Since the aerial bombardment of Gaza began, Israel’s imperialist allies have come out with endless declarations of unequivocal support for her brutal actions.
Unsurprisingly, this includes the Tories. On Sunak’s recent visit to Israel, where he met with Netanyahu, the PM said explicitly: “We want you to win.”
But Labour leader – and very likely Britain’s next prime minister – ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer has also provided unambiguous backing for Israel, with potentially huge ramifications for the party.
There has been a massive public backlash against Labour over this issue, particularly following a recent appearance by Starmer on the LBC radio show.
On air, the coiffured party leader responded to a question about whether Israel is justified in cutting off food, water, and energy to Gaza. “I think Israel does have that right,” Starmer replied, before quickly adding: “Obviously, everything should be done within international law.”
Perhaps it’s been a while since Sir Keir, a former human rights lawyer, donned his wig and gown. But it’s obvious to ordinary workers and youth that the siege which Starmer believes Israel has a “right” to enact is, in fact, a breach of international law – as is the regime’s use of white phosphorus on civilian areas, and countless other war crimes.
Of course, the Labour leader has no problem making inconsistent and contradictory statements. Just earlier this year, while in Kiev, he said: “There has to be justice in the Hague, and there has to be proper reparation in the rebuilding of Ukraine.”
We will not hold our breath in expectation of a similar statement from Starmer about taking Netanyahu to the Hague, or helping with the reconstruction of Gaza, which the Israeli military is reducing to rubble.
The reason for this hypocrisy is not down to this knight of the realm’s personal moral bankruptcy. In truth, for Starmer, it is not a question of legality or justice. It is a question of class interests. As a champion of the establishment, he knows that he must loyally back British imperialism and its reactionary allies to the hilt.
This statement, however, has caused considerable outcry from within the party.
Nine Oxford City Councillors have chosen to resign over what they correctly see as the party leadership’s endorsement of “collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties”. This is no minor protest – as a result, Labour has now lost overall control of the city’s council.
There have also been resignations by other councillors and party officers across the country.
This includes Dr Mona Ahmed, a councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, who has quit Labour. Writing in the Tribune about her motivations, she describes Starmer’s stance as an “endorsement of war crimes”, and describes the creation of an unsafe environment for Arabs and Muslims within the party.
Young Labour’s BAME officer Lubaba Khalid has also stepped down for similar reasons. And 150 Muslim Labour councillors have now written a letter of concern to Starmer, calling for him to call for a ceasefire.
A sad decision and in no way a reflection of my colleagues in the Labour group in Kensington but I cannot in good conscience continue on in the Labour Party in its current form. pic.twitter.com/dgkBxAPKbJ
— Cllr Mona Ahmed (@DrMona86) October 18, 2023
🚨 Over 150 Muslim Labour councillors have come together to call on Labour’s leadership to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
An unprecedented letter of unity from Muslim Labour representatives shows the strength of feeling throughout the nation and in our communities. pic.twitter.com/nSLUtyegKw
— Labour Muslim Network (@LabourMuslims) October 25, 2023
There has also been a clampdown in the party against anyone daring to show support for Palestine. A diktat from Labour Party general secretary David Evans was even issued that advised members and elected representatives not to attend demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine, and which asserted that any motions on the situation in Gaza would be “limited”.
As a result of all this, many are talking about Starmer’s public support for the Israeli state’s murderous actions and explicit backing of Zionist imperialism as being akin to an ‘Iraq War’ moment for the party – referring to the potential loss of tens of thousands of votes from the Muslim community.
A poll conducted by Muslim census, for example, has suggested that the drop in Labour’s vote from Muslims could be as much as 66 percentage points – equating to a loss of 1.5 million votes.
These potential electoral repercussions have forced the Labour leadership to begin to backpedal: from an earlier, explicitly pro-Israel position; to one that has the pretence of caring for Palestinians.
Cynically, Starmer visited a mosque in South Wales this week, where he voiced support for humanitarian aid to Gaza…while at the same time talking about the need for hostages to be released by Hamas.
What Muslims living in Wales have to do with Israeli hostages is unclear. The visit was blatantly just a photo opportunity for the Labour leader.
Alongside this, we have also seen Labour’s David Lammy and Lisa Nandy (Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Secretary for International Development, respectively) write to their counterparts in the Tory government calling for aid to Gaza and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.
These Labour frontbenchers, however, fail to mention anything about Israel’s responsibility for the crisis in Gaza in the first place, instead laying the blame entirely on Hamas. They also fail to call for an end to the bombardment and shelling.
It is clear where these ladies and gentlemen at the head of the Labour Party stand. For them, Israel has a right to ‘defensively’ carpet bomb the most densely populated city on earth, and to drive tens of thousands from their homeland.
Palestinians, meanwhile, apparently only have a right to an escape route from such horror, and perhaps to some meagre rations in their bellies as they are slaughtered.
There are Labour MPs who are not entirely in line with the leadership, however. Left-winger Richard Burgon, for instance, has tabled an Early Day Motion to Parliament that has been signed by 95 MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and many others.
Other left Labour MPs, such as Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum, have also been vocal, on social media and at demonstrations, raising the call for a ceasefire.
And 13 shadow frontbenchers – including arch-Blairites such as Jess Phillips – have indicated their support for a ceasefire, forcing the party leadership to state that no disciplinary action will be taken against Labour MPs who break ranks and endorse this pacifist position.
Similarly, other high-profile figures in the Labour Party have also come out publicly in favour of a ceasefire. This includes Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, the mayors of London and Greater Manchester, respectively, as well as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
The pressure is clearly mounting on Starmer to back a ceasefire – especially since even UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stated the need for such a step, in order to end the “epic suffering” facing Palestinians.
The ongoing bloodshed of thousands of Palestinians must indeed be urgently ended. Over 7,000 have been killed already. And this figure is set to soar when Israel’s full-scale ground invasion begins.
But we must pose the question clearly: are such appeals for a ceasefire really going to bring Israeli imperialism’s wanton murder and destruction to a halt?
Rosa Luxemburg was fond of saying that the most “the most revolutionary act is to say loudly what is”. We have a duty to state the truth: demands for a ceasefire offer no genuine solution to the Palestinian people.
For starters, who are these appeals aimed at? Netanyahu and the rest of the Zionist ruling class in Israel are clearly intent on reducing Gaza to rubble. And the US and British imperialists fully back this aim. They aren’t interested in a ceasefire. These warmongers will create a wasteland, and call it peace.
Only mass struggle from below – across the Middle East and in the West – can stop the war.
But even then, let us imagine that an immediate ceasefire could be forced on the imperialists, thanks to the mass mobilisations taking place all over the world. What would be the terms of such an agreement? And what would come next?
At best, this would only provide a temporary respite for Palestinians from the horror that they are facing.
Lest we forget, we have been here before with the Oslo ‘peace’ process. It is these accords that have paved the way to the present bloody impasse.
We cannot have any illusions in the so-called ‘international community’, or in the idea that the UN – a tool of imperialism – will impose any kind of peace.
That the Morning Star – paper of the ‘Communist’ Party of Britain – echoes these same weak demands, with impotent and utopian appeals to the UN, is disappointing to say the least. This represents a betrayal of genuine internationalism and anti-imperialism.
Under capitalism, ‘peace’ is simply the continuation of war by other means. Unless the imperialists are overthrown, in Israel, in Britain, and beyond, the Palestinians will remain exploited and oppressed.
For as long as the Zionist ruling class remains in power in Israel, it will continue to strangle any hope for genuine self-determination for the Palestinian people.
And so long as imperialism and capitalism exists, there will continue to be conflict – in Israel-Palestine, in the wider region, and across the world.
Revolutionaries and genuine communists must therefore refuse to cast illusions in the UN or any ‘peace-process’.
Instead, we must recognise the only way forward for establishing a truly-lasting peace, with homes, land, and equal rights for all: a mass uprising – an intifada – across the region, to bring down both Israeli imperialism and reactionary Arab regimes, and establish a Socialist Federation of the Middle East.
Many workers and youth in Britain, looking to show immediate solidarity with Palestine, are already looking past the imperialists and their talking shops. Ordinary people have no faith that any solution will come from diplomatic pressure by Israel’s own allies.
This is what has motivated some to try and halt the Israeli war machine through direct action.
This includes groups such as Palestine Action, who have repeatedly blocked the entrances to arms facilities over the years, and who have mobilised on several occasions in recent weeks.
It also includes a group of trade unionists under the name of ‘Workers for a Free Palestine’ – 150 of whom bravely chose to blockade an Israeli-owned arms factory in Kent on Thursday morning.
BREAKING: This morning, dozens of trade unionists under the banner ‘Workers For A Free Palestine’ have blocked both entrances to Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company in Kent. pic.twitter.com/ePmpIO6ilZ
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) October 26, 2023
This latter action of solidarity is certainly a bold move, with a banner that explicitly raises the need for working-class solidarity.
In the same vein, rank-and-file Unite members have launched an open letter calling on the union’s leadership to respond to a call from Palestinian trade unions by “encouraging and pledging practical support to members who refuse to build or handle weapons destined for Israel”.
Last Saturday’s Palestine solidarity demonstration in London did see a trade union bloc. Also present on the platform were a number of trade union speakers, including Eddie Dempsey from the RMT, Daniel Kebede from the NEU, Jo Grady from the UCU, Matt Wrack from FBU, and more.
It is welcome that these unions are bringing their members out on the streets in solidarity with Palestine – especially in light of the aforementioned call for solidarity from the international working class, as put out by Palestinian trade unions.
As yet, however, there has not been any mention of how these unions could organise solidarity action to halt the transport of weapons and military aid to Israel.
And noticeably absent in any official capacity at the demo were trade unions such as Unite, which organise workers in arms factories where weapons are made and transported directly to the IDF.
Mass action like that organised by Workers for a Free Palestine shows the way.
But beyond the efforts of dozens of determined activists, what is required is a bold campaign across the trade union movement and wider working class against British imperialism, in order to aid our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Alongside mobilisations by students and youth, this should involve class-based methods such as mass demonstrations, workers’ boycotts, occupations, and strike action.
The trade unions must make a stand and unapologetically say what is needed.
That means moving beyond imperialist diplomacy, or putting ‘pressure’ on capitalist governments. It means building a mass movement against imperialism. And it means fighting to bring down ‘our own’ ruling class that is backing the murderous Israeli regime.
This is what the communists are organising and struggling for.
Our model motion – which has already passed at a number of union branches, and which has scandalously been blocked from being discussed in others – puts forward this revolutionary stance.
If you want to fight for such a programme, get organised with the International Marxist Tendency today.
- For an intifada, from London to Gaza!
- Smash imperialism! End the occupation!
- One solution: revolution!
🚨BREAKING: Our model motion on solidarity with Palestine has now passed at UCL UCU branch at an emergency meeting held this afternoon 🇵🇸 🚩
This is the largest UCU branch in the country ✊ pic.twitter.com/VV3rS53sPn
— Socialist Appeal (IMT) (@socialist_app) October 27, 2023