The National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony, organised by the Peace Pledge Union and friends, was held in Tavistock Square, Central London, on 12 November. Over 200 participants observed two minutes’ silence and laid white poppy wreaths in memory of all victims of war. There were three speeches, focused on Palestine.
Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians said: ‘Yesterday saw one of the biggest demonstrations in the United Kingdom against the conflict in the Middle East, against the ongoing slaughter which we are witnessing. And, yesterday, on that march, we had a Jewish bloc in which quite a number of Jewish organisations and thousands of Jews participated, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians was founded in 2002 at the start of the second intifada [uprising] and little did we imagine that we would still be here, still calling for peace in the Middle East, still calling for mutual recognition of Israelis and Palestinians, still opposed to all of those who demonise the Palestinians – as did [Israeli] defence minister Yoav Galant at the beginning of this conflict, calling them “human animals” as a way in which the genocide which we are witnessing could be justified.
‘We are appalled by it, we are shamed by it. As Jews, we draw from the Jewish tradition a message which says: “Always be on the side of the oppressed, for we were strangers in Egypt”. And the Exodus is seen by us as a statement of the need for liberation and among the people most in need of liberation, most demanding our solidarity today, are the Palestinians.’
Richard said: ‘Any solution to the conflict has got to be based on equal rights for all of those in the region between the river and the sea.’ He rejected the idea that this phrase, often chanted on marches, is anti-semitic or that it means throwing every Jew in Israel into the sea.
A statement was read out by Isabel Kelly on behalf of Parents Circle – Families Forum, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organisation of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict:
‘We, the members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum, grieving Israeli and Palestinian families, express deep sorrow for the thousands of dead and condemn the shocking acts of violence....
‘Thousands of victims aren’t just numbers; they represent shattered dreams, unfulfilled futures and broken loves....
‘The past weeks have brought upon us seemingly never-ending shock and storms of emotion. We fear the future and pray that the cursed war ends as soon as possible, that violent incidents will not break out in other places, and that the killing from both sides will stop.
‘We are still determined to believe that only an agreement and a political solution will put an end to wars, occupation, suffering, victims and prisoners....
‘Violence breeds more violence and the the only way to end it is a solution that meets the needs of both nations for security, freedom, respect and welfare.’
Pax Christi vice president Pat Gaffney spoke about Pax Christi’s long-standing work with peace campaigners in Israel and Palestine, as well as about the situation in the West Bank.
Pat said: ‘Settlers are now exploiting the fact that all eyes are on Gaza to take over more and more Palestinian lands, so the daily death toll rises in the West Bank.’
Pat relayed a message from an organisation in the West Bank: ‘The town of Hura, south of Nablus, has become a ghost town due to the reign of terror inflicted by settlers now passively shielded or actively supported by the military in recent weeks.’
Pat added: ‘Another friend of mine, Usama from Bethlehem, posted this on Facebook this week: “We are looking for some good news, even if it’s just a rumour. For me, the good news is the hope offered by peacemakers who remain steadfast” – or, to use that wonderful word that’s used in Arabic, sumud – “those who refuse to go away, refuse to move, refuse to hate, who believe in the unglamorous painstaking work of peace, that it must go on, and and will be needed even more when this horrific round of violence comes to an end.”’