposed to protect them. These settlers are out of control as they riot and loot Palestinian villages whose lands they so jealously covet and envy, and as they go about their theft and destruction, these armed mobs fuelled by hatred reveal the true face of Zionism. The settlers by nature are violent and aggressive, stealing land which does not belong to them. This naked aggression is so blatant that if this happened anywhere else in the world they would be arrested and thrown in prison. If these jack booted Nazi thugs lived in Britain they would have been hit with ASBOS by now. The police and army do not know how to control them, and the government is also imploding and disintegrating.
We saw this in the Free Gaza movement, as you heard I was one of the peace activists who helped break the brutal siege of Gaza by sea. And by the way let’s get one thing very clear today - Israel did not give us permission to enter the waters of Gaza, they couldn't stop us! The reality is that a group of peace activists ran circles around the Zionist state who tried every trick in the book to stop our two boats sailing. They would have blown us out of the water but for the fact that this is a racist regime and they didn't want to kill anymore white westerners. The memory of Rachel Corry and Tom Hurndall still haunts them. And while they don't think twice about killing Palestinians, internationals from 17 different countries was too much even for them.
I am actually getting more optimistic about a free Palestine today than probably when Al-Quds day was first launched by Imam Khomeini in 1979. I am more confident that a free Palestine will become a reality, not because the actions of the quartet or world leaders, but because of ordinary people. The Free Gaza movement showed that when people lead and take the initiative we can achieve great things. Politicians did not tear down the Berlin wall, politicians did not tear down the wall at the Rafah crossing a few months ago, and politicians did not break the siege of Gaza by sea. Days like today show what real people power can do, and today’s al-Quds day should be seen as a rallying call marking the beginning of the end of the Zionist state. The Palestinians do not want our tears, they want our support, they want our strength, they want our solidarity. Even Ehud Olmert’s resignation is a direct result and evidence of the Israeli defeat in the July 2006 war. Who remembers that - Hizbullah showed how weak the Zionist army is? Victory to the Hizbullah!
Israel is a humiliating thorn on the side of the Muslim world, but I believe the real solution could come from the place where it all began - in Europe. Ordinary people across Europe, like us today are sick and tired of the injustices against the Palestinians, and they are sick and tired of our useless leaders in the West doing nothing to solve it. And let’s face it, we can’t rely on those belly dancing Arab leaders either. And the time is coming soon when they will also be consigned to history’s dustbin. People power is going to define the next decade, and when the people lead our leaders will surely follow if they want to survive. This is what democracy is about. They can’t punish us all, like they have tried to punish the good people of Gaza, collective punishment does not work. I can tell you that despite the West’s attempts to crush the Palestinians in Gaza, they have failed and if Hamas stands tomorrow they will be elected again. In fact if Hamas stood across the Middle East they would be swept to power. Victory to Hamas!
The writing is on the wall. Why do you think every Israeli citizen is now scrambling around for a second passport - they want out and we should let them cut and run now!
'The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor
is the mind of the oppressed.' - Steve Biko
The whole so called state of Israel is a flawed concept, it’s an illegitimate criminal concept and there will never be peace in the Middle East until the so called state of Israel is totally dissolved and disbanded!
Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Neturei Karta.
Many people in the world today are depicting the Jewish people as a cruel people, something akin to the Nazis who actually oppressed the Jewish people 60 years ago. And who can blame them, when they look around they can see that the Zionist claim that they represent the Jewish people. And when one looks at the horrible oppression which the Zionists commit against the Palestinian people, so therefore they say this is what the Jewish people are - a cruel and harsh people. But my friends I and my colleagues of Orthodox Jews come here to give a message, a very very vital and important message, and that is Judaism and Zionism are two different things entirely. Do not confuse Judaism with Zionism. Judaism is an age old Godly religious way of life - peace loving, compassionate and considerate to ones fellow man...
The Zionist idea of the new, comparatively new - only 100 years old, nationalistic idea started by secular Jews who had left their religion and they started a harsh cruel nationalistic idea of setting up a state in Palestine. First of all this flies completely in the face of our religious belief teaching, but apart from that it flies completely in the face of the teaching of compassion and consideration which we have to have for fellow man. By the aim of setting us a state in Palestine, they were consciously intending to overrule and oppress and colonize the indigenous people in Palestine - the Palestinian people. And that oppression set up a confrontation which has caused violence and bloodshed for the last 100 years, and that is carried out right to the present day with the Zionist idea still carries on its oppression and cruelty against the Palestinian people. The Jewish orthodox view is that the whole so called state of Israel is a flawed concept, it’s an illegitimate criminal concept and is the underlying cause of strife in the Middle East and there will never be peace in the Middle East until the so called state of Israel is totally dissolved and disbanded!
You know before the Zionist idea, there was a small indigenous population [of Jews] in Palestine who lived peacefully alongside the Palestinians for hundreds of years, and in fact in all the Arab and Muslim lands there were thriving Jewish communities who lived peacefully alongside their Muslim friends and brothers and in fact going back in history when there was terrible persecution of Jews in Europe, the place of refuge was among the Muslim and Arab lands. So our pray is that there should be a speedy, total, hopefully peaceful, dismantling of the Zionist state. And if one says how can that be - the Zionist state seems to be such a strong powerful entity, let us remember that we have an almighty God and he can bring about things in a wondrous way as he brought about the dismantling of the apartheid regime in Africa almost bloodlessly - when I was a young man people thought the apartheid regime would not disappear without a blood bath, but it did..
'You can't separate peace from freedom
because no one can be at peace
unless he has his freedom.'
Bayt al-Maqdis is totally circled by the illegal settlements which house more than half a million colonizers
Dr Daud Abdullah, Palestine Return Centre.
Masjid al Aqsa.. Its identity is Islamic in character and that no matter what actions are taken by the occupiers of Bayt al-Maqdis it will not change the character of Jerusalem. We are here today also to call for an end to the ongoing excavations in the city and around the city.
The city right now is totally circled by the illegal settlements which house more than half a million colonizers on the land. In one village just outside of the eastern wall in the village of Silwan more than 50 families had their homes taken away from them and occupied by colonists forcibly under gunpoint. These families, more than 250 individuals, driven out under gunpoint so that these colonisers can illegally occupy their homes.
This is what is happening, and we are here to call for an end to it - to these illegal actions as well as the building of the bridge across from the Bab al-Maghariba to the Haram al Sharif.. There is a bridge which is being built and there are excavations taking place so that this bridge can be built. It is undermining the structure of Masjid al-Asqa. There are cracks developing in the Masjid and it will soon collapse if immediate action is not taken to preserve the Masjid..
Bab al-Maqhariba and Silwan
Zionist Colonists occupying Palestinian houses in Silwan
They are trying also to build a place of worship in the square beside the Burak wall where our beloved Prophet was taken in to the heavens, they are going to build a place of worship there, again this is illegal and we want an end to it. We want to demonstrate our objection to the fact that the United Nations cultural and scientific organisation UNESCO is collaborating with the Zionists to ensure that these illegal structures are built in Masjid al-Aqsa and in Bayt al-Maqdis..
'The only way we'll get freedom for ourselves is to
identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world.'
We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians because they are oppressed
Massoud Shadjareh, chairperson of the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Let me turn back our memories to 30 years ago when this event was set up and promoted by Imam Khomeini (RA) who said that this is a day for all to stand up against the oppressors in the support of all oppressed.. So really we should thank Imam Khomeini for bringing us and guiding us to stand for what is just. We are not here because we want to support the Palestinians because they are Muslims or they are Christians or Jews or anything else. We are here to support those who are oppressed. We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians because they are oppressed, not because of their religion, even if they were any other religion, or indeed secular, and they were being oppressed in the way they are being oppressed in the last 60 years it would be our Islamic duty to stand up and say we will not allow this oppression to continue and speak out against it. This is why we are here.
We are here because we have been commanded by Allah (ST) 'how could you not rise and fight for those oppressed men women and children who are saying ya Allah send us a helper, ya Allah send us a protector' [Sura Nisa:75]. We have heard you Allah (ST), we are here and we are saying we stand up against those oppressors. We want to create justice right across this world that will be beneficial to Muslims, Jews, Christians, secularists, everyone..
On this platform we have got friends from the Jewish community, from the Christian community and they all believe like us - they stand up against injustice. We are allergic against injustice and this is why we are here and this is why we will continue and this is why Imam Khomeini RA said that this is the day of Islam because Islam commands you against oppression whoever might be the oppressors, and support the oppressed.
"You cannot simplify the question of violence.. You look at human history - the American revolution, the civil war, the end of slavery in the United States, the African National Congress, the end of colonialism - by and large these were some combination of popular social uprisings and social movements and non-violent protests AND armed resistance. Now that doesn't mean I'm advocating for any armed action today, I'm not. I'm committed to finding ways of acting and speaking and making people laugh and doing art and disrupting the war machine in other ways, but I think focusing on violence when we have the comfort of being protected by mass of armed violence is not non-violence at all.. if you are pointing to the mass of violence and who's doing the mass of violence in the world today, you have to look to state violence - that's people bombing whole cities from the air.. "