Inside the PSC protest: Young Palestinians want Israel out
The name of this girl shouting is Filastin, the Arab name for Palestine. She’s addressing all her anger to a man with a long beard and a kippah — presumably an Israeli official — passing by along the demonstration with a snigger on his face and entering Israeli embassy.
“I get to Palestine every year” says Filastin “and I feel a migrant in my own country, the country where my ancestors lived. I crossed three borders to come to UK, with my 4 children, but I want Palestine to be free. Allah promised, the country will be ours again and we don’t have to give up.”
Filastin’s story is one of the many in today’s protest in front of Israeli embassy in Kensington High Street, London. About 2500 people — according to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign promoters — have come there from 12 to 2 pm to protest against Israeli occupation in Gaza and West Bank. What leaves me astonished is the huge participation of young people, many of them teenagers.
Actually, youngsters take an active part in managing the protest. As the manifestation is over, teenagers start choruses straight to the Israeli embassy entrance, protected by about 20 police officers in light uniform. It is a teenager who holds the loudspeaker; it is a teenager who uses the microphone; it is always a teenager who starts the choruses. “Free Free, Palestine” “Viva viva, Palestina” “Shame on you” “Israeli terrorist” to name the main ones.
They stay pressed against the crush barriers, up to one hour more from the end of the protest at 2 pm, asking for the stop of occupation by Israel. A youth that has seen very few, just the last part, of a long-standing conflict that started out when even their parents weren’t born yet. But you can see their feelings for a Palestinian identity in the way they’re taking part to the protests, with all the strong, tenacity and hope that distinguish youngsters’ ideas.
They sing and jump and shake and put their hands up. They shout out with all the anger they have inside, lash out at Israel, stand and pray for those who are in pain in Ramallah, Gaza, Hebron and other occupied cities. Besides, they ask for a resolution, while others for the Intifada.
Most of them don’t like to answer my questions, even if I’m equal in age. Perhaps they don’t trust media anymore, though I can’t be considered belonging to the mainstream. Who answers, however, shows all his passion and strength.
You can’t look Ali in his face because of his Guy Fawkes’s mask and a kefiah winding his head up. He’s brawny and looks one of the most agitated but he has clear ideas: “I’m a Palestinian and I left my country in 1997 when I was a kid, but I always want the freedom for Palestine, Israel must be kicked out. Occupation must end now.” He doesn’t go further. Just few words and he’s back into the middle of the protest.
A girl is visibly annoyed by my questions. That’s the reason why she doesn’t even tell me her name. “I’m tired of talking. I just want to shout my anger. And I pray for Palestine.” Then she goes away. Another girl, who’s not likely to reveal her name as well, affirms she’s there because she stands with Palestinians. “I’m not Palestinian, but today, every person here is. Today we are all from Palestine.”
Zeyad is from Iraq, another Middle Eastern country which is going through hard times: “Today we are here for Palestine.” Asked about the best solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, he’s very fast to reply: “As long as Israel occupies Palestine, there can’t be any solution.”
Youngsters’ aim is one and only one: Israel must end the occupation. Even if they’re from different cultures, countries and religions, they all agree. There are Arabs from every region, and even a lot of Europeans. They stand all together, in a mass coloured with black, red, white and green, the colours of Palestine. You can see flags shaken to the sky and everywhere you turn, your eyes can only catch these colours.
And the colours come along with me on my way home. In the tube, a girl standing next to me talks about the protest. Her name’s Djena, she’s French with Algerian roots who studies in London. “For all my life I’ve been seeing this against Palestinians. So I feel for them. I think we are all human, there are no differences between Arabs, Europeans and Chinese, everyone should have the right to live in peace.” Then, she heads off with her friends. She’s the last young protester I see.