By Max J Freeman
There is a feeling of underlying angst amongst the protesters, almost as though they are not willing something to happen, but they can sense today London is a boiling pot, which may just yet turn into a police kettle. I am glad, for the moment, that I heeded my partners advice, and did not bring my child with me to today’s protest against Israeli incursions into Gaza over the last couple of weeks.
But I need not have worried. An hour before the protest outside Downing St last Saturday, a couple of thousand people stand and wait for the speakers before they march. The organisers, Stop the War, are backed up by several organisations, most noticeably Friends of Al-Aqsa (look them up, you won’t see these peaceful Muslims in the Daily Mail), and the Socialist Worker Newspaper. With less than 30 minutes before the protest, the banners at the roadside outnumber the people in the crowd, and it seems as though the estimated 20,000 people that are expected to attend was a little over-optimistic.
Is British public opinion toward Gaza this stilted? I wonder are we few thousand the only people that care about the deaths of innocents?
I’ll stop. I’ll make something clear. I am biased, in this matter, and every matter I write about. I am here to march, to make my voice heard. I’ve also promised to write an article for The London Economic about the march and I know the Editor Jack will make it clear that this is an opinion piece.
I have no time, as my regular readers will know, for hand-wringing Lefties who wonder how awful it must be for the poor, the oppressed, the parents of murdered children, as they philosophise over soy-milk lattes and organic-all-butter-and-self-loathing-croissants, whilst never taking a firm side in any conflict. I’m going to assume that my reader has a basic understanding of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and in any case, this is not the crux of this piece. My blog on www.maxjfreeman.com this week will explain my views on Gaza, but today, I am looking at a crowd, with twenty minutes before a protest, that is swelling only by the hundreds, not the thousands.
Amongst the hundreds that have died in Gaza in the last two weeks, four names resonate. These are those names.
Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10
Ahed Atef Bakr, 10
Mohammed Ramez Bakr, 11
and Ismail Mohammed Bakr, 9.
These are the four children, killed last Wednesday, whilst playing on a beach. Killed by shells fired from Israeli war ships.
Collateral damage is a horrible, horrible thing. Children are a regrettable loss, in such a conflict. But the Israeli Navy were justified in bombing a beach, they say, because, not only were awful nine-year-old potential terrorists playing on it, but it is also an area, covered with beach huts, and shacks used by fishermen.
The Israeli Forces were quick to explain these deaths, saying that “There was a military target embedded among civilians”
On a beach, near some beach huts, amongst the fishing tackle.
I could’t care less about your views on the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but if the thought of taking your own kids to the beach, or the shops, or simply to school, and not knowing whether a warship will blow them to pieces by the end of the day, does not fill you with disgust, then stop reading now. You are not fit to read the words I slave over.
If you feel, for a second, that this sort of aggression is never justified, then read on, because, you can make a difference.
At ten minutes to twelve, something happens. Something I didn’t foresee. London awakes. Leicester awakes, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle awakes, and they are headed toward Downing Street.
People, people like you and I, disenfranchised by mainstream politics, a three party system in which the march forward toward further inequality, further globalisation, more brands, more looking the other way by the mainstream media, people who have seen the names of these four children, bombed simply for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong coloured skin, people, like you and I… descend on Downing Street.
Hundreds at a time, then many hundreds, then thousands. It seems that the twenty thousand figure may even be passed as the crowd begins to chant, “David Cameron…shame on you….Barak Obama…shame on you.” And it’s louder, and louder, and they thicken as the speakers stand and orate. The Cenotaph, a beacon of hope against oppression, a sign that good men and women will not defy Burke, and stand by and allow evil to triumph, is surrounded, and those souls who died in two wars to protect our freedom, to protect our children seem to become one with us, as the thousands become tens of thousands, and together, we chant, “Free free Palestine”.
And we mean it. And we are Muslims, and we are Christians, and we are Atheists, and we are Jews, and above all, we are people. We are the people of the United Kingdom, and we give to each-other something that cannot be legislated for. Cannot be spun by politicians, cannot be written by writers with mere words. We give each-other hope, that together, we will not just shout, not just chant, not just gather in numbers to show solidarity before sloping off to our quiet little lives. We make a pledge, as our numbers grow, 30,000, we will not be ignored by a biased media…50,000…we will not stand by and let children be bombed as “justifiable collateral damage”…75,000…though we stand outside the home of the Prime Minister, he does not hear us….100,000…can you imagine how much effort it would take to ignore 100,000 people outside your house?
But we were there, 100,000 of us. Five times the estimate of attendees.
And we made a pact, as we marched toward the Israeli Embassy. We made a pact not to shout and scream at Jewish people, who themselves are a victim of Israeli policy. We made a pact not to allow ourselves to be marginalised into Islamists and a few rampant Lefties, we made a pact as we shook hands, and hugged, and built a bridge between ourselves. We made a pact to return next Saturday. This Saturday, the 26th of July 2014.
And we said we’d bring our friends. Because though it must have taken a superhuman effort to ignore 100,000 of us, no Prime Minister, or biased BBC, could possibly ignore 1 million. We said we would use Twitter, Facebook, every method we could to spread the word. We said we would use articles just like this one, to let our friends know why we were there. We promised that we would not stand by silently, but would cover the internet with our message, a message which the mainstream media is ignoring.
And we will be there, those hundred thousand. We will be there with our friends, with our families, with our loved ones this time. 100,000…we will amass at Downing St…300,000…we will show our love for the children of Gaza…500,000…we will not be ignored by the Prime Minister who nervously sipped his tea with the windows closed…1,000,000. We will be heard….
I ask you one favour. Go back and read the names of those children again. Whether you are pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, or just a regular person. I hope that you are pro-children. Take a day, one day of this year, to come, and show our politicians, and the politicians of the world, that whilst their priority may be big business, war and austerity. Our priority is children, first, foremost, and absolute.
I hope to see you there.