The question mark in the title is deliberate and is prompted by a growing tendency by some liberal and left leaning individuals and organisations to frame the assault on Gaza as a humanitarian crisis in which civilians are suffering as a result of the war between Israel and Hamas. Of course there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Two million Palestinians, half of them children under the age of 18, have been denied fuel, energy, water, food and medical supplies by Israel while it bombards them from the air. A million Palestinians in Gaza have had to leave their homes because of the bombing and over 5,000 have been killed in the last two weeks.
But, as Dave Middleton pointed out in his article on the Socialist Campaign Group‘s early day motion, stressing the humanitarian crisis while ignoring its political context leads to appeals to end the suffering of civilians on both sides that do not take account of the fact that Israel has been waging war on Palestinians for 76 years. He points out that the SCG’s proposals ask for no more and in some cases less than the proposals in a joint statement from 12 leading aid agencies.
The National Education Union has issued a statement on Gaza which states, “The NEU stands in solidarity with all those – Israeli and Palestinian – suffering the impact of horrific violence. Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones and who live under fear of attack, kidnap, bombardment or siege.”
Palestinians do not live under fear of attack. They are being attacked. They are under siege; the siege did not begin with the Hamas attack on Israel on 7th October. It was imposed by Israel 16 years ago after Hamas won elections in Gaza and took control of the enclave. Half the population of Gaza were not even born then. They have grown up living under siege and with the threat of bombardment and invasion all their lives.
Last week Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, speaking at the SNP conference, called for a worldwide refugee programme for the people of Gaza, and that the UK government should create a refugee resettlement scheme for Palestinians who wanted to come, as they had done for Ukrainians — and if they did, Scotland would be the first country in Britain to welcome them. He spoke movingly about the suffering in Gaza where his brother-in-law is a doctor. We do not doubt Yousaf’s sincerity and stand with him against the racist abuse he has received as a result of his speech. He may be naive about the likelihood of Britain, while arming and supporting Israel, opening the door to Palestinian refugees. But he has exposed the inhumanity of the West’s response and the dangerous attempts to stifle all pro-Palestinian voices. The case of the suspended Tube driver is a case in point, along with attempts to outlaw the Palestinian flag and slogans on marches by so called jihadists while allowing Christian jihadists in their crusader outfits to turn up at our demos in acts of provocation.
But along with the usual racist dogpile on Twitter and some supportive comments, I saw this tweet which summed up the dilemma perfectly.
“But no one asked for this? The western world keeps asking for this, yet the locals don’t. The Palestinians don’t want to leave their land. The people from Gaza don’t want to leave their land. The people don’t want to move abroad. Millions among them have already been displaced. They don’t want to leave their land – what part of this sentence is not getting through to the English speakers?”
Palestinians do not want not be rescued from their homeland. They want their homeland to be rescued from Israel. Of course we support humanitarian aid — but we also show solidarity with Palestine, not in their victimhood but in their resistance to Israeli oppression. We could start with supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, defending their right to resist and calling out Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.