Editorial from issue 40 of Socialist Alternative, to get your copy of the paper, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The brutal siege inflicted upon Gaza by the Israeli state has shocked millions around the world, while the Palestinian death toll climbs higher every day. In Britain, protests in towns and cities calling for an end to the siege and occupation have seen many thousands standing in solidarity with civilians in Gaza and against the bloodshed.
The response from the ruling class has been the polar opposite to the instinctive solidarity shown by many ordinary people. The UK government has, tailing US imperialism, positioned itself as one of Israel’s most hawkish allies, immediately sending Royal Navy boats, helicopters, and marines to support Netanyahu’s government.
Rishi Sunak’s advice to Israeli PM Netanyahu, to “minimise the impact on civilians as best we can” rings hollow while thousands of Palestinian civilians already face mass murder at the hands of the Israeli state. Sunak, and the British ruling class as a whole, have stood firmly by the Israeli government as they inflict sickening collective punishment on the Palestinian people in revenge for the attacks by Hamas that killed over 1,300 people – including Israeli Jews, Arab Israelis, tourists and migrant workers – on 7 October.
Israel-Palestine in the Tories’ culture war
Meanwhile on their own shores, the government has launched a crackdown on solidarity action with Palestinians. Suella Braverman has declared that waving a Palestinian flag could be considered a crime, and, sickeningly, pushed the use of Prevent ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation to attack students and academics speaking out against the Israeli occupation.
The Tories are using these developments as part of their culture war strategy, painting themselves as ‘standing up’ against their political enemies – be that trans people, refugees, and now Palestinian civilians (all some of the most marginalised groups in society!). With their popularity plummeting, as highlighted by recent by-elections, and having faced waves of protests and strikes in recent years, they are desperate to maintain the stability of their government by cracking down on protests and ramping up divide-and-rule rhetoric. In doing so, they have only sharpened tensions between Jewish and Muslim communities, with a dramatic spike in Islamophobia and antisemitism reported in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, many student unions have spinelessly followed in the government’s footsteps, taking down material and suspending student groups talking about Palestinian liberation – including Socialist Alternative’s own student groups. We have been clear all along that we are opposed to Hamas’ terroristic methods and reactionary political aims – these will not be sufficient to fight back against the Israeli capitalist state or win Palestinian liberation and peace.
Student unions should take a stand against this government’s reactionary culture war. This should also include struggle alongside trade unionists fighting the government’s anti-strike laws, and for protests around Britain on 25 November – the International Day for the Elimination of Gender Violence – to resist the right-wing offensive of misogyny and transphobia.
Labour, disgracefully, have tirelessly repeated their support for the Israeli state’s right to ‘self-defence’, and called for Parliament to “speak with one voice” on this issue. Starmer himself outrageously defended Israel’s ‘right’ to cut power and water supplies to Palestinians living in Gaza.
The Labour leadership has been met with a mutiny from elements of the party and long-time supporters looking to show their solidarity with Palestinian victims. Socialist Alternative calls for a new mass left party of struggle which can give a real political voice to working class people looking to stand against imperialism, oppression, and war. Labour have reinforced their position as loyal defenders of the interests of imperialist British capitalism both at home and overseas.
Mass struggle is the only way out
British imperialism, alongside that of the other European powers and the US, played a key role in the foundation of the state of Israel, and it remains a crucial strategic partner in the region. It is for this reason that imperialist powers have lined up behind this outbreak of conflict in Israel-Palestine – to protect their interests, secure supply chains and re-establish their geo-political strength. The US, Britain, France, and allies have rushed to Israel’s aid, while regional power Iran, backed up by China and Russia, have cynically paid lip-service to Palestinian liberation to further their own agenda and influence in the region.
In this New Cold War, marked by rival imperialist blocs, working-class and poor people are the losers every time – in Ukraine, in Palestine – and with the very real potential for escalation into a regional war, potentially in the Middle East more widely.
Appeals to imperialist powers or international law will provide no way out of this crisis. The building of a mass movement against the bloodbath is more and more urgent. Such a movement will need to be genuinely international – building links between those organising against British arms deliveries to Israel, working-class and poor Palestinians resisting occupation and murder, Israeli students facing suspension for activism against the siege, and beyond. An international mass movement would be able to completely shut down Israeli capitalism, and Netanyahu’s offensive.
It will also need a clear strategy, building on the experience of mass movements such as the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising that rocked the Iranian dictatorship, to the strike waves in Europe, as part of a fighting programme to mobilise working-class people and win real victories. That also means fighting for an alternative to the capitalist system. While the capitalist warmongers remain in power, they will drag us endlessly into crisis and bloodshed. International Socialist Alternative is building the fight for socialist change around the world, as the only way to guarantee lasting peace for all.
Socialist Alternative says:
• Down with all repressive Tory legislation attacking the right to protest! Reverse the anti-boycott bill and stop the new anti-strike laws.
• Student unions should take a bold stand against the government’s attacks on our democratic rights! Reinstate all suspended student groups and end censorship of meetings and protests. Solidarity with Palestinians is not a crime!
• Withdraw all British forces from the Mediterranean and Middle East, and end arms deliveries to Israel. Trade union struggle for worker-led mobilisations to disrupt the war machine! Including blocking deliveries of weapons, war machinery, and goods produced in the Israeli settlements of the occupied West Bank.
• For conferences of trade unionists, fighting student bodies and Palestine solidarity activists to discuss how we can build a fighting opposition to the Tories.
• For a mass, cross-community struggle in Israel-Palestine against the occupation and war. Solidarity with residents from both national communities that face indiscriminate attacks, imprisonment, and destruction of lives.
• For a socialist Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, for socialist change in Israel and the whole Middle East.
• For socialist change in Britain and internationally! Only a socialist society, built on democratic public ownership and international solidarity can guarantee a future free from oppression and war.