This is the speech given by Gateshead Labour councillor Denise Robson at the Palestine solidarity demonstration in Newcastle on 22 May. Thanks to Denise for allowing us to republish.
"Comrades, brothers and sisters, I am delighted to address you today. We are all here, I think, because we want to see lasting peace. This weekend, let’s hope the truce is holding. I hope this pause in violence lasts long enough for meaningful talks to get under way. We know that true and lasting peace can only be secured when both Israelis and Palestinians live with dignity, respect and security in their own states. Those perpetuating the cycle of violence only push this further out of reach.
"This conflict is about power and justice. It can only be resolved if the imbalance of power between Israel and Palestine is addressed. But so far we only see Israel taking land and power from its neighbour. If Israel were a genuine democracy, Muslims marking the end of Ramadan would have their right to do so protected, with no toleration to those who chant 'death to Arabs' and attack Palestinians in the streets. I believe Israel has the right to defend itself reasonably. But it has no right whatever to ethnically cleanse, to steal land, bomb civilians, commit war crimes, imprison and humiliate the Palestinian people, using access to food, water and medical supplies to further that domination.
"After decades of hopelessness, I am seeing the beginnings of change. The UK Jewish community, of which I am a member, always likes to argue. Today there is a growing confidence among younger Jews to speak out about Israel’s oppression of its neighbour Palestine. There is the Jewish Network for Palestine; there is Na'amod - British Jews Against the Occupation; there is Jewdas, a pacifist group.
"I myself became a signatory to the Jews for Justice for the Palestinians in 2008. We stand against Israeli policies that destroy the human, civil, political and economic rights of the Palestinian people.
"We are committed to the Palestinians’ right to self determination and to a viable state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
"We support the right of Israelis to live in peace and freedom within Israel’s 1967 borders
"We condemn all violence against civilians in the conflict, no matter who commits this.
"We call on Israel acknowledge its responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem and its obligation to resolve this.
"I say carry on demonstrating and speaking out. One day we will be heard!"