Protests mirrored demos throughout Europe
Hundreds of people gathered in Lisbon’s Martim Moniz Square for a demonstration against the escalating violence in Gaza, where the slogans heard most often were “Free Palestine” and “Palestine will win”.
With background music of drums and waving Palestinian flags, the demonstrators, many of whom wore the traditional Palestinian headscarf, held up placards calling for “an end to genocide”, “an end to apartheid” and “an end to the blockade of Gaza” by Israel, which is carrying out a military operation in Gaza after hundreds of Hamas militants carried out a vicious terrorist attack on October 7, killing hundreds and kidnapping an unspecified number of people, from babies to grandmothers and fathers who have survived the Holocaust.
At the gathering last night, organisers expressed their fear of the war spreading to the rest of the world, “demanding that the Portuguese government take a stand”, writes Lusa.
The demonstration “End the Aggression on Gaza, Peace in the Middle East”, which was followed by a vigil, was organised by the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation (CPPC), the Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East (MPPM), the Collective for the Liberation of Palestine and the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers – National Trade Union (CGTP-IN).
Portuguese Communist Party leader Paulo Raimundo was one of the speakers, saying he could not miss “this day to stop the war, the genocide and the massacre”.
According to Lusa, Raimundo believes that the strength of the demonstrations that are taking on an increasingly strong expression around the world, to demand an “end to the war, this ongoing massacre and the supposed invasion of Gaza”, can halt its progress.
“Not only is it possible, but I think that these demonstrations of strength, solidarity and trust have been slowing down this ongoing massacre in a concrete way,” he said, recalling that what he labelled an “ongoing genocide” has been going on for ten days, with “ten thousand bombs detonated in Gaza by the Israeli government”, as well as the “destruction of schools, hospitals, ambulances and thousands of deaths”.
“We are all concerned about civilian victims everywhere, and that criminal, terrorist acts that victimise innocent victims and civilians are condemnable wherever they come from: this happened in the (Hamas attack) on October 7 in Israel and has been happening for 10 days now, every day, terrorist acts, criminal acts, war crimes”, he said.
Isabel Camarinha, leader of the CGTP, said that the demonstration aimed to denounce the more than 70 years of repression, oppression and land occupation suffered by the Palestinian people.
Camarinha emphasised Israel’s failure to comply with “hundreds of United Nations resolutions” and stressed that they must be enforced.
“Israel has been doing what it has been doing with the complicity of the US, the European Union and NATO,” she said, arguing that it is enough to comply with the UN resolutions “for this war to end and for the Palestinian people to have the right to their own State“.
CPPC deputy-leader Rui Garcia pointed out that Portugal will soon be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 25 April Revolution and that, in view of this celebration of freedom, it should ask itself what it is doing about the events in Palestine.
“The Portuguese government has a special responsibility to raise its voice. It’s not enough to say in a vacuum that you’re against war crimes. We need to take concrete positions and action so that the situation ends and is reversed,” he went on
For Rui Garcia, what is happening in Palestine is “ethnic cleansing”, said Lusa.
The deputy-leader of the MPPM, Carlos Almeida, questioned why the Portuguese government has had a resolution approved by the country’s president since 2014, recommending the recognition of the State of Palestine, and is waiting so long to do so.
“Every government in the world knows that the two-State solution is dying every day” and “no one can say they didn’t know,” he said.
“The potential for a very large-scale conflict, which could affect not only peace in the Middle East, but peace in the world, should alert our consciences,” he said.
Wrapped in the Palestinian flag, Adriana, a 28-year-old writer of German and Jewish descent, told Lusa that she was attending the demonstration because she had “a responsibility” to oppose a state that imposes “Apartheid on a group of people who have been deprived of their rights”. “I have a special responsibility because I’m Jewish,” said the young woman from Washington DC (USA), who has been in Portugal for a year and a half.
Iuri, 30, took to the streets “to support the Palestinians who are going through genocide”. “Showing support and solidarity is the least we can do for those who have no voice,” the young man, who works in the information industry, told Lusa.
With his head covered by a black and white Palestinian scarf, Shannon assumed he was there “to let the world know that people are with Palestine”. “The least we can do for the innocent people who are being killed is to condemn what is happening every day,” the 28-year-old, who has dual German and American nationality and has been in Portugal for seven years and works in marketing, told Lusa.
In UK, where anti-Israeli sentiment has marked media coverage of events unfolding, columnists have warned the world is “teetering on the edge of an abyss” of prejudice, misinformation and ‘sickening’ hatred.