About 1500 people braved the cold and the hostile media to attend the Quds Day protests in London, UK, on Sunday 9 December. Traditionally held on the last Friday of Ramadan all over the world, the march broke with tradition in several ways this year.
The march ended with a rally in Whitehall Place, within earshot of Blair and his minions in Downing Street. This year, because of Christmas restrictions, the march was held early; it was moved to Sunday to accommodate members of Neturei Karta (Jews Against Zionism), who are orthodox Jews and cannot march on Saturday, the Sabbath. Rabbi Goldstein, one of the most senior in the UK, addressed the rally at Whitehall Place together with journalist Faisal Bodi and Hujjat-ul-Islam Shamali, currently lecturing at the Islamic Centre of England.
This year’s march was also unusual because a large number of non-Muslim pro-Palestinian activists attended. This contingent was significant for a number of reasons, not least the incessant pro-Israeli propaganda in the British media. The event was even called March Against Israeli Terrorism.
The British media have increasingly been showing extreme pro-Israeli bias. The notorious Robert Kilroy-Smith has described Israeli murders and attacks as the “odd silly thing.” However, there has been a discernible shift toward pro-Palestinian solidarity in the British public since the beginning of the intifada. For the first time people seem to be questioning the BBC, ITN, Sky and CNN news-culture that until recently dominated the British mindset completely. The murder of Muhammad al-Durrah (in September last year) has burned a hole in the Zionist lie that they are the civilisers of an almost empty land. Although many Muslim activists have played down their activism since September 11, the new awareness does not seem to have waned. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has noted that most of its enquiries this year have come from non-Muslims.
“For the first time it seems that non-Muslims have been happy to join a Muslim-led and above all Islamically-oriented event in support of justice,” said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the IHRC. “It’s a real shame that over the years the Muslim turnout in the UK has become progressively smaller. This year it seems many felt cowered by the events of September 11, and others feel pressurised by the current anti-terrorist legislation being forced through parliament...the fact remains that it’s still easier to protest about these things here than in many other countries, where Quds Day has still been commemorated in much larger numbers.”
At last year’s Quds Day in Kaduna (Nigeria) it was estimated that 1 million people turned out in support of the Palestinians. In 1998 protestors were shot and some were killed by the police.
The rally at Whitehall Place addressed three issues. Rabbi Goldstein spoke about the incompatibility of Jewish statehood with Judaic teachings. Zionism has become very powerful and is, he said, the cause of all conflict in the region. The only solution, in his opinion, is the end of Zionism and the dismantlement of Israel.
This cross-community participation follows on from the highly successful collaboration between the IHRC and Neturei Karta at the World Conference Against Racism in South Africa this year. Three rabbis from Neturei Karta attended the conference as part of the IHRC team. The team destroyed the myth that anti-Zionism means anti-Semitism. So the true nature of Zionism can once more be discussed without accusations that this type of criticism is a slur against all Jews.
The Quds Day Committee in the UK this year decided to hand out an appeal to the British public. Its statement described the background of current problems in the area, and pointed out that the root cause is Zionism. After recounting the number of dead and injured in the intifada, and highlighting some of the current and historical injustices the Palestinians suffer, the flyer continues, “What is the driving force behind this terror? For the answer we have to go back 100 years to the establishment of Zionism and see what today’s Zionists are doing in its name...All the Palestinians ask for is peace -- but not at any price. There can be no peace without justice, and justice means dismantling all the institutions of racism, hatred and injustice. Just as the world rejected apartheid, the world has to reject Zionism and seek the dismantlement of the last apartheid state in the world -- Israel.” It was given out with a list of companies that support Israel, asking the public to boycott them. The flyer can be downloaded from the Innovative Minds website.
Faisal Bodi’s address described the symbolism of al-Quds as a metaphor for peace and justice. He called it a “symbol of the interconnectedness of the Abrahamic faiths, of our common spiritual ancestry.” He referred to the institutionalisation of the struggle for justice in the Holy Land by the late Imam Khomeini, and contrasted it with the portrayal of the conflict as one caused by Muslim extremism:
“Those propagandists seeking to portray the Israeli conflict as a problem of Muslim fundamentalism and intolerance would do well to remember that it was not until... Zionist intentions for the region became clear, that the hostility that characterises relations between the groups today, started to develop. In fact Zionism was the poison that killed good relations between Muslims and Jews...until the development of Israel most Arab capitals had thriving and very secure Jewish communities.”
Referring to the ‘Coalition against Terror’, he continued, “As we stand here, the bureaucrats and politicians in there are plotting their next move...We’ve heard in recent days that there are a handful of candidates, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan among them... Curiously absent from the list was Israel, which for 53 years has consistently refused to implement United Nations resolutions and has been the single biggest cause of regional conflict and instability since 1948. Assassinations, torture, imprisonment without charge or trial, blockades, restrictions on movement, demolition of homes, destroying orchards, and of course shooting to kill stone-throwing youths, are all in a day’s work for the Israeli army.”
Massoud Shadjareh pointed out that many had attended who were of no particular religious persuasion. Their participation, he stated, was based on recognising injustice when it is perpetrated. Finally Sheikh Shamali highlighted the Islamic concept of only one religion and one truth. Accordingly there is no serious conflict between Jews and Muslims, and true believers can always live together in harmony.
Perhaps the most poignant statement came from another flyer being handed out at the protest. It gave a Palestinian child’s view: under the headline “Who Are the Real Terrorists?” the child says, “But I do not ask of you much, only to understand that we are NO WAY terrorists... When I go to the streets with my stones.. I am labelled a terrorist...just feel some sympathy for my little sibling who will be dealt with in this way...and for all Palestinians... and know that we are not terrorists!...the true terrorists are the Israelis.”