Revolution #57, August 20, 2006


From A World to Win News Service

London: 60,000 march against US/Israeli aggression

Demonstrations against the U.S./Israeli war war have taken place around the world in the weeks since Israel began attacking Lebanon in July. The weekend of August 5-6, protests were held in Montreal and Windsor, Toronto, Canada; Durban and Cape Town, South Africa; Vienna, Austria, Brussels, Belgium; Tel Aviv, Israel; Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and across Indonesia.The weekend of August 12-13, protests were held in many cities in the U.S., including marches and rallies of thousands in San Francisco and in Washington, D.C..

The following excerpt from an article from A World to Win News Service reports on one of the largest demonstrations of the Aug. 5-6 weekend, in London.

In London 5 August, the large numbers of people who turned out for the march to protest the war against Lebanon caught everyone, organisers and government alike, by surprise. The general expectation had been that there would be 10 or 20,000 people, like at the first emergency demonstration held two weeks earlier. Instead at least 50 or 60,000 people marched through London’s streets. Journalists said it was the largest demonstration in British history during the summer holiday month of August. The numbers were fuelled by a deep swell of dismay and outrage at the nightly news of the slaughter of Lebanon’s people, in particular the atrocity committed at Qana, when over 50 Lebanese civilians, many of them children, were slaughtered by an Israeli bomb.

Numerous handmade signs angrily accosted British PM Tony Blair: How many more children have to die? One middle-aged psychiatric nurse said she had attended a couple of the demonstrations against the Iraq war, but had felt optimistic then, like “maybe we could have stopped it.” This time she felt differently, she came with a heavy heart; but, after reading a report from the Save the Children charity that the majority of civilian dead in Lebanon were women and children she felt she had no choice but to attend with her husband and young child. Demonstrators deposited hundreds of pairs of children’s shoes at the foot of the Centopath, the Tomb of the unknown soldier, near Downing Street, to bring home to the people of Britain what the government’s support for Israel actually means.

You could almost see Britain’s colonial history in the faces of those who attended: large numbers from countries stretching from the Middle East right through to South Asia reflected London’s diverse character, a legacy of Britain’s former vast empire—countries that it now dominates through a neo-colonial system as the US’s junior partner.

People with very different backgrounds and beliefs were brought together by a deep sense of purpose, of the need to unite large numbers to deliver a powerful indictment of the war crimes being committed by the US, UK and Israeli governments.

Many of the speakers were disaffected members of the country’s political elite, including a number of backbench MPs from the ruling Labour Party, who one after another declared their “shame at being in the Labour Party today.” One of the greatest ovations was reserved for a former British diplomat, Craig Murray, who’d been fired as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan when he refused to turn a blind eye to the support that the US and Britain were giving the vicious regime ruling there in return for allowing them to use Uzbek territory for military operations. A number of earlier speakers had called for Blair to cancel his summer holiday to pay attention to the crisis in Lebanon. Murray pointed out sharply that there should be no illusions about Blair’s role, and that the only reason Blair was staying at his post was not to stop the Israeli invasion, but to ensure that things went the way the US-UK-Israeli axis wanted them to. He then declared to a roar of approval that if Blair wanted to go ahead and stay around and carry on, there was a “comfortable room waiting for him in the basement of the court on international war crimes in The Hague.”

The deep-felt anger at the government’s backing of the Israeli attack sparked intense discussion over what lay behind it and what to do next. The central slogan of the demonstration was “Unconditional ceasefire now!” Everyone wanted to see an immediate halt to the Israeli bombardments, but there was unease at the prospect that soon the Israelis might want a ceasefire themselves—only in order to advance their own interests by inserting a Western-led multinational force into southern Lebanon. There was also a great deal of uncertainty about the role of the United Nations, with some calling for “Britain to join the world community in the UN” (or “the European Union”), while others denounced the UN roundly as nothing but an “instrument of imperialist domination.” In any case, feelings were widespread that the war on Lebanon was linked to Iraq and to the mounting US-British threats against Iran, and many people sported Don’t Attack Iran T-shirts and badges. Numerous smaller actions at the Israeli Embassy and other places were announced as the demonstration concluded.

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