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National demonstration for Gaza, July 2014. Photo: Ricardo Esteban Pineda

National demonstration for Gaza, July 2014. Photo: Ricardo Esteban Pineda

11 May is the mobilisation that the movement’s been waiting for, reports Sybil Cock

Last month Yousef al-Daya became the forty-eighth child to be killed by Israeli fire by the fence that imprisons Gaza. In the same week, 115 Palestinians were injured, including 16 children, ten women, a journalist and a paramedic. The total death toll since the start of the Great Return March last year is over 250. Two Israeli soldiers have died.

In addition, many of the injuries are life-altering. Surgeons have noted many identical wounds, usually in the knee. There have been countless amputations, carried out in underfunded hospitals with unreliable electricity.

Expulsion

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Israel is targeting protestors to deliberately cripple them. This makes Israel the most sadistic army in the world; the massacres are on a par with South Africa’s Sharpeville and Britain’s Amritsar.

It is estimated that over a quarter of the adult male population of Palestine has been in an Israeli prison, mostly for acts like attending demonstrations that would not be proscribed elsewhere.

The Great Return March calls for an end to the Israeli state’s blockade of Gaza and for the right of refugees to return to the land they fled in 1948 on the foundation of Israel.  This mass expulsion is known in Arabic as the Nakba (catastrophe) and arguably Palestine is facing a new Nakba now. 

Trump is preparing his ‘deal of the century’ but we know the bones of it already. The strategy is to pauperise Palestinians into accepting Netanyahu’s humiliating terms. Seven-hundred million dollars has been cut from the Palestine Authority’s budget in recent months. Israel withholds $138m in Palestinian tax revenue on the spurious grounds that Palestine pays welfare benefits to prisoners’ families.

Refugees are central to this process. United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides health, education and emergency assistance to millions of Palestinians in the region. In September, Trump announced that the US is cutting its entire contribution to UNRWA.

The plan is to remove refugee status from the descendants of the 1948 and 1967 expulsions. It may also involve further annexation of parts of the West Bank – this is already de facto the case in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Jericho, where the famous Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin village, among others, faces demolition to make way for more illegal settlers.  

Scourge

Make no mistake about Israel’s determination to delegitimise solidarity with Palestinians. Since the collapse of the Clinton-era ‘peace process’, Israel has poured money into covert operations against international Palestinian solidarity. London is clearly and correctly identified as a hub of resistance. Netanyahu has been openly cosying up with Arab state leaders in the name of backing US-led aggression against Iran.  And, importantly, he associates closely with virulent European antisemites from Hungary, Poland and Austria.

The last two years’ targeting of Corbyn’s Labour as an antisemitic party has been partly effective – we are beginning to police our own criticisms of Israel, while deprioritising the real scourge of antisemitism across Europe.

Victories

But the Palestine Solidarity movement in the UK has never been stronger with real victories for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. These include the global bank HSBC’s disinvestment from Elbit Sytems, the notorious Israel-based bomb and drone manufacturer.  

The national demonstration called for 11 May could not be timelier or more important. We have to ensure a massive presence and one that gives clear expression to the full breadth of UK Palestinian solidarity, especially within the trade union movement.

Our solidarity matters to Palestinians, and it matters to us.

The National Demonstration for Palestine will be assembling at 12 noon on Saturday 11 May at Portland Place W1A 1AA. Organisers include Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War & Friends of Al-Aqsa.

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