Yesterday in Edinburgh, as Bilal and Tha’ir reached their 60th day on hunger strike, over 600 people marched through Scotland’s capital in support of Palestinian political prisoners demanding of the Scottish government three things; firstly, that it calls for the immediate release of all ‘administrative detainees’ starting with those on hunger strike; second that it makes a statement supporting the demands of the Karamah hunger strikers – now numbering in the thousands – and thirdly that it divests from all companies -Israeli or otherwise – involved in the illegal occupation of Palestine.
The demonstration began at the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, where the crowd heard speeches from student activists from the We Are All Hana Shalabi network, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and a letter of support from Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress who days ago passed a historic and far-reaching motion in support of Palestine.
The demonstration set off, led by students, and made its way through the streets of the Capital to the Scottish Parliament. The picturesque landscape of Edinburgh’s architecture provided a dramatic backdrop for a the loud, energetic and colourful procession. The demonstration was a sea of Palestine flags, placards calling for BDS and support for the prisoners, intermingled with images of the hunger strikers. Particularly prominent were posters of prisoners Bilal Thaib and Tha’ir Halalheh, whose health’s have deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.
Being student led and predominately youthful in its make-up, the great thing about this demonstration was the refusal to let it be a sombre and arguably patronising display of concern for the plight of the prisoners or the Palestinians in general. Instead, this was a noisy, colourful celebration of the great samoud and resistance of the Palestinians which has been demonstrated by the brave hunger strikers.
Chants of “Dignity, Karamah..Support the Prison Intifada!!”…”Starving to Live..How Much More Blood Must They Give!!?”..”Boycott Isra-el”..”They’re Our Brothers, They’re Our Sisters..We Support Political Prisoners” as well as old favourites such as “Viva, Viva! Palestina!!”, “In Our Thousands, In Our Millions…We Are All Palestinians!” and “In-Ti-Fada, In-Ti-Fada!!” rang out in the streets of Edinburgh on this sunny spring day.
One can only imagine what the many thousands of tourists made of it but we can be sure that they know, just like the Scottish government knows, that Scotland stands with the Palestinians as it has done for many years. The new generation of Palestine activists who mobilised for the Karamah Hunger Strikers yesterday are a testament to the fact that Palestinians will always find solidarity amongst activists in Scotland until Israel’s apartheid regime falls and the refugees have their inalienable right to return to Palestine.
At the Scottish Parliament, more speeches were heard from student activists and trade unionists as well as prominent figures from supporting organisations; Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop The War Coalition, Scottish Friends of Palestine and Scottish Jews for a Just Peace. The messages from the speakers were on the centrality of the prisoners and the question of Palestine to ending imperialist control which has kept all the Arab peoples living without freedom for centuries. The speakers emphasised the need to be ready to mobilise and intensify our solidarity as the strikes progress. Calls to mobilise against the racist Jewish National Fund (JNF/KKL) on May 11th were heard, as well as demands that the Scottish government immediately divest from Eden Springs and G4S, a company which profits directly from the Israeli prison system.
News from Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign of a historic victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the form of the cooperative agreeing to boycott all companies who distribute illegal Israeli settlement produce gave a great day a fantastic ending, and gave impetus and direction for our demand that the Scottish government divests from the Occupation and all complicit companies.
This demonstration was organised by the by the We Are All Hana Shalabi network of student Palestine activists, who salute the people in Manchester, London and Turkey for their actions. We call upon international Palestine solidarity activists around the world to organise similar actions to create an intensified global solidarity movement with the hunger strikers. The prisoners must know they are not alone, Israel must know the prisoners are not alone, just as the intifada currently stirring in the Zionist jails must resonate beyond the prison walls so too must the Palestinian struggle resonate and reach beyond the beautiful but occupied land of Palestine.
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