ON Saturday, October 21, Glasgow’s Nelson Mandela Place was a sea of Palestinian flags. Thousands of demonstrators marched through the city demanding an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza.

“We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” declared Nelson Mandela in 1997 – when the US still considered him a terrorist.

Symbolising the universality of the Palestinian cause, a 20-foot statue of Madiba looks out over Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Never has that international movement in support of Palestinian liberation been more important than today.

Last weekend, Gaza went dark. Phone lines and internet were cut as Benjamin Netanyahu (below) declared the beginning of the “second stage” of Israel’s war.

The National: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

By October 13, Israel had already dropped more bombs on Gaza – one of the most densely populated areas of the planet, described by David Cameron as an open-air “prison camp” – than the US dropped on Afghanistan in one year.

Buildings, once people’s homes and places of work, are now graveyards. White phosphorus, a chemical that causes burns so severe they reach the bone, rains down from the skies. Refugee camps have been decimated, entire families wiped off the population registry. Every hour brings a new horror, compelling the people of the world to raise their voices for Palestine.

Arriving in George Square two weeks ago, the burgeoning crowd learned that hundreds of thousands of people had joined demonstrations across the country. At that moment, it was clear that the British political class had failed in their attempts to silence solidarity.

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The following Saturday saw one of the largest mobilisations in British history as half a million people took to the streets of London. From Baghdad to Paris, in countries around the world, city centres ground to a halt as the movement for Palestinian freedom demonstrated its truly global character.

For Suella Braverman, these were “hate marches”. Such sentiments are indicative of the disconnect between the British public – 78% of whom support an immediate ceasefire – and the UK Government who, with the able assistance of the Labour leadership, have given carte blanche to Israel’s war crimes.

Eager to appease Washington, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have tucked in behind the Biden administration in legitimising the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Thankfully, a selection of world leaders have refused to be so subservient. The governments of Colombia and Chile have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel. Spanish ministers have called for Netanyahu to be brought before the International Criminal Court. Humza Yousaf (below) has led calls for a ceasefire and an end to the bombing. 

The National: Humza Yousaf spoke to the PA news agency on Monday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In their hundreds of thousands, the public have rejected the response of the British ruling class. When the mainstream media insist that history began on October 7, the task of solidarity movements is to resist this amnesia. It is to defeat the pervasive colonial ideologies that assign more value to the lives of some children than others. 

The United Nations is warning of a second Nakba. The truth, however, is that the first one never ended. Since 1948, the Palestinian people have lost more than 85% of their land to an ongoing process of expansion and settler-colonialism. 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005.

Indeed, in its editorial, Israel’s paper of record Haaretz recognised that responsibility for this war lay with Netanyahu’s “government of annexation and dispossession”. We march so that history can be told as it ought to be.

We march to end British complicity wherever it exists. It is all too easily forgotten that the oppression of the Palestinian people is enforced with British bombs and bullets. The UK remains Israel’s fourth largest arms provider and, between 2016 and 2020, sold £387 million worth of weapons to the Israeli military.

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Institutions across society have ties to these very weapons companies. The University of Glasgow, for example, has more than £6m invested in arms. That’s why, in the last two weeks, students have led walkouts across Scotland to challenge academia’s cosy relationship with militarism.

In response to the call of Palestinian trade unions, Unite Hospitality members in Glasgow have launched a campaign entitled “Serve Solidarity” to organise boycotts of produce from companies playing a role in Israeli apartheid.

This weekend, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) will demonstrate outside RAF Lossiemouth, the departure point for a UK Spy plane sent to support Israel on October 13.

Across Scotland, the Palestinian solidarity movement is growing. Organisations like Stop The War and SPSC must grow too. When the media’s cameras leave Gaza, the Palestinian people will continue to live under occupation. Build the anti-war movement at this moment and the world’s struggle for Palestinian liberation will be strengthened.