Pro-Palestinian protesters at Westminster, January 2024. Photo: Flickr/Steve Eason Pro-Palestinian protesters at Westminster, January 2024. Photo: Flickr/Steve Eason

Lindsey German on the ongoing imperialist onslaught and the junior doctors at home

How much longer is our government going to collude with the genocide going on in Palestine? Three months on and the terror doesn’t stop. Israel is pummelling Gaza, with the north of the strip left uninhabitable and the south facing incessant bombardment. The humanitarian crisis gets worse, with agencies warning of a total breakdown of society and dangerous health problems for the population.

Yet the silence from Rishi Sunak and David Cameron is deafening. This is despite members of the Netanyahu cabinet calling for the removal of Palestinians from Gaza – either to neighbouring Arab countries or even to the Congo;  the increasing evidence of war crimes including repeated attacks on schools and hospitals; the case about ‘genocidal acts’ put by the South African government to the International Court of Justice, which shows the growing discontent from most governments across the world at the continuing brutality of Israel’s action. South Africa more than most is a country which has witnessed ‘international law’ doing nothing to stop the oppressors.

The British government is allowing Israel to act with complete impunity, following as usual US imperialism which has backed Israel to the hilt. Weapons and artillery are provided with no restraint, including from the US arms dumps that it keeps in the Middle east. Most dangerously, the war is now being extended throughout the Middle East, with the Red Sea naval force aimed at challenging the Houthis involving US, UK and European countries’ vessels. The targeted assassination by Israel last week of Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut has been condemned by the Lebanese prime minister and by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah, but it is of a piece with US actions as well.

The US has in recent weeks killed Houthi militants in the Red Sea, a senior member of a militia in Baghdad, and has struck Hezbollah targets in Iraq. Israel and the US between them have bombed or sent missiles into Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. The tactics of targeted assassinations are themselves counterproductive, but they also fail to understand the political reasons for supporting the Palestinians lie in the continued occupation and oppression that they suffer.

To all of this, US and British politicians have raised virtually no criticism even as Netanyahu seems to relish extending the war onto even more fronts. The danger of this escalating much further is of course obvious to the US and its allies, hence the latest emergency visit by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the attempts to try to extend ‘humanitarian pauses’ – pretty much a total failure, and the desperate diplomacy to ensure that the Arab rulers keep their own populations in check.

Already Hezbollah has launched a major rocket attack on northern Israel in retaliation for al-Arouri’s assassination, and it is clear that whatever restraint has been exercised so far in Lebanon and in Iran, it is becoming increasingly under strain as the war continues.

Here the double standards of the British government have been clearly on display in its own pronouncements and in much of the media as Russian missiles striking Kyiv are reported with great seriousness, and human-interest stories from British reporters on the ground lead news bulletins. The war there is terrible and leading to large numbers of injuries and deaths, but the truth is that Israel’s bombing of Gaza has been much more intense and deadly. While those of us who oppose the war in Ukraine call for a ceasefire, we also do in Gaza. The British government refuses to countenance one in either place. Keir Starmer travelled to Estonia just before Xmas to visit British troops and dress in (summer) camouflage uniform, visually demonstrating his support for war and aggression. His commitment to a bipartisan policy over Gaza is further evidence of this.

These stances are causing problems for politicians here, especially Starmer, as many Labour voters are disgusted by his refusal to condemn what is going on. They are also causing big problems in an election year for Joe Biden, as opposition grows to his support for Netanyahu. The mass movement round Palestine has been one of the major sources of opposition to the genocide, and it continues to grow, with a Global Day of Action planned for next Saturday 13th, including mass demos in London and Washington and actions across the world.

But the Palestine movement faces opposition from sections of the media – witness the appallingly ignorant Julia Hartley-Brewer insulting Mustafa Barghouti – and in general the Israeli narrative is treated much more sympathetically than that of the Palestinians. This isn’t helped by the fact that Israel refuses to let western journalists report freely from Gaza and that so many Palestinian journalists have been killed – many of them targeted – while they try to tell the truth about what is happening.

And in the US there has been a major witch hunt against the heads of several elite universities (all of them women) about the pro Palestine demonstrations on their campuses. This was initiated by the Republican right but has been picked up by the liberals as well, who question the use of ‘genocidal slogans’ by which they mean ‘from the river to the sea/Palestine will be free’ or ‘globalise the intifada’. Thus they impose their interpretation of our slogans and try to criminalise them.

These attacks – and many more – makes the solidarity movement even more important. In an election year here and in the US, Palestine has to be central to politics. We need to be on the streets, but also to make the ideological arguments about why supporting Palestine is not a crime, but the duty of all those who oppose oppression.

Where the blame lies

Who’s to blame for the crisis in the NHS? According to managers and politicians it’s the junior doctors, who have been on strike both before and after Xmas. What a cheek. These are the same managers and politicians who have privatised, cut funding, and outsourced NHS services. They have presided over record levels of waiting lists. More doctors leave this country to work abroad than in any other rich European country because of lousy wages and conditions.

The junior doctors are heroes – they work very long hours, they are highly dedicated, and the backbone of the NHS – and for them to go on strike tells you how bad the situation is. If we want to save the NHS, a starting point is to support all the industrial action from doctors, nurses and other workers. They would not do it if it wasn’t necessary. And they know better than anyone how bad the service is and how fighting for them also means fighting for better services.

This also applies to RMT members on strike this week on the London tube. They are under attack from TfL, including the London mayor who should be standing up to the Tories trying to cut London’s transport system. In every industrial dispute over the past 18 months, the workers have been denounced as greedy, but their fight has always been about defending and improving conditions as much as about pay. So solidarity to all those out on strike this week.

Turn up the pressure on the Post Office

I’m very pleased that Mr Bates vs The Post Office is leading to further pressure on those who persecuted sub postmasters and ruined the lives of thousands of people. Even the Tory government is recognising the backlash and now trying to expedite appeals – as it should have done years ago. The more I look at it, the more incredible it seems that the Post Office and its lawyers acted as they did because they would not consider any problems with the computer system, provided by multinational Fujitsu. Instead they threw everything into legal action which should never have been brought. It’s symbolic of what is so wrong with British capitalism, and the arrogance of those representing the capitalist class. Well done to those who made the ITV film that brought this to the attention of millions. You can read my review here.

This week: is mainly organising for the big demonstration next Saturday 13th in London, with lots of meetings and activities. Please join it if you can.

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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’.