Saturday, 10 January 2009

Kensington intifada







A demonstration today against the Israeli bombing of Gaza. This bombing is Bush's farewell no doubt...drop a few before Obama gets in?
I joined the march at Lancaster Gate, it had come from Marble Arch. As I exited the tube, I could see hordes of people, not just women in headscarves and men in Palestinian scarves, but also Jews holding placards, stating their opposition to the bombing.
It was so cold, snow was falling but not settling. One sensible man had a flask. The chant went up "Free, free Palestine". Freeze, freeze for Palestine, more like, I thought.
As we neared the back of the Israeli embassy, people sat atop the gates and burnt flags. Huge clouds of smoke emanated from the embassy and panic ensued. 
"It's tear gas!" people shouted as they ran. 
I have been in tear gas riots in Chile, during the period that Pinochet was removed from office. It wasn't tear gas but it did make me feel light-headed. Some kind of soporific?
Accompanied by Ms Canal Explorer, who valiantly sported glittery eye-make-up for the cause, we made our way to Kensington High street where we finally found the samba bands. 
Drumming kept us warm at least. 
As it grew dark, Muslim teenagers dragged the barricades across the road and started to throw sticks. Intifada in Kensington? Police on horseback moved towards us threateningly, but horses are helpless against barriers. Riot police heaved.
Police vans, more like tanks, flew to the action, but were stopped by barricades placed in front and behind and across the windscreen. Things were getting heavy...
We are in the poshest part of London. They do not want smashed windows here. Lets not frighten the tourists...milling towards the Science and Natural History museums in South Kensington. Hotels glittered with Christmas decorations still. Some of the most expensive properties in Britain line this route. 
After 4 hours in the cold, I made my way home.

21 comments:

  1. Well done for braving 4 hours of the cold, ML. I wish I'd gone to the demonstration myself.

    Someone at work said several years ago that Israel is a "Beacon of civilization and democracy in the barbarian sea of the Middle East". I consider it one of the most brutal regimes in the modern world. It's very obvious that they're using the excuse of the Hamas rocket attacks, which have only killed a handful of people, to launch a genocidal assault on the Gaza strip. The country itself is tiny; it would easily fit inside Greater London! Someone online reckoned I didn't know what I was talking about. "Are you an army general?" he asked. I asked him about the Tomahawk cruise missile. It can be launched from land, air or sea, even underwater from a submarine. It has a range of over 2000 miles and even from that range, can hit its target within 6 feet. Israel has all the armmment and intelligence asetds of the United States; if it wanted to it could take out those missle batteries with no additional loss of life at all, but oh no! They have to launch a full-scale blitz and invasion. My opponent has yet to respond to my post.

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  2. Thank you for the regular photo uploads. It enabled those of us who couldn't attend the march to get a feel for what it must have been like.

    This type of citizen journalism plays an important role in ensuring the truth is not kept hidden.

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  3. The whole thing sounds very J G Ballard, scarily reminiscent of Millennium People in fact.

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  4. I would like it noted that my glittery eye make up was valiantly there in readiness for the Roller Disco I was supposed to be going to afterwards. As it happens the queue was unbearable and didn't even move, so we went ten pin bowling instead, with ex-boyfriend in tow. But wait, this isn't my blog.

    I think it needs to be conveyed that the dragging of barriers across the road by protesters was a response to (rather than a cause of) the police horses being brought out. It is significantly threatening to see a line of mounted police getting ready to charge at a crowd, and I was very impressed with the resourcefulness of the protesters who acted swiftly, practically and co-operatively to defend themselves and others against being trampled by putting up obstacles. They also ensured that there were some barriers around the samba band so that we were safe. When the police horses were safely cordoned off from the crowd, they tried to drive at us in vans instead, and again the barriers were used to protect the crowd from the attack.

    I do think the police are either idiotic in their tactics (which only serve to make the crowd more angry and give them something to kick against), or extremely manipulative in wanting a riot to make the protestors look bad. Probably both.

    On the other hand (guess my starsign) those who threw over the gate at the back of the embassy the items which exploded and gave off smoke should realise they are only giving the media fuel to portray them as unreasonable and violent, which does nothing to help the case against Israel's actions.

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  5. Yes Ms Explorer but...the samba band has to take some responsibility, myself included, for prolonging the demo. Most people were going home. We stayed and continued to play. The young muslims that surrounded us got very excited as a result. I think in all honesty if we hadn't have been there, people would have gone home earlier and perhaps there wouldn't have been any trouble.
    Maybe this is something we should think about?
    The samba band can galvanise support, excite the crowd but this should be used responsibly.

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  6. This is a debate I had with another band member - T, after our first bout of playing when there was a pleasant and uplifting atmosphere of solidarity and collective energy. He felt we should take it further by playing near the police lines, which he knew would encourage the protesters to break through. The purpose of this, he felt, would be to achieve a sense of empowerment and togetherness. I, ever the media whore, was concerned that this would not achieve anything postivie in terms of media coverage and public perceptions, and could only be used against us. That the point of the protest was supposed to be peaceful demonstration rather than angry rioting.

    At this stage the police brought out the horses, and my reaction to this move is a case in point. I immediately began playing, feeling we had to do something to counter this offensive. The drums are proven to bring us together. I felt angry and frightened to see a line of horses threatening to charge us. I felt the noise of the drums would intimidate the horses and police alike and bring back spirit to the protesters at a moment when it was very much needed.

    If the police had not escalated things I would certainly have gone to the pub to get warm at that point, but their actions brought fresh outrage.

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  7. Dr Tech.
    Interesting comment. Not read that JG Ballard. I will now.
    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2003/11/28/182007.php

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  8. I'm all for breaking police lines in certain circumstances, as you well know.
    But...I guess I feel somewhat ambivalent about the Palestinian/Israeli problem if I am honest.
    Although I react in horror to American-backed Israeli bombing of innocent civilians, I also, particularly as a western woman, whose rights stem from suffragettes who risked their lives for my freedom, disagree with so many of the values held by the more fundamentalist muslims and their leaders. I also have so many Jewish friends, especially being brought up in North West London.

    It's a mess, the whole thing. The answer is probably to get rid of Israel and that is simply not going to happen. It was a mistake, the state of Israel,particularly it's location, and the British bear a huge responsibility for that mistake.
    I guess I do not want my city to be trashed for this particular cause.

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  9. It shouldn't really be about religion and which one you have more affinity with... obviously that is different for those poor people who have family members in the region.

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  10. @marmitelover

    disagree with so many of the values held by the more fundamentalist muslims and their leaders.

    Do you agree with the values held by the more fundamentalist Israelis and their leaders?

    I also have so many Jewish friends, especially being brought up in North West London.

    Are all your Jewish friends in favour of Israel's attack on Gaza? Otherwise, what is the relevance?

    Please read my friend Adi's article 'Reflections on Gaza from Tel Aviv'
    http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20230

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  11. Hello Jacob,
    Thanks for your comment. You will notice that the first picture(not very good quality only taken on an iphone) is of Jews protesting the war. I posted this via twitpix on the day and I believe it was retweeted heavily.
    It's important for people to realise that not all Jewish people support Israeli action in Gaza, so thank you for the link to this article.
    But I am only being honest when I say that I have misgivings about any support for fundamentalist Islam. And Hamas, from what I have understood, supports fundamentalism. I have misgivings about any religion actually, especially the more illiberal versions, being an atheist.
    Regarding my Jewish friends, it is very difficult to discuss these matters with them calmly, if I'm honest. I went to South Hampstead High School for girls, which in the 1970's, was about a third Jewish. There was a separate Jewish assembly every morning.
    Ms Canal Explorer will remember an occasion when I had her, a Jewish friend and a (southern) Irish friend for dinner a few years back. When we discussed some of the anti-Israeli actions held by Rhythms of Resistance samba band, things got very heated. My Jewish friend got terribly upset and lost control, stabbed himself in the head with a fork, drawing blood, talked about his mother's retirement home being bombed, and shrieked "I'm a filthy Jew!". I tried to calm him, but it was very disturbing for everybody. Ok, this was extreme I know, especially as Ms Canal Explorer and myself were not expressing any anti-Israeli sentiments. I think people are frightened of seeming anti-semite if they critisize Israel.
    But it just goes to show what a difficult subject it is.
    Anyway Jacob, remember that I went on the ANTI Israeli incursion into Gaza march...

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  12. I remember the incident you mention very clearly MsMarmitelover. It was especially strange considering what led to it. At the time I was very new to politics, much younger than I am now, and had no understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine. I remember disctintly, that you and I were expressing that we didn't get involved in the protests about the situation because it was complex and we didn't feel we understood it or were able to take a clear stance. Then he just went off one one and started smashing things. It was completely baffling.

    I don't understand the religious solidarity... America might be a Christian country, does that mean European Christians can never protest the actions of America?

    A friend of mine who I generally have political affinity with recently picked a facebook debate with me about it on my wall, on the basis that she is Jewish, and wanted it remembered that there is suffering on both sides. Well of course, but that's what happens during war isn't it, and Israel will go picking wars... Hopefully I have managed not to get sucked into a 'but they started it' debate, because we'll end up on a very slippery slope if we try to get to the bottom of that one!

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  13. And I still think it is complicated. Obviously there are lots of ins and outs I don't know. I'm not about to join Hamas, but I know that what Israel is doing is wrong.

    Latest news: Israeli Arab parties BANNED from standing in the next election because they disagreed with the attacks on Gaza. Can you imagine Lib Dems being banned from standing in the UK for speaking out against invasion of Iraq? The whole thing STINKS.

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  14. Hear, hear.
    I loathe oppression from whoever it emanates...

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  15. Any criticism of Israel has been deliberately linked to antisemitism.

    The pro-Israel lobby as intentionally accused opponents of wanting to wipe out Jews in order to silence them. This has been an effective, though rather crude, method of preventing a sensible discussion on the subject.

    The fact of the matter is that criticism of Israels brutality does not mean you are anti-Semitic nor does it make you a supporter of Islamic extremists.

    No doubt there were people participating in the protest march who hold extreme Islamist views. This would include the subjugation of women and the denial of personal liberty we take for granted today.

    The protest however was against a modern army that is armed to the teeth and slaughtering innocent civilians. That should remain our focus. Israel's actions are a key contributor to the rise of Islamic extremism in the world today.

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  16. Good point Farouq.
    The whole Israeli question is infused with Western guilt for the holocaust. They are relying on it.
    I went to an interesting astrology talk about the creation of Israel. The lecturer analysed the Israeli chart and posited that the opening of the parliament (which would be the time for the Israeli chart) was deliberately delayed to produce a certain type of chart.
    His conclusion was that Israel would last, was indomitable, but would always have problems because of the confrontational and power tripping nature of the chart.

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  17. For those interested in the astrology of Israel, here are two links.
    http://www.astrodatabank.com/NM/IsraelState.htm

    http://www.astrologyweekly.com/astrology-articles/israel-lebanon-conflict.php
    In this second link the writer says after viewing the data: "I suspect that it means that Israel uses astrologers to elect the most auspicious moment to go to war."

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  18. FASCINATING! Before taking a peek I tried to guess, and I did really well - I won't say because it will spoil it for others who want to guess. I'll email you ML.

    X

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Well Ben, I think I should add, for the benefit of other readers, that you are half Jewish.
    Did you know that your blog (a very good one btw) email addresses always bounce? Very frustrating for comments.
    Another interesting link on the astrology of Israel and Palestine, who have almost identical charts, except Israel has Scorpio rising and Palestine has Aquarius rising. Says it all really, to me.
    http://www.astrodynamics.net/Articles/Israel-Palestine.htm

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  21. I don't think Jews believe in satan do they? Wasn't he a new testament thing?

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Please leave a comment, it means I am not shouting into the void!