With Trump and Netanyahu wreaking havoc, it's time for mass solidarity with Palestine, argues Lindsey German
The demonstration in support of the Palestinians in London next week is of extraordinary importance. It marks the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, when Palestinians were driven from their homes and land around the time of the creation of the state of Israel.
Since then, Palestinians have made up the largest single group of refugees in the world, dispersed in very large numbers to Jordan and other neighbouring countries, but also to every continent. They have no right to return to live in Israel, even though this is a right which every Jew anywhere in the world is allowed.
But this year’s anniversary has to mark not just this continuing injustice to the Palestinian people. It also has to highlight the acceleration of attempts by Israel’s government to control ever more areas of Palestinian land, and of the international backing which makes these developments so dangerous.
In addition, it has one more very important function: to recommit to building a mass campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and to ensure that opposition to Israel’s policies is widened and deepened.
The successive attempts by the Palestinians to obtain redress and justice for the wrongs against them have been met with increasing repression and rejection of even the very limited Palestinian aspiration for its own state alongside Israel. We have seen the demonization of successive movements for liberation, both of the PLO and Hamas. We have seen military onslaughts against the Palestinians, with major air attacks in 2009 and 2014 on Gaza.
Today, the people of Gaza are subject to blockade by Israel, leading to serious shortages of essentials and the effective imprisonment of the population there. The Return marches, which have gone on for over a year, have seen the killing and the mass maiming of civilians from Israeli gunfire.
In the West Bank, illegal settlements are proliferating, as they are in Jerusalem. Houses and land are taken from Palestinians and given to the settlers.
Condemnation by UN resolutions, welcome though it is, makes little difference, as the newly re-elected and emboldened prime minister Netanyahu ploughs on with his policies.
He could not do so without the help of governments around the world. These include the neighbouring Arab states, who pay lip service to Palestinian rights but who will do nothing to upset financial and security relations with Israel.
But above all Netanyahu has been aided by the US in the form of president Donald Trump. Trump has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, has cut US money for the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which funds many of the Palestinian refugee camps, has endorsed the illegal settlements. Most recently he has recognised Israeli jurisdiction over the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. To many, this is regarded as only a prelude to annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank and the destruction of anything resembling a Palestinian state.
Behind Trump’s and Netanyahu’s actions loom the threat of new wars in the Middle East, most obviously with Iran – brought closer by Trump’s policies of tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran and targeting its oil industry.
Here in Britain, we have a supine government which may be worried about Trump’s and Netanyahu’s approach but will do nothing to challenge their basic priorities. The people of the Middle East are strongly in solidarity with the Palestinians, in contrast to their rulers. So too in Britain we have shown that mass solidarity can be built. We have to redouble our efforts to do so now.
The movement is still organised but needs to regain the strength that we have seen repeatedly over the past ten years. There have been systematic attempts to weaken the movement which have to be resisted. May 11th can be a step in that direction. And when Trump visits Britain on 3-5 June, the Palestine movement must play a major part in mobilising against him.
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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