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  • Published in Opinion
Gaza protest on 19 July 2014. By Ricardo Esteban Pineda

Gaza protest on 19 July 2014. By Ricardo Esteban Pineda

A ceasefire is not enough - we need to step up the boycott, end the siege and fight for a free Palestine argues Lindsey German in today’s Morning Star

Why is Israel allowed to get away with it? That is the question on the lips of millions around the world as they watch the daily bombardment and destruction of Gaza. The bombing is deliberately targeting the essential resources of the people of Gaza.

Electricity has been knocked out by bombing. Schools being used as shelters have been hit by shells. Hospitals treating the wounded have themselves been the site of further death and injury.

Well over 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, many of them children. The area of Gaza is around a quarter of the size of London and is home to nearly two million people in one of the most crowded places on Earth. 

There hardly seem words to describe the horror of what the people there are going through.

The outrage among world public opinion is palpable. There have been protests across Europe and the US. In Britain two mass demonstrations in London, in the middle of the holiday period, have been accompanied by hundreds of smaller local protests.

Even the politicians have expressed concern over civilian casualties in Gaza. Philip Hammond and David Cameron, John Kerry and Barack Obama realise that there is a hideous mismatch between the state-of-the-art military technology supplied by the West and deployed by the Israelis and the very limited rocket power used by Hamas.

Even they must feel a sense of disquiet that Israelis justify this bombardment of people’s homes, hospitals and schools by phoning their victims to tell them they are about to be bombed. Even they must know in their hearts that there is nothing “proportionate” about Israel’s attack, which in its targeting of civilians is illegal under international law.

Yet the real story of this latest bombardment is the criminal complicity of the major powers which, even when they express a modicum of disagreement with Israel, act in every way to ensure that Israel is able to carry out these attacks.

If the US wanted to stop the misery of the people of Gaza, it could stop signing the cheques that ensure that Israel can arm itself in order to carry out attacks on the Palestinians. Instead it does the opposite. 

Only this week it was announced that the US is sending a new shipment of ammunition to Israel, since it is apparently running low. 

The UN has also said that it is earmarking money to rebuild Gaza after the bombardment. But it does little except wring its hands at the terrible devastation caused in the meantime.

As well as the politicians doing nothing, they parrot the narrative which the Israelis want the world to believe — that the Palestinians are the aggressors, that Israel is only defending itself against terrorism and that civilians are being deliberately being placed in danger by Hamas. 

In this they are backed up by the BBC, which has repeatedly interviewed Israeli spokesmen with barely a word of criticism.

There is scarcely a word about the illegal settlements on the West Bank, the apartheid wall which makes life so difficult for ordinary Palestinians, the siege of Gaza which is denying its people the right to the most basic amenities, the settlements of Jerusalem or the harassment of pro-Palestinian political parties in Israel. 

No context is offered which explains the removal of the Palestinians from their land in 1948, the occupation of land since 1967, the encroachment on more and more land, the criminalisation of those who have fought back from the 1960s onwards or the branding as terrorists those who defend their rights.

The failure of governments to act is not an oversight but the result of deliberate policy that backs Israel as a key Western ally in the Middle East. 

This extends beyond the US and EU governments to countries such as Egypt, which controls the Rafah crossing in the south of Gaza but which is allowing the Gazans to suffer.

That’s why Israel’s deliberate flouting of agreements and international law meets with very little sanction internationally. 

Russia is sanctioned for supplying arms to eastern Ukraine, but the US suffers no such constraint for supplying arms to Israel.

The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has grown internationally in recent years, at least partly fuelled by disgust at the failure of governments to seriously challenge what Israel is doing. 

There are now a wide range of activities at grass-roots level which try to boycott and place some economic and cultural constraint on Israel. 

Every week there are protests at shops and other companies which stock Israeli goods.

The wider movement in support of the Palestinians has been transformed in recent years. 

Trade unions have for the most part come out in support, a result of ever-closer links and solidarity delegations to the West Bank and Gaza.

The anti-war movement formed in 2001 has from its inception taken up the question of Palestine. 

It has always recognised the connection between Israel and Palestine and the wider war on terror, with many of us arguing that the situation is connected to the wider role of Western imperialism in the Middle East.

The demonstrations have been aimed in solidarity with the Palestinians, but have also been aimed at our own government. 

They are taking place up and down the country, along with banner drops, vigils, public meetings and other forms of solidarity. 

Every day this war crime continues, the movement gets larger. But a ceasefire is not enough.

We need to step up the boycott, end the siege and keep fighting for a free Palestine.

There is one message we must send to our government — we will not put up with your complicity any longer.

Lindsey German

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.

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