LONDON: Thousands of Londoners convened at Grosvenor Square on Friday night protesting Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“This is a unilateral, illegal move and it undermines the rights of my Palestinian people,” said Leanne Mohamad, an activist and student, as crowds behind her bellowed pro-Palestine slogans and waved flags in front of the American Embassy.
Groups of young activists, religious leaders and families turned out to decry Trump’s contentious policy shift, which flouts the international community’s longstanding position that Jerusalem’s status should be determined between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides claim the city as their capital.
“Mr Trump is on one side the entire world is on the other side,” said Habib Jann, a keffiyeh wrapped tightly around his neck. “The world needs peace now.”
As the demonstration was taking place, America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley appeared before the Security Council and defiantly stood behind President Trump. The US, she said, would “not be lectured” on its policy toward Israel. Contemptuous boos and hisses emerged from the crowd as Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, informed the crowd about Haley’s comments.
“Donald Trump, you will see! Palestine will be free!” they shouted.
Many attendees expressed outrage at Trump’s apparent dismissal of the United Nations position that East Jerusalem belongs to Palestinians and is under illegal Israeli occupation. Trump came under heavy fire from international leaders for the off-piste policy, which will see the US embassy re-located to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. No other country has an embassy in Jerusalem. Even Theresa May, loath to criticize her American counterpart, said that Westminster “disagrees” with the decision, finding it “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”
“Donald trump seems to be living on a planet where there are only Americans and Israelis” said Ubeyde Bilaloglu at the protest on Wednesday.
“We all have to stand up against him,” agreed Azza Ahmed Zaki, an Egyptian activist.
Zaki and others said they were tired of waiting for the world’s leadership to advance the Palestinian cause. “It’s wrong also from our own Arab leaders who should take a stance, but we don’t see any action from them at all.”
Trump’s decision sparked popular outrage across the world, with protests erupting across the Middle East and beyond. Palestinians took to the streets on Friday in protest, leading violet clashes with Israeli authorities. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured and at least one person was reportedly killed. There were no immediate reports of Israeli casualties.
“I’m kind of afraid for the future of Palestine,” said Mustafa, a young protester in London. “Today they shot a teenager just because (of) what he believed.”
Trump “has blood on his hands” said Hiba Deen at the London protest, visibly moved by the young man’s death.
Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, said that Palestinians would stand firm despite the American President’s announcement. “We are not going to budge one inch from staying in Jerusalem, from fighting for Jerusalem,” he said.
Others agreed, saying they were frustrated but undaunted by America’s diplomatic pivot toward Israel. “No matter what the country is going to say, were still sticking to our message, we’re still sticking to Palestine,” said Farah, who attended the protest with friends. “It’s not just a Palestinian cause — it’s about Arab identity.”