Britain  •  International

Hundreds of thousands march against Israel’s war. What next?

23 October 2023

By KD Tait

THE STRENGTH of popular opposition to Israel’s bloody assault on the Gaza strip was expressed in unmistakable terms as 300,000 people marched through central London on 21 October to demand an end to the siege of Gaza. 

The previous Saturday, more than 100,000 marched from the BBC HQ to Whitehall. Large demonstrations were held on successive weekends in towns and cities across the UK.

Demonstrators filled the width of Park Lane from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square with a sea of Palestine flags and homemade banners and placards denouncing Israel’s crimes and demanding the UK government end its support for the Zionist state.

The sympathy of the great majority of working class people and youth with the Palestinians stands in marked contrast to the political representatives of the British establishment.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared his ‘unconditional support’ for Israel, adding ‘we want you to win’. When Keir Starmer was asked by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari whether Israel had the right to impose a siege and cut power and water, the Labour leader replied unequivocally, saying ‘I think Israel does have that right’.

The pro-forma statements that Israel must ‘uphold international law’ only serve to expose the cynical disregard for international law and human rights where these conflict with the objectives of the western imperialists and their Zionist ally.

UK politicians who defend Israel’s ‘right to self-defence’ are complicit in Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population—a war crime under international law. The same politicians who sign off hundreds of millions of pounds worth of weapons exports to Israel every year are complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement and occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights. 

Israel is not defending the democratic rights of its population. It is defending its ‘right’ to dispossess and expel the Palestinians from Israel and exploit the West Bank and Gaza as internal colonies within an Apartheid state.

The Palestinians have every right to resist this fate by any means necessary. As long as the Zionist state exists as a settler colony, there can be no justice and no peace in Israel-Palestine. That is why we say—from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians are committed in full view of the world. It is the last acceptable settler-colony. Since the end of WW2, it has been defended by the United States and the UK because it aids their control of the Middle East’s trade routes and resources by acting as guarantor for its sponsors’ ‘order’.

That is why the British political class and media have supported Israel’s attempt to brand the Palestine solidarity movement ‘antisemitic’ for criticising the crimes of Zionism. It’s why home secretary Suella Braverman is urging the police to crack down on demonstrations against Israel’s war. Our rulers aren’t motivated by sympathy with Jewish people, but by the solidarity of imperialist thieves with their regional clients.

Britain is a junior but vital partner to US imperialism. The UK’s role in facilitating the founding of the Zionist state, from the formulation of the policy by the notorious antisemite Lord Balfour in 1917 to the 1948 Nakba and beyond, is why British people have a special responsibility to act in solidarity with the Palestinians’ legitimate fight for liberation.

The long experience of the British working class in fighting the crimes of our imperialist rulers, from opposition to the occupation of the Six Counties and the struggle against South African apartheid, to the antiwar movement of 2001-3, explains why Palestine can draw on a deep reservoir of support here.

The demonstrations in the UK and the millions more around the world will serve to encourage fighters for Palestinian liberation everywhere, not least in the so-called democracies of France and Germany where demonstrations have been banned.

On Saturday 28 October there will be another national day of action. It will be another powerful blow against the ubiquitous pro war propaganda and demonisation of the Palestinians. The widespread protests and irrefutable evidence of the suffering Israel is inflicting on Gaza have forced Keir Starmer to pay lip service to the need for humanitarian aid.

Demonstrations of solidarity are a key first step, but with Israel still poised to invade, with the terror bombing intensifying, with the western powers standing by while Gaza is levelled, we need to step up the pressure. We need to pass onto action.

A key first step is to take up the appeal for solidarity by Palestinian trade unions which calls on the trade union movement to refuse to build or transport weapons to Israel, to act against companies complicit in the siege of Gaza, and pressure governments to cease military aid to Israel. Every trade union branch should pass resolutions demanding their leadership’s back practical action in solidarity with Palestine.   

Action committees that bring together the PSC groups with trade union and Labour party branches, students’ groups, Muslim and black organisations, migrant and refugee campaigns, Jewish antizionist groups, can organise walkouts, demonstrations, and a workers’ boycott of anything that aids the Israeli occupation.

Workers’ action in the UK has a vital role to play in weakening the axis of imperialism that has partitioned and subjugated the Middle East for over a century. Faced with the horrific suffering in Gaza, the widespread calls for a ceasefire and a ‘political solution’ to the conflict by recognizing a Palestinian state are understandable but misguided.

The Oslo Accords are dead. There can be no return to the status quo. The idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel was always a ploy designed to buy off parts of the Palestinian leadership while Israel blockaded Gaza and transformed the West Bank into an archipelago of enclaves under the guns of Israeli settlers.

The reality is there is already only one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. It is the apartheid Zionist settler state, which oppresses the Palestinian people and denies millions of refugees the right to return.

The only progressive solution is the fight to overthrow that state and replace it one that guarantees the democratic, national, and religious rights of all its residents. The right of return, democratic control of the land, and no privileges for any people demands the end of Zionist apartheid, private ownership, and imperialism.

That is why the Zionist state must be smashed, and capitalism overthrown and replaced with a socialist workers’ Palestine.


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