Pro-Palestine protesters in London call for tough response from UK to Israel's Al-Aqsa raids
Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign - alongside the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Stop the War Coalition - protesters urged the UK government to respond to Israel with the same strength it has shown Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after repeated Israeli and settler raids at Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, which has seen over 200 Palestinians wounded.
Worshippers were attacked using tear gas and struck with batons inside the compound during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, told the crowd that the demonstration was a strong show of solidarity.
"This is the most empowering scene for the millions of Palestinians who right now are watching you," Zomlot said.
"They know they are not alone. They are not alone in Al-Aqsa. They are not alone in Jerusalem, in Jenin, in Nablus, in Al-Khalil [Hebron], in Gaza."
Husam Zomlot speaking earlier. pic.twitter.com/XqQaPyVfVe— Nick McAlpin (@NickGMcAlpin) April 22, 2022
The protest, which called for justice and an end to British military and other kinds of assistance to Israel, saw demonstrators chant: "Aqsa, Aqsa, don't you cry, we will never let you die."
Speakers repeatedly highlighted the difference between the UK and the wider international community's strong response to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and its reaction to Israeli violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.
"Year after year, the Israeli government commits heinous acts against the Palestinians, and year after year, the UK government is silent," Muslim Association of Britain chair Raghad Altikriti told the crowd.
"We see Russia's occupation of Ukraine, which we stand against. Now our government wants to talk of supporting the resistance."
The UK swiftly imposed strict sanctions on entities with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of Moscow's invasion but has refused to cut ties with Israel over its abuses of Palestinian rights.
It has even threatened to outlaw the Palestinian grassroots campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which seeks to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its oppression of Palestinians.
"Now our government wants to talk of boycotts. Now our government wants to talk of divestment. Now our government wants to talk of sanctions," Altikriti said.
"We can boycott Russia with the flick of a switch, but we won't boycott Israel. What hypocrisy."
Leading demonstrators in a chant, Zomlot said: "Double standards – say it with me."
He continued: "The international community is only intervening when it serves its interests, my friends."
Protesters in attendance felt similarly.
"Stop apartheid. Stop supporting Israel. Stop funding them," said Amro Salim, 20, an Arab student who had travelled to the protest from Birmingham and led many of the chants.
"If you can boycott Russia, then you can boycott Israel. The UK should never be supporting the oppressor against the oppressed people."
After speeches from representatives of the protest's organising groups and trade unions - such as the Public and Commercial Services Union and Unite the Union's London branch - a march through the city centre began at around 5:40pm.
Protesters still marching and chanting. pic.twitter.com/TfUr4hJTLV— Nick McAlpin (@NickGMcAlpin) April 22, 2022
Motorists honked their horns in approval as protesters paraded a massive Palestinian flag through the streets of London.
Chants of "Free, free Palestine" and "One, two, three, four, occupation no more" rang through the air until the demonstration ended at the historic Marble Arch monument at about 7pm.
Friday's protest comes ahead of a national rally in London on 14 May, the day before Nakba Day - which marks the 1948 ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with the creation of the Israeli state.
In response to a request for comment from The New Arab, a spokesperson for Britain's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: "The UK is concerned about the security situation in Jerusalem.
"We look to all parties to take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions."
Note: This article was updated at 5:37pm BST (GMT+1) on 25 April 2022 to reflect a response received from the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.