Posts Tagged ‘IDF’

Extremists and Mob Rule

Thursday, March 14th, 2024

Extremists and Mob Rule: Last Saturday I walked along with around 450,000 others from Hyde Park to the US Embassy in Nine Elms calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli genocide. The IDF has now killed over 30,000 people, mainly women and children and many more are threatened with starvation and disease as Israel continues only allow a trickle of the food and medicines needed into Gaza.

Extremists and Mob Rule

Humanitarian agencies including UNRWA are ready to distribute aid, but far too little is coming across the borders and the Israeli army are disrupting their activities, while Israeli spokesmen continue to produce lies which even the BBC now feels it has to challenge. The pictures here all come from this march.

Extremists and Mob Rule

Of course it wasn’t a mob, but a peaceful protest. It wasn’t Islamists taking over the streets of London, though there may well have been a few taking part among the more than 99% of us who were protesting because of the terrible scenes we have seen on even the limited reporting which has been allowed to come from Gaza – where Israel still prevents the international press from reporting. And because many of us believe that we should have a peaceful solution which gives freedom to both Palestine and Israel.

Extremists and Mob Rule

It wasn’t one of of my better days. I was feeling a little weak and walked twice as far as I should have done. The march may only have been around two and a half miles, but photographing it I walked at least twice that, going back and forth. And after collapsing for a short rest beside the Thames opposite the US Embassy I walked back to the middle of Vauxhall Bridge. From there I could see almost the length of Vauxhall Bridge Road, around three quarters of a mile still packed with marchers and no end in sight. But I was tired and turned back and took the train home from Vauxhall station.

Extremists and Mob Rule

Later today the UK Government is expected to announce its new definition of extremism, which is expected to be something along the lines of:

promotion or advancement of ideology based on hatred, intolerance or violence or undermining or overturning the rights or freedoms of others, or of undermining democracy itself

The point behind this re-definition is to enable the government to list organisations which it considers extremist and to ban these from meetings with ministers and elected officials or receiving public money and ban individuals who belong to them from serving on government boards.

It is clear that it will be used by the current government to list a wide range of organisations that are seen as left-wing in an attempt to embarrass the Labour Party, including those that support the Palestinian opposition to Israeli occupation, and with Sunak’s crazed accusations of “mob rule” could be applied to any organisation that supports large protests on any issue, but particularly calling for freedom for Palestine. And I expect to see Stop The War and CND on that list along with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain and the Palestinian Forum in Britain.

Peter Tatchell

Reports suggest that the largest Muslim group in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), as well as Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and Palestine Action will be on the list and any other groups opposed to the UK’s Prevent programme. Government departments have boycotted the MCB since 2009.

Listing will not ban these groups, though it might deny funding to some organisations which many might feel important in maintaining effective democracy. And if this wretched government remains in power much longer we will certainly see further powers given to the police particularly over the policing of protests, probably giving them much greater control over the activities of listed groups.

It will almost certainly be used to stigmatise groups which campaign against the monarchy, and perhaps also those calling for changes to our parliamentary system such as the abolition or reform of the House of Lords or proportional voting systems. And groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil will surely be there.

Michael Gove has apparently rejected suggestions that trans rights activists will be among those listed, but suspicions remain that these and some gay rights groups might also be targeted.

Perhaps too, human rights organisations that launch legal cases against government legislation might feature, and when we have had government ministers in recent years labelling the Supreme Court as anti-democratic it is hard to see where this definition might end.

Like many recent statements from the government, this one from Gove seems dangerous and divisive. It might even itself be seen as “undermining democracy itself.

You can read more about the protest march last Saturday, 9th March 2024 and see another seventy or so of my pictures at End Gaza Genocide Massive March To US Embassy


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Gaza March in London 3rd Feb 2024

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Gaza March in London – Another huge march through central London called for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli genocide against Palestinians.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024

I didn’t hear any news reports of the march, and over the past few days other events have largely pushed reporting over the continuing genocide to the edges of coverage.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

If anything the deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza appears to have increased since the ICJ ruling calling on Israel to do all it can to prevent genocide in the area.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Israel is still keeping international journalists out of Gaza and feeding the world’s press with misleading information. The BBC have some good reporters but they cannot work in Gaza. They have had interviews with some families and doctors in Gaza – some now killed. Papers such as The Guardian also carry reports from people in Gaza – such as Mondays Gaza diary part 44: ‘The angel of death is roaming the skies, nonstop’. But to get real information about what is actually happening on the ground you need to also go to alternative news sources.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of those is Double Down News, who say “Far too many Journalists sit comfortably trapped in their own bubble of privilege and power, talking to each other and the so-called political class, rather than serving the people they’re meant to inform.” They aim to “prioritise people, ideas, evidence and community above all.” DDN carries no advertising but is supported by over fourteen thousand of subscribers who give what they can afford rather than being owned by governments or billionaires. And you can be one and become a part of the community equally with the others.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of their latest videos is ‘Israel’s AI Killing Machine‘ by Palestinian-American lawyer and activist Lara Elborno which exposes by how Israel is using modern technology to target civilians across Gaza. Like other videos on the platform it provides a chilling insight missing in the mass media.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Before writing this a few days ago I read Al Jazeera’s Israel War on Gaza coverage, with its list of key events on day 123 published on Tuesday 6th February. Under the Humanitarian crisis in Gaza it begins its report with “At least 27,478 people have been killed and 66,835 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

It goes on to give other significant news on the humanitarian crisis, before news on Regional tensions and diplomacy and on what is happening in the Occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera was the first independent news channel in the Arab world and is funded by the Qatari state.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

All pictures here are from the march in London on Saturday 3rd February 2024 which was I think uneventful. It was certainly large and several streets around the BBC were densely crowded before the start. I photographed the start and then slowly went down Regent Street with the marchers, stopping a number of times to photograph them as they walked past me.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. ‘Sunak’ and dead babies.

At Piccadilly Circus I decide to wait until the end of the march arrived there, and it was a long wait. It was almost two hours after the start of the march before the end arrived, and most of that time the streets were crowded across both carriageways with slowly moving people.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. London Mothers and Children Say Stop Killing Babies.

It was too late to be worth trying to get to the rally on Whitehall and so I began my journey home. I uploaded 35 images to Alamy but later put these and around 35 more into an online album Ceasefire Now – Stop The Genocide In Gaza.


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No To Arms Fair At Twickenham

Saturday, January 27th, 2024

No To Arms Fair At Twickenham: This Monday, 22nd January 2024, Richmond & Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised their third annual protest at Twickenham Rugby Stadium which was hosting the International Armoured Vehicles Fair for the third year in a row from 22-25th January. The arms fair claims to be the largest of its type in the world, attracting around a thousand delegates from over 40 nations,

I came to the bus stop outside Twickenham Station to find several people clearly on their way to the stadium, and found more on the bus when it arrived – the bus more or less emptied when we arrived at the stop in front of the stadium. We walked across the road and joined a hundred or so who had already come to protest.

I had to leave after around an hour for a meeting, and people were still arriving to the protest which had another couple of hours to run. This was a considerably larger protest than in the two previous years having become more important because many of the companies selling weapons inside are suppliers of weapons which are being used now to kill Palestinians in Gaza.

Richmond & Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign is an active local group campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, justice and freedom against Israeli occupation and apartheid. Their numbers at this protest were swelled by others who had come from other areas of London to tell the Rugby Football Union to stop hosting arms fairs. As well as the International Armoured Vehicles Fair this week they are also hosting the International Military Helicopter conference from 27th to 29th February 2024.

Many of the posters and placards at the protest called for an end to the Israeli genocide taking place in Gaza now, and there were others more specific to Twickenham, calling for fair play and an end to the promotion of killing by the Rugby authorities.

At the centre of the protest was a large poster with the heading ‘MERCHANTS OF DEATH’ naming companies taking part in the arms fair, including BAE Systems, Elbit Systems and Thales, with cartoons of arms dealers making vast profits from war. Most of the companies involved supply Israel with armoured vehicles and other weapons used in its devastating assault on Gaza and used to repress, terrorise, abduct and kill civilians and children in Palestine as well as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere around the world. And as some posters and speakers reminded us, Israeli arms manufacturers proudly boast ‘OUR WEAPONS ARE FIELD-TESTED’ – on Palestinians in the killing fields of Gaza and the West Bank.

Standing around the poster were members of Richmond & Kingston PSC, holding up their hands in white gloves stained with fake blood, with one holding a Palestinian flag. Others held posters and banners, ‘CEASEFIRE NOW’, ‘WAR KILLS PEOPLE & PLANET’, ‘STOP BOMBING CHLDREN’

Shortly before I had to leave a group arrived carrying cloth bundles stained with red dye, representing the children killed by the Israeli attacks. A report by Save The Children from Ramallah on 11th January began with the following:

More than 10,000 children have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza in nearly 100 days of violence, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, with thousands more missing, presumed buried under rubble, Save the Children said.

Save The Children

By now the number will be many more. As one poster stated: ‘TWICKENHAM DON’T SIDE WITH GENOCIDE’.

More pictures

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal – 2009

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal: On Saturday 24th January 2009 marchers gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place to draw attention to the biased reporting of the Israeli attack which had begun on 27 December 2008 and had ended with a ceasefire by Israel on 18th January.

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal

The attack, known by Israel as Operation Cast Lead but in Arabic as the Gaza Massacre had killed around 1300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and had destroyed over 46,000 homes in Israel. It had begun with air attacks but was followed on January 3rd by a ground attack.

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal

The protest called for for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaze and for the UK to stop its arms sales to Israel, and for a free Palestine and demanded Israli war criminals to be brought to justice. It also castigated the BBC which although claiming to be impartial had accepted and broadcast much Israeli propaganda during the war while not giving a proper hearing to the views and aspirations of the Palestinians.

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal

After the war, the United Nations Fact Finding Mission and human rights organisations criticised Israel for the large number of civilian casualties and having a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. Among the war crimes that they found evidence for was the use of children and other civilians as ‘human shields’ forcing them “blindfolded, handcuffed and at gunpoint to enter houses ahead of Israeli soldiers during military operations.”

BBC Bans Gaza Appeal

International media were denied access to the war zone by Israel in defiance of a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court and many details only emerged later and the media in Gaza itself came under military attack. The Israeli foreign minister “instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign to gain support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip” and the BBC was among those news organisations who lapped up their offerings.

As the ceasefire was announced, humanitarian organisations around the world launched campaigns to bring much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. In the UK, the the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which includes Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross launched a nation-wide appeal, but the BBC (and Sky) refused to broadcast it although it went out on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five.

It was a decision which clearly made the BBC management’s pro-Israel position crystal clear to the nation and was widely seen, including by many BBC journalists as a failure by the BBC to uphold its reputation for impartiality.

Which is perhaps why Tony Benn was invited onto the Today programme that morning to talk about the decision – and he came on and read the appeal for them. At the start of the protest I photographed him before and after he went in with a deputation to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC – police stopped me going in with him. Among those who also spoke outside the BBC was Jeremy Corbyn.

Pro-Israel press bias continued with the Press Association, who reported this press conference as the protest, giving the number present as 400. Even the police gave a figure of 5,000 – as usual roughly half of the actual number.

The protest was largely peaceful, though some had brought shoes to throw at Broadcasting House, but policing outside there was rather heavy-handed. When police made a few arrests when the march approached Piccadilly Circus the march halted and threatened to stay blocking traffic until the arrests stopped. They did and the march moved on to its final rally in Trafalgar Square.

More on My London Diary at Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide – 13 Jan 2023

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide: Last Saturday I photographed the march in London when over 200,000 marched from Bank calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Among those on the march, Little Amal, a 12ft giant puppet of a Syrian child refugee stood out. As usual there was a strong Jewish representation both on the main march and on a separate feeder march for families and children I photographed as they set off from outside Kings College on Strand.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide

This was the seventh large protest in London and reflects the feelings of a large majority of the British public but unfortunately this and other huge protests around the world, including in the USA, seem unlikely to have any effect on our or the US governments polices. They will continue to give support to Israel while making weak statements about the need to reduce the killing which Israel will continue to ignore while denying the effects of its actions and blaming Hamas for the death and destruction they are causing.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
The front of the march waiting to start.

The march took place on the 99th day of the Israeli attack on Gaza which has so far killed over 23,000 people, mainly civilians including more than 10,000 children, with many bodies still under the rubble. The bombing and shelling has made humanitarian aid and medical treatment impossible and widespread deaths from disease and starvation now seem inevitable.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
Doctors Against Genocide.

Israeli forces have attacked hospitals, schools, refugee camps and have killed many doctors and arrested others. Only one hospital remains operating in the whole of Gaza and there are desperate shortages of medicines with many amputations having to be carried out without anaesthetics. Few of the 60,000 severely injured so far by the Israeli attacks have been able to get proper treatment.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
A few of the Palestinian press who have been killed by Israel

Gaza’s journalists appear to have been especially targeted and more have now been killed by the IDF than journalists were killed in the whole six years of the Second World War.

A man holds a bloodstained bundle representing a dead child

As well as calling for a ceasefire, protesters also demand a just solution with freedom for Palestine, an end to the military occupation of the country and an end to Israeli apartheid.

Free Palestine Hands Off Yemen

Two events in the previous week added to the demands of protesters. Some had placards praising the Houthi forces in Yemen for their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and their were chants such as “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud, turn another ship around” following the US and UK air attacks. The Houthi are now in control of much of Yemen following the October 2022 ceasefire and peace talks led by the UN began it December 2023, but they continue to be referred to in UK media as rebels or terrorists.

Last week South Africa stated the case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide. It got rather less attention in the UK media than the response the following day by Israel, which appeared largely a continued recital of the widely condemned attacks of October 7th and the long-discredited assertion that their actions in Gaza are self-defence. Israel also denied having bombed any hospitals and claimed they were facilitating humanitarian aid, lying in the face of mountains of evidence the world has read.

A woman holds a placard ‘Well Done South Africa’.

Many on the protest praised South Africa for taking Israel to court. The moral case seems clearly proven, but I suspect the case may be lost on some legal technicality. ICJ verdicts are in any case not binding and I think the majority of the world has already reached their conclusion.

People hold up posters showing Nazi Germany and Palestine with a poster saying ‘Signs Like These Have Been Criinalised by the Met Police

There were apparently 1,700 police on duty for the protests and a handful of people were arrested for carrying placards or handing out leaflets which the police decided were possibly “showing support for a proscribed organisation which is an offence under the Terrorism Act.” The flyer, published by the Met, stated their “unconditional and wholehearted support and solidarity for the Palestinian struggle, which is once more breaking out into armed resistance” but made no explicit mention of Hamas. Other groups in the Palestinian struggle are not proscribed in the UK.

With so many taking part, the march ended with rallies in both of London’s major central squares, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, though I only got to the first of these. I was quite tired having walked from London Bridge station to Bank and then along with the march going back and forth taking pictures and decided to get a train from Charing Cross rather than go on to Parliament Square.

There are around 50 more of my pictures from the march at Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide.


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Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now: Last Saturday, 6th January 2024, like many others I was watching on Twitter/X for the announcement by the Free Palestine Coalition of the starting point for their Gaza protest at 10am.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

It was with some surprise that I read it was to be at the drinking fountain in St James’ Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, a feudal remnant with bylaws against almost everything, but at least it was easy to get to, and I had plenty of time to make it by the starting time of noon, and arrived around a quarter of an hour early.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

The protest was organised and backed by Black Lives Matter UK, NMEE, Sisters Uncut, East and South East Asian Sisters, Copwatch Network, Health Workers For a Free Palestine, Queers For Palestine, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence, Palestinian Youth Movement and London Palestine Action.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

It made three clear demands; a full unconditional ceasefire NOW, the UK to stop arming Israel and an end to the Israeli Occupation of Gaza and Palestine. It had clearly been planned as a peaceful protest, although one that would cause some disruption to traffic in central London as many other events including other protests do.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

There was only a small group there when I arrived, but numbers grew rapidly by the time the rally began and continued to grow for some time, perhaps increasing to a couple of thousand by the end of the event. Shortly after the rally began police approached the speaker and told her that she could not use a megaphone as it was against the Park bylaws. After a short delay she continued without it, though now the crowd was so large many could not hear. A few minutes later a public address system arrived and the speakers began to use this. After another warning by police they wheeled this out onto the pavement of Birdcage Walk.

A doctor speaks about the terrible conditions in Gaza’s hospitals, most bombed out of existence.

Here the speakers continued, with a particularly moving account by a doctor from Health Workers For a Free Palestine about the horrific conditions faced by her colleagues working in Gaza, where almost all hospitals have been bombed by Israeli forces and only three remain able to continue, facing terrible shortages which have meant amputations with no anaesthetics available and a total lack of medicines, clean dressings and antiseptics taking medical conditions back into the dark ages.

Officers come to seize the PA system

After the rally had continued for some minutes, a squad of police rushed in and seized the PA system from the pavement, forcefully pushing all those close out of their way. I was thrown aside and kicked in the shin hard enough to cause some bleeding and although not seriously injured certainly suffering from shock. I’m unsure about what happened for the next few minutes and it was almost ten minutes before I’d recovered enough to photograph seriously again.

The police appeared to have been deliberately trying to provoke the protesters and had a very large presence for what was expected to be a relatively small protest. Eventually the organisers called on the protesters who had been shouting angrily at the police for some minutes to move off and the march slowly made its way towards Westminster Bridge.

As the front of the march came to Bridge Street at the side of the Houses of Parliament there was a halt for photographs and when the march moved off a line of police across the road tried to stop them. But there were far too few officers to form a proper cordon, and I and around a couple of hundred protesters moved past and onto the start of Westminster Bridge before reinforcements arrived.

There were more police on the bridge and a line of police vans behind them, as well as more on the Embankment. Had the protesters been allowed to march onto the bridge and protest there the bridge would have been closed until the protest ended, but traffic could have continued to flow on both the Embankment and Bridge Street, which were still blocked when I left later. Protests continued on Westminster Bridge, though most of the protesters were still held on Bridge Street behind a police line. Around half an hour later police did decide to allow them to join the others, probably to make it easier for them to kettle the protest in one block rather than two.

On the bridge there were some noisy protests which forced police liaison officers to withdraw from the crowd. Some of them complained to the event stewards about the leaflets which were being distributed to the many tourist also being blocked by the police from leaving towards Parliament Square, suggesting that those distributing them might be committing an offence. I read one carefully and could find nothing anti-Semitic, nothing which I had not heard or read in the mainstream press despite their failures in reporting.

At one point people let off smoke flares in the red, green and white of the Palestinian flag. Later there was a period of silence for the victims in Palestine and those in Israel, and many sat or lay down on the roadway. A group in front of the police cordon wore masks showing Rishi Sunak, wearing tops with the messages ‘STOP ARMING ISRAEL’ ‘CEASEFIRE NOW!’holding up their hands red with fake blood which dripped down their arms.

I left as the police allowed the protesters to all join together, kettling both groups. I was tired and still a little shaken from the earlier assault by police and needed to sit down and rest on a seat on the Embankment. Eating my sandwiches for a late lunch and drinking some water helped too.

As I walked back to Waterloo the blue lights were still flashing on Westminster Bridge, and an hour later at 3.32 the Met posted “All protesters have now left the area around Westminster Bridge. Officers remain on-duty in central London and are ready to respond to any further demonstrations.” I felt their response to this one had been negative in the extreme and had made the situation worse than if they had stayed away completely. Their presence was a huge waste of public money and London really does not need police who behave as they did at this event.

The police had arrested a number of people on Westminster Bridge but later Black Lives Matter UK, one of the organisers, made the following post: “All arrestees have been released with no further action. Thanks to all who have supported the protests and taken time out to care for all those made vulnerable by the police.

More pictures in my Facebook album Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now!


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Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital – 2012

Friday, November 24th, 2023

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital – On Saturday morning, 24th November 2012 I joined marchers against the then recent Israeli attacks on Gaza and the continuing blockade which makes normal life there impossible. Although still a clearly disproportionate response, the death toll in 2012 was minuscule compared to the current ongoing destruction. In the afternoon I went to Lewisham for a march against proposals to close A&E and maternity services, and possibly also the the children’s wards, critical care unit and emergency surgery by the Trust Special Administrator Matthew Kershaw.


Solidarity With Gaza, End the Seige Now – Downing St

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital

Despite persistent rain, several thousands turned up to protest at Downing Street before marching towards the Israeli Embassy following the start ten days earlier of ‘Operation Pillar of Defense‘ by the the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital

In the eight days before a ceasefire, Wikipedia statesthe IDF claimed to have struck more than 1,500 sites in the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchpads, weapon depots, government facilities, and apartment blocks” with the UNHCR reporting “174 were killed and hundreds were wounded. Many families were displaced.”

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital

There were also deaths and casualties among Israelis, but on a much smaller scale, with 6 Israelis being killed and 240 injured by rockets fired from Gaza.

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital

As in this year, “Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western countries expressed support for what they considered Israel’s right to defend itself” , or condemned the Hamas attacks, while some other countries condemned the Israel attacks. Human Rights Watch said both sites committed war crimes.

Solidarity With Gaza, Save Lewisham Hospital

As in 2023, many of hose killed in Gaza in 2012 where children, and at the front of the march, ahead of the main banner were a group of children, each carrying a placard hanging around their neck with the names and ages of some of the dead children.

And as in the recent marches I’ve photographed, both the National Marches calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and those in Camden and Lewisham, among those taking part there were many individual Jews and Jewish groups including Jews Against the Siege of Gaza, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and a group of Jewish Socialists.

Before the march began 163 while balloons printed with the Palestinian flag – one for each of the Palestinians then known to have been killed – were released. The march then moved up Whitehall and I went with it as far as Trafalgar Square where I took pictures for the next 15 minutes or so as the crowd moved past before catching a train from Charing Cross to Lewisham.

More at Solidarity With Gaza, End the Seige Now


Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital – Lewisham

Thousands of protesters – perhaps as many as 15,000 – formed a human chain to hold hands around Lewisham hospital after a march from the centre of Lewisham to oppose plans to close its A&E department to pay debts from mismanagement at other hospitals in south London, which have huge PFI debts.

The march had seemed rather smaller than expected when I arrived at the start close to Lewisham station, but the numbers grew greatly as we got closer to the hospital and Ladywell Fields, with the road still packed with people coming to join this as the human chain began to form.

At Ladywell Fields the march divided into two, with hospital workers making their way to the front of the hospital in an anti-clockwise direction and the others going clockwise to meet them. Soon people were filling the whole thre-quarters of a mile ring around the hospital and holding hands in a human chain. The organisers had asked people to go in single file, but there were far too many in most places for this and in some areas the pavements were filled ten deep.

Traffic around the hospital was brought to a stop with people still flooding in on the High Street and Ladywell Road and nothing was moving on the roads by the time I left and caught a train home, except for ambulances which police and stewards were ensuring could still reach the hospital, clearing a route through the crowds.

Lewisham Hospital is well run and well used by people in the area around, and has played no part in the financial problems faced by the South London Hospitals Trust, which were largely caused by disastrous private finance schemes entered into to build the trust’s hospitals in Orpington and Woolwich. The planned closures would drastically cut health services in the area and almost certainly lead to many deaths as well as huge inconvenience for millions and are driven entirely by the financial gain in selling off 60% of the site.

But even this makes little sense as the expected £17 million this would raise would be only a minor one-off contribution towards the over £60 million the Trust has to find each year for its PFI debts which were then expected to total around £1,200 million before they were paid off.

The problem of PFI debt is not of course limited to this trust. Government figures in 2018 were that the total value of PFI investments in the NHS was then £12.8 billion – and that by the time these were paid off the NHS will have paid over £80 billion for them – more than six times as much. The figures have worsened since then as many contracts include inflation-based cost increases – leading to an extra £264 million in payments in the past 2 years. Some trusts now have to spend 10-13% of their total income on their PFI debts, and these payments cannot be cut and are prioritised. over other expenditure such as than on staff costs and drugs.

Lewisham Hospital’s campaign against the cuts was successful. They were ruled unlawful by the High Court and eventually dropped by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after he lost an appeal.

More at Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital.


Dear Suella, Please Resign

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Dear Suella, Please Resign – I and I think most of the British public have had enough of your hate speech, and your latest tirade against the half million or so people who came out onto the street to call for a ceasefire in Gaza plumbed new depths in hypocrisy.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

Those hundreds of thousands who marched last Saturday – and I was there – were marching for a ceasefire to end the humanitarian catastrophe which is underway in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have already died through Israeli attacks and more will do so if the attacks continue from bombing and shelling, the lack of food and clean water and the almost complete breakdown of medical services.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

There was no celebration of Hamas on the march and certainly none for the particularly barbaric actions in Israel on October 7th. Nor for the taking of hostages, although some on the march will certainly have felt it was the only way that Palestinian prisoners in Israel might be freed – over 4,000 of them, many locked up without charge, including (April 2022 figures) 32 women and 160 children. The continuing attacks on Gaza also threaten the lives of the hostages held by Hamas and appear to have stopped for the moment negotiations which would have led to further releases.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

Together with the BBC and some other news media you continue to collude to suggest that people at these protests shouted for Jihad. As you well know, these shouts took place at an entirely separate protest by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, an extreme Islamic organisation calling for the establishment of a caliphate, whose protests I have covered since 2004. Their protest was not for peace but was calling upon Muslim Armies to liberate Palestine. To use their activities to denigrate those taking part in the huge protests for an end to the fighting and occupation in Palestine is dishonest in the extreme.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

The world needs peace in Palestine and so does Israel as well of course as the Palestinians. We have seen over the years since Israel was set up that war is not the way to achieve this.

As the UN Secretary General made clear when condemning the Hamas attack, it did not take place in a vacuum. It took place after years when Palestinians have been forced out of their homes, their lands occupied, and they have been subjected to arbitrary military rule under an apartheid regime with Gaza held under siege. Years in which the peace process has been put to one side. The only hope for peace is if Palestine is allowed to grow and to flourish rather than continue to be oppressed.

I grew up in a country which prided itself for its sense of fair play and decency, even though this ideal was not usually extended in practice to those we colonised.

We were a country that led the way in the establishment of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions.

Now we seem to be a country that is ruled by politicians that have no real regard for human rights and the rights of asylum seekers, that are massively incompetent and put their own personal aggrandisement before the national interest, and are directed by corporate interests rather than those of the people or the planet. With some politicians from both main parties claiming huge expenses and often fiddling unnecessary second homes and increasingly frequent sexual scandals.

Government ministers and shadow ministers alike seem prepared to come onto the media and bluster and lie for the party, backed up by an electoral system that fails to provide any real democracy. Our current parliamentary election system is actually rather less democratic than the system that brought Hamas to power in 2006 – despite considerable interference by the US and Israel in the electoral process, though since Hamas took over Gaza completely by military force in 2007 and there have been no elections there.

The Covid inquiry continues to reveal government failures which led to many early deaths and its now clear that our current government have decided to abandon any real attempt to slow down or reverse our excessive global heating despite almost daily scientific evidence of the increasing risks – and the evidence we all fell as our weather becomes more and more chaotic. And rather than try to deal with the many problems that various protests bring to the fore, successive governments have enacted laws to restrict the right to protest and free speech and have encouraged police to prevent protests and courts to impose harsh ‘exemplary’ punishments.

Frankly Suella, you and your government are a disaster. And you are the leading edge of that disaster. The sooner you all go the better for Britain. Resign Now.

Pictures here are from London last Saturday, 28th October 2023. You can see more of those I made during the protest at:
National March for Gaza – Ceasefire Now, London 28 Oct 23
More Pictures – Gaza Ceasefire Now! London 28 Oct 23
Gaza Ceasefire Now! Protest At Waterloo Station, London 28 Oct 23


Desperate Day For Gaza

Monday, December 27th, 2021

December 27th 2008 was a desperate day for Gaza, when the Israeli military launched the beginning of a massive air attack on the small enclave. Operation Cast Lead had been six months in the planning and 100 pre-planned targets were struck in less than four minutes. The initial air attack was followed by others and on the 3rd of January 2009 with a ground attack. Israeli Defense Forces ended their attacks on 18th January 2009.

According to Wikipedia, the Israeli government stated was a response to weapons smuggling into Gaza and to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel with, according to the Israeli military 3,000 rockets hitting Israel over the whole of 2008 – despite a ceasefire agreement which held for around 5 months before an Israeli attack on a cross-border tunnel in Gaza in November. Rockets killed 8 people in Israel in 2008, four of them after the attack on Gaza began on 27th December.

Again according to Wikipedia (I’ve removed the 14 references to sources which you can find in the original);

A total of 1,100–1,400 Palestinians (295–926 civilians) and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.

The conflict damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities,800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms; leaving 50,000 homeless, 400,000–500,000 without running water, one million without electricity, and resulting in acute food shortages. The people of Gaza still suffer from the loss of these facilities and homes, especially since they have great challenges to rebuild them.

Wikipedia

There is much more detail on the attack and its consequences, as well as on later attacks on Gaza in 2014, 2018 and 2021 on Wikipedia in articles including those cited above and there would be little point in going further into the details here.

There was a large protest in London against the attack early in January 2009, and I photographed this an other protests, including those the anniversary of the start of the attack on 27th December 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. There I’ve written more about the protests and with many more pictures, including pictures of Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn and many others speaking against the attacks and ongoing siege of Gaza.

January 2009 Gaza: Protest March from the BBC
December 2009 Remember Gaza
December 2010 London Vigil For Gaza
December 2011 End The Siege Of Gaza
December 2012 Gaza – End the Siege