Posts Tagged ‘Nakba’

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka – 2013

Saturday, May 18th, 2024

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka: On Saturday 18th May 2013 I began work outside Parliament at a protest against Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, then went across the Thames to the Festival Hall for the start of a march to defend the NHS before going the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a ‘murder scene’ in solidarity with hunger strikers at Guantánamo. There I also photographed a woman protesting for the release of her husband arrested 9 years ago by US forces in Iraq. Finally I met a march by several thousands of Tamils calling for and end to the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. You will find much more detail (and many more pictures) on each of these protests at links below to My London Diary.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when Israel was created, Palestinians call for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Several hundred people came to the protest, including a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism, as well as many of Jewish or Palestinian origin. As well as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign the protest was also supported by many other groups – a long list on My London Diary – and speeches were continuing when I left for another event.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

More about the Nakba and the protest at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing.


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Thousands had gathered by the Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, including many groups opposed to hospital closures around London, trade unionists and others concerned the the government is ending the NHS.

An unprecedented coalition of Londoners, including medical staff, trade unions, health campaigners, patients and others have been alarmed at what they see as an attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

You can read more about the crisis in the NHS in 2013 in the post on My London Diary, but of course this has continued and is still making the news. Despite their protestations it seems clear that the Tories are trying hard to run down the NHS so that the population lose its trust and love for our universal free public – and would allow them to eventually replace it with US-style insurance based healthcare which would greatly increase costs and generate huge profits for private health companies.

I went with the march across Waterloo Bridge and down Strand to Charing Cross, leaving it as it was waiting to enter Whitehall for a rally there.

More information and pictures at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

As I arrived there were 8 black-hooded ‘prisoners’ in orange suits lying on the pavement, the number of prisoners who have died there in suspicious circumstances who had previously taken part in sustained hunger strikes. At least seven of them had the cause of death reported as ‘suicide’.

Other protesters drew lines around the bodies on the ground and surrounded the area with ‘Crime Scene – Do Not Enter‘ incident tape. The bodies then stood up and there was a short enactment of forced feeding by a man wearing an Obama mask.

Others held placards and posters, some including quotations from Thomas Jefferson and other historic and prominent Americans, and there were speeches about the events in Guantanamo, where British resident Shaker Aamer was still held despite having been cleared for release. You can read more, including a statement by one of the organisers, on My London Diary.

As I left some of the poems written in Guantánamo by Shaker Aamer were being read.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Also protesting outside the embassy as she has for a number of weekends was Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when held by them, and his now being tortured by the Iraqis. He is also on hunger strike. His young daughter Zeinab came and spoke briefly to the Guantanamo protesters, telling them that she wanted her daddy to be released.

Later she was joined by a small group of Muslim men and boys who stood with her.

It was a busy day for protests at at the US Embassy were a small group of supporters of Syrian President Assad, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who had come to protest against western intervention in Syria.

More about these protests at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

Finally I rushed away to join thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK who were marching through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre. Many were dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka and some wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Tamils are disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place and is still continuing in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax. I noted on My London Diary that I could see no other non-Tamil photographers covering the event.

On My London Diary you can read a statement by the British Tamil Forum who had organised the march. I left as the rally in Waterloo Place was about to start, partly because I was tired but also because I thought few of the speeches would be in English.

Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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Israel’s Land Day Massacre & Afrin March

Sunday, March 31st, 2024

Israeli Land Day Massacre & Afrin March – On Saturday 31st March 2018 two emergency protests in London condemned the cold-blooded shooting by the Israeli army of peaceful protesters near the separation wall in Gaza the previous day, Palestinian Land Day. The was also a march calling for an end to the invasion of Afrin by Turkey and al Qaeda-affiliated militias intended to destroy this peaceful state and eliminate the majority Kurdish population of the area.


Land Day protest against supporters of Israeli state – Oxford St

Israeli Land Day Massacre & Afrin March

Protesters from the Revolutionary Communist Group have held regular protests outside the Marks and Spencer flagship store on Oxford Street for many years. They were met there this morning by others apalled by the news of the 17 unarmed Palestinian civilians shot dead by Israeli snipers.

Israeli Land Day Massacre & Afrin March

Those murdered in cold blood were taking part in the first of a weekly series of marches, the ‘Great March of Return‘, beginning on Land Day, the anniversary of protests against the state confiscation of swathes of Palestinian land in Galilee in 1976 until Nakba Day on May 15, the anniversary of the expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their homes and villages in 1948.

Israeli Land Day Massacre & Afrin March

The protesters went from M&S to protest outside other stores on Oxford St with business links with apartheid Israel, calling for shoppers to boycott them. While I was with them they also protested outside Selfridges, which sells Israeli wines, Adidas which supports the Israel football team, Boots which sells cosmetics made in Israel and Carphone Warehouse and were continuing along the street when I had to leave.

Land Day protest against Israeli state


Defend Afrin – Bring Anna Home – Oxford St

Israeli Land Day Massacre & Afrin March

Turkey’s attack on Afrin in north-west Syria is a clear violation of international law, and air strikes have deliberately targeted civilian areas.

Turkey has NATO’s second largest army and much of its weapons come from European states including the UK which had recently signed a major arms deal. The UK government has expressed support for Turkey, claiming it has a right to defend it borders, but this attack is outside these and Turkey has clearly announce an intention to push far into Syria.

Turkish aims are clearly genocidal with Turkish president Erdogan having stated he intends to invade all the Kurdish areas of Syria and “cleanse” the area of its Kurdish people.

As well as calling for an immediate ceasefire and end to the Turkish invasion of Syrian and UK support for this, they called for an end of UK arms sales to all human rights abusing regimes in the Middle East and for humanitarian relief for Afrin and other areas of Syria and for an investigation into human rights abuses there. They also called on the UK government to demand Turkey return the body of YPJ volunteer Anna Campbell to her family in Sussex.

Much more on My London Diary at Defend Afrin – Bring Anna Home.


Israeli Embassy Protest against Land Day Killings

I joined others close to the Israeli embassy in Kensington for an emergency protest against the shooting of unarmed protesters several hundred yards from the Gaza separation wall by IDF snipers. 17 Civilians were killed and over 750 seriously injured by live fire, with others injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.

The massacre the previous day had shocked the world and led the UN to call for an independent investigation, which Israel have refused – just as they have refused calls for independent investigation into other massacres. The news had come too late for a large protest to be organised – which followed in April.

Coverage of the event in the UK media on the day had been surprisingly muted, with the BBC giving considerable air-time to Israeli state speakers shamefully claiming the massacre was reasonable and fully justified. The same thing has been happening over events in Gaza in recent months, though I think it has now become very much clearer that they have lost all credibility and even some presenters have sometimes challenged them.

Against Israeli Land Day massacre.

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran

Monday, May 15th, 2023

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran: Events I covered in London on 15th May 2023 and one I just missed.


Nakba Protest For Free Palestine – Downing St

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran

May 15 is Nakba Day, remembering the 1948 disaster when Palestinians were expelled from their land and calling for an end to Israeli occupation and breaches of international law.

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran

Over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed and the 1948 partition of Palestine to create the state of Israel created around 700,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom or their descendants are still in refugee camps. Protests take place on or around May 15 every year around the world calling for justice for Palestine.

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran

The biggest in London is on the nearest weekend to the 15th, and the 2023 London march organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign together with Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was last Saturday, May 13th, marching from the BBC.

Nakba, South Africa, Fair Votes & Iran

Organisations supporting this rally included Artists’ Union England, BFAWU, CWU, The MU, NEU, PCS, RMT, TSSA, UCU, UNISON and Unite the Union. In most recent years I’ve photographed these protests, but this year the rail strike meant I was unable to do so.

Back on 15th May 2010 the Nakba protest was a static one opposite Downing Street. Last Saturday the march to the rally began at the BBC, deliberately chosen to yet again expose the failure of our major broadcaster to report on protests in the UK, particularly those calling for freedom for Palestine.

It may not be written down anywhere in the BBC, but the broadcaster definitely has a policy of playing down or usually totally ignoring protests in the UK, at least unless it can condemn any acts of violence of criminal damage by protesters. Occasionally any involving major celebrities may also get a mention, though they may need to get arrested for the BBC to notice. You have more chance of your protest getting a mention if it occurs in another country, preferably one with a regime our government disapproves, than under their noses in London.

Other UK media tend to follow the example of the BBC and if you want to know about protests that are happening in the UK you need to follow foreign media such as Al Jazeera or RT, or read left wing publications in print or online. There you may even find out what the protests were about.

Among the protesters were many Jews opposed to the actions of the State of Israel who form a major part of most if not all left wing and anarchist groups. Most obvious were those from the ultra-orthodox ‘Neturei Karta’ who are totally opposed to Zionism and the idea of a Jewish political state. They say the Torah prohibits the use of human force to establish a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah, and support the right of the Palestinians to their land, which should be returned to them. The say Jews should live in peace and harmony with their Muslim neighbours in Palestine as their ancestors did for many centuries.

Nakba Protest For Free Palestine


South African Right March in London – Trafalgar Square

I arrived in Trafalgar Square too late to see a march by expatriate right-wingers, part of a campaign to persuade football supporters not to go to South Africa for the the World Cup. They say the country is too violent with around 18,000 murders a year.

Unfortunately that high rate is fairly typical among many countries in the global south and lower than in many of them. Perhaps the main difference between South Africa and the others is the large white population who also suffer from the violence and murders.

The march organisers had earlier regretted that police had prohibited any marchers carrying flags or banners of the extreme right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) or other white nationalist groups. The extreme racist AWB protest at the ‘Boer Genocide’ and is committed to setting up an independent Volkstaat on parts of South Africa with extreme apartheid policies.

Although there were only a handful of people in red shirts who had taken part in the march I was able to photograph some of the crosses, posters and banners they had left behind in front of South Africa House before police removed them.

South African Right March in London


Purple Protest Demands Fair Votes – Old Palace Yard

More than a thousand people, mainly wearing purple, had come to Westminster to demand a fair voting system, feeling cheated by the recent election results which failed to produce a government reflecting how people voted.

The 2010 election had clearly failed to reflect the votes cast, particularly for the Lib-Dems who got almost a quarter of the votes but less than one tenth of the seats. Perhaps even more importantly it showed that over a third of the population had so little confidence in our political system that they didn’t bother to cast there vote.

These results had left to a movement springing up rapidly through the Internet, using Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and other social networking sites, and it also attracted the backing of existing electoral campaigning groups such as the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy (incorporating Charter 88), 38 Degrees and Power2010.

Most of us have experience of elections taking place using the single transferable vote system with give much greater fairness. The Lib-Dems had demanded a UK-wide referendum on the Parliamentary voting system for taking part in the coalition governement, but the proposals were dismissed as more an attempt to defuse the issue than to deal with it. The vague proposal was in any case decisively rejected, though only 42% of the electorate bothered to vote.

This year has seen another attack on the fairness of our elections with the introduction of the need for photo-ID to cast a vote. I don’t know how many were put off from trying to vote by this requirement, but apparently 1.2% of those who turned up to polling stations were not allowed to vote.

Purple Protest Demands Fair Votes


Protest Against Executions in Iran

Around a hundred people demonstrated in Trafalgar Square and then marched for a rally opposite the Iran Embassy following the execution last Sunday of 5 political activists, the latest of many such death sentences.

In the previous year millions in Iran had protested for greater freedom in Iran, with the protests making headlines around the world after the fatal shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan in June 2009. Thousands have been arrested, tortured to make untrue confessions and then condemned in unfair trials and many have been executed.

The death of Jina Mahsa Amini after being arrested by the religious morality police for allegedly not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards in September 2022 has led to a series of protests in Iran and around the world on an even more widespread scale than those in 2009-10, 2007 and 2019. Again the protests in Iran have been brutally repressed with at least 476 people killed by the end of 2022, and many arrested and tortured and a number of protesters hanged.

The protest on 15 May 2010 came after the executions of five political activists – four men and a woman – on Sunday 9 May; Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Mehdi Eslamian and Shirin Alam-Houli.

The protests in London around the world in 2022-3 have been on a larger scale than in 2010, with large and continuing protests with the slogan ‘Woman Life Freedom’.

Protest Against Executions in Iran


Nakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

NakNakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils – Saturday 18th May 2013 was another busy day for protests in London and I covered a number of demonstrations.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created, Palestinians and their supporters protested outside parliament calling for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

There had been protests in Jerusalem earlier in the week on Nabka Day against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians. Many of those protesting in London from Jewish or Palestinian backgrounds and as usual these included a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who had walked down from North London; they see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism.

The speeches were continuing when I left to cover another event. More at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

On the opposite side of the River Thames thousands were gathering by the Royal Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, alarmed at the attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

Nine years later we are seeing the effect of these policies with ambulance services unable to cope with demand, lengthy delays in treating people in A&E, delays in diagnosing cancers leading to increased deaths and more. And although it was only a matter of time before we had a pandemic like Covid, and exercises had shown what needed to be done to prepare for this, the NHS had not been given the resources to prepare for this, leading to much higher death rates than some comparable countries.

Part of the problems of the NHS come from disastrous PFI agreements pushed through under the Labour government, landing NHS trusts with huge debts that will continue for many years. This forced NHS trusts into disastrous hospital closure plans, some of which were defeated by huge public campaigns. Many of those marching were those involved in these campaigns at Lewisham, Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London.

I left the march as it entered Whitehall for a rally there. More at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Other protesters outside the US Embassy included Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when they held him and was now being tortured by the Iraqis and also was on hunger strike. She has protested with her daughter Zeinab outside the US Embassy for a number of weekends and on this occasion was joined by a small group of Muslims who had come to protest against Guantanamo, appalled by the actions of the US waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Shawki Ahmed Omar is still held in Iraq; before he died in 2021 former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark recorded a video calling for his release which was posted to YouTube in with the comment by another US lawyer “This case is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.”

A few yards away, kept separate by police, a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.

More at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

I met thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK as they marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Although it was a large protest, with perhaps around 5,000 marchers I think it received absolutely no coverage in UK media, and I seemed to be the only non-Tamil photographer present. Tamils were rightly disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The march had started from Hyde Park, and I caught up with it on Piccadilly and went with it taking photographs to Waterloo Place where there was to be a rally. But it had been a long day for me and I left just before this started.

More at Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


The Wall Must Fall & Kyoto March

Monday, May 16th, 2022

Back in 2004 I was still working with the Nikon D100, one of the first really affordable DSLR cameras which I bought when it came out in 2002. It used a 6Mp Sony sensor in what Nikon called DX format – though it could have been called half-frame. For years Nikon insisted we didn’t need larger sensors, and though they were correct, marketing pressure eventually forced them to move to “full-frame” and us zombies followed them.

The D100 was a decent camera, but let down by a rather small and dim viewfinder, and to some extent by the processing software available at the time for its RAW images. If I had the time to go back to the RAW files these images would look sharper and brighter. Here are a few of those I posted on My London Diary from the two events I photographed on 16th May 2004 along with the two sections of text (with some minor corrections.)


The wall must fall. Free Palestine rally, Trafalgar Square

Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, but not to put itself outside international law. We all need peace in the Middle East. Support for Palestine is also support for an Israel that can coexist with the rest of the world, and for the rest of the world.

Peter Tatchell protests the persecution of Queers in Palestine

The wall must fall rally in Trafalgar square on 16 May 2006 started with an an ugly scene, when stewards stopped Peter Tatchell and a group from Outrage from being photographed in front of the banners around Nelson’s column.

Neturei Karta orthodox Jews had walked down from Stamford Hill on the Sabbath to oppose Zionism

The rally organisers argued that raising the question of the persecution of gays in Palestine distracted attention from the Palestinian cause. Their childish attempts to distract the attention of photographers by jumping in front of the outrage protesters, holding placards in front of theirs and shouting over them simply increased the force of Tatchell’s arguments.

Fortunately the rally soon got under way, the main speaker was Jamal Jumaa – director of the Stop The Wall campaign in Palestine, although there were many other speakers, including Sophie Hurndall, the brother of Tom the murdered peace activist, Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Afif Safieh, Palestinian general delegate to the UK, George Galloway and more. Too many more for most of us.

War On Want activists came with a wall to dramatize the effect of the wall in Palestine. When the march moved off down Whitehall, the wall walked with them, and it was erected opposite Downing Street. There was a short sit-down on the road before the event dissolved.


Campaign against Climate Change Kyoto March, London

Bristol Radical Cheerleaders in the Kyoto march to the US embassy

I caught up with the Kyoto march, organised by the campaign for climate change, as it reached Berkeley Square on the last quarter-mile of its long trek from the Esso British HQ in Leatherhead. Esso are seen as being one of the main influences behind the refusal by George Bush and the US administration to ratify the Kyoto accord. The campaign has organised a number of marches in London, and this is an annual event.

Among the marchers it was good to find a number dressed ready for the promised ‘dinosaur party’ at the US embassy, as well as the fantastic Rinky Dink cycle-powered sound system. It was also good to meet a couple of the Bristol Radical cheerleaders again, bouncing with energy as ever. A little colour was also added by a small group of of Codepink activists forming a funeral cortege, carrying the globe on their coffin.

The police in Grosvenor square were not helpful, but eventually the speeches got under way in the corner of the square.


You can find more pictures on My London Diary starting from the May 2004 page or from the pages for the two events, The Wall Must Fall and Campaign against Climate Change.


Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop – Six years ago, the 14th May 2016 was also a Saturday, and like today there was a protests for Nakba Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, but also several others on the streets of London which I covered.


Reclaim Holloway – Holloway Road

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that when the prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate then owned by HM Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold for private development.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

The Ministry of Justice sold the site to housing association Peabody for £81.5m in 2019 and their plans include 985 homes and offices, with 60% of so-called affordable housing as well as a women’s building with rehabilitation facilities reflecting the site’s history. The development stalled in February 2022 with Peabody saying they were unable to afford the money needed to fit out the women’s centre.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford Street

Protesters made their way along Oxford St from their regular Saturday picket outside Marks & Spencers, handing out leaflets and stopping outside various shops supporting the Israeli state for speeches against the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people and attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’ remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced out of their homes between December 1947 and January 1949 is commemorated annually on May 15th, but the protest was a day earlier when Oxford Street would be busier. The Palestinians were later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes or reclaiming their properties, with many still living in refugee camps.

The protesters included a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the protesters of anti-Semitism but the protest was clearly directed against unfair and illegal policies pursued by the Israeli government rather than being anti-Semitic. The counter-protesters tried unsuccessfully to provoke confrontation, standing in front of the marchers and police had at times to move them away.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day


Vegan Earthlings masked video protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large circle in Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end animal cruelty.

Vegan Earthlings masked video protest


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Another small group of protesters stood in front of the National Gallery held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

Refugees Welcome say protesters


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

Finally I was back on Oxford St where cleaners union United Voices of the World (UVW) was holding one of protests outside Topshop stores around the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living wage; one has now been sacked. Joining them in the protest were other groups including Class War, cleaners from CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The Oxford Street Topshop was heavily defended by police, as well as by illegal extra security guards wearing no ID. Several hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police blocked the entrance to the shop, though the protesters made no serious attempt to enter the building.

Jane Nicholl of Class War poses on a BMW as they block Oxford Circus

After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade, moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuaded them to move.

UVW’s Petros Elia argues with a police officer outside John Lewis

They moved off, but rather than going in the direction the police had urged them, marched west along Oxford St to John Lewis, where they protested outside the entrance, where cleaners have a longstanding dispute. The cleaners who work there are outsourced to a cleaning contractor who John Lewis allow to pay low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for these workers who keep its stores running.

There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police but I saw no arrests and soon the protesters marched away to the Marble Arch Topshop branch to continue their protest.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


Solidarity with Palestine

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

As someone born as World War II was finishing it isn’t surprising that I grew up with with a great deal of sympathy and support for the young state of Israel, which had won its freedom from the British mandate by a number of terrorist attacks, most notably the King David Hotel Bombing, a massacre which killed 91 people and left around 50 badly wounded.

I was too young to know anything about it at the time of the attack, but in later years the Zionist underground organization the Irgun  was the first which I heard some call terrorists and others freedom fighters. Around 15 years later when I started a real interest in politics and free cigarettes at the local young socialist meetings in the Co-op Hallit was certainly the latter view that prevailed, not least because many of those in the Labour movement were Jewish.

Then we believed the lies that were told about Israel occupying a largely empty land and making the deserts bloom. Since then we have become aware of the properties and land stolen from the Palestinians, many of whom were forced out as refugees, and of the shrinking map of Palestine and the attacks on Gaza. The Zionist Israeli government has become increasing right-wing, violating the human rights of the Palestinians and international law over the years, setting up an apartheid system in Israel, making it impossible now not to support the Palestinian cause.

The protest on 11th May came at the start of the week remembering the Nakba and called for an end to Israeli oppression and the siege of Gaza and for a just peace that recognises Palestinian rights including the right of return. It urged everyone to boycott and divest from Israel and donate to medical aid for Palestine. Many of those on the march carried keys, some those of properties they had been forced to leave back in 1948, others simply as a reminder of the dispossession.

Among those marching was Palestinian teenage activist Ahed Tamimi, arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier in December 2017 after soldiers had entered her home and severely injured her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed. It wasn’t easy to photograph her on the march as stewards kept photographers outside the area in front of where she was marching holding the banner at the head of the march.

I wasn’t able to get close to her, but had to photograph with a long lens from a distance. With the 14-150mm lens on the Olympus E-M5 Mk II I managed to get a decent image with her filling much of the frame. The lens is equivalent to a 28-300mm, and for this picture I was using it at its extreme and at f5.6 and 1/250th at ISO 1250.

I think the result is rather better than I would have expected using a Nikon, thanks to the stabilisation of the OM body. And I would probably only have been carrying a lens with a maximum focal length of 200mm, so would have had to crop to get a similar image, thus losing some of the advantage of the larger sensor. I think the autofocus is almost as good as the Nikon, close enough to show no real difference in speed, and face detection is sometimes a help. And as a final point, despite weighing half as much, the Olympus lens is I think a better performer.

As well as the Olympus, my second camera was a Fuji X-T1, with a 10-24mm lens (15-36 equiv) that is also a fine performer. It doesn’t have quite the advantage in size and weight over Nikon that the Olympus has, and the camera somehow feels a little less responsive. I bought it when I was hoping that a Fuji system could replace my Nikons, but now I’m more likely to move to Olympus, keeping a Nikon only for the larger file size when used with bellows and a macro lens for digitising negatives and slides.

As with most events showing solidarity with Palestine it was joined by several Jewish groups, including the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta  and also opposed by a small group of Zionists. You can see pictures of both on My London Diary, along with coverage of the rally close to the BBC before the march. I left and went home before the rally at the end.

More pictures at National Demonstration for Palestine.