Gaza, October 2023. Gaza, October 2023. Photo: Wafa via Wikimedia commons

Israel’s bombing of the Al-Ahli hospital is the latest in a long history of war crimes; our response must be to build a mass solidarity movement

The Israelis are about to launch a ground offensive on Gaza as we write. On Tuesday, they bombed the Al-Ahli Hospital killing over 500 Palestinian health workers, patients and civilians sheltering from the bombing. Already, thousands have been killed, water is cut off, which will lead to further deaths, and the 2.3 million people there are imprisoned. They have no way out, and no humanitarian aid is being allowed in.

These are war crimes; it is the collective punishment of a whole population, given tacit support by the main western governments and taking place while US president visits Israel to show support. The lies that Israel is only defending itself, or that it is concerned with fighting terrorism, are not borne out by even a cursory glance at history. This shows that systematic oppression, suppression and ethnic cleansing has been the fate of the Palestinians.

The crisis in the Middle East, which is causing immense suffering, can only be understood by grasping the history of the region and it will only be ended when the Palestinians win their freedom. The roots of the conflict lie in decades of persecution and oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state.  

The Israeli state was founded in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven off their land, and many of their villages completely destroyed, in what has come to be known as the Nakba, the catastrophe.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, another 300,000 Palestinians were forced out of the territories captured by the Israelis. Once again, the Israelis razed many Palestinian villages to the ground.

Despite serial promises from Western leaders and a tortuous peace process, the situation for Palestinians worsened in the decades that followed. For all its hand wringing, the so-called ‘international community’ did nothing as Israeli state persecution continued and Israeli settlement led to the further erosion of Palestinian land.

Two mass Palestinian uprisings or intifadas, which started in 1987 and 2000, were put down by the Israelis with the utmost brutality. Even the tiny enclaves that are allowed nominal self-government are regularly attacked and bombarded. The open prison of the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s most densely populated piece of land, was attacked by the Israeli military in 2008-9, 2012, 2014 and 2021 with terrible loss of life each time.

Peace marches to Israel’s borders in 2018 were viciously attacked by Israeli soldiers. It is no surprise that a people under such sustained attack have reached boiling point.

While Hamas is very far from socialist politics, it was elected as the government in Gaza because the Western deal with the PLO delivered nothing for Palestinians, and entirely failed to halt the violence of the Israeli state. Polls show that if there were an election today Hamas would win 52% while the PLO would get 32%. Most Palestinians now favour a single-state solution, not the two-state solution favoured by the PLO.

Uneven conflict

The conflict is completely uneven. Israel is one of the most heavily militarised states in the world, armed to the teeth by the Western powers, the US and Britain above all, who use Israel to enforce their interests across the Middle East. Israel deploys its military might against a people impoverished by years of expulsions, sanctions, blockades and assaults.

While Israel is backed by the most powerful nations in the world, even most of the Arab governments in the region have done little to back the Palestinian struggle. Despite the record of violence, the British government and the media give unconditional support to Israel, while denouncing and even threatening anyone who stands with the Palestinians. Disgracefully, the Starmer Labour leadership has silenced those who support Palestine in the Labour Party.

The hope for the future lies in the resistance of the Palestinian people and in the magnificent solidarity across the region and around the world that their resistance inspires. The Arab uprisings of 2011, which toppled two regimes, had solidarity with the Palestinian people at their heart. There have since regularly been massive pro-Palestinian mobilisations across the region.

The solution lies in a democratic secular state in which people of all faiths and none live side by side, as they have for hundreds of years before the interventions of the imperialist powers in the region. This is something that can only be achieved by a mass movement of the Arab working classes across the Middle East.

Our job in Britain is to build the biggest possible movement in support of the Palestinians in our workplaces, trade unions, universities and communities and to mobilise as widely as possible. We have a fantastic record of protesting and demonstrating in Britain in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The huge national demo last weekend had a real impact on British politics and was seen throughout the Arab world. We need to build this solidarity to even greater levels.

Such a mass movement is the best answer to those who are trying to suppress freedom of speech on this issue. It can push back against our government’s backing for Israel and give inspiration to the people in Palestine and across the Middle East fighting for freedom.

Join the emergency demonstration at Downing Street Wednesday 18 October.

Rally for Palestine Friday 20 October.

National Demonstration for Palestine Saturday 21 October.

Before you go

If you liked this article, please consider getting involved. Counterfire is a revolutionary socialist organisation working to build the movements of resistance and socialist ideas. Please join us and help make change happen.

Tagged under: