Articles  •  Britain  •  International

For Workers’ Action To break links with Israel

12 January 2024

By Dave Stockton

The year began with the ongoing martyrdom of the people of Gaza. The death toll by New Year’s Day stood at over 22,000 – 8,633 of them children – plus 57,000 injured. Some 29,000 bombs have destroyed 300,000 out of 493,000 homes. The World Health Organisation has reported that only nine out of 36 health facilities in Gaza are even partially operating, all in the south. 

Two million of the 2.3 million inhabitants have been herded into the south. Huge tent cities have appeared around Rafah and, under pouring rain, with supplies of water and food running out, disease could soon be rife. Bombing and drone attacks followed people as they fled to Khan Yunis, then Rafah, which Israeli leaflets said would be ‘safe zones’. Nor is Gaza the only theatre of Zionist horrors. The Occupied West Bank has seen 350 killed, with the refugee camp of Jenin targeted for aerial bombardment.

Ethnic cleansing
Israeli government ministers from the nakedly racist ‘religious parties’, like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have called for ‘voluntary migration’ to Egypt and other neighbouring countries. Avi Dichter, Likud Agriculture Minister, said ‘We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba’ while another minister, Amichai Eliyahu, explained on 103FM radio that Israel ‘must find ways for Gazans that are more painful than death’, just as the US did with Japan, in order to break their morale and ‘end their national dream’.

The goal of such parties, on which Netanyahu relies for his majority in the Knesset, is clearly the complete expulsion of Palestine’s indigenous population. Israel’s Western backers do not endorse this, because of their relations with their Saudi, Jordanian and Emirati allies, but this does not stop Israel advancing the project. At the very least they intend to crush the Palestinian population into ever smaller zones, surrounded by IDF troops and the increasingly heavily armed settlers on the Occupied West Bank.

Of course US and EU politicians condemn these ministers’ extreme views, but they remain in a government that is doing in practice what only they dare say. Meanwhile, courageous Israeli peace activists report that Jewish citizens are not shown the horrors going on in Gaza and believe that civilian deaths are the unintended, but unavoidable collateral damage of the campaign against Hamas.

In fact wholesale killings of civilians is the conscious aim of Israeli tactics; the flattening of entire districts is designed to achieve that strategic goal of ‘ending their national dream’. However, the ever tighter siege of Gaza, the systematic destruction of its infrastructure and the crippling of its economy have not broken the resistance. On the contrary it has increased support for Hamas as the most intransigent and the most capable of striking back. Its roots in the population will prove ineradicable, unless the people themselves are eradicated. 

Blood on their hands
Against this horrific background, the refusal of Western governments to call for a ceasefire, under the mantra that Israel has the right to defend itself, is a criminal collusion. This should not surprise us. The US, Britain, Germany, France all have genocidal wars on their record, not only in the past but in living memory in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.

The United States, the patron and funder of Israel and all its aggressions since the 1950s, has vetoed all attempts by the majority in the UN general assembly and the Security Council to demand an end to the killing. Britain, under Rishi Sunak, follows the line from Washington, as does Labour under Keir Starmer. This fits in with his interview with The Times of Israel after his election as Labour leader, when he stressed, ‘I support Zionism without qualification.’ He followed this with a witch-hunt of anti-Zionists, smeared as antisemites, including many Jewish defenders of Palestinian rights.

Nevertheless Starmer’s views are not those of the Labour grassroots or party policy. Labour’s Annual Conference has repeatedly passed resolutions condemning Israel and supporting measures against Israel’s atrocities. As late as 2021 it passed a motion which said: 

‘Conference resolves to support “effective measures” including sanctions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, against actions by the Israeli government that are illegal according to international law; in particular to ensure that Israel stops the building of settlements, reverses any annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, brings down the Wall and respects the right of Palestinian people, as enshrined in international law, to return to their homes.’

These resolutions remain the official policy of the Labour Party and the affiliated trade unions that voted for them. Like many other resolutions, of course, they are totally ignored by the Shadow Cabinet and the NEC. And only some of those unions still dare to voice them, because of the blackmail that any criticism of Starmer threatens Labour’s electoral chances. Nevertheless a number of councillors have resigned in protest or are threatening to stand against Labour in the next elections on a pro-Palestine platform.

Workers Resistance
In Britain and other countries, there have been weekly mass demonstrations calling for a ceasefire and the end of the blockade. Hundreds of thousands have marched in London with sizeable mobilisations in most major UK cities. Dozens of local Gaza solidarity groups have sprung up, organising regular actions. Activists have also targeted direct action against Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms producer, providing at least 85 percent of drones used by the Israeli military.

One action at Sandwich in Kent on 26 November involved members from Unite, Unison, the National Education Union, the University and College Union, the British Medical Association and the Bakers’ Union, carrying a banner saying: ‘Workers for a free Palestine’. They have formed a Workers For A Free Palestine group.

Such actions are vital steps towards a national campaign to impose a workers’ boycott on all institutions and firms supplying material which aids Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. We need to take up this demand in union branches in the factories and offices, in the universities and schools.

We will need to break the bans on information about Gaza being imposed by management and education authorities. This is vital, given the government’s ‘Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill’, aimed at banning boycotts, divestment and sanctions, is about to be tabled in the Commons. This assault on freedom of speech needs to be exposed, opposed and, if passed, defied. Anyone who knowingly stays silent in the face of the daily atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank is in fact collaborating with them and deserves to be branded as such.

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