The following article is based on a leaflet distributed by the CPGB-ML at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in January 2016.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is an effective campaigning body in support of the Palestinian people, who have been robbed of their country, their land, their homes, and their well-being: who have either been reduced to the state of second-class non-citizens within apartheid Israel or the Occupied Territories; who have been subjected to a state of permanent siege in Gaza, where they are regularly subjected to bombing raids; who in Israel and the West Bank are regularly subjected to land seizures to make way for settlements that are illegal even by the standards of the UN, benign though it is in its dealings with fascist Israel; who are routinely subjected to collective punishments that are illegal in international law; and countless numbers of whom have been forced to live, generation after generation over six decades, as refugees in neighbouring Arab states or as part of a wider diaspora without a homeland.
PSC works hard to bring all these atrocities to public attention so that it becomes more and more difficult to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinian people. It also supports solidarity action of various kinds, most especially the international BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign, which has riled the Israeli fascists to such an extent that they have mobilised their zionist supporters in different countries to try to criminalise the organisation of protest boycotts and to persecute those involved in them.
Anti-zionism is not antisemitism
Currently (and extremely ironically), the imperialist backers in the US and Europe of the little racist outpost that is Israel are seeking to criminalise as ‘hate speech’ any support for the human rights and just demands of the Palestinian people by lobbying for laws that will equate criticism of Israel with ‘antisemitism’. From Ken Livingstone to the president of the National Union of Students (NUS), various prominent supporters of justice for the Palestinians have been branded as racist antisemites because they criticised Israel, the concept of zionism or the idea that jewish people have the right to a ‘homeland’ on Palestinian territory, or because they have mentioned the crimes being committed by the Israeli state on a daily basis against the Palestinian people.
It is essential to defend the principle that if decent-minded people were duty-bound to denounce the crimes committed by the Nazi regime against the jewish people – and, indeed, all other manifestations of anti-jewish prejudice – then they likewise have a duty to denounce the crimes being committed by the Israeli fascists against the Palestinian people – crimes that are only tolerated by the jewish Israeli population because they are fed a diet of racist anti-Arabism by the zionist media.
Such is the hold of this reactionary ideology on a significant section of the Israeli population that only recently massive demonstrations were held in support of a soldier who had been convicted of manslaughter (not even murder) for shooting dead a 21-year-old Palestinian who was lying disarmed, wounded and helpless on the ground. It is the firm belief of the zionist majority in Israel that Palestinians cannot possibly be accorded the same rights to life and liberty as ‘God’s chosen people’. Despite his conviction, the soldier in question was filmed outside the court looking mighty pleased with himself.
While it is true that Israel does not put Palestinians in concentration camps or gas chambers as the Nazis did with the jews, nevertheless Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and Gaza still suffer horrendous oppression designed to force as many as possible to leave their country, their land and their homes.
Israel a tool for imperialist domination
It is very hard in an imperialist country like Britain to stand up against the crimes of the Israeli state, as Palestine Solidarity tries to do, and it’s going to get harder. The idea of Israel was conceived by British imperialism as a way of introducing into the oil-rich and strategically vital middle east a large population that would serve British imperialism’s interests against the interests of the local Arab population.
Although US imperialism has stepped into the shoes of British imperialism as Israel’s principal handler, Israel is still the most ardent defender of imperialism’s ongoing oil interests – which extend from securing reliable supplies and being in a position to cut off supplies to their rivals to controlling the pipelines and waterways through which oil is transferred. Any effective popular opposition to Israel is thus a serious threat to imperialist interests.
Although US, EU and British imperialists are all now looking for ways of using the force of law to silence the voices of Israel’s critics, this is a relatively recent development. The ruling classes of the imperialist countries, being only a very tiny minority of the population, prefer where possible to rule by the consent of the masses – active or passive – which is generally brought about through imperialism’s propaganda mechanisms – ie, the media principally, but also academia, literature and schools, along with their control through secretive blacklisting organisations of people’s employment and career opportunities, which can make life very difficult for those who don’t tow the imperialist line.
As a result, those who are ‘successful’ in bourgeois politics, or who rise in academia or in the union bureaucracies, tend to be those who do not oppose imperialism in any meaningful sense (if at all), but who are, at best, prepared to make a bit of a fuss in order to persuade imperialism to introduce reforms and curtail the most obviously criminal of its practices.
Such people when allied to progressive organisations can be valuable insofar as they can be influential in spreading their message to a wide audience, but they will also tend to act as a brake on any activity that seriously threatens to undermine imperialist interests.
What can workers really do?
There are many things that the British working class has the power to do in support of the Palestinian people that are not at present being asked of them – often because of the insistence of influential people whose careers depend on not rocking the imperialist boat. Such people must not be allowed to prevent British workers rising to perform their proletarian internationalist and humanitarian duty.
British imperialism supports the fascist state of Israel by:
– giving it an almost exclusively favourable press. Although the British corporate media sometimes report Israeli criminal actions against the Palestinians, they tend to blame the Palestinians for resisting and they always plays down the illegality and severity of what has been done;
– supplying it with every kind of military hardware;
– trading with it and investing in it; and,
– collaborating with it for the dissemination of information.
The BDS movement has been successfully challenging some of this, especially the trade and investment aspect, but we need to go further than shaming investors. We need to appeal to the workers who handle military equipment bound for Israel, whether through manufacturing it or transporting it; to the workers who propagate the media lies favourable to Israel; to the workers who put Israeli goods on supermarket shelves; and to the workers who collect information intended to facilitate Israeli repression.
All workers who directly or indirectly are employed to give succour to the Israeli fascist state should be encouraged to take collective action to refuse to participate in Israeli war crimes and breaches of human rights.
It is essential for all those who honestly wish to end the victimisation of the Palestinian people to redouble their efforts on the streets, in their workplaces, schools and colleges, and in their trade unions to call for the organisation of a truly mass movement of non-cooperation with Israeli war crimes.
Not only do the media need to be held to account for the lies they spread on behalf of Israel, and those firms that profit from the war and occupation need to be singled out and boycotted, but all parts of the war machine need to be actively stopped from functioning.
All union members should every year be submitting motions for conference calling for the adoption of a policy of non-cooperation with war crimes and gross abuse of human rights. We are not only consumers but workers.
Media workers should refuse to write war propaganda or to publish or broadcast it. They should be reminded that taking any part in creating such propaganda makes them war criminals too, according to principles established at Nuremberg. Bectu and the NUJ should make this official policy and organise the collective boycott of all such work.
Those who are making munitions for Israel need the backing of their unions so that they can collectively refuse to continue with such work. Those who provide any goods or services to Israel and to the settlements need to be organised en masse to withdraw their labour-power from such work and explain exactly why they are doing so to the rest of the British public.
Supermarket workers should feel empowered to refuse to put Israeli products on the shelves, as 11 young Irish workers did at Dunnes Stores in Dublin in 1984-87, when they went on strike for two-and-a-half years to enforce their union’s policy of boycotting apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela later said that their stand helped keep him going during his imprisonment. Transport workers should be organised to refuse to carry anything to or from Israel, but especially armaments.
Let the imperialists discover the truth of the slogan raised by workers all over the world: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”
No cooperation with Israeli war crimes or human rights violations!