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Editorial: The Nakba is not a historical aberration but a crime we must stop today

WEEKEND PROTESTS marking the 74th anniversary of the Nakba — the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by forces establishing the state of Israel — show that the spirit of solidarity with the Palestinian people is alive and well.

It is driven by the almost daily displays by the Israeli state of its racist and colonial character. Like all such states in history, it relies heavily on violence against the oppressed.

That was dramatised last week by the shooting of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a killing most likely committed by Israeli soldiers. Just as shocking was the sight of Israeli police, bereft of decency, attacking her funeral procession and almost upending her coffin as they belaboured pall bearers with their truncheons.

The continuing nature of the Nakba — a crime renewed every day — was also highlighted by the decision of an Israeli court to evict 1,000 Palestinians from villages around Hebron in the occupied West Bank where they have lived for decades.  

Allegedly, the Israeli army needs the territory for a firing range. A staggering 18 per cent of the West Bank has been seized by the Israeli army for such purposes. That one of the judges imposing this eviction order is himself a settler should surprise no-one.

Just days later the Israeli cabinet gave the green light to the construction of 4,000 new homes for settlers in the West Bank, all of them illegal under international law.

So — Palestinians out and Israeli settlers in. The term for this process is ethnic cleansing, and the word for the system which it sustains is apartheid.

That Israel has now evolved into an apartheid state — unarguably in its occupation of the West Bank — has been recognised by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israeli newspaper Haaretz, any number of retired Israeli politicians and former United Nations secretary-general Ban-Ki Moon.

It rests on institutionalised discrimination and dispossession, backed by overweening military force. Despite this, not for a single day in the last 74 years have the Palestinian people ceased to resist their oppression.

That is why this contemporary apartheid should be challenged by the same international solidarity as was deployed against the South African original. The most potent way of doing so is through the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement directed at isolating Israel internationally.

This entirely peaceful and democratic movement has been recognised by the Israeli government as a strategic threat to its crushing of Palestinian self-determination.

In Britain solidarity entails first of all a struggle against our own political establishment. Boris Johnson’s government is rushing through legislation to bar public bodies from supporting BDS.  

Since the British government formally regards Israeli settlements in the West Ban as illegal, his government is effectively making campaigning against a crime itself an offence.

The devious and unprincipled Labour leader is of no assistance either. Keir Starmer has prostrated himself before the far-right Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely — who makes no bones about her desire to see Israel annex all of Palestine — and has claimed that Israel is not an apartheid state.

Whether he means any of this or whether it is all part of his repositioning as a reliable servant of imperialist priorities is imponderable. The fact is that Starmer has set his face against Labour’s own pro-Palestinian conference policy on the matter.

So the route to rendering effective assistance to the Palestinian people in their plight lies in challenging our own establishment’s complicity in Israeli colonialism. Redressing the imbalance of power between the Israeli state and the Palestinians is a prerequisite for any possibility of peace.

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