The 1948 expulsion of women and children from Tantura, a village of roughly 1,500 people in 1945, near Haifa Photo: Benno Rothenberg / Creative Commons

It’s the span of a whole lifetime since the Palestinians were driven from their homes during the Nakba as the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Palestinians were scattered throughout the region, forced into refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Within that lifetime, the situation of the Palestinian people has got considerably worse.

War and occupation have become facts of life for subsequent generations. Yet two things could perhaps not have been predicted back at the time of the Nakba: one was the sheer brutality of the Israeli state and its increasingly repressive policies; the other was the resilience and resistance of the Palestinian people, which has engendered a powerful solidarity movement in their support.

Both elements are dramatically on show today. We have on the one hand the genocidal war on Gaza, the continuing illegal settlements which are using violence to further displace Palestinians in the West Bank, and the complicity of politicians and media in the main western imperialist countries which is allowing Israel to act with impunity.

On the other hand we have the defiance of the Palestinians who refuse to bow to their oppressors and the quite incredible levels of solidarity which are taking place across the world.

This solidarity movement is in evidence in every town and city across Britain. Student encampments are springing up in universities from Edinburgh to Brighton. Trade unionists are building support for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions across their unions. Campaigners are disrupting meetings, picketing MPs, holding fundraisers and flying Palestinian flags.

On Saturday, another huge demonstration will fill the streets of London. But today, which is the actual anniversary of the Nakba, we will also see action. Trade unionists organised in the Stop the War trade union network have called for a day of action, following on from a highly successful one on May 1. We are asking our supporters to highlight the injustice of 76 years ago and the related injustice going on today.

Rafah is hell on Earth. People are fleeing, after already being displaced several times from other parts of Gaza. Food, water and medicine are desperately short, with starvation talked about openly. The poorest and already most needy are once again the ones facing the most suffering.

So the trade union day is calling for “Hands off Rafah.” We want an immediate ceasefire and for Britain and the US to stop arming Israel. The trade unionists will be linking up with the students to show solidarity.

They will also be campaigning for the different unions to implement policy (most of which already exists) to support Palestine and to condemn Benjamin Netanyahu’s attacks. The political situation in Britain is causing real anger, with Keir Starmer’s Labour facing growing criticism.

Labour at every stage has only echoed the support for Israel coming from the Tories. It has gone along with false accusations of anti-semitism levelled at those opposing Israel’s brutal policy.

Last week the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy claimed that Nelson Mandela would not have supported the student camps because he was in favour of peaceful protest, conveniently forgetting that he was in favour of the armed struggle against apartheid South Africa and that he was imprisoned and denounced as a terrorist.

Labour talks about wanting a ceasefire in Gaza because the party lost many thousands of votes and some seats in the local elections in England and Wales, and it is trying to pretend that Starmer and Lammy haven’t joined in the bipartisan consensus over Israel since October 7. Trade union members and activists have to hold them to account.

Tony Blair thought that protesters would forget how much they opposed the war in Iraq in 2003 when it came to the elections. But in the election more than two years later in 2005, Blair lost one million votes, generally assumed to be because of the war, and Respect won an MP and recorded four of the largest electoral swings from Labour in post-war history.

Voters will not forgive or forget the support for Netanyahu at the election. But voting is not enough. We need to deepen the movement in every way that we can. That means redoubling our efforts in the trade unions to mobilise for the days of action and for the trade union bloc on the big demos. It means supporting the student encampments which are building campus-wide solidarity.

It also means challenging the government’s agenda not just in backing the war on Palestine but the big increases in arms spending, the ramping up of cold war rhetoric, the supply of arms to Ukraine which is prolonging a war which is hugely costly in lives and will eventually end in negotiation.

The world is becoming a much more dangerous place, and Netanyahu’s war is helping to make it so. While Britain, the US and EU states are nervous at his attack on Rafah, and don’t want it to happen, but will not stop it because Israel is a key ally in the Middle East.

So on the anniversary of the Nakba, we find Israel, a nuclear state, acting with greater impunity than ever, and with its right-wing politicians wanting a total war not just against Gaza but in the whole of the Middle East.

We also find the Palestinian people continuing to resist and to demand justice, backed by a solidarity movement which is only growing stronger as Israel is forever branded a pariah state. That solidarity has never been more important.

Source: Morning Star

15 May 2024 by Lindsey German

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