Condemn Israel’s violence, not Palestinian resistance

The Greens have faced criticism for their position on Israel’s war on Palestine. At a Palestine rally in Melbourne on July 26, Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice was booed for calling for an arms embargo on both Israel and Palestine. At a Palestine rally in Brisbane on the same day, Greens candidate Jake Schoermer had a shoe thrown at him for condemning violence on both sides, New Matilda reported. To condemn both sides of this conflict is severely out of touch with the reality of what is happening in Gaza right now. This is not a war between equals, but a heavily armed oppressive state carrying out a reign of terror against a besieged territory in which 1.8 million people are crowded into an area just 360 square kilometres in size. For the past seven years, Israel has maintained a brutal siege of Gaza, closing it off (with Egyptian assistance) to the outside world. Israel maintains strict control over the movement of goods in and out of the Strip, and has out Gaza on a “starvation diet”, in the words of an Israeli official. Gaza is an open-air prison. There are reports that right now 95% of the water is undrinkable. There is not enough medicine and power is unreliable. Israel has turned the Strip into a living hell. This is the context for the demand, not just by Hamas but all Palestinian factions, that a ceasefire with Israel requires lifting this siege. This is the context in which homemade rockets are fired from Gaza. The small number of deaths they cause are no less tragic because of the sheer unevenness in the death toll. However, for Gazans, in their open-air prison shut off from the outside world, the rockets are the only means of indicating their refusal to surrender. To change this situation, we must join the growing international movement to isolate Israel, to force Western governments to break ties with the terror state and force it to cease its crimes. If this global movement were to succeed, then the conditions behind the rocket fire would cease. This is our task, not “condemning both sides”, when one side is committing genocidal violence and the other is resisting it. There is also a major logical flaw in the call for an arms embargo on both sides. That is, Israel has a highly developed arms industry and exports weapons. An arms embargo would not, by itself, disarm Israel — it would still be fully capable of unleashing the sort of wanton destruction it has over the past weeks. What, however, would an arms embargo on Gaza entail? Israel and Egypt already seek to impose such a thing with the siege. The Greens call, however well-meaning its motivation, actually becomes a call to strengthen the siege — and leave Gazans even more defenceless. The ongoing rocket fire is used as an excuse by the Israeli government to continue its war, claiming self-defence. But the violence is a continuation of Israel’s colonisation and occupation of Palestine that has been going for more than 60 years. There are many Greens members and parliamentarians who understand this. But the Greens have been trying to make themselves a small target on the issue of Israel/Palestine ever since the Murdoch media attacked them over their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign on Marrickville council. There has long been a consensus that Australian politicians should avoid criticising Israel. There are some inside the Greens who fear that their party would be unelectable if they spoke up for Palestine. The support of the Australian government, and other Western nations, is essential for Israel to maintain its ongoing occupation. This political support allows Israel to continue to flout UN resolutions that call for it to immediately stop the expansion of illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. Financial and military aid — about US$3.1 billion from the US alone — helps it crush Palestinian resistance. But as the war crimes committed by Israel during its latest offensive have grown, Australian public opinion is turning and cracks in the political consensus are beginning to show. A group of parliamentarians from Labor and the Greens have signed an open letter condemning “the ongoing Israeli military bombardment and invasion of Gaza”. The 55 state and federal MPs and senators, including independent Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie, said: “We call on Australian politicians to support an immediate cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire deal which includes an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and to the blockade of Gaza.” Like the solidarity movements with East Timorese living under Indonesian rule or Black people in apartheid South Africa, action by people around the world can make it impossible for the Israeli regime to continue. The Socialist Alliance says the occupation and siege of Gaza must end. It supports the Palestinian right to self-determination and recognises the ongoing resistance and mass action of Palestinians, including the BDS campaign. It calls on the Australian government to end its uncritical support for Israel and break links with the Israeli state. The Australian government should follow the lead of the Latin American governments, such as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and El Salvador, who have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel in protest — or go one better and join Venezuela and Bolivia in expelling Israel’s ambassador and breaking diplomatic ties, as these countries did in 2009.