Peace requires justice — freedom for Palestine! Maintain solidarity!

Thousands protest against Israel's war on Gaza in Tel Aviv and Yaffa, January 17, 2009. Below: 10,000 people protested in Melbourne on January 18, 2009. Photos by Margarita Windisch.

Protesters in New Zealand target arms manufacturer Rakon on January 17, 2009. Thanks to

January 18, 2009 -- The January 15 bombing with white phosphorous of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that housed hundreds of refugees and humanitarian aid was not an isolated incident.

Israel bombed civilian areas for 22 days continually until unilaterally declaring a cease-fire on January 18 that includes Israeli military occupation of Gaza, the continuation of the siege that is causing a humanitarian disaster and promising to begin the slaughter anew if Palestinians continue resisting the Israeli military — as Hamas has said it will.

This is not an end to Israel’s war.

The death toll by January 18 had exceeded 1200, including more than 400 children. There are many reports of precision bombings of buildings that the Israeli military is aware house people who have fled for their safety. The Israeli military has also reportedly shot at fleeing civilians.

The military offensive comes on the back of a year-and-a-half of near total siege, itself an act of war directed at all the people of Gaza.

Israel can deny this all it likes, but its actions scream louder: it has been deliberately targeting civilians and its war is not simply against the governmental authorities in Gaza (the establishment media only ever refer to these legitimate bodies as “Hamas”, as if you could only refer to the Bush administration as “Republicans”), but against the entire population.

The homemade rockets fired from Gaza are merely an excuse: Israel’s aim is ethnic cleansing.

Founded in 1948 on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the territory it now claims, Israel is seeking to destroy the Palestinian people as a people with a claim to nationhood.

The existence of territory recognised as Palestinian is a permanent reminder of the legitimate claims of the dispossessed Palestinian people — and a reminder of the fundamental injustice of a state that exists by and for only one section of the population. Like in South Africa, this is a system of apartheid, colour-coded license plates and all.

It is perfectly clear that Israel has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state to exist alongside it. It has buried the “two-state solution” under the rubble in Gaza.

Ultimately, the solution to the oppression of Palestinians must involve the creation of genuine equality — a state for everyone in the area regardless of their religion or race.

Inside the borders of Israel, Palestinians who remain are referred to as “Israeli Arabs”; the Israeli state cannot even bring itself to refer to them by their proper name.

And now, the state that claims to be the “only democracy” in the region has banned “Israeli Arab” parties from standing in its elections.

The response of the world’s people has been inspiring: a global intifada in support of the people of Gaza is occurring. People from every corner of the globe, including tens of thousands inside Israel, have taken to the streets in demonstrations that have grown bigger as the war has continued.

Even inside the US, Israel’s strongest backer, opposition is strong. A December 31 Rasmussen poll revealed that opposition to Israel’s war among Democrat voters was 24 points greater than support.

On January 20, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the new US president. If the new president is serious about “change”, he should immediately cease military and political support for Israel.

Such an act would force Israel to stop its genocidal path and force a solution to the central question of Palestinian national self-determination.

The international solidarity campaign is looking for ways to isolate Israel. A campaign to boycott companies with economic ties to Israel is underway. A letter from Israeli anti-war activists has raised the demand of placing sanctions on Israel.

The demand on governments to break ties with Israel over its war crimes is crucial. The decision to do just that by the anti-imperialist governments headed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia sets a powerful example.

In Australia, we must demand our government does the same and immediately expel Israel’s ambassador.

More than anything, the movement for justice for Palestinians needs unity.

With or without Israel’s unilateral cease-fire, this is a crucial moment and everyone who wants to see Israel’s military occupation ended and the criminal siege lifted — whatever else we may or may not agree on — must stand together. The people of the world are horrified by Israel’s crimes and our strength is our numbers.

If the global solidarity movement continues growing and giving expression to popular outrage, we will have a movement powerful enough to make support for Israel too high a political price for governments to pay. This is an essential component of the struggle to win freedom for Palestine.

[From Green Left Weekly issue #779, January 21, 2009.]