What once might have seemed like a radical situation, far removed from our everyday reality, aligned itself with our own experiences of living through a dangerous pandemic.
The following speech was written for the Apartheid Off Campus “Fight Like Colombia! Resist Like Palestine! Solidarity Demo” – at which a Red Fightback member spoke on the 15th May 2021. Our speaker ended up being pushed for time, and we chose not to give the speech in full. Instead we share the complete version here.
Since the speech was written, we have seen an intensification of Israeli violence; Gaza has been devastated by air strikes, leaving more than 40 people dead, at least 10 of whom were children, and Netanyahu has stated that this brutality will continue until Hamas have paid a “heavy price”. The spirit of the Palestinian people is however unwavering. With this intensification of violence, we have seen an intensification of resistance and solidarity, between Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, other occupied territories and the diaspora – as well as in actions from Syria, from Lebanon, and in protests across the world.
Now, it is time for us to move beyond verbal proclamations of solidarity. Port workers in Italy have refused to load arms onto a ship destined for Palestine, L’Unione Sindacale di Base stating firmly that “The port of Livorno will not be an accomplice in the massacre of the Palestinian people”. This is what true solidarity looks like – exercising the power of the organised working class to defend our siblings internationally. When we act together, no power in the world can stop us. In our unity is our liberation. There is no doubt in our minds, Palestine will be free.
The speech follows.
The Palestinian spirit is notable in that for over 73 years it has lay at the intersection of unceasing mourning and relentless hope. From the darkness of each day under occupation rises the light of hope for liberation, and there is no force in this world that can crush Palestinian resistance. It is in this spirit that we gather here today. This is proven moreso by the fact that this latest expression of Zionist violence and apartheid has been met with solidarity in the last few days, from al-Quds to al-Lydd, from Akka to Hayfa, from the river to the sea and beyond.
Before we begin, I want to recognise something of great importance. Historically, the Palestinian struggle has been a point of unity for a broad and diverse range of movements. Black radicals, Irish and Arab nationalists, anarchists and communists have all stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for Palestinian liberation. Amongst us here today, this diversity of thought and position is no doubt represented. We may disagree on much, perhaps even some of what I’m about to say. And yet we stand – shoulder to shoulder – and this is a unity we must maintain.
In war, it is essential to understand the enemy, their vulnerabilities, the extent of their power, and on whom they depend for survival. Using this analysis, we avoid the antisemitic error of claiming that Israeli Zionists control our own government and the government of the United States. Quite the opposite is true. Using this analysis, we can expose Israel for the dependant, cowardly terror-state that it is.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians to make way for Israeli settlers in 1948. Since this foundation, Israel has been a tool of the British and American imperialists. Israel is a proxy force and an imperialist outpost in the Middle East, equipped with the most sophisticated military hardware and training – including drones and tanks manufactured here in Britain, and then used in the assaults on Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel is kept alive only by its role as a forward base through which Western Imperialists can assert their interests in the region, and profit from the dispossession and death they inflict on the people of Palestine, Iran, and Yemen.
We must therefore understand that the enemy in this conflict is not simply the settler-colonial terror state of Israel alone, but also the global imperialist powers that back it. Without these powers, Israel would not have the funding, the firepower, the training, or the propaganda machine that allow it to inflict its daily terror on the people of Palestine. It is therefore these imperialist powers we must set in our sights, every bit as much as Israel itself.
Imperialism is an economic necessity of capitalism. Military might secures resources and super-exploited labour in the oppressed countries, and transfers that value into the imperial core as profits in the pockets of our ruling class. So when PUMA makes money by funding football teams on occupied land, that’s imperialism. When SodaStream factories operate on occupied land, and super-exploit Palestinian labour, and those profits appear in the pockets of PepsiCo and Cadbury – that’s imperialism. The bricks in the houses of the rich are held together by the blood of the oppressed. Imperialism is not merely a question of military might. Nor is it a political aberration occurring in an otherwise peaceful system – it is the lifeblood of capitalism.
Nor is imperialist exploitation dependent on the naked colonialism we see now in Palestine. As we learned from the decolonial struggles of the 20th century – when colonial powers are overthrown they do not retreat – they adapt – and they continue their pillage and plunder through the mechanisms of neo-colonialism. Trump’s peace plan was a direct expression of this colonial strategy in relation to Palestine, and such a policy is a very real possibility in the years to come. We must understand this, so that our own resistance will not wane if the most naked expressions of this brutality come to an end. We can never rest until we see the complete liberation of Palestine from imperialist aggression and exploitation.
We must also understand how imperialism impacts the working class in the imperial nations, and what this means for our strategies of resistance. Crumbs of imperialism’s profits are kicked down to the working class in the imperialist countries, through artificially high wages, cheapened commodities, and state welfare. These benefits bribe our own working class into complicity with imperialism. This is why even the most radical elements of the Labour Party consistently fail to call for the total abolition of the settler-colonial state of Israel. At best, they call for a two-state solution – nothing less than the maintenance of an imperialist stronghold on Palestinian land and the continuation of genocide. The British state is imperialist in its every manifestation – Labour, Tory, same old story; whether it’s the anti-BDS laws proposed by the Tories, or the condemnation of the same campaign that came even from Corbyn’s front bench. Britain as an entity is racist and colonial to its core – there is no party or leader in British government which can truly fight for the liberation of Palestine.
With this knowledge, we can see that the fight for Palestinian liberation can not be confined to the borders of Palestine. Nor can it be won by appeals to our government, the United States, or international political institutions such as the UN. Any of these entities could put a stop to the devastation being inflicted on Gaza and the ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem today – if they were truly motivated by human rights. It would be as simple as cutting off the supply chains. But each of these actors is working thoroughly in the service of racial capitalism, and Palestinian liberation is against their interests.
The struggle for Palestinian liberation is the struggle against imperialism. It is a struggle against the global system of racial capitalism, of which the capitalist classes in Britain, in Europe, in the settler colonies of the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, are the primary beneficiaries. When fighting a global system, our struggle must be globally united. We have much to learn from the decades of solidarity between Ireland and Palestine – both recognising that their oppressor is one and the same, and so are their struggles. We have much to learn from last summer, when we saw Palestinians standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests in the US – in recognition that both are murdered and oppressed by the racist militarised police forces of a settler colonial state. Today, we have united the struggle in Palestine with the struggle in Colombia – because we know that when the Duque government vanishes and murders community leaders and protestors, it does so in defence of the same imperialist system that Israel too serves.
Solidarity with the Palestinian people cannot end at social media posts, media appearances or street protests. Solidarity with the Palestinian people requires the revolutionary overthrow of our own ruling class, our own government, our own capitalist monopolies, and the cutting off of the lifeline that allows Israel to freely oppress Palestinians. When I speak of this revolution, I am not speaking in a metaphor. The brutalisation of Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank will not stop until British imperialism and the US empire have been burnt to the ground.
We must therefore begin by strengthening working class power in this country, and fighting tirelessly for an internationalist line in the workers movement. This means anti-racist and anti-imperialist education in our trade unions, our tenants organisations, our mutual aid groups and our community campaigns. It means turning away from the false promises of the Labour Party, and turning towards the real hope that lies in the organised power of the working class.
And as some of us cannot ever be free until all of us are free, our organising needs to be based on an intersectional analysis, which recognises that anti-Blackness and Islamophobia in Israel, sexual abuses by the IDF, and the devastating injuries caused by Israeli weapons require us to foreground race, gender and disability in our theory and in our praxis.
The struggle against global imperialism is the highest level of struggle, and it is in its defeat that we find our common liberation. From river to sea in Palestine, from sea to sea in North America, from one end of the world to the other.
Save Sheikh Jarrah! Hands off Gaza! Free Palestine!
From the belly of the beast: no justice, no peace!