I stand with Gaza (and get called a terrorist)


Yesterday’s demonstration against Israel’s attacks on Gaza was the third organised in Southampton this month.

The main organisers, Students for Palestine and The Grass Roots Muslim Movement, planned for everyone to assemble opposite the War Memorial in Southampton City Centre before heading to the BBC offices and West Quay.  But we were forced to curtail our peaceful demonstration because of a few aggressive and racist EDL supporters. How it that fair?

Although it was an insanely hot afternoon and the majority of the campaigners were fasting, they had intended to give out free water bottles labelled ‘Save Gaza’ to shoppers but they forced to abandon their efforts.

The two previous protests this month were peaceful, effective and ran smoothly. Yet with the presence of a handful of EDL supporters, the demo had to be cut short.

The demo began with readings of the names of over a hundred innocent Palestinian children killed in Gaza during the 19-day siege. It was heart breaking to hear the how young some of the victims were and to be told 6 members of the same family were bombed.

As the names were being read out, a solemn silence spread through the crowd. It was clear to see how emotional it made many people, including myself. But EDL supporters, without understanding the purpose of the demo, ran up to the crowd telling us to ‘go back to our country’ and heckling support for Israel while waving banners reading ‘no more mosques’.

The organisers were forced to rearrange the planned route to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the EDL supporters, reminding us the demonstration should remain peaceful and the sole purpose was to show support for the Palestinians.

While walking towards the BBC offices, several police officers and stewards followed our route because a small group of EDL was following us. I attended the demo with my sister and niece who was unfortunately made victim to the ignorance of the EDL who were shouting ‘terrorists’ while we walked past.

I’ve never had to deal with ignorance at that level before so it really upset me. You shouldn’t throw the word ‘terrorist’ around. Terrorism isn’t defined by a religion or race.  I was there to condemn Israel’s militant attacks towards the 1000+ innocent Palestinian civilians killed not to be verbally attacked.

This demonstration enforced the same message as the last two protests – we stand by Gaza. We need to take responsibility as humans to prevent the loss of innocent lives. Even if you look at the crisis without any political background, it’s clear to see who the victims are. When the death toll for civilian deaths in Palestine has topped 1000, Israel is committing war crimes. It’s far past self-defence and I won’t stand by anyone who’s justifying it.

It’s time for justice and peace. I’ve donated (via Interpal), I’m praying and I’m raising awareness. What have you done?

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