Building solidarity with Palestine / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance, ed Joyce Chediac, World View Forum 2011, $15.55. The full text is also available at gazaresistancebook.com

Targeting Israeli Apartheid: A Boycott Divestment and Sanction Handbook can be downloaded as a pdf or bought for £10 at www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=4103

On 29 December 2011, Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), marked the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, describing the massacre as ‘an excellent operation’ during which the IDF operated in ‘a determined, decisive and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza Strip’. He warned that ‘sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting [another] significant operation’.

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance, edited by Joyce Chediac, covers events in Gaza between 2006 and 2010 as reported in US newspaper Workers World, and serves as an excellent introduction for anyone new to the issue, as well as providing essential facts for activists. It starts with the 2005-06 elections in Gaza – ‘among the most heavily monitored ever by international observers’ – in which the people chose the ‘wrong’ party, electing Hamas with 73% of the vote. The consequence was a campaign by the US and Israel to destroy Hamas and punish the Palestinians by imposing a siege on Gaza, the prelude to Operation Cast Lead. The book explains that even with 1,455 Palestinians killed, and thousands injured, Hamas’ organisation remained intact after the invasion, with Gaza ‘bloodied, but unbowed’.

Chediac argues the vital importance of Gazan resistance and the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. ‘Support for Gaza is not charity... it is mutual solidarity with the heroic Palestinian struggle against the common enemy.’ As the capitalist crisis deepens and repression against the working class increases worldwide, resistance has to be anti-imperialist: ‘The workers have begun fighting defensive battles and can identify with the defensive struggle of the Palestinians.’

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance focuses on US imperialism’s support for the repression of the people of Gaza; a recent Corporatewatch report addresses British imperialism’s role. Targeting Israeli Apartheid calls itself a ‘boycott, divestment, and sanctions [BDS] handbook’. Corporatewatch says that ‘the direct action of ordinary people is vital for the success of the Palestinian struggle’. Examining the connections between the Israeli economy and Britain, the report illustrates the impact that an effective BDS campaign can have on Israel’s $55bn export market, citing a survey which reports that 21% of 90 Israeli exporters questioned had experienced a fall in demand due to boycotts in Britain and Scandinavia.

The Israeli economy is dominated by a small number of holdings companies which control huge amounts of Israeli capital. The banking sector plays a crucial role in maintaining the Israeli state, with foreign banks allowing it access to bond markets, and Corporatewatch shows how the favourable loans and mortgage rates offered by Israeli banks are fuelling the expansion of illegal settlements. British banks are at the forefront: both HSBC and Barclays run branches in Israel, with Barclays having ‘significant investments’ in eight Israeli companies ‘complicit in Israeli militarism, colonisation and apartheid’.

British arms companies make a significant amount of money from sales to Israel and enable its continuing military domination. For example, BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms company, supplies Israel with navigation systems for F-16 jets which continue to bomb Gaza. The report describes the complicity of British state: its ‘policy on arming Israel in the last 10 years has been simple: to allow as much as possible, the unfettered export of weapons components bound for Israel from British companies and, in the face of growing public opposition and resistance, to create the false impression that arms exports are subject to strict controls’.

‘All major UK retailers sell Israeli goods, and most sell produce from illegal Israeli settlements’: the links between Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, and Waitrose and Israeli apartheid make them targets for BDS campaigns. Then there is Marks & Spencer’s political and economic support for Zionism: it continues to sell huge amounts of fresh produce from Israel, including dates from Israeli company Hadiklaim which are grown in the settlements and packaged as M&S own-brand. M&S has been the target of a sustained campaign by supporters of FRFI as the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel. Together, these two new books provide an invaluable resource for building a movement against Zionism and its imperialist backers. They are both recommended.

Isolate Israel! Freedom for Palestine!

Toby Harbertson