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Corporations bring ‘slow violence’ to millions

The ruthless pursuit of profit lies behind the tragedy of Palestine as much as the global warming crisis. We should resist it resolutely, writes climate activist MAIR BAIN

AS WE all know, Israel is murdering Palestinians through bullets, bombs and deliberately denying civilians the basics for survival — food, water and medicine. 

Israel has stolen Palestinian land and resources while committing horrific human rights atrocities for decades. 

Those enacting and supporting this genocide know what they are doing. It’s no surprise that mainly Western powers support Israel and its oppression and murder of Palestinians. 

This reflects a broader systemic issue where Western nations having prospered through xenophobic colonisation and exploitation, support similar injustices and violence by their allies. 

For centuries countries like the US and Britain have felt entitled to wage wars far beyond their borders, enslave and murder people, steal land, destroy and pollute ecosystems, to amass more resources.

Whether directly through colonialism and wars or through an economic system they control they enforce debt, exploitative labour practices, the sale of such countries’s assets to global corporations and grossly unfair trade deals. 

The violence inflicted upon Palestinians is part of this larger capitalist, colonial framework, which also inflicts “slow violence” — the gradual, less visible harm caused by ensuing social and health inequalities, systemic discrimination and economic exploitation. 

Poverty is a type of slow violence. Here in Britain, over 14 years of Tory party austerity policies with cuts to public services, stagnant wages and tax breaks for the wealthy have resulted in a widening gap between rich and poor with more and more people struggling to feed themselves, access healthcare or keep a roof over their heads. 

Tens of thousands of British people have died as a result of these policies. But Tories don’t care, because when you have a mindset that can justify direct violence via wars and colonisation, you won’t flinch if millions of people suffer the slow violence of poverty as an indirect result of your choices. 

The climate crisis is also a type of slow violence that is being inflicted on billions of people all over the world, mainly the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. 

The last couple of years alone has seen a series of devastating climate disasters in various parts of the world such as Cyclone Idai, deadly heat waves in India, Pakistan and Europe, flooding in south-east Asia and Libya, drought in the Amazon and wildfires ranging from Australia, Brazil, Greece, Canada and Chile. 

Millions of people have already lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones as a result of increasingly more dangerous and more frequent extreme weather events. 

The UN reported that already more than 20 million people a year are forced from their homes due to the climate crisis.

These extreme weather events threaten food and clean water supplies, destruction of homes and communities, collapse of infrastructure, loss of livelihood, displacement, sickness and death. 

In 2022, over 32 million people in Pakistan were impacted by flooding caused by heavy rainfall. Thousands died, millions lost their homes and were displaced. Families had no access to clean water, food, healthcare and lost opportunities for school and work. 

Over five years of drought in east Africa, with other factors such as armed conflict, have brought devastating food insecurity to 20 million people across the region. Crops have failed, people are starving, suffering from diseases linked to malnutrition and lack of clean water and many have been displaced in search of somewhere livable. 

We’ve always had hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, flooding and high winds. However, we are currently witnessing a scale of destruction and devastation that is new and terrifying. 

The underlying physical cause of the climate crisis is the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas), with major corporations and complicit governments resisting, to protect their profits, the necessary transition to clean energy. 

Fossil fuel interests have systematically denied and downplayed the climate crisis, despite clear scientific evidence of their role in global heating. Scientists predict that by 2070, over a third of the world’s population will face unlivable heat. Vast areas of the planet will become just too hot for billions of people to survive in. 

The climate crisis is knowingly being allowed to unfold because those who profit from fossil fuels do not care if billions of poorer people suffer and die as a result.

This is part of the same oppressive economic system that devalues the lives of many for the profit of a few. 

Just one example of how these injustices are interlinked: Ithaca Energy, a major player in Britain’s North Sea oil scene and a key operator of the massively polluting Rosebank oil field (west of Shetland), has channelled hundreds of millions of pounds into supporting illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. 

I’ve been to prison for protesting against the British government’s new north sea oil and gas licences with Just Stop Oil. I spent six weeks there without trial, then was released on a home detention ankle tag for months.

Others, in Palestine Action, have faced time in prison and had to wear tags for protesting against weapons factories that were arming Israel.

This shows the lengths to which these companies will go to silence dissent and protect the profits of the fossil fuel and arms industry.

The British government has been treating both climate and Palestine protesters with contempt and accusing us of extremism to justify ever harsher anti-protest laws. But we are not the extremists — those supporting, enabling and profiting from mass murder are the extremists. 

All that I’ve written about is very bleak and anyone with any sense of empathy and compassion will rightly find this painful. Yet we must not turn a blind eye to suffering and injustices.

What can give us hope is that millions of people all over the world do care. All over the world people have been out on the streets demanding an end to the genocide in Gaza, despite the propaganda and lies trying to justify Israel’s actions.

It’s important we continue to raise our voices, protest and unite to demand a world where Palestine is free, where people are not sacrificed for the profit of a few and all lives are valued equally. 


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