Lindsey German on the centrality of resistance to Israeli oppression and US imperialism
Palestine has once again become the issue in international politics with an explosion of rage and anger across Israel and the occupied territories, and throughout the world movements in solidarity with the Palestinian people springing into life. There has been ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem, vicious pogroms by far-right Jewish settlers in Jerusalem and in Israeli towns, brutal policing which has seen demonstrators shot dead, aerial bombardment of Gaza – resulting in deaths, destruction and the deliberate targeting of journalists in the Associated Press and Al Jazeera building.
All of this has produced a rage similar to the bombardments of Gaza in 2008-9 and 2014 – but if anything, reactions may be even stronger. There is talk of a third Intifada (or uprising) among the Palestinians, as those in Jordan try to cross the border and Arabs in Israeli towns fight against the authorities and the far right in a way that has not been seen before. Meanwhile the demonstrations in Britain and no doubt elsewhere look set to be even larger than previously.
Netanyahu’s government is corrupt and unstable, and he is pushing the Palestinians beyond endurance – endorsing the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, launching air strikes on Gaza, effectively annexing large parts of the West Bank for illegal settlements. The effect in the last week, coming during the holy month of Ramadan when the Israeli forces launched attacks on the al Aqsa mosque, has shown that his moves have only united different sections of Palestinians and ignited protest.
The claim that the extremely militarised Israel, with one of the biggest armies in the world, a sophisticated air force and a missile defence system which protects most of the country, is only defending itself would be laughable if it were not so deadly for those suffering. The arming of Israel and the funding and political support it gets from the western powers – and especially the US and Britain – allows it to act with impunity. Israel is central to western imperialism’s strategy in the Middle East and is part of a set of alliances including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
This is why the EU, Britain and the US line up to support Israel and to try to marginalise any criticism of it or any solidarity with the Palestinians. We rarely hear the real story of the Nakba in 1948 which drove the Palestinians off their land and established a Jewish state. Those made refugees have no right to return there while any Jew from anywhere in the world has the right to live in Israel. Gaza is effectively an open prison and is under siege. And the West Bank and Jerusalem are being dismembered and annexed by illegal settlements.
The illegality of Israel’s actions is clear – not least its latest targeting of the press – but is in some ways beside the point. Its backing from some of the most powerful countries in the world allows it to continue to defy international law and bodies like the United Nations remain toothless. Nor can the Palestinians expect support from the leaders of Arab states who make sympathetic noises but do nothing to challenge this situation.
The long-standing plight of the Palestinians is desperate – as refugees, suffering real oppression in Israel, and under attack in the Occupied Territories. They need international support, not from mealy mouthed governments but from solidarity movements around the world who must put pressure on governments to stop supporting Israel politically, to stop funding and arming it and to demand justice for Palestine.
The Stop the War march in 2003 against the Iraq war also had the slogan Freedom for Palestine because we understood these issues were connected. We have demonstrated in large numbers over Gaza in 2009 and 2014. The solidarity movement has been under attack in recent years in Britain and elsewhere. We have been told that we are supporting terrorists, and that criticism of Israel is antisemitic. We should reject both arguments – we are supporting the people of Palestine who have a right to resist occupation. And we can oppose antisemitism at the same time as criticising Israel.
The marches in London and elsewhere are a sign of the rebirth of that movement. It needs building. It’s also a sign of something else: a number of us argued that as lockdown eased there would be an eruption of protest and struggle against all the pent-up grievances that people feel. We have already seen protests over Sarah Everard and Kill the Bill, but the ones this weekend have been on a much bigger scale. This is likely to be the start of something big – hopefully on Palestine but also on a range of other issues expressed in the People’s Assembly demo in June.
Perhaps as importantly, protests over Palestine show that British politics has lots of openings for the left. The demos bring together a very diverse group of people and they are very working class. They are also young. The task for socialists is to build these movements but also to argue the importance of linking the different class issues together in one big movement for change.
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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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