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OPINION: ‘We were a very mixed crowd on the demonstration against the war in Gaza’

Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the 45 people killed when bombs rained on their tents

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Called at just a day’s notice, some 10,000 people filled Whitehall and massed outside the gates of Downing Street. The demonstration was called on Monday after Sunday’s Israeli bombs killed 45 people outright and left others to die of their injuries, mostly women and children sheltering in tents in Rafah.

We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews

A Moroccan lady and her nine-year-old daughter were sitting on a wall at the edge of the crowd. Nearby stood a row of Hasidic Jews – all holding placards condemning Israel.

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‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

Most people on the demonstration in London were probably people of a Muslim heritage, from the number of women in headscarves.

There were black people and white people and people of all ages, from elderly to toddlers. Most of them didn’t feel the need to declare which religion they were from.

But the Jews, ranging from the secular to the ultra-orthodox made themselves known. The Jewish protestors wanted to say: Israel is not acting for me or simply: Not all Jews are Meshuganas. (That’s Yiddish for a mad person – and not in a good way.)

A piece of cardboard with a Star of David in the corner said: “No More Murder in our Name”.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

A huge yellow banner had on it: “UK Jews Say Let Gaza Live, End the Siege”. Another message said: “Jews for Justice in Palestine”.

Most striking of all was the row of Hasidic men, strictly orthodox Jews, with their black hats and long black coats and their side locks standing quietly in a row.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

They looked as if they had just walked out of a Shtetl, (a Jewish village in historic Eastern Europe). Solemn faced, they held placards saying: “Judaism Condemns the State of Israel and its Atrocities” and “STOP the Zionist massacres and persecution in Gaza” and “Judaism and Zionism are Diametrically Opposed.”

In was in the Talmud and the Torah, one of them told me: “It is forbidden to kill and to steal.” Hasidic Jews have never recognised Israel because it was taken by force. Even the ones who live there – and have always lived there, in a certain part of Jerusalem, don’t accept that Israel is a legitimate state.

The demonstrators had gathered for a 6pm official start.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

They cheered the speakers, who included Jeremy Corbyn and Emili Stevenson from N’amod ((Hebrew for We Will Stand) a movement of British Jews calling for an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel and equal dignity and democracy for all Palestinians and Israelis.

But unlike at other demonstrations, people didn’t just listen to the speeches and then go home.

Many were still there three hours later at 9pm even though the police, who had been very restrained up to that point, had by then started to ask people to leave on threat of arrest.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

After the speeches, a large group of demonstrators sat down in front of the Downing Street gates and there was a continuous chant of Ceasefire Now.

Over the chanting, I didn’t hear, at the time, a male police officer say to the young Moroccan woman sitting on the wall with her little daughter – at the edge of the crowd – that if she didn’t leave now, he would arrest her and take her little girl into police care.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

Another person, an English woman did hear and went at the man like a rocket accusing him of racism. The officer walked off without carrying out his threat. The easy target wasn’t so easy after all.

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When I pointed out to another officer that we were (by that point) standing on the pavement, not the road, as he, again, asked us to leave, he said he had orders from someone much senior than him to clear the area after 8 o’clock. “We’ve already given you an hour.”

But we knew why we were there.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

Passion came from the platform. Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the 45 people killed immediately when bombs rained on their tents leaving them no protection from the skies.

He spoke about others: “Dying from injuries, from starvation, from dehydration, from diarrhoea, and all kinds of horrible contagious conditions, all of which could be prevented, all of whom could be saved. “

He said the vast majority of the nations of the world had recognised Palestine on its 1967 borders as a state. “For many years in Parliament we have been demanding it and we even got a Private Members Bill through demanding the recognition of Palestine.

They always say now is not the time – well when is the time, if it is not now, to recognise Palestine and its right to exist?”

He said the one good thing about the dissolution of Parliament the next day was that the anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Bill had fallen.

“That’s gone and let’s hope it never comes back.”

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

The Bill banned public bodies, including councils, from calling for a boycott or withdrawal of investment from other countries- unless this was already British Government policy. If the law had been in operation during Apartheid in South Africa, it would have been unlawful for public bodies to campaign against it.

Corbyn, who spoke to cheers from the crowd, after almost every sentence, said: “There are now 900,000 Palestinians in Gaza who have been uprooted from their homes multiple times in the past six months and they carry on being uprooted.

“They’re told to go to Rafah as a safe zone. They’re told to go to Khan Younis as a safe zone. They are told one lie after another and still the bombs rain down on those desperate people looking for a place of safety. What is it about the Western Nations that they cannot halt the supply of arms to Israel?

“There’s an International Court of Justice ruling, (that Israel should halt its offensive in Rafah) there’s an International Criminal Court ruling, there’s a Geneva Convention ruling, there’s a UN General Assembly ruling, there’s even a majority on the UN General Council for it.

“So, ask the question of anyone who wants to hold public office: Are you going to be a voice to end the arms trade with Israel? Are you going to be a voice to stop the bombardment of Gaza?”  He called for a world where the poor were helped, a world not run by the arms trade.

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

‘We were a very mixed crowd on the Gaza demonstration. The strongest condemnation came from Hasidic Jews’ says ANGELA SPRINGER who attended Tuesday’s demonstration in London outside the gates of Downing Street

He was followed by Emili Stevenson from N’amod who said we should never give up hope.

As I walked away towards the tube with a little group, including the Moroccan lady and her little girl, I noticed that the mother and daughter were wearing matching outfits of pale green raincoats and colourful Palestinian scarves.

They looked more like sisters. The mum told me that the little girl had said she liked her mother’s coat, so she bought her an almost matching one for the festival of Ede. We all agreed that the coats looked like they had been bought at the same time.

The little girl and her mum told me they had been on all the demonstrations since the invasion of Gaza began in October.

They are planning to go on the next big one on Saturday, June 8, which will be the little girl’s 10th birthday. Her party will be saved for the next day.

It was raining quite heavily by then, but we all had comfortable homes to go to. We would be dry and cosy soon.

Not like the people in Gaza, said the little girl.

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