Around 1200 people gathered this Saturday to protest against Israel’s bombing in Gaza and demand an immediate ceasefire in response to the current humanitarian crisis. The protest, jointly organised by five Oxfordshire groups*, including the Oxford Palestine Society, featured a march from Cowley to Bonn Square.
This protest follows many other Oxford-based protests during the past month against Israel’s bombing of Gaza and its occupation of areas within the West Bank. The most recent large-scale protest occurred on 5 November, and a sit-down protest was organised last Friday outside the Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library.
Throughout the protest, familiar slogans were chanted, such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Free Free Palestine.” More recent chants also emerged, including “Stop bombing children” and “Rishi Sunak / Keir Starmer is a wasteman.”
The American Jewish Council has said that, while advocating for Palestinian statehood is not antisemitic, the slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, counts as “calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, or suggesting that the Jews alone do not have the right to self-determination” and is antisemitic.
Additionally, protesters held up various banners and placards, which stated “Stop the Genocides”, “Labour side with Genocide”, and “Ceasefire Now.” Banners with a list of Gazans who lost their lives in the conflict were also displayed.
One of the protesters, an Oxford DPhil student, told Cherwell: “I think it is really important to keep coming out to these protests to remind the government that we don’t support what they’re calling for at the moment and that we need a ceasefire and to send a message out to all the people in Gaza and the West Bank to let them know we stand with them we’ll keep fighting for them until Palestine is free.”
Another student stated: “I think it’s amazing to see so many people out today. Of course, recently they announced a humanitarian pause but that’s clearly not enough. More people are going to the south but now that the attacks on the Shifa hospital are done, Israel is planning to move forward to the south. Where would those people go? We need to act right now before we witness something that the world will regret.”
These protests come after retaliatory attacks and an offensive by Israel in Gaza after the Hamas-led terrorist attack on 7th October. Over 12,000 people have been killed in Gaza following bombing raids by the Israel Defence Forces with 5000 children dead. In the UK, many Labour MPs have resigned over disagreement with Keir Starmer’s comments on the conflict. Ten local councillors have resigned in Oxford.
*Other groups include Action Against Oxford War Crimes, Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association, and Help the World Oxford.