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Tens of thousands urge new government to cut support for Israel

TENS of thousands marched through London on Saturday, delivering a resounding message to the new government that protests demanding justice for Palestine are here to stay.

In the 16th national march since October, demonstrators called for an end to British diplomatic, legal and military support for Israel.

More than 38,000 people have been killed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza, including 16,000 children.

Over 600 lawyers had already warned the previous government it risked violating international law by continuing arms exports facilitating Israel’s assault.

Saturday’s march began in Russell Square, ending with speeches near Westminster’s Portcullis House.

Jeremy Corbyn, re-elected as an independent MP for Islington North, was among those attending.

Speaking from the stage, Mr Corbyn told protesters: “Palestine was on the ballot in this election – and I promise to stay true to my word to stand up for the Palestinian people.

“We said it to the Tories and now we will say it to Labour: a government that sells arms to Israel is a government that is complicit in crimes against humanity.

“A change in government doesn’t change the fact that the people of Gaza are still being murdered in their sleep.”

Mr Corbyn urged Labour to reflect on its total vote being lower than in the previous two general elections, saying he would wager votes were “lost in large measure” due to candidates failing to speak out about Gaza. 

Four other Labour strongholds were lost at the election to independents who were vocal about Palestine.

Among them was Iqbal Mohamed, now the Independent MP for Dewsbury and Batley, who ousted his Labour challenger on Friday. 

Joining the stage, he said: “Our democracy has been hijacked by the corrupt, racist, pro-war, apartheid, genocide-supporting elite, and Dewsbury and Batley have spoken.

“We have taken our democracy back and we will do the same across the United Kingdom.” 

British-Palestinian independent candidate Leanne Mohamad lost narrowly in Ilford North by 528 votes to Health Secretary Wes Streeting, who has received nearly £30,000 from lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. 

Speaking at the rally, she said: “He had all the money. He had all the party machinery behind him. 

“We built a people-powered movement from the ground up and we brought people together.

“Gaza is a result of policies and acceptance of the Tories and Labour.

“They make money and sell arms at the expense of the misery of others. We will not let them get away with it.”

More than 700 police officers were deployed for the protest, with three people being arrested on suspicion of breaching the draconian Public Order Act.

The Labour Party has received millions in funding from pro-Israel lobbyists, including £900,000 from South African businessman Gary Lubner and half a million from Stuart Roden, the chairman of Israeli venture capital firm Hetz Ventures, during the election period alone.

Sir Keir previously said Israel had the “right” to cut off food and water in violation of international law and threatened to sack any Labour MP who backed a parliamentary vote in support of a ceasefire.

Hundreds turned out at weekly protests across the north including in Leeds, Manchester, Bradford.

In Manchester, Palestine supporters were joined by members of the city’s Sudanese community calling for an end to the civil war in their country.

In Bradford, hundreds of people welcomed Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot, who spoke at the city’s university as part of Bradford Literature Festival.

Dr Zomlot was born in a refugee camp in the city of Rafah, which is currently under attack by Israel, and has lost several family members in the Israeli onslaught.

Bradford University’s Great Hall was packed to its 900 capacity when he arrived.

Dr Zomlot said that from the first week of the conflict in October last year, 75 per cent of the British people had wanted a ceasefire.

He added that if Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer wanted “change” then the first thing he should do was to act on what the people of Britain wanted.

He said that as a “number one priority,” the government should recognise the state of Palestine, and that the UK was 107 years late in recognising the Palestinian state.

Dr Zomlot said: “The two-state solution is a Palestinian concession, not a Palestinian demand. We need equality, and that brings freedom.

“Palestine is built on love. We need our children to grow up loving their country more than they hate Israel.

“We need to do what happened with apartheid South Africa. We need to suck the oxygen out of its occupation.”

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