By KD Tait
THERE WERE a lot of Labour people on Saturday’s demo for the 15 Gazans murdered in cold blood by Israel – but there was not one Labour MP among them.
The protest was so supportable, called by Palestine solidarity campaigns to protest the murder of 31 civilians by Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza strip.
Yes, Jeremy Corbyn sent a statement to be read out on his behalf, which clearly condemned the killings and called for a review of arms sales to Israel. Yes, it is right that Corbyn spoke out, given the furious campaign mounted by pro-Israel groups in recent weeks.
But where were they? The absence of even one Labour MP is scandalous. The only explanation is that there was a deliberate instruction to stay away.
This shows that the Zionist opponents of Palestinian solidarity have succeeded in terrorising opinion within the party to the extent that even the shooting of dozens of civilians could not stir a single Labour MP into demonstrating the most basic act of solidarity.
Those who stand with the oppressed and against the oppressor will bring down the fury of the whole establishment on their heads.
Jeremy Corbyn is being demonised because he has a courageous record of standing up for the Palestinians, for the Anti-Apartheid movement, of opposing the crimes of the British state.
But his conspicuous absence from recent demonstrations speaks volumes about the power of the ruling class and its agents to tame opposition.
Labour people were on Saturday’s demonstration. Members and supporters travelled from across the country. Some canvassers came straight from the doorstep to show their solidarity, and then went back to carry on canvassing after.
These grassroots members are the lifeblood of the labour movement and all progressive causes. All the more shameful that not one of our MPs used their profile and platform to stand up for the victims of this blatant colonial violence – in the process kowtowing to Labour’s enemies.
The latest killings in Gaza are Israel’s response to the ‘Great Return March’, a series of weekly protests to raise awareness of the Palestinians’ demand for the right to return to the lands they were driven from with the foundation of the Israeli state.
On the first day 19 people were shot dead. A week later nine people were killed, including the prominent local journalist Yasser Murtaja. Israeli occupation forces described the peaceful crowds of families and children as “terrorists” trying to “invade” Israel. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman defended the killings, declaring “there are no innocent people in Gaza.”
Despite the lethal repression, and the world’s inaction, the protests will continue until 15 May, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba – ‘Catastrophe’ – when almost a million Palestinians were forced to flee in a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias.
Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants have been trapped inside the besieged enclave for over ten years, as punishment for electing the Islamist Hamas party in democratic elections. Most of the young people killed in the past fortnight will have never left the giant open air concentration camp.
In 2009 and 2014, Israeli launched devastating attacks on the strip, deploying indiscriminate artillery and aerial bombardment, using white phosphorus which is banned for use in urban areas, and flattening much of the region’s infrastructure. Thousands of civilians were killed, including hundreds of children.
For seven decades Israel has been given a free rein by Britain, the former colonial ruler of mandate Palestine, and then the USA, to carve out a Jewish settler-state by ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. The self-described ‘democracy’ can only claim a majority by systematically excluding Palestinians from their territory and their rights.
Israel imposes an apartheid system on the occupied Palestinians. It arrests children and imprisons them following show trials in military kangaroo courts. It vindictively punishes the people of Gaza by preventing the import of vital building and medial supplies. Its police and settler militias harass and kill Palestinians with weapons bought from the UK.
Unlike the so-called ‘rogue states’ like Russia and Iran that get criticised every day by western imperialism, Israel is allowed to operate a regime of terror over the Palestinians with total impunity.
The hypocrisy of Israel’s imperialist allies, like former colonial rulers of the middle east like Britain and France and current global overlord America, never fails to plumb new depths. When Russia is accused of assassinating a former spy, dozens of countries are whipped into a spectacle of standing up to its aggression.
Yet when Israel carries out a premeditated massacre of civilian protesters in broad daylight, the billionaire-owned ‘free press’ is filled with equivocating reports of neutral “clashes” and appeals for “moderation”.
That’s why appeals to ‘international law’ are beside the point. There is only international law when the major world powers think it is in their interests to enforce it. As long as the Israeli state defends their interests and acts as their gangrenous splinter in the Middle East, it will continue to be armed, funded, and supported by the world’s barons.
It is a basic duty for socialists to stand up for the Palestinians’ rights, including the right of refugees and their descendants to return to the lands they were driven out of.
The most effective way for socialists in the west to support the struggle for Palestinian liberation is to create irresistible pressure on our own governments to end their support for Israel.
That’s why Saturday’s demonstration was important, even if it was small. We need to continue to mobilise solidarity demonstrations all the way up to 15 May and beyond, to prove the world is watching and Gaza is not forgotten.
The right wing attack on Jeremy Corbyn has put a lot if stress on silencing him over Palestine. We need to reinforce his decades long support for the Palestinians, and strengthen his hand against the pro-Israeli groups that would silence him or call him to heel.
That’s why every branch, CLP, regional and national conference must be deluged with motions condemning the crimes of the Israeli state, and committing our movement to supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until they :
- end the occupation
- end their racist citizenship law
- grant the right of Palestinian refugees to return.