Second anniversary of Israel's war on Gaza
By Karen Dabrowska
Two years after the war on Gaza, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is trying to build the biggest, broadest coalition of support for the Palestinians.
A major rally in central London last week began with a minute's silence for the 1,400 Palestinians who were killed between 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009 when Israel attacked the Gaza strip and destroyed the infrastructure which cannot be repaired due to the blockade.
The rally on 18th January, which was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, the British Muslim Initiative, Friends of Al Aqsa, the Palestinian Forum in Britain and Viva Palestina, attracted 400 supporters.
Hugh Lanning, the Chairman of the PSC, began his opening address with the quote he read out two years ago during a huge demonstration against the invasion in Hyde Park: “They stole my land, burned my olive trees, destroyed my house, took my water, bombed my country, imprisoned my father, killed my mother, took my job, starved us all, humiliated us all and I am to blame. I shot a rocket back.”
Lanning said that Israeli settlers may have been withdrawn from Gaza but in reality there was no change. Israel has tightened its grip on the population, exercising absolute control of who and what goes in and out of the Strip by land, sea and air. The siege continues despite efforts by flotillas to break it and the so-called peace process has been a total failure. London has been described by the Israelis as the hotbed of the resistance and solidarity in support of the Palestinian people.
“We are trying to build the biggest, broadest, coalition in support of the Palestinians and promote solidarity with our movement globally.”
Lindsay German, Convenor of Stop the War Coalition, said that the way in which the Palestinians are being treated has everything to do with the war on terror, Britain's foreign, policy and the oppression of not just the Palestinians but of the Iraqis as well. January 18th marked the anniversary of the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 when retreating Iraqi troops were massacred and the Iraqis suffered under sanctions and eventually from another war and invasion in 2003. The war in Afghanistan is continuing and more and more people are suffering.
“We are not just talking about the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are also talking about wars in Somalia and Yemen. We saw the war in Lebanon in 2006 and we see the threat of war in Lebanon today. We also see the role that Israel plays in trying to escalate the threat of war against Iran”.
German called for Blair to resign from his position as envoy for peace in the Middle East and said that it was not the job of the British or the Americans or any of the Western powers to tell anybody in the Middle East how they should run their affairs.
She concluded that the corrupt, unelected, undemocratic regimes in the Arab world back the USA and Britain. “ I am very glad the Tunisians managed to see off their corrupt, unelected president. The Tunisian people are doing what every people in the Arab world should be doing. There have been demonstrations in Cairo and in Jordan. The future for equality and liberation for the Palestinians lies in what happens not just in Palestine itself but across the Arab world.. Our role here is to provide solidarity with all of these people and to say we have had enough of the West's interference in this region, we have had enough of the imperialism. We need to stand united and maybe even we can stand up to our government which is spending money on wars which should be spent on schools, hospitals and all the other things we need. We should link up all these struggles, we should connect all the different anti-war and solidarity movements and we should remember that our fight is their fight and their fight is our fight”.
Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn (85) said that in Palestine we now have an Israeli state which is an American colony armed with nuclear weapons that has made war on the Lebanon and Gaza and is imposing a blockade on Gaza which is an act of war. It is calling on the British government to bomb Iran because Iran is a developing nuclear power.
Benn emphasised that the situation in Palestine cannot be helped by holding so-called peace talks because the peace talks that are going on barely conceal the fact that the main supporters of the Israelis are the American government. The Americans give more money to Israel than to all the sub-Saharan countries in Africa whose need is far greater.
Benn said that one of the proposals most commonly put forward was a two-state solution with Israel next to Palestine. “Israel is recognised, it is a member of the United Nations, it has all these weapons. The Palestinians have no state. Palestine is not recognised by the United Nations. It has no legal status in the world. It is just pleading for justice against a colonial regime. The answer is a single state where Jews and Palestinians can live together. That is the best hope but to do that you have to dissolve Zionism”.
Rev Garth Hewitt, founder of the Amos Trust, which promotes justice and hope for forgotten communities, referred to a cable released by WikiLeaks from the US embassy in Tel Aviv which confirmed Israel's attitude to Gaza. It said that Israeli officials wanted the Gaza economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis. It said it would keep Gaza's economy on the brink of collapse.
“This is morally unacceptable. We are living in the 21st century and we see a style of siege that we hoped had gone centuries ago and yet it is a siege imposed by 21st century weapons.”
Britain is buying hundreds of drones from the Israeli company Alpit which is making money from occupation. Our troops are being trained to use drones by the Israeli army in Israel. These weapons have a kill ratio of ten to one i.e. For every person targeted to be assassinated in an extra judicial killing ten others die. We must challenge the Ministry of Defence to stop spending money in this way and say 'not in our name'.
The Amos Trust is working with faith communities and urging them to make the campaign for Palestine an integral part of what they are doing. The trust has a campaign called 'A just peace for Palestine', with the added slogan 'this means peace and security for Israelis too'. It encourages the sale of Palestinian products, the boycott of Israeli goods, lobbying of MP's and visits to Palestine. Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, has just signed up to the campaign. The Christian community in Palestine has produced a document which reminds the world that the Israeli occupation is a sin against God and humanity and talks of the cruel war against Gaza.
Dr Tariq Tahboob of the Palestinian Forum in Britain told the meeting that Gaza is not a nation of beggars. It has the highest literacy rate in the Arab world and probably in the world – 93 per cent. “They don't want food and medicine and charity – what they want is freedom.
Dr Tahboob told the meeting that the Zionists brought five 'd's' to Gaza: death, destruction, debilitation, disease and degradation . But they met their match with the capital 'D' which shapes the future of human beings. That is defiance. To make this defiance work we have to donate, demonstrate, (through a one million march for Palestine) and display (through the use of face book, u-tube and the media).
The rally was also addressed by Farid Bakht of the national executive of the Green Party, Sarah Colborne campaigns director of the PSC and the poet, playwright, musician and hip hop artist Lockie.