Saturday, January 03, 2009

Israel steps up war, as we step up protests

ISRAELI tanks and artillery are following up their air strikes, which have already killed hundreds of people in Gaza. The Israeli forces are maintaining their blockade on land and sea, assisted it must be said by Egyptian troops and police who have stopped refugees fleeing the Gaza strip and prevented emergency supplies going in. What a proud job it is to be a soldier.

The ground invasion will cause more Palestinian losses and suffering, but it has its good side. Whereas Israeli pilots are fairly secure as they bomb or fire missiles into homes and colleges, troops on the ground, even with armour, can suffer casualties. Let's see if those Israelis who have been enthusiastic about killing Palestinians are as keen when some of their sons come back maimed, or in body bags, or not at all. Others, who did not want this war, should ask themselves -why go?

The Israeli cabinet has ordered call up of reservists. I hope enough people decide to tell their government to go to hell, and that they won't go to Gaza. Not just as a a gesture but a way of doing whatever they can to disrupt the military machine and make the authorities divert resources to chasing them.

There were tens of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis demonstrating today against the Gaza slaughter, in the northern, Galilee town of Sakhnin and this evening in Tel Aviv. Demonstrations also took place in Turkey, and Kashmir, and US cities. A placard on the march in Amsterdam said "Anne Frank must be turning in her grave".

Here in London the demonstration today was huge, possibly more than 50,000, and it was difficult squeezing into Trafalgar Square for the rally, where speakers included comedian Alexei Sayle, singer Annie Lennox and former mayor Ken Livingstone, as well as Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Palestinian envoy Profesor Manuel Hassassian. Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn both hit out at the British government and EU policies favouring Israel. A Muslim speaker paid tribute to "our Jewish friends" for taking part, contrasting their response to inaction by Arab governments. There were more demonstrations in Portsmouth, Brighton, Manchester and other towns and cities.

The Jewish Socialists' Group took part in the London march with their new banner, and distributed a leaflet (text below) which was well-received.


stop the bombing and the siege
end the occupation
and give peace a chance!

Jewish Socialists condemn the Israeli siege and bombing of the Palestinian people in Gaza. We express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, and in the occupied territories, and with those Israelis who oppose their government and its war.

We support those young Israelis who would rather go to jail than serve in the armed forces of occupation and war.

We call upon our own and other governments to cease supporting Israel's aggression, and put pressure on Israel's leaders to halt this war, lift the blockade, and end the occupation of Palestinian lands.

The Jewish Socialists' Group has many differences with the politics of Hamas. This war, on a largely defenceless people, is not about Hamas. It was Israeli forces that broke a four-month long ceasefire with a raid killing six Palestinians on November 4. This attack was launched as Hamas and Fatah were agreeing a unified approach. On November 5, Israel stepped up its siege of Gaza, on land and sea, which has brought warnings of human and environmental disaster.

Even so, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told a European parliamentary delegation that Hamas was prepared to declare a long-term truce with Israel, and negotiate for a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. (Amira Hass, Haaretz (November 15)
Evidently, Israeli leaders, including Labour Defence Minister Ehud Barak, were not interested. They had already planned this war. A couple of days after Haniyeh's spech the Israeli navy seized Palestinian fishing boats and crews.

Israel's military-political elite don't care about poorer Israelis, mainly from Arab countries, whom they shoved out to exposed places like Sderot. They have not even evacuated the children. They did not care about captured soldier Gilad Shalit, whose release they could have negotiated long ago, had they and their US backers not preferred a pretext for war, in Gaza and then Lebanon, where Washington wanted to test its latest bombs.

Every people has the right to resist occupation. But the tactic of hitting civilian targets like Sderot is wrong, and the Israeli government has used it to raise public support for war against the Palestinian people. Even so,

*500 Sderot residents petitioned asking the government not to escalate the conflict but to seek peace.
*A majority of Israelis thought their government should negotiate with Hamas or whoever else the Palestinian people elected.
*A majority of people on both sides wanted the cease fire to continue, and would be prepared to share this land in a just peace.

But forty years of occupation have so poisoned Israeli politics that Barak and Olmert are competing with the far-right Benyamin Netanyahu to show who is best at waging war. The Israeli Right has been encouraged by neo-cons and right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the United States, who want Israel to spearhead a major Middle East war.

The majority of Americans, including more than 75 per cent of American Jews, voted for Barack Obama and change. Obama's wooing of the unrepresentative Zionist lobbyists AIPAC, and Hillary Clinton's pledge that if Israel was attacked, America would "obliterate" Iran, suggest change is yet to come. The Israeli forces may have timed their attack before Obama takes office, but he has said only that he "understands" them. EU leaders have urged a ceasefire, but Israel continues to enjoy EU trade privileges and a promised closer relationship".

If we want to help the Palestinian people and those Israelis who want a genuine peace, we have to change our own government's policies. Jewish Socialists, together with our friends in European Jews for Just Peace, and similar bodies in the United States and Canada, are campaigning for this.

Alongside solidarity with the Palestinian people, we have a special job - to challenge leaders who claim to speak for the Jewish community, but subordinate its interests to Israeli policy and its reactionary allies. We say politicians must stop listening to the Zionist Lobby - and stop using it as an excuse!

Jewish Socialists stand for peace, freedom and equality in the Middle East, and for unity to fight antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and every other kind of prejudice here and now.

To find out more, read our magazine JEWISH SOCIALIST, and visit our website


At 3:23 AM, Anonymous said...

Hi Charlie,

Obviously, This is exactly what Hamas wanted. Israel has fallen for the bate in the same way the United States did! Bush's apparent lack of reaction just shows that.Then look back at Great Britain and how they were able to stop terrorism from Northern Ireland. This "not speaking up" will alos intensify the hatred that Arab Nations have against us. We are also falling for the bate by not speaking up so the Arab Nations will again have more hatred for us. Obama has hugh burdent to speak up as soon as he is in office or this issue might become the next huge crisis.

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

Good to see a reported 10,000 Israelis demonstrating in Tel Aviv too.

50,000 for a "regional" demo at short notice is fantastic. Let's hope many more turn up this Saturday.


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