Saying no to the Israeli massacre
Lovers of freedom must unite for Palestine
2009-01-08, Issue 414
On Saturday 3 January, defying the atrocious cold weather ravaging Britain at the moment, I joined several thousand other protesters marching from Embankment to Trafalgar Square in London to protest the massacre of Gaza’s Palestinians. This is a massacre perpetrated by the mighty, merciless Israeli army, a force armed and actively supported by the US and NATO with the supine collaboration of Arab leaders, including the so-called moderate Palestinian leadership under the main Fatah organisation from its Bantustan enclaves in the West Bank.
There were initial fears that the cold would deter many from turning up for the march, but so deep is the outrage of many that they poured out in their thousands in all the major cities of Britain to call for an immediate ceasefire and end to the blockade. These protestors want to find a lasting, peaceful solution that recognises the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to exist in viable states with dignity.
Neither the organisers nor the protesters thought that their marches would produce an immediate result, or that the powers that be in their own government or Israel would take note of their demands. Over a million British people protested against Tony Blair’s playing cheerleader to George W. Bush in the unlawful invasion – based on blatant lies – of Iraq, but it did not stop the poodle from standing shoulder to shoulder with the Texan cowboy.
The point is that protests need not have an immediate impact, but they can have a cumulative effect in changing public view and instigating political change. Think of the many marches, demonstrations, one-man strikes, hunger strikes, and work to rule across South Africa and elsewhere in support of the country’s liberation from apartheid at a time when many – including other Africans – thought the system was impenetrable. But the will, determination and sacrifice by the peoples of South Africa, supported by wider pan-African and international solidarity, tore down the apartheid dungeons. No force on earth can defeat a people’s yearning for liberty and freedom.
The protests against the Gaza massacre are an expression of solidarity. Though powerful countries may be backing Israel – as indeed they supported apartheid South Africa – and though other countries may have been silenced by Zionist censorship, these protesters are saying ‘Not in my name!’ While I may not be able to do much to stop the bombs from raining down on innocent children, women and men, at least in my heart I know it is wrong and on my lips and limbs I protest the injustice.
Israel has successfully intimidated even the most powerful countries and leaders, arguing through its propaganda that the crimes against humanity it is committing have been forced upon it because Hamas has been firing rockets at Israeli cities. From Bush to Brown every Western Leader who has spoken out has blamed Hamas for causing the massacre. While every unlawful loss of life – whether Palestinian or Israeli – is unjustifiable, why can we not compare like with like? How many Israelis have these crude rockets killed? And how many Palestinians have so far been murdered en masse by Israel? How can it be fair that Israel uses a caterpillar to kill flies?
By the time we were folding our banners in Trafalgar Square Israel had invaded with ground troops. Indeed, its army has been on the rampage since Saturday. Murderous and bloodthirsty politicians like the Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, well-dressed and even smiling, are presented on our TV screens justifying the massacre of women and children. This while Israel’s rival politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak – who, if there were any justice would have been declared war criminals – are ecstatic at the huge number of casualties in Gaza and are threatening more.
Meanwhile, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate ceasefire and suggested that the Israeli response was disproportionate. But who is listening? All George W. Bush will say is that Hamas should stop sending its largely symbolic rockets, and he will dare not ask for Israeli restraint. In the midst of the Israeli military, political, diplomatic and propaganda hegemony, it is easy to forget that Hamas won a parliamentary election and defeated Al-Fatah. You may not like them, but it is up to the Palestinians to change them, not Israel, not the Arab leaders, the US or anybody else.
Israel had been hoping that the blockade would strangle Hamas, but instead support has grown. When will Israel and the US learn that you cannot help people through strangulation? You cannot bomb your way into the hearts and mind of your victims.
To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, Israel will have many Palestinian bodies to add to those it has killed since 1948, but it will never have their obedience.
It is not enough for us to just look on and say to ourselves that what is going on is bad and simply change the channel. You can join the protest or organise one wherever you may be, write letters to newspapers and make use of feedback sessions in the media. You can also boycott Israeli goods in the shops like Jaffa oranges. Even if our governments, much like their Arab counterparts, are too compromised and cowardly to stand up to Israel, what about you and me?
There are many Africans who are confused about the Israel–Palestine conflict, believing it to be purely a case of Islam vs Judaism or Arab vs Jew. As a people who have known slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, how can we be so complacent about the right of others to a life of dignity and sovereignty over their own affairs? Palestinians are not dangerous but they are endangered by their powerful neighbour, a neighbour supported by the most powerful nations on earth and the collaboration of other leaders in the Arab world and beyond.
* Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement, based in Kampala, Uganda, and is also director of Justice Africa, based in London, UK.
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