The Palestine solidarity movement we need to build
11 November 2023
Palestine solidarity rally in Dublin.
Some of the recent massive demonstrations in support of Gaza call for a comparison with the millions who poured onto the streets in a desperate attempt to avert the invasion of Iraq. However, once we make that comparison we are faced with the reality thar a much larger mobilisation than the current one ended in failure. Then, as now, a spontaneous mobilisation exerted very significant pressure on the warmongers but once they doubled down and it became clear that the war would continue the spontaneous movement started to decline.
How do we proceed to build an effective movement? One way is to reverse engineer the current movement - taking its weak points and suggesting how the movement can become more effective.
A starting point is the movement's policies. The main focus is on a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance around a more general call for Palestinian freedom.
The end to carpet bombing, unrestrained slaughter and starvation of civilians is a burning need, but itís not enough. A ceasefire by itself will leave the population of Gaza ill and starving in tents on a barren moonscape while the Israelis strangle them through a chokehold on supplies. Ethnic cleansing on the West Bank will continue, as will military attacks on surrounding nations.
In this context Free, Free, Palestine is too narrow a demand. Opponents will argue that the US offers a free Palestine in the form of an imaginary two state solution. A demand for an end to the blitzkrieg should be accompanied by a call for a unitary
democratic state across Palestine and an end to the Zionist denial of democratic rights. Palestinians must be able to move freely in and out of Gaza and the West Bank. That means that the minimum demand for the present situation is a single state without apartheid, genocide, or denial of rights.
Any political programme must also include methods that can realise the programme. The method of BDS (Boycott, disinvest, sanctions) is also too narrow. The effort that we put into searching put and boycotting Israeli goods has been countered by claims of antisemitism and legal action by the state increasingly criminalising even verbal support for Palestine. In any case BDS can be amplified and resolved in a second by major trade unions or by governments. In Belgium and Spain trade unionists have decided not to transport war materials to Israel and as a result of the representatives of the working class have stepped in and no materials will flow.
So, in Ireland we must focus on the government, on trade unions and on political parties. In Ireland the WIX website company is able to pressure employees to adopt pro-Israeli positions and to fire one who refused without any meaningful reaction from government or unions. Mary Lou McDonald has inched towards a temporary exclusion of the Israeli ambassador, who openly insults the Irish state and its president that same ambassador is a guest of honour at Fianna Fáil's conference. That means that the most useful actions by the anti-war movement should be directed at these forces. Sinn Féin are obviously very reluctant to move towards full opposition to Israel and one task of the movement is to force them further or to split away the genuine anti imperialists in their ranks. In Belfast modest demand by university union members for the removal of Hilary Clinton as chancellor has not been endorsed by the wider trade union movement.