Lindsey German: It really isn’t working for Israel to keep equating criticism of its genocidal war in Gaza with support for Hamas

It really isn’t working for Israel to keep equating criticism of its genocidal war in Gaza with support for Hamas. But this is Netanyahu’s increasingly desperate gambit. So the decision by Norway and Ireland, likely to be followed by Spain, to recognise a Palestinian state is denounced as helping Hamas. When the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant for war crimes, this too is playing into the hands of Hamas.

And so it goes. The government has in recent days been accused of torture of Palestinian prisoners; of deliberately withholding aid; of driving civilians from a supposed safe haven; of allowing right wing settlers to attack aid convoys going into Gaza and terrorise Palestinians in the West Bank. It tries to say that every criticism is support for Hamas and in so doing also it tries to pretend that the current situation began on 7th October.

The attempts to claim that Israel is simply defending itself no longer hold any currency. In Britain, for example, big majorities in opinion polls favour a ceasefire and an end to arming Israel. In the US Joe Biden is losing support for his ‘ironclad’ support for Netanyahu’s policies.

The response of those who support Israel is to inhibit, ban and demonise protest as much as they can. This has been the goal of the Zionists and their supporters from the beginning of the war on Gaza. They have been trying it again this week.

Michael Gove’s speech about antisemitism was a case in point. He argued that antisemitism defined the pro-Palestine protests and that societies could be judged by their levels of antisemitism, which clearly in his view trumps other forms of racism. Even here Gove is off beam: he claims that Britain had low levels of antisemitism in the early part of the 20th century, while this was a period when the racist, anti-Jewish Aliens Act was passed. He meanwhile ignores Oliver Cromwell welcoming Jews back to England during the 17th century English revolution. And he claims recent levels of antisemitism in Putin’s Russia, while ignoring the widespread pogroms under the Tsars which led many Jews to flee the country.

His grasp of current politics isn’t so great either. “I may have missed it, but agitation to end the war in Sudan, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Mali, or Ethiopia, does not seem to energise our campuses. And nowhere is there any suggestion other than with Israel, that the errors or even crimes of a country’s leaders should necessitate the end of that country’s independent existence.”

This misses out some crucial questions – that Israel’s formation was based on the displacement of the Palestinians, and that there has been a decades long campaign of solidarity with the Palestinians across the world given their unique plight. It is also insulting to suggest that students don’t care about Sudan or the other countries mentioned – the mass movement around Palestine is not an alternative to international solidarity but can highlight it.

Gove aims his sights at our protests: he wants them banned, or restricted, or forced to pay for the ‘privilege’ of democratic protest. In this he echoes the report form the failed Labour MP John Woodcock, now elevated to Lord Walney, whose recommendations about the protests included:

  • Tightening laws to ban Gaza protests on certain days such as Remembrance Sunday
  • Making it easier for businesses to pursue organisers of protests for damages
  • Making protest groups pay for policing
  • Banning protests near parliament and creating a buffer zone around MPs’ offices
  • Police and CPS should apply the law more broadly to crack down on people praising terror groups

These are all quite outrageous,aimed at destroying rights to protest that we have fought for over hundreds of years.

But the government and its supporters are not getting it all their own way. Despite describing demonstrations as hate marches and trying to prevent democratic protest, previous attempts to make it harder to demonstrate have come up against the law. The campaign group Liberty was successful in its challenging of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman who used secondary legislation to tighten laws on demonstrating, by lowering the threshold when police would intervene to impose conditions on public protest, defining ‘serious disruption’ as anything ‘more than minor’.

This makes it much harder for government to force through similar attacks in the future. Nonetheless Walney and Gove’s culture wars approach and authoritarian instincts are now in the public arena. With an election looming , we hopefully will see the back of the Tories. But we should beware any attempts by Labour to do the same thing.

22 May 2024 by Lindsey German

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