Thousands packed Bradford City Park on Sunday July 13 for a monster rally in support of the people of Gaza.
- This was just one city among many, showing what can be done at very short notice. Go thou and do likewise, brothers and sisters.
Kids paddled in the City Park lake and one cyclist rode through the water displaying a Palestinian flag. It was hard to hear the speeches – though hard to ignore the roar of approval that greeted George Galloway’s contribution.
But the speeches were not really what it was all about. This was a community expressing its collective rage at yet another assault on the people of Gaza, and Western governments’ collusion with it.
I haven’t seen any estimate of the numbers, and since the crowds were spread on all sides of the pool and overlooking the City Park it would be hard to do so, but my subjective view was that the numbers far exceeded the 3000 locals who thronged the streets the last time Israel attacked Gaza. The Telegraph & Argus newspaper shared my estimating problems, falling back on “thousands” there.
It was a largely Asian crowd. I saw several young men sporting T-shirts with the slogan: You may have rockets over us – but remember Allah is over you. The youth of the crowd was significant. And while young men still predominated, there were more young women than at previous rallies.
There were also significant absences.
Where were the churches? I appeared to be the only person there wearing a cross. Previous incumbents at Bishop’s Croft came out with those of other faiths on public displays like this, but Bishop Nick was nowhere to be seen.
And Palestine still has a sizeable Christian population, remember, even though many are going into exile, since they tend to be singled out by the occupying forces for particular attacks.
And where, indeed, were the other faiths? It should not be left to the Muslims to speak out on behalf of peace and justice.
I know many Jews who are ashamed at what their brothers are doing to their neighbours, in violation of the teachings of the Torah, so it should not be impossible for the Synagogue to be represented. Jews and Arabs have been marching together in Jerusalem for peace, so why not here?
Where were the trade union banners? Given that the Palestinian trade unionists have appealed for our help, surely an act of public solidarity would not have come amiss.
Where were the political parties? It is too much to hope that official Labour will join in – though, to be fair, at least two Bradford Labour councillors were there – but surely the Communists and Socialist Workers’ Party should have availed themselves of this opportunity to reach out to this oft-neglected constituency.
And, come to that, why were there so few white faces? Given that Asians are actually statistically a minority in the city – albeit an increasingly vocal one, politically – and the fact that it is hard to find anyone, of whatever colour, willing to endorse Israel’s actions, the rally’s numbers should have been swelled to twice its number of the indigenous communities had turned out in force.
More needs to be done.
As I said when I spoke at the last such rally in 2009, the demonstration needs to be the beginning of a consistent campaign. If we leave the city centre feeling a nice, comfortable glow of warmth at our numbers, then the forces of war will have triumphed. They do not pause in their evil labours, and nor should we.
Unfortunately, that urging was ignored.
Set up stalls at every public place, to distribute leaflets and collect signatures for the petition.
Contact local churches, mosques, gurdwara, temples, synagogues, trades unions, political parties, MPs, councillors, et al, to set up a “Friends of Gaza” committee.
Join the national demonstration outside Downing Street, London, next Saturday, July 19.
Write to the BBC demanding more honest reporting on what’s actually happening (and there’s a demonstration on this outside Broadcasting House in London on July 15). There’s the text of a suitable letter at http://act.palestinecampaign.org/petition/21.
Organise cultural events – concerts, art exhibitions, poetry performances – to publicise the situation and raise funds for Palestinian charities. Compose a song, write a poem, paint a painting. Send donations to Palestine International Medical Aid or Interpal.
If you’re a musician and would like to take part in any musical events, I can pass on names and contact details to organisers throughout the country.
Join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (if you’re not already a member).