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Fourth Cambridge weekend protest is ‘a march of sorrow, solidarity and love’ calling for Gaza ceasefire





A demonstration hosted by Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Cambridge Stop The War Coalition for the fourth weekend in a row heard from speakers highlighting the humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza - and the political fallout in the UK.

Around 1,000 people gathered on King’s Parade on Saturday to hear speakers renew the call for an immediate ceasefire as Israel’s military continues to bombard Gaza, the 140 square mile territory that is home to 2.2m Palestinians.

Gaza City resident Rima speaking to the Cambridge Stands With Gaza crowd on King's Parade, November 4, 2023
Gaza City resident Rima speaking to the Cambridge Stands With Gaza crowd on King's Parade, November 4, 2023

The bombardment is part of Israel’s response to the killing of 1,400 Israelis in southern Israel on October 7.

“Suella Braverman has described these as ‘hate marches’,” said the opening speaker outside Great St Mary’s Church, referring to comments by the home secretary about other marches in London. “This is not a hate march, it is a march of sorrow, solidarity and love. Half a million people, including Jews, Christians and Muslims, marched in London last week in support of Palestinians.”

The crowd riposted with the chant: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

Student activist Junayd Islam then introduced Tony Booth from Jewish Voice for Labour, a group which have rejected the Labour leadership’s support for Israel’s “total blockade” of Gaza.

Drummers at Cambridge Stands With Gaza, November 4, 2023
Drummers at Cambridge Stands With Gaza, November 4, 2023

“Labour in our name is now toxic,” Prof Booth told the crowd. “We as a party are disfigured by the support the Labour and the Tory parties are giving to the Israeli state - in clear breach of international law. We commend the Labour group on the city council in breaking rank with its party yesterday to also call for a ceasefire.

“On October 9 [two days after the Hamas atrocities in southern Israel] the Green Party asked for a ceasefire. Where is Labour’s voice?”

Cambridge Stands With Gaza, November 4, 2023
Cambridge Stands With Gaza, November 4, 2023

The official Labour position espoused by leader Keir Starmer is for a temporary “humanitarian pause” to allow aid into the Gaza strip, but shadow ministers and whips have publicly demanded a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

In Cambridge, Cllr Mairéad Healy, who represents Romsey on Cambridge City Council, said comments “encouraging collective punishment towards the Palestinian people” were the final straw and resigned from the party. The leaders of Burnley and Pendle Labour groups have called on Sir Keir to resign and, on November 2, Cambridge Labour city councillors published an open letter saying they “stand in solidarity with the innocent civilians of both Israel and Palestine and call for an immediate ceasefire”.

The councillors also said they “utterly condemn” the “massacre of 1,400 people in Israel”, “the taking of hostages by Hamas”, “the ongoing bombardment of Gaza and the massacre of over 9,000 Palestinians”, “the siege of Gaza”, “the daily attacks by Israeli settlers who have killed over 100 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Hamas attack”, and “all acts of violence by Hamas” in the letter.

Gazan Rima, left, is supported by a friend after her emotional speech
Gazan Rima, left, is supported by a friend after her emotional speech

“This is a decades-long conflict,” continued Prof Booth, addressing the crowd. “It didn’t start with the Hamas attacks on October 7 and It will not end without a recognition of the forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in the Nakba and the erasure of their villages and history from the land. We will always stand with the oppressed and never with the oppressor.

“We stand with the Palestinian people of Gaza where 9,500 have died. We see what is happening as part of a cynical, cold calculation to push the people of Gaza into the desert.

“Can we have a democratic, secular Palestine, a truly non-discriminatory state? Right now this may seem further away than ever, but I refuse to let that hope die. I will continue to hold that hope in my heart.”

Sameh Ragheb, an Egyptian activist, followed Prof Booth to the megaphone. Sameh differentiated the wishes of the Egyptian government from the wishes of the Egyptian people, saying: “The Egyptian people will always try to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and we are trying to build a new state.”

Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration on King's Parade, November 4, 2023
Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration on King's Parade, November 4, 2023

Jane, an East of England-based nursery teacher and National Education Union member, said: “We call for an immediate ceasefire. Children are being murdered and maimed in their thousands. All children deserve the right to be protected and to receive an education.”

Rima, who is from Gaza, then criticised the British government for supporting Israel unconditionally and added: “This is not a war, it is between the Israeli army and doctors, between the Israeli army and children. Doctors and ambulances are being bombed.”

Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration, November 4, 2023
Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration, November 4, 2023

On Friday (November 3), Israel admitted responsibility for an attack on an ambulance outside Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the enclave, with dozens of casualties. The IDF – Israeli Defence Forces – claimed the ambulance carried Hamas personnel.

Rima’s emotional speech was followed by a Cambridge Unite union member, Arsalan Ghani, who drew the crowd’s attention to the arms trade behind the loss of life in Gaza.

“I salute the Belgian trade union who refused to manufacture and ship arms to Israel,” he said.

Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration, November 4, 2023
Cambridge Stands With Gaza demonstration, November 4, 2023

“We need a new mobilisation against the companies, the banks and the institutions that produce and ship the arms to Israel.”

Meanwhile, more than 240 Israelis held by Hamas face an increasingly uncertain future as the ground invasion by Israeli forces heads into its second week. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said freeing them is “one of the missions” of the war against Hamas.

At the same time as the Cambridge protest, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square and other UK cities demanding a ceasefire.



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