Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport, 2017. Photo: Flickr/Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Shabbir Lakha calls on the movement to be loud and clear in its opposition to Zionism

When Donald Trump announced that the US would be recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, it was the first sign of the mask of international diplomacy, of the so-called peace process championed by the US, slipping. A year and a half later, that house of cards has well and truly tumbled to the ground and exposed the rank and rotten reality behind it.

The announcement itself, alongside his ramblings of a “Deal of the century” to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict, hammered the final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution. It was clear that Jerusalem, which is half illegally annexed and has been considered a “final-status issue” since the Oslo Accords, would now be off the table in any future negotiation brokered by the US. The peace process has been a mechanism used by the United States and its allies to maintain the status quo of occupation and apartheid of Palestine, and Trump’s upheaval of the process has worked to intensify the attacks on Palestinians and further erode their rights and prospects.

Since the announcement, Trump has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and given legitimacy to Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is its “undivided and eternal capital” – a pretext Netanyahu has used to ramp up house demolitions and settlement-building in East Jerusalem, and further restrict Palestinian movement and access to the Al Aqsa Mosque. Trump has cancelled US funding of UNRWA, the agency responsible for supporting almost 6 million Palestinian refugees and funding schools and medical facilities in the West Bank and Gaza.

In June 2018, Trump quit the UN Human Rights Council stating one of its reasons as bias against Israel and earlier this year he recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights which has been illegally occupied from Syria since 1967. Like the Jerusalem announcement, this decision had immediate and widespread ramifications.

In the run-up to the Israeli Elections in April, Netanyahu made an explicit pledge to annex the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since winning the election, planning for this has begun, and there is talk of the whole of Area C (around 60% of the West Bank) being annexed. Any pretence of respecting international law or caring about democracy and human rights has gone out of the window as Israel prepares to formally institutionalise a system of Bantustans and apartheid.

It is no exaggeration to say that Palestinians today are on the verge of facing a second Nakba.

Trump’s rash behaviour and Netanyahu’s increasing boldness in attacking Palestinians has forced world leaders to denounce their actions. But the faux outrage is laid bare when it comes to Israel’s barbaric assault on the Palestinians in Gaza.

Since March 2017, Gazans have been protesting at the border to demand their inalienable right to return to their homeland and live with peace and dignity. They have been met with indiscriminate sniper fire (with snipers likely supplied by Britain) that has killed over 250 Palestinians including children, medics and journalists, and over 20,000 have been injured – the vast majority with targeted gunshot wounds in their limbs to stop them participating in the Great Return March.

In the span of 48 hours in the first week of May, 25 Palestinians, including a pregnant mother and her infant child, were ruthlessly murdered in mass aerial bombardment. Instead of calling out Israel’s actions, the mainstream media and world leaders have condemned the Palestinians for homemade rocket fire, as if there is any equivalence and they came out of nowhere. There is no context provided of the Palestinians shot down at the border fence or the fact that the 12 year siege on Gaza has created an open air prison for its 2 million inhabitants.

When conditions continue to deteriorate, peaceful protest and non-violent tactics of resistance like BDS are outlawed, and violent resistance is met with collective punishment from one of the world’s strongest military forces, it’s clear that there is no acceptable way for Palestinians to oppose the oppression they face.

In the West, particularly in Britain and the US, we have a duty to oppose our governments’ uncritical support for Israel and send our solidarity to the people of Palestine to remind them that they are not alone in their struggle.

The Palestine solidarity and BDS movements are growing on both sides of the Atlantic and in Britain we have a Leader of the Opposition who has always supported Palestine. It’s why there is a huge campaign by the establishment and the right to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism and to target anyone that shares solidarity with Palestine.

We have to resist. We need to oppose the attempt to culturally whitewash Israel’s crimes through the Boycott Eurovision campaign. We must be vocal in our anti-Zionism and visible in our support for Palestine on the streets. When Donald Trump comes to Britain on 4 June, we not only have to shut down the city, but also ensure that the streets of London are draped in Palestinian flags.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.