The world watched in horror last week as Israeli state forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in Gaza. Sixty Palestinians were killed during protests opposing the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. More than 2,000 were injured.
Among those killed 8 were children, including an eight-month-old baby who died after massive exposure to tear gas.
An outpouring of anger has followed since, with solidarity demonstrations taking place around the world. The Palestinian flag has been flown above city halls; and Israeli and US embassies have been the site of large protests.
The response from the British political establishment has ranged from silence (or at best circumspect) to outright hostility toward – you guessed it – the Palestinians! As Tweeted by the Director of Labour Friends of Israel, Jennifer Gerber:
“Hamas must accept responsibility for these events. Their successful attempt to hijack peaceful protest as cover to attack Israeli border communities must be condemned by all who seek peace in the Middle East.”
The White House also explicitly blamed Hamas for the violence:
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and as the secretary of state [Mike Pompeo] said, Israel has a right to defend itself.”
Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has been outspoken in calling in opposing the murder of innocent Palestinians. In a post on social media, Corbyn stated:
“We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.
“The international community must at last put its collective authority and weight behind achieving a lasting settlement that delivers peace, justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, who have waited so long to achieve their rights.” (Read his full post here.)
Corbyn is quite correct to call into question the active role that Britain has played in providing arms for the Israeli state. In the past two years alone, the British government has approved export of over £230million worth of arms and military technology to Israel.
He is also correct to imply that the international community must be reconstituted in a way that commits it to peace in the region. The international capitalist classes, through their greed and exploitation, have demonstrated time and time again that there can be no lasting solution to the conflict in Middle East on the basis of capitalism – a system that thrives on war, poverty and division.
But though important, a lasting peace will not be brought about by international pressure alone – especially when the Israeli state has such a powerful ally in the US. Nor will sanctions and boycotts be enough to end the conflict.
Late last week, the Solidarity TD (the Irish equivalent of an MP) Paul Murphy, used his position in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) to explain why it is only a united movement of the Palestinian and Israeli working classes that is capable of bringing about a lasting peace:
“The absolute horror of what oppression of Palestinians looks like has been laid bare to the world… In total 113 Palestinians [have been] killed since the 30th of March. These protestors were slaughtered, they were murdered in cold blood, mostly by snipers. And they included children, including now an 8-month-old baby killed by tear gas. They weren’t terrorists. They were peaceful protestors marching for their right to return to their homes. Marching to commemorate the Nakbha [the Catastrophe], of the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. And marching against provocative move of Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem: a very clear signal that the Palestinians will not be allowed to have a state.
“The idea that a peace allowing for a viable Palestinian state will be granted by the right wing Israeli establishment, that it will be brokered by imperialist powers like the US, is utterly unrealistic. The only route out of… the occupation for a viable Palestinian state, and for justice for all peoples of the region, is for a revolutionary struggle from below. I pay tribute to the Palestinians who are protesting. They are not just victims, they are also heroes. As part of their struggle, they are engaging in peaceful protest in the knowledge that they can be slaughtered by snipers they cannot even see.”
“And let’s be clear. The protests of Palestinians are absolutely peaceful. But they have every right to defend themselves. Why on earth should they be expected to just march defenceless and be mowed down by the Israeli militarily? They have a right to defend themselves. It is vital that an anti-war and anti-occupation movement is built within Israel itself, involving Israeli Jews and Palestinians, to expose the reality that the corrupt Israeli establishment relies on fear about security to shore up its own position and to implement an anti-working-class position.
“My comrades in [Socialist Struggle Movement], along with others in Israel, have been organising to build that movement with a protest in Tel Aviv yesterday [May 15]. Those forces, with the powerful working classes in Egypt, in Turkey, in Iran, and elsewhere in the region… they combined have the power to bring about a solution. To kick out the Israeli establishment, to the kick out the corrupt Arab elites, to kick out the imperialist powers that have no interest in a genuine peace and fight for a lasting socialist solution, a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem alongside a socialist Israel as part of a federation of the Middle East.”