One hundred thousand people flooded central London’s streets on Saturday, demanding an end to the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza and self-determination for the Palestinian people. Tens of thousands more took part in demonstrations in all the major cities of England, Scotland and Wales over the weekend, as they did in other parts of the world. As the mass killing of Palestinian civilians has increased, so has international outrage.
The presentation of the conflict in the mass media as a ‘war’ between two armies, especially the BBC and right-wing press, but also Channel 4 News and the Guardian, is a lie. There is no ‘war’ of comparable sides or two armies. On the contrary, this is a deliberately planned assault on Gaza, serving the political aims of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, but also aimed at crushing Hamas as a political organisation. Moreover, it is Israel’s reply to the mass Palestinian resistance, in Jerusalem and the West Bank, to its attempts to push Palestinians out of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
The gut-wrenching sight of dead civilians and residential buildings falling in Israeli missile attacks vividly shows the nature of the Israeli state. The killing of demonstrators on the West Bank reveals the typical methods of armies of occupation. Socialists, internationalists and democrats must stand with the Palestinian resistance. We are not neutral between the oppressor and the oppressed.
This latest episode in the conflict started with Palestinians gathering to protest at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on the Muslim festival of Eid (May 8). There, they were attacked by Israeli riot police using rubber bullets and stun grenades. Three hundred were injured. The mosque was doused with tear gas. Protests also started on the West Bank. Hamas replied with its ineffective homemade rockets which provided Israel with an excuse to launch its assault. On the day of writing (Sunday 16 May), 42 more people have been killed in Gaza, bringing the total number of dead to more than 170, with thousands wounded.
Palestinian protests in the West Bank continue, while Palestinian youth in Israel itself has been drawn into the conflict on a mass scale. They have been confronted by Israeli mobs and fascist groups. Dozens have been killed by the Israeli army of occupation on the West Bank.
The latest Israeli incursion into Gaza is part of the long-term campaign to punish the people of this virtual prison camp for having twice elected a Hamas local government. The economic siege of Gaza aims to make life there intolerable, in contravention of international law that prevents the collective punishment of civilian populations. The project of right-wing Zionists, increasingly that of the Israeli state itself, is to drive Palestinians out of not only East Jerusalem but the West Bank as well. Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers flood the West Bank each year and parts of it have been formally integrated into the Israeli state.
Two years ago the Israeli Knesset passed a law defining Israel as ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people’, in which only Jews have ‘the right to exercise national self-determination’. The de facto apartheid nature of the state became a legal and not just social or economic, reality.
The present military assault could not have happened without the green light from Israel’s allies in Washington, London and the rest of Europe. US President Joe Biden has done nothing more than call for restraint on all sides, as has Boris Johnson. Johnson and Biden have been echoed by Labour’s right-wing foreign policy spokesperson Lisa Nandy, who has stated that she deplores the deaths in Gaza and the small number of deaths in Israel. Labour members and the whole Labour Left must do what Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott did last Saturday – stand up for Palestine. Free speech on Palestine must be fought for in the Labour Party, in universities and elsewhere. Mass media apology for the Israeli apartheid state must be exposed.
In the mass media, Israeli purveyors of mendacity have been given full reign. They tell us that they always avoid civilian casualties. They tell us that the building housing Al-Jazeera was attacked because it also contained a Hamas command centre. They tell us that they had to launch this assault to stop Hamas missiles. They tell us that Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank are always restrained in their use of force.
Likewise, they tell us that any criticism of Israel constitutes or is motivated by antisemitism. This is not true. The Israeli state is not and does not speak for all Jewish people. To equate the two is to claim Judaism as synonymous with colonialism. Jews around the world, including many in Israel, abhor the atrocities being perpetrated in their name.
The Gaza massacre directly serves the interests of Netanyahu and the Israeli right. Netanyahu was in political trouble, unable to form a government and facing corruption charges. Now he can present himself as the heroic defender of the Israeli people.
The 2014 incursion into Gaza killed 2000 people, mainly civilians, but did not crush Hamas. Two hundred Hamas fighters died, but so did 200 Israeli soldiers. Since then, the Israeli blockade has made life more and intolerable for ordinary people. Now the grief of thousands of loved ones is added to the misery of wrecked buildings and ruined lives.
End the massacre in Gaza! Solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight against the Israeli apartheid state!