An ultra-Orthodox Jew holds a Palestinian flag during a protest against Israel’s air strikes in Gaza in London

Brits Protesting For Peace In Gaza

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has crossed foreign seas and spilled its way onto the streets of various cities across Europe. Thousands of protesters from Paris to London have gathered to demonstrate against Israel’s military action in Gaza.

It was estimated that 15, 000 people arrived at Downing Street to march through the capital to the Israeli embassy in Kensington following Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. Protestors gathered to demand freedom and justice for the Palestinian people against Israel’s “terrorist actions.”

Depressing yet suffice to say that occasional outbursts of violence from both sides have become customary since the conflict began. What started as a religious conflict over Jerusalem has escalated into a stubborn political struggle between two unrelenting sides. Since the Palestinian exodus (or Israeli independence) in 1948, there have been very few years of peace and the situation worsened further in 1967 following the six day war.

rocket attacks from Gaza?

So the recent eruption of violence in Palestine is not out of the ordinary but what is truly upsetting is the response - or lack thereof - from Western superpowers. Despite the undeniable amount of bloodshed, both the US and Britain have remained stoically indifferent in the face of the Palestinian plight. In fact, following a telephone discussion between President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, a No. 10 spokeswoman said. “Both leaders reiterated their support for Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself from the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza.”

The "barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza" has resulted in the death of a total of 30 Israeli soldiers. Israel’s ‘self-defence’ tactics have resulted over 600 Palestinian deaths – an estimated 500 of which were civilians. Israel’s attacks on Gaza have created wide bloodshed, described as “lakes of blood” by Norwegian doctor Professor Mads Gilbert who is tending the wounded in Gaza.

There have been countless horrific tales emerging from Palestine. The most recent and appalling being the death of the four Palestinian boys killed by an Israeli gunboat attack – the image of their last moments, running for their lives, haunting the media and the minds of those who have viewed it. In fact, the growing number of Palestinian deaths is inescapable and cannot be downplayed. The sheer volume of deaths is pure evidence that Palestinian suffering is not just Hamas gaining favour through propaganda. Even disgruntled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t ignore the death toll, complaining that Hamas use “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.” Although he does manage to dismiss it as disinformation.

Gaza protest

So in the face of a first and foremost human plight, from which endless gruesome tales have emerged, why do the Western governments remain unconcerned? From his account in Gaza, Professor Gilbert implores Obama to rediscover humanity: "Mr Obama, do you have a heart? I invite you, spend one night - just one night - with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe. I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.”

The British who are pro-Palestinian hope to put pressure on both the British and Israeli governments to end the occupation through protests. Speaking to Entouraaj, Zena Butt who attended one of the many protests in the UK, told us why she was demonstrating: “I think it is necessary to show the UK and Israeli government that what they’re doing is disgusting – it is an infringement of basic human rights. If we don’t speak up, who will?”

Joining protestors to show their support for Palestine were MPs George Galloway and Diane Abbott, who both call for justice for the Palestinians.

ethnic cleansing in gaza

Essentially, the protests serve to give a voice to the voiceless, although the images speak thousands of words themselves. Protesting for Palestine highlights their intense struggle on a day-to-day basis, living as Zena describes, “lower than second class citizens in their own homes. Palestinians have been herded into such a small area and are not allowed to escape. Effectively, they live in an open air prison.”

It’s impossible to quantify exactly how much Palestinian land has been occupied by Israelis but through the systematic displacement of an entire nation of people, it is approximated that over 400 villages have been depopulated in favour of the Jewish state since 1948. However, it is important to note here that there are Israeli citizens who have innocently built homes in Palestine because of the Zionist agenda. It is also important to note that there is a selection of Jews in the West who wish to see an end to the occupation.

Israel’s latest attacks against Gaza now seem to be a method of ethnic cleansing – something which, as historical victims, Israeli-Jews should recognise and avoid. The sustained treatment of the Palestinians as literary theorist Edward Said once wrote, “the victims of the victims” is frustrating, but this focus does not encourage a dialogue for peace. While both sides are indoctrinated to hate one another, there is no hope for coexistence.

There was a period – brief but beautiful - where the Arabs and the Israelis lived together peacefully. While a return to this may be a utopian dream chased only by the desperately hopeful, it is certainly one which the citizens should at the very least, attempt to aspire to.

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