Address at Israel Rally in Trafalgar Square in 2009

January 11, 2009
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We are gathered today, not in triumph but in tears.

Nothing that has happened in Gaza needed to happen.

All it took to avoid all the suffering was for Hamas to end firing rockets on innocent Israeli civilians. That’s all.

Let a voice go out today from here in Trafalgar Square, and from other gatherings today in Manchester, Paris and Washington – as it has gone out from Israel since the day it was born, 60 years ago:

We want peace.

Israel wants peace.

We who love Israel want peace.

No to terror – yes to peace.

Let there be an end to bloodshed and hate.

Let there be peace.

We say to those who criticise Israel: You want Palestinian children to grow up with hope. So do we.

You want Palestinians to be able to live in dignity. So do we.

You want Palestinian parents to have work, income, and a life for their families. So do we.

When a great British Zionist, the late Dr David Baum, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics, a man who lived in Bristol but asked to be buried, as he was, in Israel, in Rosh Pinah, sought to give expression to his hopes for Israel, he created a state-of-the-art child care facility.

Where? In Gaza. He died on a sponsored cycle ride raising money for paediatric facilities in Gaza.

When one of the finest young men of our community, Yoni Jesner, was killed in a suicide attack on Tel Aviv bus, his family donated his organs to save life, one of whom was a seven-year-old Palestinian girl, Yasmin Abu Ramila, who had been waiting two years for a transplant.

We care about the Palestinian future. We care for Palestinian children. We care about life.

And that is why we say to Hamas, who for years, day after day, have been endangering the lives of innocent people:

Stop killing the Palestinian future.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza.

It said to the people of Gaza: the land is yours.

The factories, the farms, the buildings our people built are yours.

The aid you seek in building an economy is yours.

That is when terror should have stopped.

Instead that is when the current wave of terror began.

The living nightmare for the people of Sderot and Ashdod and Ashkelon.

A ceaseless rain of rockets injuring and killing young and old, the vulnerable, the innocent, who wanted nothing except peace.

There are young children in Sderot who have only known a life of living in bomb shelters.

Who can live like that?

When Jews built the land and state of Israel – the land where our ancestors lived for 4000 years – they didn’t want to fight with their neighbours. They didn’t want to spend a lifetime fighting war and fearing terror. All they wanted to do was live.

And so we ask Hamas, and Hizbollah, and the countries that give them aid and arms:

Why do you want Israel to die?

Stop wanting Israel to die.

Start wanting your children to live.

There is one question that cries out for an answer:

Why, Hamas, do you hold in such contempt not just Israeli lives but Palestinian lives?

Why do you fire rockets from schools, store arms in hospitals, surround yourself with human shields?

Why have you consistently acted so as to maximise the death of innocent Palestinians?

In the words of Colonel Richard Kemp, senior military adviser to the British cabinet, reported in today’s Sunday Times:

‘Hamas deploys suicide attackers including women and children,

And rigs up schools and houses with booby trap explosives.

Virtually every aspect of its operations is illegal under international humanitarian law.’

The Palestinian future will begin the minute Hamas stops firing rockets on innocent Israelis.

The minute they try to stop killing the people whom they see as enemies but who want to live as friends.

The minute they stop endangering the Palestinian people by pursuing a policy that is blighting the Palestinian future.

Just say three words:

Yes to peace.

And a day will come when Israelis and Palestinians, Jews Muslims and Christians, the people of Sderot and the people of Gaza, will live together in peace,

No longer fighting one another,

But helping one another to live in freedom and dignity.

That day will come.

It could be a hundred years away

Or it could be today.

It’s up to Hamas and the countries that give it arms.

And for the sake of Palestinian children, and Israeli children,

Let it be today.

But in the meanwhile we say,

Beloved God,

The God we worship,

The God of life, who told us to sanctify life,

Al Rahman, the God of compassion,

The God of Avraham, Ibrahim, father of our several faiths,

Show us the way to live your way.

The way of Salaam,

The way of Shalom.

The way of Peace.