It is an old adage that the man fighting for what he believes in is more effective than the man fighting for pay. It held true for Carthage in the past, for the Saudi's and their mercenaries today and on a slightly different field of struggle, it holds true in the struggle for Palestine today. There are literally a million things one could think of doing other than walk in the hot summer sun (for England that is) and protest the Nakba whilst the orgiastic newspaper headlines all remind us that it is Israel's sixtieth birthday. I had volunteered to be a steward and after getting my fancy florescent vest and standing sheepishly outside Temple tube station for a few minutes, I quickly got into the flow of things. Bantering with people, handing out placards and giving directions, I quickly fell into the flow of things. After about 2 hours, the demonstration was ready to begin and we took off from under Waterloo bridge, winding our way past the houses of Parliament and on towards Trafalgar square. Once there, a massive Palestinian flag was draped over one of the huge lions, serving as a backdrop to the speakers. One thing I noticed and which was very prominent on that day was the level of surveillance that the demonstration and those in it were subject to. Police photographers were brazenly standing alongside the walking crowds, pointing at suspect individuals and photographing them. At the same time, security cameras swivelled around frantically as we passed by them, adding a surreal feel akin to Orwell's description of society in 1984. We were never made to forget that "the state" was all around us but, once the initial unease subsided, I quickly learned to ignore them.
Richard Burden MP
The theme of the day was to underline that this anniversary was no cause to celebrate, that it was a day to remember the ongoing (for it has never really ended) Nakba of the Palestinian people. Gaza is under seige, thousands of prisoners still languish in Israeli jails and the threat of further Israeli aggression against the people of the region grows stronger by the day. There was a long line up of people who were there to speak, amongst them the British MP George Galloway and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. There was nothing new in what any had to say but then again there was nothing new in the situation of the Palestinian people so one can forgive them for sounding a bit repetitive.
Issues such as Iran, recent developments in Iran and the ongoing strangulation of Gaza were all touched upon, but as Galloway said, "this issue [Palestine] is at the heart of everything". Where somebody stands with relation to this conflict, in many ways, defines their very view of the world, what they represent and what they stand for. As long as there was "no justice in Palestine there would be no peace, if there is no peace then there is no peace between the Muslim and the non-Muslim worlds", "Palestine is the key". Whilst I knew he was pandering to his largely Muslim constituency, I felt the man was right - Palestine is the key to everything. It was always, and continues today to be, the core issue of our generation. A symbol of the continued occupation of the Arab world, whether mentally or physically with boots on the ground, to abandon her was to abandon something central in us, to sell ourselves cheaply. To hold onto that thin cord of dignity and resistance, that was our obligation and the duty of our generation as it was for those before us.
Another speaker, Dr Mustafa Barghouti, pointed something else out, particularly poignant as we stood in the heart of capital, London. Here, as in other centres of "Western" power, the real battle was one over determining the essential, right and real narrative of what is happening, it is "a struggle for narrative". Yet it was Dr Azam Tamimi who summed it all up, for the Palestinian people were never just passive victims of this aggression. He pointed out how the Metro had emblazoned on its front page the headline "Happy Birthday to Us" a few days before. For Tamimi, whilst these people were shamelessly celebrating Israels continued existence they were justifying something else. They were justifying and colluding with the continued uprooting of "my people" and a shameless justification of continued colonialism. "The world is hypocritical", Tamimi said, and if they do not realise soon enough the injustice they perpetrate in occupied Palestine, then the response will be "Jihad, jihad, jihad until Palestine is free". I'm sure the ears of more than a few of those monitoring the demonstration pricked. Mine are still ringing with the effect.