Across the world, people have taken to the streets in their millions to demand peace and an end to the plight of the Palestinian people. What is behind this movement? And why now?
Across the world, people have reacted with horror to the war waged by the Israeli government on Gaza following the October 7 attacks by terrorist group Hamas. Despite elements of the political right seeking to demonise the pro–Palestine movement – with former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s describing protests for Palestine as “hate marches”, and counterprotests being initiated from far-right figures – the movement has largely remained unified in its calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israel’s military operations in Gaza. In London, hundreds of thousands of people from many backgrounds have taken to the streets in peaceful demonstrations. Levels of international solidarity have not seemed so strong since the 2003 invasion of Iraq – why, then, are people taking to the streets in such large numbers only now, when the Israel-Palestine conflict has spanned decades?
The sheer brutality of Israel’s recent actions in Gaza cannot be understated. In the military assault of the 41km long strip of over 2 million people, well over 20,000 people have now been killed, according to Palestinian authorities. The assault has destroyed thousands of civilian buildings, along with hospitals and UN schools. Israel, claiming self-defence, has continued their assault on Gaza despite international condemnation.
In the US, pro-Israel attitudes have remained steadfast since its establishment as a nation state in 1948. Nonetheless, thousands of people have marched in DC, Chicago, New York and many other cities to protest the occupation. This includes not only those of the Palestinian diaspora, but a cross-section of American society, including the group Jewish Voice for Peace.
Glasgow’s support for the Palestinian people has been huge and unwavering, bringing together people from across Scotland. Demonstrations take place regularly in the city centre, while sit-ins have been staged at Central Station, with University of Glasgow students and staff involved. The war is particularly pertinent to the city, as Glasgow native and First Minister Humza Yousaf’s family have been caught up in the invasion. Student activism in Glasgow has largely rallied behind the demonstrations – it’s hard to think in recent times of a single issue that has united so many students.
In Europe, from Paris to Istanbul, demonstrations have persisted despite restrictions imposed by authorities and strong pro-Israel sentiments from the European Union. Yet, there are signs that grass-roots activism is beginning to pay off, with French President Emmanuel Macron denouncing the murder of civilians in Gaza and calling for steps towards a ceasefire.
Whilst it remains uncertain whether other governments will listen to the large cross-section of people calling for an immediate ceasefire, there remains hope that the social movement for Palestine will only gain momentum as the violence escalates and is broadcast globally. At a time of rising animosity towards Jewish and Muslim people across the world, the movement must remain resolutely focused in advocating for Palestinian liberation, and equality for all in Israel and Palestine.