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Gaza conflict: Stars demand end to Israeli bombardment

PUBLISHED: 13:04 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2010

British comedian Alexei Sayle answers a question from the media during a press conference in central London January 2, 2009, with organisers of national demonstrations set for Saturday across Britain against Israeli military action on Gaza. Israeli warplanes pounded militant targets including a mosque in Gaza on Friday as angry protests unfurled on Hamas's

British comedian Alexei Sayle answers a question from the media during a press conference in central London January 2, 2009, with organisers of national demonstrations set for Saturday across Britain against Israeli military action on Gaza. Israeli warplanes pounded militant targets including a mosque in Gaza on Friday as angry protests unfurled on Hamas's "day of wrath" against the blistering assault that has killed more than 420 people. Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, and rock-throwing youths faced off with Israeli police in Jerusalem after Hamas called for marches to follow Friday prayers. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

Katie Davies WELL-KNOWN Hampstead and Highgate figures have joined mounting public protests calling for an end to Israel s bombardment of Gaza. On Saturday, Crouch End journalist and human rights activist Lauren Booth spoke to crowds gathered at Hyde Par

Katie Davies

WELL-KNOWN Hampstead and Highgate figures have joined mounting public protests calling for an end to Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

On Saturday, Crouch End journalist and human rights activist Lauren Booth spoke to crowds gathered at Hyde Park, while Camden comedian Alexei Sayle spoke on stage at Trafalgar Square the week before.

Highgate actress Juliet Stevenson and Kentish Town actor Roger Lloyd Pack also joined Saturday's march to the Israeli embassy, while others including Hampstead actress Janet Suzman have put their opposition on record.

Mr Sayle said: "I've always felt as a Jew myself that Israel purports to speak in our name and always says criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism," he said.

"Whatever else I am - I could not be an anti-Semite. Criticism of Israel is criticism of Israel. I want to be proud one day of that country, of my people, but at the moment I am ashamed."

Ms Stephenson said: "We don't even know we're born. We think we are having a hard time when we get a parking ticket. The Palestinians are suffering unimaginable horror and grief and terror."

Ms Booth, Tony Blair's half sister-in-law who has lived in Gaza, said: "This is ethnic cleansing and the only thing worse than hearing from my friends in Gaza is not hearing from them.

"I have one friend Yasser, who has five children aged from three to 12, they are all incontinent and they don't know when they are going to be able to eat again. I have heard from doctors that they suspect chemical weapons are being used. Every human being has a duty to boycott Israel and send Palestinians a strong message that we will not back Israel."

Mr Lloyd Pack, who marched in both demonstrations, said: "What is happening in Gaza is awful. How would Israelis feel if their children were maimed like this, if they were starved and then bombed? I am a Jew myself - this has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, it is a humanitarian issue, a crime against humanity."

On Sunday, thousands of Israel supporters joined in a separate protest to express solidarity with Israelis - particularly those affected by rocket fire from Gaza.

Britain's chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke at the protest attended by many from the Golders Green Jewish community.

"All it took to avoid this suffering was for Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israeli citizens," he said. "Let a voice go out today from here in Trafalgar Square, and other gatherings being held, that we want 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 with dignity, so do we.


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