International solidarity with Gaza must begin at home

International solidarity with Gaza must begin at home
Comment: As Israel confidently strikes Gaza with little international coverage or outrage, our responsibility is to apply pressure on complicit governments and companies, writes Malia Bouattia.
5 min read
28 Aug, 2020
Protesters in London demand an end to UK complicity with Israeli arms companies [Getty]
For nearly two weeks now, Israel has been mounting renewed and relentless attacks on Gaza, bombing the Strip repeatedly, it claims, in retaliation to incendiary balloons being launched from Gaza. 

Yet, the silence from international media outlets, pundits and political figures is deafening. The lack of outcry, let alone action would fool anyone into thinking that the people of Gaza are not under attack, nor on the verge of yet another war waged on them by Israel.

Following the Great March of Return demonstrations in 2018, during which many Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces as they protested for the right to return home, a mediation effort led by Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations was supposed to lead to the easing of the blockade that has shrouded Gaza since 2007.

However, the agreement to provide security in exchange for the entry of specific goods into the Gaza strip and the building of a new power line, has not been honoured by Israel.

Now, after blaming Hamas for the homemade incendiary devices launched from the strip, Israel has resumed its collective punishment of the population of Gaza - a long standing colonial tactic. 

Israel has forced Gaza's only power plant to shut down by blocking access to the fuel needed to keep it running. This has meant that people in Gaza are forced to live with merely four hours of electricity each day. The impact this is having on the already strained health care services has been disastrous, especially in light of the recently confirmed cases of Covid-19 that forced a 48-hour lockdown and curfew across Gaza. 

We should be applying collective pressure on our political leaders and institutions to demand an end to this business as usual

There are considerable fears over the impact the pandemic will have on the two million inhabitants, most of whom are living in poverty, in one of the most densely populated areas on earth. The recent attacks have also seen Israel ban Palestinian fisherman from accessing the sea, exacerbating the situation even further by putting considerably more stress on the food supply. 

This makes the need for international solidarity that much more urgent. Once again, as Israel confidently strikes with little media coverage, let alone global critique and sanctions, it is incumbent upon us to apply pressure on complicit governments and companies. 

This is exactly what Palestine solidarity activists have been doing in the UK. 

Palestine Action has taken the fight to companies linked to Israel's largest private arms company, Elbit Systems. Elbit markets its weapons across the globe as having been "field tested" - a bloody euphemism to say they have been used on Palestinians, also specifically in Gaza.

For example, during the 2014 attacks on Gaza, otherwise known as
Operation Protective Edge, during which over 2,100 Palestinians were killed, 85 percent of the drones used were supplied by the company. 

Elbit Systems' headquarters office, their landlord's HQ offices, LaSalle Investment Management in London, as well as Elbit-Instro, the company's factory in Kent, and the Elbit-Ferranti factory in Oldham, were all targeted by activists for their complicity in the death and destruction meted out against Palestinians.

Read more: Hamas trades fire with Israel as Gaza flare-up shows no let-up

The buildings were graffitied with statements including "Shut Elbit Down", "Tested on Palestinians, Used in Kashmir" and "If you aid war criminals, you are war criminals." 

Palestine Action point out that Elbit systems have 10 sites in the UK, which further highlights the need for this to become a cause of national concern, and the direct impact that serious international sanctions could have.

We should be applying collective pressure on our political leaders and institutions to demand an end to this business as usual. Why is the British government allowing such a company to produce arms in the UK that are used to kill civilians in Palestine by Israel, in its continued violation of international law?

The message sent by Palestine Action is one that we should all be stressing. Following the targeting of Elbit Systems, activists declared that, "for every Palestinian life Elbit has taken, for every Palestinian home Elbit has destroyed and for every life which has suffered so Elbit can profit, we will take action. We will continue to escalate until we shut Elbit down." 

We can no longer accept that our politicians bat away demands for action against the oppression, dispossession, and murder of Palestinians as something too complicated, too far from home, too far out of their remit, when the complicity is so clearly there, carried out on British soil.

We cannot wait for more blood to be shed, more destruction of hospitals and universities in Gaza

And it doesn't just start and stop with Elbit. The growing movement for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) repeatedly stresses just how local the support is for the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine - from university investment in arms companies to local governments offering contracts to businesses who are active in settlements. International solidarity starts at home. 

We cannot wait for more blood to be shed, more destruction of hospitals and universities in Gaza, more displacement, annexation, or invasion in order for protests, coordinated direct action, and BDS campaigns to be organised.

The mainstream media may be silent and our leaders complicit, but the masses have the potential to force them not only to acknowledge the realities of the blockade and the continued colonisation of Palestine, but to take action to end it.

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.