I was invited to address the huge Bristol rally for Palestine on Sunday 29 October, but circumstances prevented me from speaking. Here is what I would have said.
It always restores my faith in humanity to see so many people demonstrating their willingness to stand up for what is right. It is especially impressive to be part of a rally with so many people of different shapes and sizes, ages, colours and creeds. And to see so many young people and children whose voices have cried out for peace, for justice, for freedom, and for an end to war and the occupation.
I am an old man now, born in the year of the Nakba. My first contact with Palestinians was as a student at demos in Brighton back in the 1960s. I remember telling the young PLO supporters that I thought their pamphlets with colour pictures of dead babies and bloody injuries were not the best way to gain support. Never could I have imagined that 60 years we would be confronted by identical images on a daily basis on TV channel after TV channel.
The lessons of history have yet to be learned. I am currently working on a translation of the experiences of one survivor of the Nazi death camps. That bestial behaviour was horrendous enough, but the equally repulsive behaviour we now witness, whether by Hamas and their associates or by the so-called Israel Defence Force, shows that inhumanity knows no bounds.
I am a journalist, and it is our job to tell the world about the hideous consequences of war, and of occupation. You may not like what we reveal, and certainly the authorities do not like it, as we can see from their assassination of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh. And in the last few weeks some two dozen journalists have been killed in Gaza. We suspect that the killing of the family of Al Jazeera’s Wael al-Dahdouh’s was the result IDF targeting.
I have never been to Palestine or to Israel, but I have worked with brave Palestinian journalists working under extraordinary pressure and constraints. Without them the world would know even less about the occupation of the West Bank, the siege of the Gaza strip, and the immorality of the warmongers. And it is through the media that world leaders are being made aware of the massive and growing support for Palestine, for a ceasefire, for the immediate release of hostages on both sides, and an end to Israeli occupation. These demonstrations across the globe have more impact on the warmongers than has the recent UN Resolution. If everyone who took part in pro-Palestine marches followed up their attendance by contacting their MP with a simple message – Ceasefire now; release all the hostages held in Gaza and by Israel; and an end to Israeli occupation – perhaps we would, see more robust and just declarations from the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition in support of our calls.
Apartheid Israel needs to know that we can see what they are doing. The time has come to back off, ditch the War Cabinet and seek a different path. They need to listen to the demands of millions of Jews, Muslims and Christians around the world who, like those of us here today, prefer to live in peace and harmony.