Ich Bin Ein Palestinian – A Report from the London Demo, by Ali T.

An account written by a friend of mine, Ali,  of the 10/01/09 (STWC) Gaza demonstration at London Hyde Park/Israeli Embassy.  Reprinted here with permission.

On the train from Durham to London, I had several hours to contemplate the perceived ineffectualness of protests, such as the latest I was about to attend; that many people will, as always, ask ‘how are you going to change anything?’; that it will be seen as no more than a charitable gesture.  When faced with such questions and perceptions, many of which meander in and out of the realms of apathy, I remember the words of the Jewish Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”.   Moreover, I remind myself of the reasons why thousands have decided to march in the same direction, in defiance of the same injustices and in support of a people, many of whom would doubtless extend to us the same courtesy, as human beings, should we be in their shoes and they be in ours.

What should be noted is that not only do we protest about the atrocities of the last fortnight, but the horrors inflicted upon the people of Palestine for over 60 years. In the spirit of ‘not forgetting’, it must be made clear that such atrocities are intertwined, as for generations; both oppressor and victim have remained the same, as has the indifference and support to the former, by our own governments.  While Israel plays the same old ‘victim card’, all too easily forgotten are the 250 Palestinians exterminated at Deir Yassin in 1948, the hundreds murdered at Lydda, Ramla and Eilabun in the same year, to mention but a few of many instances of ethnic cleansing.   All too easily forgotten is the subsequent sacking of over 400 Palestinian villages and the depopulation of their inhabitants.   All too easily forgotten, is the sobering fact that since the start of the last century, the state of Palestine has been gradually eaten away in the name of the ‘repopulating the rightful home of the Jewish people’.   Inevitably this has meant the systematic depopulation of the Palestinian people, who had called Palestine ‘home’ for hundreds of years. In 1917, 97.5% of the region constituted Palestinian land.   As of 2006, Palestinians could barely call 13% of the same region ‘home’.

There are some who would prefer to consign the earlier atrocities to the history books in the name of ‘fresh starts’ and disassociation.  More recent Israeli atrocities however, are far less easily consignable to the archives of shame: The 15,000 Lebanese civilians massacred in the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the 1,000 killed in the more recent 2006 conflict, roughly a third of whom were under the age of 13, according to UNICEF.  Dare the apologists and appeasers forget the Sabra & Shatila massacre in the same year of the first invasion of Lebanon, which left almost 4000 dead in its wake?  Dare they forget the massacre of 110 refugees at Qana over a decade later?  Dare they forget the hundreds butchered at Jenin in 2002?  How dare they?  The answer is anyone’s guess.  On the 2nd January 2009, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni rejected a call for a ceasefire to allow passage of aid into Gaza and in doing so, declared: “there is no humanitarian crisis”.  10 days on, and an estimated 900 Palestinians, most of them civilians and a large percentage of them women and children have been butchered, thousands injured and the rest of the population of the concentration camp which is Gaza, denied aid and urgent supplies.  This, in the name of retaliation against a ceasefire that Israel and the Hawks in Washington and Downing Street all too eagerly claim that Palestine broke by firing rockets into its territories in late December 2008, when in-fact the ceasefire was broken by Israel on the 4th and 17th of November 2008 respectively, leaving 10 Palestinians dead, ironically the same number that Hamas have killed in the ensuing invasion by Israel compared to the aforementioned 900 killed by the IDF. How dare they?

And so we protest. At Hyde Park alone, I stood among an estimated 100,000 people in the bitter cold, some of whom clambered over the bare branches of trees to catch a glimpse of guest speakers, who included Annie Lennox, Brian Eno and the Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen.   As these thousands and more marched in the direction of the Israeli embassy at Kensington, cries of “Palestine, don’t you cry – we will never let you die” and “Free, free Palestine” drowned out sporadic bursts of religious zeal among Muslim attendees, proving that these and other act of solidarity are not part of some ‘greater battle between Islam and Judaism’, but simply an acknowledgement of atrocities rained down on the Palestinian people by an Israeli regime that does not support the best interests or wishes of her own people, let alone those who suffer in Gaza.

As night fell, following inspirational speeches by the likes of Tariq Ali and George Galloway, which marked the end of the rally at Kensington, I came to realise that such a heartfelt and passionate protest was not simply intended to call for a stop to the Israeli offensive.  Even when the bombs stop dropping, when the blood stops pouring from the heart of a nation as freely as it has for the past fortnight – every single innocent life, taken in the name of everything that is the antithesis of ‘justice’ and ‘freedom, has to be accounted for.  The indifferent and complicit, as well as the directly accountable, must answer for this genocide; and if they don’t – our collective voices should continue to rise.  The world must never forget what has happened in Gaza and easily it might.  As I stood in Kings Cross station, Sky News provided its own report on the day’s proceedings.  They, as a large portion of our so-called ‘free press’ has done, chose to focus on the isolated incidents of violence; the shoes thrown in the spirit of Muntadar al-Zaidi; the sporadic cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’, instead of that which constituted the main protest.

On the train back from London to Durham, my feelings on the outwards journey were not only vindicated, but strengthened.  That over one hundred thousand men, women and children marched in the same direction, irrespective of creed, colour, age or nationality; that the very notions of ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’, transcended such divisions, cemented for me the reality that freedom is not necessarily freedom from iron shackles, but freedom of the mind.  Such freedom gives these marching thousands moral license to paraphrase these immortal words: ‘All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Palestine, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words –  ‘Ich Bin Ein Palestinian’.”

~ by blacksheepdiarist on January 12, 2009.

5 Responses to “Ich Bin Ein Palestinian – A Report from the London Demo, by Ali T.”

  1. Great article, Ali. Thanks for taking the time to report back. Sorry I couldn’t be there, but glad you were able to make it. Surprisingly (or not) the pro-Israel/Zionist demo got more tv coverage, even though more people turned out to support the Palestinian cause.
    Your last paragraph here fills me with hope; maybe this year something good will happen in the region, maybe this year we will see peace.
    Salaam Malakim

  2. […] Ich Bin Ein Palestinian – A Report from the London Demo, by Ali T … […]

  3. […] Ich Bin Ein Palestinian – A Report from the London Demo, by Ali T … […]

  4. Very late response. TYVM for the Eli Weiss quote, I applied it immediately to my last blog.

    It is March 18 now. I am seeing many BIG changes in the world. Israel may have power and not be gone yet, but, after the things I have read today, I feel the stirrings of that elusive heart breaking emotion… hope. I have been reading at Olmert being taken to task for the list of forbidden items in the blockade by fellow world leaders. PASTA raised a few eyebrows.

    I also read articles about VIABLE options being presented to Gaza regarding a port. And then I find the plans in the works!

    Meanwhile, the aggressors are over stepping their bounds and people are noticing. Shooting another American… The mess of Gaza… The Freeman debacle in which AIPAC outed itself… these are all causes for hope!

    Yes, protest makes a difference!

  5. loved the article. these injustices do not justify terrorism. but terrorism justifies israel’s crimes. im glad non-violence has become the clear weapon of choice for the cause. “Palestine, don’t you cry – we will never let you die” – i’ll be saying that in Gaza this coming new year…

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