Sunday, January 18, 2009

Galloway: Widening the struggle

The Morning Star
(Friday 16 January 2009)

GEORGE GALLOWAY argues that the time has come to step up the struggle to achieve justice for Palestinians.

As I write, the death toll in Gaza is approaching 1,000, nearly 400 of them confirmed as children. I dread to think what the figure will be by the time you read this.

What is happening in Palestine is murder on a mass scale, perpetrated by one of the most powerful states in the world with the backing of US, Britain and its allies. I say what is happening in Palestine for a significant reason - Gaza is part of Palestine.

No-one should fall for the subtle tricks in the mainstream media which has so badly let us down and mangled the truth. I can think of no better time for the Morning Star to expand in print and online.

The corporate media gives the impression that there is this strange place called Gaza full of people called “militants” and “ruled” by Hamas.

But this is an attack on Palestine - all of Palestine and every Palestinian. Do not let them demonise the Gaza Strip or split it politically from the West Bank. There have been no rockets fired from the West Bank, but Israel has still killed 25 Palestinians there in recent months.

The attack on Gaza has already called forth a huge feeling of solidarity in Britain and the world. It has united Muslim and non-Muslim in huge demonstrations and other events. Now, it has to become a mass movement of practical and political solidarity.

We must not allow the Muslim community to feel intimidated by the kinds of Islamophobic smears they’ve faced that claim that any among them who raises the plight of the Palestinians is somehow an “extremist” or supporter of terrorism.

Nor should we allow the public mood and incipient movement to be derailed by a concerted attempt to smear it as anti-semitic. Among the loudest voices calling for isolating Israel are those of Jews.

I have just left the House of Commons chamber, where Gerald Kaufman has made one of the greatest speeches that I’ve heard there. He said that his grandmother had been shot in her bed by the nazis. She had not died so that her death could be used to justify the atrocities in Gaza, he said.

Leaders of the Catholic church have called Gaza a gigantic “concentration camp.” The highest United Nations officials are calling for an investigation into the war crimes in blowing up schools, universities and callously inflicting suffering on civilians.

The Labour government’s response to the onslaught on Gaza has been a disgrace. For three days it refused to call for any cessation of hostilities. Now it calls for a ceasefire, but on Israel’s terms, which mean the annihilation of the legitimate Palestinian resistance.

Remember this - Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4 when it attacked Hamas, the government of the Palestinian authority which was elected by the Palestinian people in the only democratic vote in the Arab world.

These are basic arguments which must be popularised throughout the movement. Matters are at a turning point. In my estimation, the dynamic that was apparent within the Stop the War movement in 2002 has resurfaced.

We’re not yet on the vast scale of February 15 2003, but the movement is on an upswing. There are other differences too.

There is, in my view, a higher understanding of the nature of zionism and of imperialism. There is also a greater sense of strategic debate in the movement.

That is why I want to end this column with some thoughts about how we might go forward:

Public protests are important. They keep our movement visible and, believe me, the pictures reach Palestine.

Pressure must be brought to bear on every elected representative and everyone in public life in Britain to speak out firmly for the Palestinian people and for official action against Israel, which UN officials want investigated for war crimes.

No person of conscience bought South African goods during apartheid. Today, Israel, its produce and manufactured goods should also be shunned. The call to boycott Israel is growing and Jewish supporters of the Palestinians are among the most vocal. Where does your MP or councillor stand?

It is time to flood the people of Palestine with practical aid. I am pulling together other individuals and groups to organise a convoy from Britain to Gaza led by fire engines donated by the Fire Brigades Union. Your mosque, community group, trade union, church, etc can sponsor it or provide a lorry, two drivers, costs and fill it with things which the people of Gaza need.

Through these steps, we can build political support for Palestine here and get aid over there. And, whenever you are called upon to vote in elections in Britain, remember to ask those who want your support: “What did you do when the bombs fell on the people of Gaza?”

The call for an aid convoy from Britain to Gaza is meeting with huge enthusiasm - Stop the War, the British Muslim Initiative and many others are coming on board.

I hope that it can provide a political focus to spur on a vast aid effort and a movement of political solidarity.

In the 1930s, working-class people across Europe rallied to aid the people of republican Spain, who faced the bombing of towns and the massacre of civilians by the forces of jackbooted General Franco.

The cry then was “Aidez l’Espagne!” The call today should be: “Viva Palestina!”

George Galloway is Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

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