Message from the London Peace March: Don’t forget Palestine

Put Israel and Iraq side by side and the motives for war start
to look altogether darker. “It’s the same issue. It’s
about imperial occupation. They’ve been keeping Saddam Hussein in power
for 20 years and now they’ve lost control so they want to
re-establish dominance.” “You’ll never solve anything in the
Middle East until you let the Arab peoples decide for themselves.
Israel and America have bombed their colonial systems into power again
and again.”

2002.10.01

At first blush, it was the usual rag-tag bunch at London’s 250,000+ September 28 march against war in Iraq. Peacemakers from all walks of life, mostly young but many older folk as well. It bridged some class
divides, much like the previous week’s march, only with the added bonus of
bridging quite a few ethnic ones as well.

All the regular bleeding-heart peace groups were out in force. The various
trade unions, where a good deal of the money for the march had originated,
had the most impressive placards. The Socialist Worker’s Party, with less
cash but no less zeal, put in a good appearance, chanting slogans against
Bush and multinational greed.

It was pretty jovial. People were laughing and horsing around, including the
bobbies. Polite Palestinian schoolgirls smiled at everyone and handed out
leaflets. A middle aged African lady in a lovely dress did a Zulu war cry
and was rewarded with a chorus of laughter from three layers of surrounding
marchers.

Banners ranged from the traditional: “all we are saying is give
peace a chance” to the unintelligible: “make love, not oil.” Someone very
confused even cried out “free Jeffrey Archer,” which didn’t go down so well.

“It’s all very multicultural, very inclusive,” says a girl when we stop for
break in Hyde Park Corner. Everyone nods, suffused with a warm inclusive
glow.

But then my friend Robert points out: “I’m not sure I’d feel all that included if
I was Israeli.” A pause. I’d almost forgotten that the half the
focus of this march is Palestine, not Iraq.

Certainly, in terms of placard
space, Israel seems to be getting its fair share of righteous indignation —
there are endless pleas against Israeli apartheid, often accompanied by
gruesome pictures of bullet-holed Palestinian children and demands to indict
Sharon for war crimes.

A more careful look reveals a plethora of Muslim solidarity groups, all
carrying leaflets and placards about Israel/Palestine but with very little
about Iraq.

“Sabre, Chatila and now Jenin?”, says Palestine Action Campaign.
(What happened to Baghdad?). Young girls march shrouded in Palestinian flags
with the words embroidered: “a bride in the dress of martyrdom.” There are
placards with “Holocaust in Palestine” and “Israeli hands, American arms.”

It is clear that to a lot of people here, this march is about Palestine
first, Iraq second.

A chat with some young activists of Friends of Al-Aqsa — a Leicester-based
group campaigning for isolation of Israel — proves revealing. “This not
really about Iraq. My aim is to help the Palestinians,” says a bearded
teenager wrapped in green and white mosaic.

His older comrade, Amin, also from Leicester, agrees. “Iraq is a subordinate
problem. The issue is peace in the region. And how can you have peace when
there is no justice? Without justice for the Palestinian people, there’ll
never be peace. I’ve been to Gaza and I’ve never seen such suffering. People
are desperate. They can’t move, they can’t work, they can’t buy food.”

Of course, the linking of these two issues together was largely the point of
the march: to underline the hypocrisy of the West’s (particularly America’s)
ranting about human rights, illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction and UN mandates whilst continuing
to support Israel in its flagrant violation of all of these.

Put Israel and Iraq side by side and the motives for war start
to look altogether darker. “You can’t separate Iraq from Palestine,” says Mohammed Ali of the
London-based Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic organisation.

“It’s the same issue. It’s
about imperial occupation. All the problems in the Middle East could be
resolved if they could just leave us alone, get out of the occupied
territories, stop Israeli colonialism. It’s the same with Saddam Hussein.
They’ve been keeping that bastard in power for 20 years of meddling and now
they’ve lost control so they want to re-establish dominance.”

“It’s no benefit to us,” he continues. “They just want the region’s
resources. So where next? Syria? Iran? Both have been mentioned.” In his
flap he loses his train of thought, so his friend, silent until now,
concludes:

“You’ll never solve anything in the Middle East until you let the Arab
peoples decide for themselves. Israel and America have bombed their colonial
systems into power again and again. Now it’s our turn.”

And I faintly recall Washington using the exact same rhetoric — about the
rights of Iraqi people to determine their own government.

Author: Tim Cocks

News Service: TheExperiment.org

URL: http://theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1870