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The Palestine Protest in London Virginie Khateeb 2021
Photography by Virginie Khateeb

Photo Essay: The Free Palestine Protest in London

French-Palestinian photographer Virginie Khateeb reports – in her own images and words – from the Free Palestine protest that took place in London on Saturday

PhotographyVirginie Khateeb
Lead ImagePhotography by Virginie Khateeb

“I was born to a French mother and a Palestinian father, and spent most of my childhood living between the two countries. We moved to Palestine fully for a few years when I was two years old. My father was born in Nazareth and all of his side of the family are Palestinian. They live in a Palestinian town with a majority Muslim population, but there are also Christians, Druze and people from other religions too. The town was in Palestine before it became Israel in 1948. My father’s family was always there, for many generations.”

“I wanted to take part in this protest, and to document it, to show my support and raise awareness for the Palestinian cause because of my family heritage. I’m worried for them, because of the suffering and injustice taking place there, and would like for them to be able to live in peace. I wanted to be able to contribute in some way with the skills that I have.”

“The protest itself was huge and lively – it started at Marble Arch and ended in front of the Israeli Embassy. There were people from all walks of life: old, young, even children, all ethnicities. Everyone was wearing Palestinian T-shirts, scarfs, flags, make-up, and signs; some were standing on store roofs, on bus stops, singing together. It was spectacular. I noticed a lot of Lebanase and Turkish people who came with their countries’ flags to show their support. It was beautiful to see all these people gathered, motivated, showing up on a weekend, in the rain, in the spirit of freedom and change.”

“It was a peaceful protest and the city of London was really supportive, I was surprised. I’m used to seeing protests in Paris where the police are violent and repressive, whereas here I only spotted two police officers among the whole crowd, leaving people be. I didn’t see any acts of violence. Although when I say peaceful, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t emotional – people were angry, they were sad and fed up, demanding justice, demanding peace, and for the oppression to stop. Some people were dancing, some people were singing, the crowd was screaming ‘free, free Palestine,’ and ‘what do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!’”

“I wish people would educate themselves, not through mass media but directly through people who are there on the field. It is hard to get pure facts in today’s society. My heart aches for people in Jerusalem and Palestinine, but it’s not a reason to stigmatise and show anger towards the Jewish community. The Israeli government is to blame and all the other countries letting this happen or even contributing to it.”

“I hope these photos raise awareness about the protests, about the injustice and suffering in Palestine, Jerusalem, Gaza and about the change that needs to finally happen. It’s time right now to let go of conflict and for that people need to come together and say ‘enough’. I also wanted to showcase the protest in a more intimate way, with portraits and close-ups – even though it was a huge event. The situation is intimate to me so I wanted to relate that feeling in the images. To show the soul, individuality of each person.”

“If you’d like to help or show solidarity, you can make a difference by donating to iFCharityUK (which is based within the Gaza strip to provide food and medical support to Palestinians) and joining the BDS Movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement). You can also help by spreading the word, standing up, showing up, not being afraid to have difficult conversations about the issue, urge their representatives to at the very least recognise and support Palestinians human rights. However being pro-Palestinian is not an excuse for racism, hate and anti semetism. Spreading hatred isn’t being an ally, but hurting the cause.”

“My hope is for the war, violence and suffering to stop; for an agreement to be reached and at last for lasting peace to finally bloom. Not to make it about territory, about differences, about the past anymore but about cohabitation and moving forward together as human beings and make the country better together.”