London leads the way in Commemorating 75 years of the Palestinian Nakba
The 75th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba takes place this week on 15th May 2023. This weekend, Friday and Saturday, London witnessed a series of events timed to show solidarity with the people of Palestine, to the citizens of Gaza who were entering the 6th day of air attacks from the Israeli armed forces and also to recognise the hugely significant 75th anniversary of the Nakba or ‘Catastrophe’.
Ambassador delivers speech in the place of birth of the United Nations Assembly
The Palestinian Mission [Embassy] to the UK on Friday 12th May, led an impressive Nakba commemoration programme in the Central Hall in Westminster, in the same location as the United Nations General Assembly held its first meeting in 1948. The Nakba event was attended by over 400 people: including UK members of parliament, Arab and foreign diplomats, members of UK solidarity organisations and members of the Palestinian, Muslim and Arab communities in the UK.
The Land Grab Continues
Dr. Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, addressed the gathering, reminding those present that Israel’s grab on Palestinian land did not stop 75 years ago when 750,000 Palestinian civilians were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from their homes and 250 Palestinian villages destroyed, but that the Israeli illegal expansion with settlements in designated occupied territory very much continues today. He said:
‘Without a firm understanding of the Nakba, and without redressing the grave injustice it spelt for the Palestinian people, there is no hope of a just resolution…Why when international law…and common decency is very clear on the matter, are there still six million Palestinian refugees today, scattered across the region, reliant, like I was, on the UN for sustenance and education?’
Dr Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, spoke of the chilling effect on UK institutions, in particular the universities, which were restricted from having discussions and debates about Palestinian rights.
Crispin Blunt MP Former chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and former Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, praised the Palestinian people for ‘their steadfastness’ and called for an end to Israel’s occupation.
Brendan O’Hara MP, the SNP spokesperson for International Development to the House of Commons spoke to the assembly and said that:
‘It was unfathomable that anyone could imagine the traumatic effects of the Nakba could be earased from the collective memory of the Palestinian People.’
A poignant moment came when the hundreds gathered in the hall, including Ambassadors and High Commissioners to the Court of St James, rose to their feet for the Palestinian National Anthem.
Thousands march on Downing Street
The event was followed on Saturday 13th May by a gathering of thousands of Palestinian supporters who took part in a protest organised by: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The assembled crowds marched from the BBC studios in Portland Place to Whitehall and Downing Street, where a stage had been erected to allow keynote speakers to deliver messages of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Speakers included Lindsey German, the convener of the Stop the War Coalition; Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party; John McDonnell MP, former Chancellor of the Exchequer; Dr Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK; Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND); Ismail Patel, Founder of Friends of Al Aqsa and Delia Mattis, founder of Black Lives Matter Enfield, who gave a rousing speech suggesting that the attacks on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories were ‘psychotic’. She also accused the UK Prime Minister – Rishi Sunak of being a puppet prime minister acting as an agent of white supremacy. She said:
‘Black people have for years have had to fight against oppression and we’re still fighting. But you know what, many famous people have said ‘we will never be free unless the Palestinian people are free’. When we suffered from apartheid in South Africa, when everybody turned their back on us and blamed black people for the subjugation that we were suffering from, Yasser Arafat stood with the black people of South Africa. I remember and don’t forget. I make it an effort to come on these platforms to speak, because I need to continue the legacy, the legacy which was built many, many years ago and forged in steel when Palestine stood with South Africa all those years ago.’