The Middle East Crisis


Following Israel's attacks on Lebanon and with the situation changing daily, Kingston Peace Council members attended three marches in London on consecutive weekends. 


The third demonstration, on 5th August, was the best supported, with possibly as many as 100,000 people taking part. On the second march an atmosphere of anger and hatred was noticed, but on the third the crowd was more diverse and representative.  The march passed the US Embassy and Downing Street, where children's shoes were laid at the Cenotaph to draw attention to Tony Blair's complicity in the huge number of children killed in Lebanon.  Lebanese and British children carried four coffins and also placed them at the Cenotaph.  The protest ended with a rally in a packed Parliament Square, calling for an Unconditional Ceasefire in the Lebanon and an end to Tony Blair's support for American and Israeli war policies.  Some of the speeches are summarised here:


MPs John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, ex-UK ambassador Craig Murray and General Secretary of the PCS union, Mark Serwotka spoke of the shame that has been brought on our country by Tony Blair and their disgust at what is happening in Lebanon and Gaza.  Craig Murray added that as he was speaking the demonstration still stretched up Whitehall, and that was because so many people were appalled by the the situation.


Diane Abbot and Dawn Butler MP, Walter Wolfgang, recently elected to the Labour Party National Executive Committee, and Billy Hayes, General Secretary of CWU, all demanded that Parliament be recalled to debate the call for an Unconditional Ceasefire Now.


Walter Wolfgang also said he spoke as a Jew when he called for an unconditional ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestine and the war in Lebanon, and he commended those Jews who had fasted outside the Israeli Embassy on 3rd August.  Tony Benn, Jeremy Hardy, Bruce Kent and Barry Carnfield, Deputy Secretary of the T&GWU, continued this theme - Barry Carnfield called on Jewish people to "reject the Israeli state and join the rest of us in this fight against fascism and imperialism"; Tony Benn: "We have the support of all religions, all peoples, and this is not a religious war, but a war against the people of the world who are opposed to an 'imperial' control of their countries"; Jeremy Hardy: "We are united because we are human beings and not divided by religion, nationality or politics"; Bruce Kent, urging a boycott of Israel and an end to arms sales to Israel : "This is not an issue of anti-semitism, as many Jews are working against Israel and are with this movement.  On the mountain of God all we come together and live together".


Darren Johnson of the Green Party also spoke of the great shame of arms sales to countries such as Israel and Betty Hunter of the PSC said "We need a boycott of Israel, its goods and its sportsmen.  People must join boycott actions outside supermarkets and other places where Israeli goods are on sale until the occupation of Palestine and Lebanon has ended". Three orthodox Jews appeared on the platform to show their support for the demonstration, having walked from Muswell Hill.  They were unable to speak because it was the Sabbath.


A large number of speakers said that what is happening in Lebanon is a war crime – Louise Christian, human rights lawyer: "You cannot stand by when children are being slaughtered.  And Tony Blairs's actions or 'non-actions' are as much a crime as the actual crime itself";  Bianca Jagger, reading from Human Rights Watch report "The killings of civilians were not an accident but deliberate war crimes"; Somaya Ghanoushi of British Muslim Initiative: "Bush And Blair are using the Israelis to carry out their war policies and the blood of the dead children is on their hands… be added to the other war crimes in Iraq"; Brian Haw, Parliament Square peace camper, called for Blair to be sent to the Hague as a war criminal; Dr Daud Abdullah of the Muslim Council of Britain: "When the war is over and the people are successful we will bring to court the war criminals responsible for the crimes they have committed".


Other speakers included Ishmal Patel of Friends of Al Asqa: "Bush and Blair say if we are not with them we are with the terrorists.  If being a terrorist is to be against murder and wars then…..most of this country are terrorists"; John Rees, National Secretary of Respect: "This is an extension of the war which started in Afghanistan, moved to Iraq and is now on its way to Iran via Lebanon"; Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian: "The only two democracies in the Middle East – Lebanon and Palestine – are being destroyed"; Lindsey German, SWC: "We are on the side of those suffering in the Middle East (the Lebanese and Palestinian people) and not on the side of the warmongers and killers of children".  George Galloway MP and Rose Gentle of Military Families Against the War also spoke.


During the rally, a message was read out from the city of Tyre: "Thousands of leaflets have been dropped on our city today telling people to get out of the city by tonight.  Israeli actions must be stopped."