Rishi Sunak at Downing Street, April 2024. Photo: Flickr/Simon Dawson

Lindsey German argues that the Tory leader will pay for his warmongering

So French president Emmanuel Macron is ‘outraged’ at Israel’s attack on Rafah which has killed up to 50 people, while EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell is ‘horrified’. What did they expect would happen after time and again the representatives of the ludicrously named ‘international rules-based order’ have condemned the issue of warrants for war crimes against Netanyahu, have allowed Israel to ignore any strictures, and to deliberately flout the pronouncements of the ICJ? Did they really think that the repeated claims that ‘Israel has a right to defend itself’ would hold the IDF in check? Or that the refusal to back any sanctions or boycott Israel’s participation in events such as Eurovision would lead to the Zionists behaving reasonably?

This was a deliberate attack on some of the most defenceless people on earth, who had already fled other areas of the Gaza Strip and were living in tents in the most appalling conditions. It is by no means the first such attack, but it is particularly brutal given the invasion of Rafah has been a disaster foretold for many weeks now, and Netanyahu knew exactly what he was doing in going ahead.

The history of the Gaza war is already being written, and the judgement on Biden, Sunak, the EU and the other major powers is only going to get worse as time goes on. As with the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, or for many years with apartheid South Africa, Israel simply could not do what it does without the complicity and full backing of these powers. The events in Rafah at the weekend obviously constitute another war crime. Despite these events and others cementing Israel’s stature as a pariah state, it is as clear as ever that governments will not stop the behaviour of the hard right regime.

We are in the middle of an election here in Britain and it is election year in the US. These governments need to know that there is a mass solidarity movement which will continue campaigning on the streets but also for BDS. The demand of ‘no ceasefire, no vote’ should be central to this but of course it is not enough. Gaza has highlighted not just the appalling events of recent months but the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation of their land and the need for justice – which includes the right of return for all Palestinians.

This takes on an added importance when we look at the way the election is being fought. Rishi Sunak’s ‘bright new idea’ of national service for all 18-year-olds tells you exactly how much he wants to fight the election on ‘culture wars’. National service – where young men were conscripted even in peacetime – was abolished in 1960. Few can now remember it. The more the Second World War retreats into memory (and hardly any of those who actually fought in it are still alive), the more those nostalgic for empire and war try to glorify it.

Even Starmer has attacked the idea – few 18-year-olds want to give up a year of their lives to join the army, or a weekend a month to be an auxiliary policeman or firefighter. Even the military don’t want it, because they would much rather have a regular army which is ideologically motivated than a load of resentful conscripts. So it appeals to those not old enough to have fought in the war or even to have experienced as children, but those slightly younger for whom it has become a nationalistic symbol.

Army recruitment is aimed at young people from households on around £10,000 a year – so those experiencing poverty and frequent unemployment. They are the ones who will have to fight in any war, not the privileged children of the Tories.

Yet there is a serious side to this. Both main parties have played up the supposed threat to Britain from Russia, have called for more weapons to be sent to Ukraine, and have pledged to increase ‘defence’ spending and commit long term to nuclear weapons. There is no clear water between the two main parties (or indeed most of the others) on these questions. Starmer is obsessed with being seen draped in the Union Jack and visits traditional Tory areas to pledge his patriotism and support for war.

These are dangerous times, and the politicians are helping to make them even more dangerous. The worldwide arms race continues and is getting worse. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza can be presages of what is to come. Or we can fight against arming Israel, sending weapons to Ukraine and building up a new cold war with Russia and China.

Solidarity with Gaza is the key to the defeating this agenda. That means ensuring it stays central to the election campaign and supporting those candidates who are prepared to make it so.

This week: I’ll be demonstrating later today opposite Downing Street against what has happened in Rafah.

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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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