Without Western support, Israel wouldn't be able to oppress the Palestinians with impunity, that's why our protests during the G7 summit are important, argues Shabbir Lakha
This week, the leaders of the most powerful nations on the planet will be gathering in Cornwall for the G7 summit. Together they represent almost half of the global economy. This week’s summit has been billed as an attempt to assert the West’s relevance on the world stage and ability to solve the biggest issues facing the planet.
From inadequate climate targets to weak tax reform proposals, the latter aim falls short of the mark. Far from solving the world’s problems, the leaders meeting in Cornwall are responsible for creating and perpetuating those problems. The decision to donate leftover Covid vaccines to the poorest countries rather than waive vaccine patents further entrenches a neocolonial system of aid dependency and will ensure many more avoidable deaths.
The same is true of the imperialist world order that the G7 countries are at the forefront of. The US, France, Germany and UK are among the top 6 arms dealers in the world making up more than half the world’s arms trade and having continued to increase their share of global arms exports even during the pandemic.
The recent escalation of violence against Palestinians is a case in point. Israel’s bombing campaign over the Gaza strip which lasted 11 days and killed over 240 Palestinians was met with support from Western countries. Macron stressed France’s “unwavering attachment” to Israel, Germany its “special responsibility for the security of Israel” and the US and UK repeatedly reasserted Israel’s “right to defend itself”.
On four occasions, Biden vetoed a UN call for a ceasefire, and in the middle of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, Biden approved a $735 million arms sale to Israel. Britain could not confirm that weapons and military equipment produced here were not being used to kill Palestinians.
The simple fact is that without Western diplomatic and military support, Israel would not be able to massacre Palestinians with impunity. On 20 May, Biden called Netanyahu to tell him he backed a ceasefire and the next day on 21 May, Israel agreed to a ceasefire that Hamas had been offering for at least a week.
The role of the West in the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people extends beyond the periodic bombing sprees on Gaza. While making mealy-mouthed statements about international law and holding positions that affirm the illegality of Israeli settlements, the West actively works to maintain the status quo.
This is a status quo of an all-encompassing occupation of the West Bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem including evictions of Palestinians in places like Sheikh Jarrah and expansion of Israeli settlements, the siege of Gaza, the refusal of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the legally-enshrined discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
While Biden has turned away from the disaster that would have been Trump’s “deal of the century” which would have seen Israel annex huge swathes of Palestine, what he supports in its place is essentially the same but less pronounced. The continuing displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, their complete lack of control under occupation is unofficial annexation that Israel has been carrying out since 1967.
By refusing to stand by international law that they claim to recognise, the US and UK are actively giving Israel the green light to continue oppressing Palestinians with impunity. Furthermore, the G7 leaders have tried to clampdown on activists in their countries campaigning in solidarity with Palestine.
In the recent crisis, Palestine protests were banned in Paris and those who turned up anyway were teargassed and fired on with water cannons. In Germany, Merkel seized on a minority of antisemitic incidents to denounce pro-Palestine protests and justify the arrests of over 100 protesters.
In the US, several states have adopted laws that outlaw BDS and some pro-Palestine protests have been heavily policed. In Britain, Gavin Williamson sent a letter to schools ordering them to clampdown on pro-Palestine sentiment and disciplinary measures against school students protesting, or even discussing Palestine. This follows the forcing of universities to adopt the controversial IHRA definition on antisemitism, and the smears on Jeremy Corbyn and the left over support for Palestine.
The lengths they are going to to attack Palestine solidarity is a testament to the strength and effectiveness of the movement. It is no coincidence that Biden caved on calling for a ceasefire after an outpouring of protests across the US which mobilised the Arab and Muslim populations together with anti-war and Black Lives Matter activists on a huge scale.
Protests met him wherever he travelled around the country and particularly in Dearborn, Michigan, where Palestinian congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was also seen giving him a piece of her mind. The left Democrats who have so far largely held back from criticising his administration suddenly became very vocal over Palestine.
In Britain, we’ve seen the biggest protest for Palestine in British history and dozens of sizable protests all over the country. At a moment when the Tories know there is widespread frustration with their handling of the pandemic, they fear an outpouring of anger on the streets – and especially on Palestine which gets to the heart of Whitehall’s imperialist foreign policy and brings together a wide section of society.
Israel all but admitted in its internal press that it is used to a routine of carrying out attacks on Palestinians up to the point that the international outrage forces its Western allies to pressure them to stop. We know the impact our movement has in a very immediate sense. But we also know that it’s the permanent campaigning for Palestine that has shaped public opinion in recent decades which has made the Palestinian cause popular and has played a role in giving confidence to activists in other countries around the world, and in Palestine itself, to keep fighting.
That’s why it’s so important at this moment of renewed struggle by the Palestinians that our movement is visible, loud and unrelenting. While Biden, Macron and Merkel are in town, this is our opportunity to show in clear terms to them and Boris Johnson that our solidarity doesn’t end with the bombs over Gaza, but until Palestine is truly free.
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Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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