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THERE have been enormous mobilisations all across the world calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank. Naturally, the ceasefire would apply to all sides.
It is already an international conflict, with Hezbollah engaged with Israeli forces in the north and the US launching attacks on positions in Syria.
There are now well over 11,000 people who have been killed in Gaza, as well as around 1,200 killed in Israel. Almost 200 people have been killed in the West Bank as settlers take advantage of the crisis to grab more land, frequently backed by the Israeli security forces.
There is no denying that this is an enormous death toll and it seems sure to climb higher. There remains too, the grave possibility that this could become a much wider conflict, even if it is in no-one’s strategic interest for it to do so. This is the inevitable risk in the dynamic of war.
There are now innumerable international bodies and dignitaries who have called for a ceasefire. Unfortunately, Britain is not among them.
This week in Parliament, 126 MPs voted for a ceasefire and a number of parties voted for it, including the SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and the SDLP. Although Sinn Fein do not take their Westminster they too support a ceasefire. In the Dail in Dublin, they have not only called for ceasefire but also the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the indictment of the Israeli cabinet on international war crimes charges.
However, the leadership of our two main political parties, and the only ones who could possibly lead a government at the next election, are both strongly against the demand for a ceasefire.
Their arguments are both flimsy and reckless. They can be reduced to two propositions. One is that “our allies do not support a ceasefire” — by this, they mean the US, as the EU position does not detain either party leader for long.
The other argument is that a ceasefire now would leave the Hamas infrastructure and leadership in place.
On our allies, the position of the US is well known as it is a long-term and very generous sponsor of Israel. In President Joe Biden’s extraordinary new military support budget of $105 billion, $14.3bn is earmarked for further military funds for Israel. It is a great time to be a US weapons manufacturer, if no-one else.
This Biden budget allocation is greater than the Israeli domestically funded military budget, and shows how much Israel is reliant on the US for its offensive capacity. Recently, maverick US presidential hope Robert Kennedy Jr likened US support for Israel to having a permanent aircraft carrier in the region, preventing hostile forces to the US from gaining control over strategic oil assets. Or, as Biden himself famously said in 1986 and repeated this year in Tel Aviv, “If there were not an Israel, we’d have to invent one.”
For its own reasons, the US is heavily invested, both financially and politically, in Israel’s military power. But that is not true of European powers including Britain. Even from an entirely pragmatic view, regular and destabilising wars in the region are not in this country’s strategic interests.
The inescapable conclusion is that it is this country’s strategic relationship with the US which is dictating the policy. Yet this determination to be completely aligned with US policy has proven to be disastrous in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Not a single one of these countries or their peoples is in any better condition than before this country supported the US military interventions. Not one.
There is no reason to suppose the US backing for Israel will turn out any differently on this occasion. And there may be worse to come.
What will be the response of Tory and Labour leaders to a Trump presidency in 2025 when he wants to launch a war on China? We must hope that there is some strategic thinking going on at the Foreign Office, the think tanks and at party HQs. But to date, there is precious little sign of it.
This brings us to the question of the military policy aim of attempting to eradicate Hamas. So far, there is no sign of that happening either.
On the contrary, Israeli military intelligence struggles to locate the tunnels, which they wrongly claim gives them the right to invade a hospital. The same intelligence was disastrously unable to locate Hamas during the October 7 attacks. But we are now invited to believe that they will be able to identify and root out those commanders and key infrastructure in their own territory.
A parallel conclusion can be drawn with regard to the incessant aerial bombing and artillery. One estimate is that 25,000 tonnes of explosive has been dropped on Gaza, which is the explosive equivalent of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
Yet Israel, the US and the warmongers say a ceasefire now is not appropriate because, “it would leave the command structure, infrastructure and fighting capacity of Hamas in place.” Even in their own logic, and by their own admission, this military offensive is not working and their objections to a ceasefire do not stand.
What is working is the forcible displacement of over a million people, the deaths of thousands, mostly civilians, the destruction of a major city and untold human misery. It is not even leading to any real sense of security for the Israeli population. A prisoner swap seems no closer.
We are now told that, in order to uphold democracy, Western powers are willing to appoint Tony Blair as the governor-general of a newly annexed and occupied northern Gaza. Nothing says supporting democracy and human rights so well as appointing the hero of Iraq as a colonial governor.
But we should also note the success of the anti-war movement and its central demand for a ceasefire. It is possibly unprecedented, but now two-thirds of the US supports a ceasefire. This is with the US elections less than 12 months away. The pressure on Biden will be excruciating.
Here, three-quarters of people support a ceasefire and it is the unbearable pressure of our movement that has led to so many departures from the Labour front bench. The enormous mobilisations all across the world are creating a new dividing line in politics; for or against peace.
That is why we must keep marching, lobbying, contacting elected representatives and speaking out on local and national media. We are already making a political difference. We must increase our efforts to end the suffering, to end the violence.
Diane Abbott is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
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