The AWL can be relied upon to come up with dreadful positions on the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. But they have outdone themselves with the Martin Thomas article on the current Israeli offensive against Gaza.
This article takes a studiedly neutral position between Hamas and Israel, fails to identify correctly the root of the present conflict, and is no different from that put out by Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy. Astonishingly, it manages to be worse than the statements put out by Keir Starmer, and much worse than the position of left US Democrat icon Bernie Sanders.
Thomas condemns both the rockets from Gaza and the Israeli attack. He says: ‘The bombing of Gaza by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a characteristically disproportionate and brutal use of overwhelming military superiority (it is reported to have killed ten children so far). Israel has a right to defend itself, to deter attacks on its civilian population like the rockets of Hamas, but that general right does not justify the escalation.’
Calling the Israeli attack on Gaza ‘disproportionate’ is like calling a school mass shooting ‘excessive’. Socialists, internationalists, and anti-imperialists should condemn the attack outright.
Thomas’ article gives the impression that the attack on Gaza was a response to the pathetically ineffective Hamas rockets. This is false. The Israeli attack, while serving Netanyahu’s immediate political needs, was well prepared and is part of Israel’s systematic attempt to wreck the infrastructure of Gaza and reduce its population to penury and misery. This is collective punishment of the Gaza population for having twice elected Hamas governments.
Collective punishment of civilian populations is specifically banned by the Geneva Convention, which was signed by Israel in 1951, and ratified as part of customary international law by the UN in 1963. Collective punishment of the civilian population is, in fact, the daily routine of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and of the ongoing siege of Gaza.
It is inherent in Western media coverage of the Gaza massacre that the BBC, and even Channel 4 News, present this conflict as ‘fighting’, as an ongoing ‘battle’ between two armies in a war. It is not, but presenting it this way, as does Martin Thomas, is the mealy-mouthed hypocrisy which allows politicians across the political spectrum to call for ‘restraint on all sides’ and ‘de-escalation’.
Right-wing Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said: ‘I am appalled by reports that multiple civilians, including children, have been killed by air strikes in Gaza. Along with Hamas rocket attacks, we condemn all actions that endanger civilians in the strongest possible terms. Leaders on all sides must urgently seek de-escalation.’ A position identical to that of Martin Thomas.
Thomas fails to mention the uprising of Palestinian youth in Israel, the counter-attacks by Israeli mobs and far-right groups, and the mass Palestinian mobilisations on the West Bank, during which 11 have been killed by Israeli troops, in addition to the current total of 130 in Gaza. Another day, another massacre of Palestinians.
The AWL article fails to tell the truth about how the conflict started – because the truth clashes with their general position on Israel and Palestine. Commenting on the Hamas rockets, Martin Thomas says: ‘The pretext for the rockets was heavy-handed Israeli police action round the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan and threats to evict 13 Palestinian families from homes in a district of East Jerusalem which Jewish chauvinists have been targeting for decades on the grounds that the buildings were Jewish-owned before 1948.’
That’s it. No mention of the overall attempt to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem altogether. No mention of the continuous encroachment on Palestinian territory on the West Bank, with the obvious intention of driving the Palestinians out of the West Bank as well.
The AWL article is entitled ‘No to Netanyahu, No to Hamas!’ Shocking! Of course it is correct to say that Hamas rockets that threaten civilians are unjustified. We are opposed to any attack on civilians. But there is no equivalence between the Hamas rockets and the Israeli mega-blitz, aimed at massacre and terrorising a whole population. The AWL can’t see this because it is blind to the reality of Israel as a predatory colonial-settler state. They can’t see it because they fail to make the most elementary distinction between the crushing violence of the oppressor and the desperate reactive violence of the oppressed.
Not mentioned by Thomas is that the green light for this attack has been given by the pro-Israeli Biden government in Washington. Biden, of course, is less crude than Trump, who, following a meeting with Netanyahu, enthusiastically blurted out the idea that all West Bank Palestinians should move to Jordan. But essentially, it’s the same line: Israel has the right to defend itself. But this is not Israel defending itself.
A few improvised Hamas rockets are no real threat to Israel. They were fired in response to brutal attacks on Palestinian protestors by Israeli police in Jerusalem, who injured more than 300 with rubber bullets and stun grenades and doused the Al-Aqsa Mosque with tear gas. In a wider sense, they were fired in response to 70 years of violent dispossession.
There is no equivalence between the actions of the Israeli state and the Palestinians. There is no equivalence between Netanyahu and Hamas. This is a brutal, pre-planned massacre of Palestinians, mainly civilians, by a state armed to the teeth by imperialism. The AWL’s refusal to face these basic facts is shameful. The article by Martin Thomas on their website is a grotesque violation of internationalism, anti-racism, and solidarity with the oppressed.