March in Berlin in solidarity with the Palestinians, against Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. March in Berlin in solidarity with the Palestinians, against Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Photo: Hossam el-Hamalawy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.

In this, the final piece in our Nakba75: the roots of Israeli apartheid series, Michael Lavalette looks at the roll of international support and solidarity in the campaigns for Palestinian freedom

As we approach Nakba75 day, Israeli bombs fall on the Gaza strip and the weeks of settler violence against Palestinian communities on the West Bank continue apace. Palestine today is scarred by continuing violence against Palestinian communities. The death toll mounts, with the very youngest and the very oldest amongst the victims of Israeli aggression.

There are two on-going processes shaping Israeli approaches to Palestine and Palestinians. On the one hand there is an intensification of the destruction of Palestinian homes, of settlement expansion, of colonisation of Palestinian land and the expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and parts of the Negev. In a sense, this represents the continuation of the Nakba and the colonisation of Palestine.

On the other hand, there are increasing trends towards establishing a form of apartheid within the borders of Palestine48 as Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens and this unequal treatment is formalised within the legal and judicial apparatus of the Israeli state.

Given the on-going horrors of expulsion and apartheid, it is no surprise that the ‘question of Palestine’ has become such a significant international political issue. Support and solidarity for Palestinians and their ‘right of return’ has become an important part of the global anti-war, global justice and decolonisation movements. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has grown to become an established part of the ‘furniture’ of social-movement protest groups in Britain. Across the twenty-first century, despite attempts to label any pro-Palestinian movement as necessarily ‘antisemitic’, Palestine solidarity movements have grown across the globe.

Whenever Israel has attacked Gaza, for example, we have seen increasingly large protest movements gather on the streets demanding freedom for Palestine. Support for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) has grown and been adopted into the policies of social movements and trade-union organisations. Drawing inspiration from the anti-apartheid movement of the 1960s-1980s, it advocates for international campaigns to isolate and boycott apartheid Israel: to stop its attempts at ‘normalisation’ – that is, attempts to portray Israel as a country ‘like any other’ and to ignore its daily mistreatment of the Palestinians.

For socialists and activists in Britain, support for Palestine is particularly important. As we have made clear in this series, Britain has responsibility for the horror inflicted on the Palestinians. The Balfour Declaration committed the British Empire to support for a ‘Jewish homeland’ in Palestine. Britain and France were responsible for the carve up of the Middle East at the end of World War I. Britain gained control of Palestine under the Mandate of the League of Nations and used their position to support increasing levels of Jewish settlement in Palestine in the inter-war period. As Palestinians fought against their British Imperialist masters, Britain armed and trained Jewish bands to police and terrorise Palestinian communities.

We cannot turn our gaze away from the suffering of Palestine, because British Governments bear some of the responsibility. But this also raises a fundamental point: how can we best support the people of Palestine?

BDS is important and we need to ensure that all our labour and trade-union movement bodies are affiliated to the BDS campaign. Trade-union and social-movement delegations to Palestine are significant ways of generating solidarity and feeding back to comrades and colleagues the reality of what is happening on the ground.

But the best way for us to support the Palestinians is to take on our government in Britain. To build the strike campaigns against the cost-of-living crisis. To demand investment in welfare and health services that have been left to rot over the last decade. To overturn laws which restrict our right to protest. To campaign for refugee rights. To build the movement against war in Ukraine and the Middle East and to demand immediate action against climate change. And of course, to build a vibrant movement in support of Palestinian freedom.

Building these movements in Britain is a vital part of our solidarity with the Palestinians. A victory for us in these campaigns, means a defeat for the British government and British state – and that means a defeat for the state that was responsible, from Balfour and beyond, for the suffering of Palestine.

The Nakba75: the Roots of Israeli Apartheid series:
  1. Downward spiral: Settlers and state violence
  2. Palestine and the carve-up of the Middle East
  3. The origins of Zionism and the Balfour Declaration
  4. Palestinian resistance to Mandate rule
  5. What is settler colonialism?
  6. Al-Nakba: The ethnic cleansing of Palestine
  7. Israel: Watchdog for US imperialism
  8. Palestine: the key to freedom in the Middle East rests with the Arab working class
  9. Palestine and international solidarity

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