By Marcel Rajecky
Photo credit: LSE For Palestine
Palestinians and their supporters in Britain are facing a new offensive. The most high-profile attack targets students and activists who protested at the London School of Economics following the visit of the hard right Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. She spoke, uninterrupted, for ninety minutes on the topic of ‘The future of the Middle East’ at an LSE debating society event.
Labour and the Conservative politicians alike condemned the protesters as antisemitic, even calling for police action against them. In fact, the demonstrators’ legitimate aims had nothing to do with antisemitism.
First off, Hotovely represents a regime that has oppressed the Palestinian people for over 70 years. Given the green light by both presidents Trump and Biden, Israel is continuing this decades-long project of ethnic cleansing right now, preparing to annex more Palestinian land in the West Bank in the coming months.
Israel attracted international condemnation this year for seeking to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, internationally recognised as illegally occupied territory. Palestinian workers and youth organised mass protests and a nation-wide general strike against the evictions, while the Israeli state bombed Gaza, killing hundreds, and Israeli gangs terrorised Palestinian communities inside Israel.
Hotovely described the Nakba, the extensively documented ethnic cleansing of almost a million Palestinians during the establishment of the State of Israel, as an ‘Arab lie’. She openly promotes the annexation of all remaining Palestinian territories into a Jewish supremacist Greater Israel – the increasingly open consensus of the Israeli ruling class.
Yet politicians and the media have demonised a legitimate, principled protest in the most grotesque way imaginable. Hotovely’s speech took place on the anniversary of the Nazi Kristellnacht, and some shamelessly compared the protesters to those who carried out those killings 83 years ago.
LSE have announced that they will investigate the students who participated in the protest or even posted support for it online. Priti Patel has called on the police to investigate the activists, denouncing them for ‘intimidation, harassment, and abuse’ against the Jewish community.
The Labour Party has been just as rotten. Keir Starmer met Hotovely and denounced the protest at a recent Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) conference, stating Labour would never support BDS: “Its principles are wrong – targeting alone the world’s sole Jewish state.’ But why wouldn’t the Palestinians focus their struggle on the state oppressing them? Former Labour foreign spokesperson Lisa Nandy, by some stretch of logic, accused the protesters of suppressing free speech.
The opposite is true. Palestine activists are the victims of a clampdown on their free speech. In another attack, Bristol University academic David Miller was recently sacked for researching and critiquing the influence of pro-Israel advocacy groups in Britain. Whilst an inquiry by Bristol University initially cleared Miller of any wrongdoing, a campaign against him pressured the University into reversing its decision.
Behind these targeted campaigns lies a renewed attempt to line up western powers behind Israel in preparation for further atrocities it is likely to commit. Britain, for example, is tabling new legislation to criminalise Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, by listing it as a terrorist organisation, adding another tool to intimidate and criminalise Palestinians and their supporters in Britain under the name of ‘fighting terrorism’.
Socialists must stand up to this offensive, and struggle for the only democratic, internationalist solution: the establishment of a secular, binational and socialist state in Palestine, as part of a United Socialist States of the Middle East.