In February 2003, when Tony Blair was God in British politics and his third way was the fashionable philosophy in Europe, a million people demonstrated in London (and several million more in cities around the world) to protest against the Iraq war. This did not prevent George W. Bush from launching the invasion a month later, with the support of the United Kingdom and Aznar’s Spain among many others. Two decades later, the country is a wasteland, the Middle East is on fire, terrorism and hatred of the West have increased, and some three hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the conflict.
This Saturday, more than half a million people (800,000 according to the organizers and 300,000 according to the police) marched in the English capital, from Hyde Park to the surroundings of the United States embassy in Nine Elms, demanding a ceasefire and an end of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, directed against all types of targets, not only military but also civilian (hospitals and humanitarian aid caravans), and which have already cost the lives of over ten thousand people. The poet Friedrich Schiller said that against stupidity the gods themselves battle in vain: Mit der dumheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.
If Israel – which is losing the battle of international public opinion despite the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7 – heeds the demands for a ceasefire, it will be due to pressure from Washington if it really tightens the screws, and not because in London a flood of human beings representing all segments of society – young, old, white, black, gay, heterosexual, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim and even Jewish – took to the streets in a cry for peace. . These things make very little impression on the states. So it was with Iraq and so it is with Palestine.
The demonstration has divided British society because it coincides with Armistice Day, which commemorates the end of World War I and honors the British killed in that and other conflagrations. Both politicians and the influential right-wing press tried at all costs to ensure that it was not authorized, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak himself described it as “disrespectful of those who gave their lives for freedoms such as freedom of expression.”
Two thousand police officers closed metro stations and sealed off the center of the English capital
Further than anyone else was the Minister of the Interior Suella Braverman (the closest thing to Vox there is in British politics), who tried to influence the police by questioning their neutrality, accusing them of favoring black and left-wing groups over English nationalists, and comparing the pro-Palestinian marches with the republican ones in favor of the IRA during the Northern Irish conflict. But Scotland Yard stood firm and decided there was no reason to ban it.
Of course, this Saturday London was a city literally taken over by two thousand police officers coming from all over the country, with underground stations closed, snipers on the roofs and the entire center cordoned off, especially the surroundings of the Whitehall Cenotaph, the monument to the fallen, where at eleven in the morning groups of schoolchildren, soldiers and war veterans laid wreaths of flowers and observed two minutes of silence (a ritual that was repeated in the day’s soccer games, as is tradition).
The ceasefire march, organized by a number of groups under the umbrella of the Campaign for Solidarity with Palestinebegan two hours after that act and never took place less than two kilometers away, in a peaceful climate, with some banners and isolated shouts of content that could be considered anti-Semitic (such as the demand for a State that would go from the river to the sea, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, leaving no room for Israel). There was frustration and anger, with slogans denouncing Sunak and opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer for not calling for a ceasefire.
The march has highlighted the deepening gaps in Britain’s multicultural society
The violence was carried out by several hundred neo-Nazi and fascist militants from the English Defense League and other groups who arrived in London early in the morning ready to provoke. These radicals clashed with the police who prevented them from going to the demonstration. Some spent hours cornered in a pub and others threw stones and bottles at the agents while shouting “England for the English” and “Give us our country back.” There were a hundred arrested for disturbing public order. Braverman had managed to excite them.
Although no serious incidents occurred, London experienced a day of enormous tension that has highlighted the gaps in its society, the exploitation by the right of the culture wars, the advance of Trumpism in the United Kingdom and the abyss between those who support Israel and the Palestinians, those who defend a multicultural model and those who want to combat immigration at all costs. Against foolishness, the gods themselves battle in vain…
A problem called Suella Braverman
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a difficult problem to solve with his Interior Minister Suella Braverman, whom he appointed to try to bait the right wing of the Conservative Party (both at the voter level and in the parliamentary group), but who It has completely escaped his control. He wants to lead the right after the next elections, and to do so he does not hesitate to create controversy and stoke latent cultural wars. He first spoke of an “invasion” and a “tsunami” of immigrants to the United Kingdom. He then stated that sleeping on the street is “a vital choice,” and called for legislation to prohibit charitable organizations from donating tents to the homeless. And this week she questioned the impartiality of Scotland Yard and clashed head-on with the London mayor Sadiq Khan (who is Muslim, shares responsibility for managing the police with her, has denounced its interference and calls for a ceasefire in Gaza). Braverman competes with fellow minister Kemi Badenoch and Brexit inspirer Nigel Farage to champion the British extreme right, and uses tactics similar to those once used by the Tea Party of the United States to control the Republican Party on a family basis. , flag and religion (the three efes, family, faith and flag), giving wings to the replacement theory: that white people are being replaced by people of other races.