3/1/08 - GAZA PROTEST
It is sick, but one must admit that Israel's tactic against the Palestinian people has a certain sadistic genius: make people live like animals, turn the tables by accusing them of behaving like animals, and then use this behaviour to justify a holocaust.
The Israeli Defence Force does exactly that - it defends Israel. But since the presence of Palestinians is seen as a threat to Israel's existence, defence has become equivalent to all-out attack. The inter-regnum period between Bush and Obama presents the Israeli government with a one-off opportunity to accelerate (or even complete) the complete dispossession of the Palestinian people from land which they can call home. In the last fortnight, this has turned into a one-sided massacre.
There are one and a half million Palestinians living in Gaza. According to the UN's special rapporteur in the occupied territories, Professor Richard Falk, 75% of Gazans are affected by malnutrition, nearly half of Gazan children suffer from anaemia (due to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables), and chronic depression and anxiety are widespread, especially in young people. The people of Gaza have been deprived of electricity, medicine and humanitarian aid. Those in need of urgent medical attention have often been denied exit visas.
In other words, the people of Gaza have been provoked to breaking point. They have been forced to live in a situation which no human being should be expected to bear. It is hardly surprising that they have reacted. But actually, for all the mainstream media's reports of moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas, the rockets which Israel claims caused the current onslaught were provoked by Israel's violation of the ceasefire.
The protest against the siege in Gaza today was angry, loud, and tense - but also peaceful and respectful. When we arrived in Kensington just before 4, the police outnumbered the protestors by two or three to one. Within half an hour, the protest swelled and the police started to fidget. One policeman balled his hand into a fist and punched it into his other hand (perhaps his hands are cold, I thought to myself). Another, spying a couple of excitable (but hardly threatening) guys at the front, licked his lips and advanced towards them, grunting "Come on then!". Two guys (not, I think, protestors) strode into the crowd, cruising for a punch-up, and eyeballed a policeman, but the rest of the crowd was having none of it. A man next to me - one of those fabulous men you get at protests who know the best chants and have foghorn-voices to match - told the bruisers where to go. Our collective rejection of violence was indicative of our closely-channeled rage. By the time we left at around six, Kensington High Street had been brought to a standstill, and the police were calling in reinforcements.
Since we left this evening, Israel has sent ground-forces into Gaza. Amnesty International, recognising the need to state the obvious, has stated it: "Israeli forces must bear in mind that there are no 'safe' places in Gaza for civilians to seek shelter. ... Strikes are virtually sure to kill and injure civilians." Meanwhile, Israel's foreign minister tells the French press that "there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce." Another emergency has been called for tomorrow: meet at the Israeli Embassy at 2.
Will post photos from the demo when we find the USB that connects DV's camera with my laptop, but in the meantime, here are some pictures of the Parisian demo from Le Poireau Rouge:
Just an afterthought - while the noise generated outside the Israeli embassy today was passionate and inspiring, DV wondered what an entirely silent protest might look like? It'd be difficult to organise, but imagine 50-odd thousand people marching down Embankment, not making a sound, or a silent sit-down protest outside the Israeli Embassy ... it would certainly disrupt the Police's language of hostility and violence...