As we watch the Israeli onslaught in Gaza it is impossible not to feel horror, anger and a sense of helplessness. For many of us these are the darkest days we have experienced politically, made worse by the collapse of any resistance within the Labour Party as both Starmer and Thornberry defend Israel and refuse to aacknowledge that its policy of collective punishment against Gaza is a war crime. Locally elected members have spoken out and resigned from the party in disgust at its endorsement of Netanyahu’s terror campaign against Gaza. But the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs has remained silent, cowed with threats of losing the Labour whip if they openly supported yesterday’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
The weekend’s demonstrations give the lie to Lisa Nandy’s claim that the whole country is backing Israel. Tens of thousands supported pro-Palestinian marches and rallies in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There were many smaller protests across Britain including Newcastle, Durham, Plymouth, Eastbourne, Carlisle and Lancaster. We can take pride in that, but as the invasion of Gaza by the IDF gets under way and western leaders double down on their support for Israel, it gets harder not to feel demoralised. So it is important to continue to raise our voices in support of Palestine. Critical Mass is proud that we have published 35 articles in support of Palestine in our two year history. We stand united in awe at the courage of the Palestinians and draw our strength from their spirit of resistance. And so it has been throughout our history of struggle.
In 1871, in the aftermath of the bloody destruction of the Paris Commune, communard and poet, Eugène Pottier, who survived the carnage, wrote the words to the Internationale, a defiant call to Arise that was taken up by the Socialist movement around the world. A hundred years later in the 1970s, Maya Angelou wrote “Still I Rise,” which continues to inspire.
And now a new generation of poets have risen to inspire us. Amazingly, miraculously, in 2018 around 30 young and aspiring poets came together to form the Gaza Poets Society. In May 2021 their spiritual home, Samir Mansour, a library and the largest bookstore in Gaza, was the target of an Israeli missile strike and completely destroyed. Nadine Murtaja, one of the Gaza poets was 18 then. Today, according to her Facebook page she is a dental student at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. This is her poem written then. I hope she is still writing now.
There, on the other side,
time changes, hours pass, and it gets darker,
the sky takes off its dim dress, then the morning arrives,
but here where I live, and breathe, life wears its black dress constantly,
to mourn the labour of my land,
which took a long time.
Here, the hanging clock, in my room is broken,
not only this one, everyone’s clock is broken here,
my mother keeps saying:
everyone is waiting for the elixir,
we’ve had it with the grief and agony,
in this holy land we sleep and wake up on the sound of bombing and shooting
so the first light of day rises in the evening,
lighting up the sky with the blood of martyrs,
here death sleeps not far from us,
we all walk towards freedom, towards hope,
we walk on the shattered glass of our broken windows,
we walk on stones that once were a house, carrying stories and secrets,
we walk with the screams of children, and the groans of mothers pulsating over and over in our ears.
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.