Thousands of protesters gathered in Washington and London on Saturday to demand an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, which has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians and wounded over 60,000, according to Hamas officials.
The protesters, who were part of a Global Day of Action involving 30 countries, accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians and called for a ceasefire and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
They also criticized the US and the UK for their unwavering support for Israel, which they said was enabling its war crimes and violating international law.
In Washington, demonstrators converged opposite the White House, where they held aloft signs questioning President Joe Biden’s viability as a presidential candidate because of his staunch support for Israel in the nearly 100-day war against Hamas.
Some of the signs read: “No votes for Genocide Joe,” “Biden has blood on his hands” and “Let Gaza live.”
The protesters also chanted slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has got to go.”
They urged Biden to stop providing military aid and diplomatic cover to Israel, and to pressure it to end its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands.
“Biden is complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people. He is giving Israel $3.8 billion a year in weapons and vetoing any UN resolution that condemns Israel’s crimes. He is not a friend of peace or justice, he is a friend of apartheid and oppression,” said Omar, a 25-year-old student who participated in the protest.
The protesters also expressed solidarity with South Africa, which has brought a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing it of genocide and asking for an order to halt its offensive in Gaza.
South African Flags
Vendors were selling South African flags and T-shirts with the slogan “I stand with South Africa” as protesters chanted “Viva, viva South Africa” and “Amandla, awethu” (Power to the people).
“We support South Africa’s brave and historic move to challenge Israel’s genocide at the world court. South Africa knows what apartheid looks like, and it knows what resistance looks like. We hope that the ICJ will rule in favor of the Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its crimes,” said Fatima, a 32-year-old teacher who joined the protest.
In London, thousands of people, including many children, marched from Bank Junction to Westminster, where they staged a rally outside the Houses of Parliament.
They carried placards with messages such as “Stop the massacre in Gaza,” “Boycott Israel” and “Sanctions now.”
They also waved Palestinian flags and banners with the names and ages of some of the children killed in Gaza.
The protesters denounced the UK government for its “shameful” support for Israel and its “silence” on the suffering of the Palestinians.
They called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop selling arms to Israel and to impose sanctions on it until it complies with international law and human rights.
“Israel is killing innocent civilians, especially children, in Gaza with impunity. It is using weapons made in Britain and paid for by our taxes. This is a disgrace and a scandal. We demand that our government stop arming Israel and start standing up for the Palestinians,” said Sarah, a 28-year-old nurse who took part in the march.
The protesters also voiced their support for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ, saying that it was a “historic opportunity” to expose Israel’s crimes and to seek justice for the Palestinians.
“We applaud South Africa for taking this courageous step to bring Israel to the world court. We hope that the ICJ will listen to the evidence and the testimonies of the victims and the witnesses, and that it will rule in favor of the Palestinians and order Israel to stop its genocide in Gaza,” said Ahmed, a 40-year-old lawyer who attended the rally.
The protests in Washington and London were part of a global day of action organized by various pro-Palestinian groups and civil society organizations, which also saw demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Sydney, Johannesburg and other cities.
The organizers said that they wanted to show their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and to pressure their governments to take action to end Israel’s war and siege on the enclave.
They also said that they wanted to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than 1.9 million people are facing shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel, and where the health system is on the verge of collapse due to the Israeli bombardment and the Covid-19 pandemic.
They said that they would continue to protest until Israel stops its aggression and lifts its blockade on Gaza, and until the Palestinians achieve their rights to self-determination, freedom and dignity.