On the last Sunday of Ramadan, thousands of people from all over the UK gathered outside the Home Office in London, to commemorate Al Quds Day – a day of solidarity for the oppressed, against aggressive, violent and racist falsifiers and oppressors. 9,500 fasting and non-fasting families, activists, students, professionals and clerics, of all ages, walked through London to Whitehall, outside Downing Street with a small crowd of lurking Zionists and fascists.
Our first speaker was Professor Haim Bresheeth, a filmmaker, photographer and film studies scholar at SOAS. Professor Haim spoke brilliantly about how a rally led by rabbis and ulema, walking hand in hand in support of Palestine, is symbolic and discussed the history of Muslim and Jewish communities thriving together – from Muslim Spain to the Ottoman Empire.
Professor Haim said: “In the context of the manufactured crisis about the non-existent antisemtism on the left, I wish to remind us all that antisemitism was and remains a wild growth of the right, together with all other types of racism. Until the establishment of Israel, Jews have lived in peace and prosperity in the Arab and Islamic world, never suffering the excesses and oppression of antisemtism.
Juduphopia of all kinds was and remains a European and Christian phenomenon, in great contrast to the role played by Jews in the Islamic world. Apart from very few exceptions, Jewish life in Arab and Muslim societies was one of collaboration, cooperation a coexistence – of what was called convivencia in Muslim Spain life together. Jews were integrated into Muslim societies at the highest levels of each country – and played a crucial role in the cultural commercial and professional life. In Spain, Jews and Muslims worked together on the translation of classical Greek texts – the philosophers, the dramas and literature of ancient Greece, from the Arabic versions into Latin, making these texts, lost to Europeans for centuries, accessible again to Christians in Europe. Without such efforts, Europeans would be deprived of what they today consider their foundational texts, not to mention the great scientific innovations of Muslim Spain of the Golden Era. Under Muslim rule, Jews and Christians were treated well and enjoyed a period of unequalled cultural, scientific and financial development, while the rest of Europe was suffering from decline of the arts and sciences.
In the Ottoman Empire, in North Africa, in the Balkans, and not least – in Palestine – the three religious communities have enjoyed safety and coexistence not seen before or after. Zionism has brutally shattered such rich traditions of life together, installing racial hatred and colonial disdain towards the Palestinians – the indigenous population of the country, who have lived there for many centuries. The brutality of the last seven decades defies description and contradicts Jewish history and traditions of common humanity.
We as anti-Zionist Jews stand together with Palestine, with those who are oppressed and subjugated under an illegal and inhumane military settler-colonial regime. We denounce the treatment of Palestinians, especially in the blockaded Gaza, and call for all in Britain to use Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to bring about the end of Zionism and its practices, and a just, lasting peace and coexistence for all who live in Palestine as well as the refugees, under a secular, democratic state, as was proposed by the PLO.
Britain has a special responsibility towards the Palestinians – it was the Balfour Declaration and the continued support of the Mandate authorities which made the Zionist takeover of Palestine, and the ethnic cleansing of two thirds of Palestinians possible. These refugees have full rights to return to their country, and we support such rights. The current UK government continues to support the oppression of Palestinians, in defiance of the UN Charter and Security Council Resolutions. This we must work towards changing.”
Next to speak was Les Levidow from Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and Jewish Network for Peace. Les called for Western powers to end Israeli colonisation: “Protests often demand, ‘End the Occupation’, referring to the 1967 seizure of the West Bank and Gaza — declared illegal by UN resolutions. That seizure extended the original colonisation project establishing the state of Israel, which recognises no permanent boundaries and depends on continuously dispossessing the indigenous population.
The ongoing colonisation turned the ‘two-state solution’ into a fantasy a long time ago. But it remains a necessary fantasy for Western governments which collude with the colonisation through political support, arms sales, technology development, ‘security’ strategies and so-called anti-terror laws.
Their special powers label liberation movements as terrorist, while sanitising state terror as counter-terror operations.
UK support for Zionist terror fits a broader pattern of supporting terrorist states, such as Saudia Arabia terrorising Yemen, Turkey terrorising its Kurdish population, India terrorising Kashmir and its Muslim population, etc. The EU also helps by funding the Israeli military-industrial project through its R&D programmes, as well as by subsidising the Occupation, i.e. funding projects and rebuilding facilities that are destroyed by Israel.
Israel’s most important supporter, the US government, has intensified its support for the colonisation project.
In addition, the Trump administration has unilaterally recognised Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed the US consulate in occupied East Jerusalem and the PLO office in Washington, recognised Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, and emboldened Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to call for annexing parts of the occupied West Bank. The US President also has announced the ‘Deal of the Century’ to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, with the threat of even more punishments if Palestinian representatives decline the offer.
We must mobilise supporters to counter the dangers, especially through the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). As everyone knows, Don’t Buy Israeli Dates. An effective BDS campaign depends on collective action against complicit institutions, especially UK companies involved in the colonisation there. This means getting pension funds and banks to divest from such companies.
In particular, there is an important campaign telling HSBC: Stop Arming Israel
HSBC has investments in several arms companies supplying Israel, as well as in Caterpillar, whose bulldozers have been used to destroy Palestinian homes. HSBC has branches all over the country. You can get together with nearby friends and organise regular protests (even occupations) at your local branch, this way joining up with the national campaign against HSBC.”
Mick Napier, from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, gave an inspiring and motivating speech, requesting that we do not despair. Mick said: “There’s a guy just been suspended from the Labour Party for saying the Israeli Embassy might be behind the whole wave of false, fake, phoney, malicious antisemitism allegations. It’s obvious – they don’t hide it. The Israeli Embassy does it. They do it openly. They have workshops around the country where all the locals Zios get together -Christians and Muslims and Jews – they all get together, the Zios, because there are some of each, and they plot how to smear those of us who stand up for the Palestinian people. Your crime today is to stand up for the noble people of Palestine. There are many reasons to despair. A sex abuser is going to be entertained by the Queen in London in the next few days. He’s going to be here for a lap of honour – he should be in prison. There are so many reasons to despair but when you see the Palestinians standing up, Friday after Friday, week after week, being mowed down by snipers and still they come back. How can we despair?!
The cost of resistance in Britain is very small. It doesn’t cost too much – only a few of us lose their jobs, very few get killed. It doesn’t cost much to stand up against the monstrous crimes against the Palestinian people. And you, today, are doing this, and you are inspiring other people who don’t yet have the courage to join you today but might find that courage tomorrow.
Friends, the horror in Palestine gets worse and worse every year and now open murder. The United Nations Human Rights Council a few weeks ago reported Israel is killing children “knowing that they are children”, killing reporters, killing disabled Palestinians “knowing that they are disabled”. This is bloody genocide and our government has condemned the UN Human Rights Council for making that report.
The Foreign Minister of Britain attack the UN Human Rights Council – Amnesty International backed it but the British Government attacked the UN Human Rights Council and said it had been “unbalanced”. Friends, how can you be “balanced” between snipers who for a year are murdering people in front of them and the people who are being murdered? How can you be “balanced”? It’s a pathological condition.
It’s wrong not to support the Palestinian people. It’s unhealthy and I look at you today and I draw inspiration from your health, your standing up, your determination to be counted – the Muslims, the Jews and those of us who are not religious believers. We stand united together for the people of Palestine.
I carry a special burden of shame for Balfour was Scottish and Tony Blair was Scottish. We have a lot of ground to make up and we’re trying to make some of it up today. We will win but the complicity of the British government is long standing, profound and profitable. The resistance of the Palestinians, though, is detonating support around the world Two facts – a Gallup poll in America a couple of months ago reported the great majority of young people in America support Palestine and are not drawn towards support for Israel. Larger and larger numbers of American Jews are disgusted at Israel and the leaders of this community are complaining about the young people because they don’t support Israel, they don’t do as they are ordered.
There has never been a movement for human progress, for example against slavery, that didn’t bring a rabble onto the streets to support slavery. There’s never been a movement for the vote, for men or women, that didn’t bring a rabble onto the streets such as these to oppose it. We are standing for human freedom. We are standing against the forces of murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide. We will win. There are dark days ahead, but we will come through.”
Following a beautiful poem recited by Palestinain poet Hafiza Ibrahim.
We were also joined by the wonderful Maz Saleem, a Birmingham based activist and anti-racist anti-war campaigner.
Shaykh Bahmanpour, director of inter-faith relations at the Islamic Centre of England, offered a set of terms for Palestinian freedom from the fake, political entity called Israel. The terms included the departure of USA in the Middle East, cessation of destabilising activities of the West in the Middle East region and the need for Jews, Muslims and Christians to live in peace.
Roshan Muhammad Salih, founder of 5 Pillars news website, said one day history will condemn the aggression and oppression of Israel and the need to continue to make supporting Israel toxic. Additionally, the liberation of Palestine is one state and Israel has no moral right to exist at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Abbas Edalat, a professor at Imperial College of London and founder of Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), talked about his political activism for the liberation of Palestine. Professor Abbas said: “There would have been no sanctions and pressure on Iran under the phoney pretext of a nuclear weapons programme which has never existed in the country, had the Islamic Republic of Iran not provided consistent and staunch support to the cause of Palestinian struggle for freedom. If like most Arab and Islamic countries the Islamic Republic of Iran had only given some lip service with no significant real support to the Palestinians and Axis of Resistance including Hezbollah, it would not have faced the wrath of the US and its allies.
The same alliance of white supremacists, racists, colonialist, neo-colonialists and western military industrial complex which has for over 70 years unconditionally backed the atrocities committed by the Israeli occupying regime against Palestinians, has been steadfast in trying to strangulate the Islamic Revolution in the past forty years for daring to call for the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid regime.
However, despite a multi-pronged strategy to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees— including by supporting Saddam’s war of aggression against Iran and crippling sanctions against the country— the US led efforts against Iran, prodded by Israel, have only made Iran stronger with more key allies throughout the region. The imperial hubris and arrogance of Israel and the US has led the Islamic Republic to become their nemesis.
There is a vital lesson from the history of Islam for unity among the Muslims against the foreign Zionist invaders and the cause of Palestinian struggle for liberation. In fact, the western engineered colonial state of Israel does have a precursor in the Middle Ages, when the anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim crusaders invaded Islamic lands and set up their colonial fortresses in the region. In that age, Sunnis and Shiites, despite initial sectarian differences and political divisions, actually backed each other in fighting the invaders and eventually the united front of Muslim people led to the defeat of the crusaders. Later, however, with the devastating and hugely traumatic Mongol invasions of the Middle East, a sectarian and extremely intolerant ideology with a veneer of Islamic dressing was shaped in the region in the mirror image of the political and military code of the Mongols. This takfiri and homicidal ideology, completely alien to the spirit and teachings of Islam and akin to the ruling ideology of the invading Mongol armies, for the first time, justified and called on Sunnis for jihad against Shiites, who were falsely accused of having persuaded the Mongols to overthrow the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. Centuries later, this extreme sectarian ideology was adopted by Saudi rulers and is now also the ideological basis of groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Zionist regime has very actively exploited this takfiri ideology for sharply widening divisions among Muslims in the region. It has forged an unholy alliance with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE who, following the Zionist discourse, designate Iran, rather than Israel, as the main threat in the region.
It is also no secret that Israel has been bolstering and arming Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria in order to undermine the axis of Resistance against the imperial colonial project in the Middle East. It is thus imperative for the unity of the anti-Zionist struggle of all Muslims, Jews and Christians and all freedom fighters that the takfiri ideology of the Saudi and UAE rulers as well as that of Al-Qaeda and ISIS be exposed for what it is: completely alien to Islam and representing legacy of the intolerant and brutal ideology of the invading Mongols in the Middle East. Sunnis and Shiites need to come together and unite to support the Resistance in the face of Zionist and Imperial aggression in the region and fight against all divisive ideologies promoted by the colonialists. Free Palestine!”
We were also pleased to have the support and be joined by members of Neturei Karta UK, including Rabbi Beck who burned the Israeli flag to ashes while chanting Free, free Palestine!
Last to speak was Chair of Islamic Human Rights Commission, Massoud Shadjareh.
A huge thank you to Nazim Ali for leading the march and Karim Ali.
All photos from Al Quds Day can be viewed here – thank you to Sara Russell for the photography.
A special thank you to all the speakers and supporting organisations:
Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
Football Against Apartheid
Hastings and Rye PSC
Islamic Human Rights Commission
Islamic Students Association
Jewish Network for Palestine
Lebanese Community in Scotland
Neturei Karta UK
Scottish Forum for Middle East and North Africa
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign