For the first time since the war on Gaza began there was a “Labour Members for Palestine” bloc on the march last Saturday, January 13th.
The bloc was organised by Labour & Palestine, CLPD, Arise and Momentum amongst others.
Hopefully it represents a long-overdue willingness by Labour Party members to be identified as supporters of Palestine and a ceasefire. Apart from the supporting organisations there were constituency and Labour Councillor banners. The intention will be to organise the bloc again on the next national march in February.
We need to translate the support on the marches into political organisation – to make Palestine a ballot box issue.
To quote Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”. Instead, Labour has watched the bodies float by, endorsing Israel’s war objectives. With over 20,000 dead Labour has effectively gone to war on Palestine – just as it has in the Yemen.
In so doing, Labour has morally lost the plot with hundreds of thousands of marchers, with a whole generation of people now committed to supporting Palestine.
This issue is going to haunt Labour before, during and after the next election. It will not go away with the election of a Labour Government.
We have seen where the arms and money the West gives Israel are going – we see it every night on the television. They are going to kill Palestinians – whether the ICJ concurs that this is genocide or not, the reality is Israel is trying to literally demolish any serious prospect of a Palestinian state.
This will require Labour to commit to global pressure on Israel to comply with international law. This will not be easy – but Netanyahu gives us the clue in saying he needs 3 things:” munitions, munitions, munitions”.
As with South Africa, sanctions will be the key – Labour needs to call for an arms embargo and commit to immediate recognition – not backtrack from its established policy. It also should publicly state it will repeal the anti-boycott bill should it become law.
A ceasefire will not be enough to create peace, it will only be a beginning. To establish the conditions for peace it will be necessary to dismantle the Israeli apartheid regime from Gaza to Jericho – that means bringing down the Wall ‘brick by brick’, removing the settlements and settlers, getting the troops out – it means ending the illegal military occupation.
Palestine needs a Labour bloc for Palestine at every level inside and outside the party making sure that the Palestinian voice is heard. As a democratic party we cannot be deaf to the calls for justice or we will come to regret ignoring the calls of hundreds of thousands of Labour Party supporters who are uniting in action for a “ceasefire now” and a Free Palestine.
The air strikes on Yemen and continued support for Israel exposes the Party. We need to not just march and protest, we need to organise.
Take part on in marches on January 20th – get involved, join the bloc on next national march in February.