Remembrance Day: Marching for Peace Honours the Fallen

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Remembrance Day's Call for Peace in Gaza
Remembrance Day's Call for Peace in Gaza

From Flanders to Gaza: Reshaping Remembrance in Troubled Times

This Remembrance Day, thousands will march through London calling for peace as Israel’s onslaught on Gaza continues. Critics decry this act of conscience, claiming the occasion solely for nationalism. They betray its essence.

The Armistice ending World War I took effect at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. This solemn commemoration was instituted to mourn those lost in war, reflecting on the duty we owe them as beneficiaries of their sacrifice.

What was that duty if not to defend liberty, justice and human rights – the very principles so many died protecting? Honouring our lost means upholding those ideals in our time against those who would curtail those hard-won rights and freedoms. and be assured no greater menace exists than indifference towards oppression and conflict.

Why Britain is at War recruitment poster 1
The working class Pals battalions fought for freedom and liberty against the forces of tyranny.

Those we memorialise did not spill their blood so bellicose leaders who bastardise our history can prosecute forever wars of their choice while citizens dutifully wave the flag. They fought so that debates vital for humanity might rage in the forum of democracy, not the battlefield.

Those palls battalions made up of the working class communities entered the battlefield across Europe and the commonwealth from Flanders to Japan to fight for the freedoms of the common man against the oppressors who would see our freedoms trampled into the ground.

fighting for liberty
The working class Pals battalions fought for freedom and liberty against the forces of tyranny.

Marching against the destruction of Gaza and the genocide of Palestinians. Palestinians whose only crime is to have been unfortunate enough to be born in a land of conflict. That is what gives meaning to remembrance, activating the freedoms veterans secured. To fetishise past martial glories while ignoring current atrocities perverts everything the occasion signifies.

Those we memorialise did not give their lives freely so injustices could flourish today. They fought for liberty, security and self-determination – values betrayed if we acquiesce to oppression now. Honouring service means championing the principles troops defended.

It is ironic that Britain, once a defender of Palestinian freedom during the Mandate era, now appears to overlook the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. Have the lessons learned from the wages of past aggression been forgotten?

During the Mandate era, British forces served as a buffer between Palestinians and unrestrained Zionism. From 1945 to 1948 alone, nearly 800 lives were lost in the Army’s fourth deadliest postwar mission, a sacrifice often obscured today.

These Arab recruits line up in a barracks square in the British Mandate of Palestine
These Arab recruits line up in a barracks square in the British Mandate of Palestine, on December 28, 1940, for their first drill under a British solider. Some 6,000 Palestinian Arabs signed up with the British Army during the course of World War II. AP Photo

The historical context is significant, with British forces actively involved in maintaining order during that period. Today, however, both their sacrifice and the Palestinians’ World War II service seem to fade into obscurity. While Britain once welcomed Arab allies against fascism, the appeals of their descendants now go unheeded, even as casualties continue to rise.

THE PALESTINE MEDAL 1945-48
THE PALESTINE MEDAL 1945-48

Suella Braverman and the Tory rhetoric cannot erase this historical reality, nor can the waving of flags eclipse basic decency. If Britain truly honours those who fell, it should defend all civilians impartially rather than appeasing aggressors.

Questions arise about the recognition of forgotten soldiers who lost their lives upholding the Palestine Mandate’s ideals. Where are the wreaths for these unsung heroes, and where is the determination to prevent further loss? Honouring the fallen requires moral courage, not selective amnesia.

Again, this march calls for peace, remembering the fallen to ensure their sacrifice is not forgotten. All have a right to honour their dead without fueling new atrocities. Remembrance must unite, not divide, if it is to redeem lives lost.

Despite Suella Braverman’s attempts to erase history and shape a negative narrative, the protesters march in the tradition of those who resisted the advance of fascism. Veterans understand that peace must be actively safeguarded, not merely passively hoped for. Through their march, the protesters imbue remembrance with contemporary resonance, forging a connection between the past and the present.

The fact is while the right wing stirs up hatred the Protest organisers say they will steer away from ‘sensitive areas’ Organised by an alliance including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa and the Stop the War Coalition, the march is expected to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The coalition has made clear its intent to avoid areas of sensitivity on Armistice Day, saying marchers will not go near the Cenotaph or Whitehall, where official remembrance commemorations will be held on the day.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “Some time ago, we indicated that on the 11th [of November], we would not be going anywhere near [the Cenotaph] … we knew that would be inappropriate.”

For the majority of the working class that doesn’t come running to the dog whistles, we understand true patriotism requires courage to criticise one’s nation to stand up to another when it violates the values so many have died for. Chauvinistic conformity does not honour the fallen, only moral conviction in the face of hostility does.

Remembrance Day is to understand those who perished did not sacrifice so war might continue eternally. They yearned for its end, witnessed in 1918’s ceasefire. The guns briefly fell silent as humanity’s conscience stirred. Let the Armistice’s spirit reignite our solidarity and resolve to oppose the militarism that engulfed them.

The dead ask only that we not send more innocents to join them by our apathy. Marching for peace this Remembrance Day answers their call.

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