Unconditional Solidarity with Palestine

To expect people to submit quietly to intolerable conditions is to contribute to and naturalise their dehumanisation. We stand in unflinching solidarity with the Palestinian people.

8 min read

We write to express our unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people, and particularly those in Gaza, who have seemingly been abandoned by the world to genocidal destruction at the hands of Israel. The population of Gaza is 2.3 million, 43% of whom, according to 2020 estimates, are under the age of 14. Many are already refugees, having been driven from their homes by occupying Israelis. Over the last week, 2,200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli bombardment. Roughly one person in every thousand has been killed — some while fleeing the bombardment along so-called ‘safe routes’ identified by the Israeli Occupation Force. There can be no justification for any of this, and none of it was inevitable. We join millions of others, worldwide, in calling not only for an immediate end to the onslaught, but for the total liberation of the Palestinian people and the unequivocal end of occupation, so that Palestinians might, after 75 years of violent displacement and dispossession, return to their homes and their lands, in peace and in perpetuity.

In some ways, perhaps that’s all there is to say. Unconditional solidarity with the people of Palestine, including their right to resist, and a commitment to doing whatever we can, however little that may be, to interrupt the genocide, should be a given.

Unconditional solidarity with the people of Palestine, including their right to resist, should be a given.

Palestinians, like all people, have a right to resist intolerable conditions; and conditions in Gaza have been made more intolerable than many of us can imagine, during the 15+ years that the blockade has been in place. 95% of the population have no access to clean water; 81.5% live in poverty.1 Infant mortality rates are heartbreakingly high—estimated at around 15 deaths per 1,000 live births2—and in 2016, the World Health Organisation found that “newborn deaths represented 68% of infant deaths” in Gaza. Even before the Israeli escalation, medical supplies (including medicines) were scarce, infrastructure was crumbling (and continually threatened by persistent IOF bombardments), and the ongoing power shortages imposed by the blockade meant that hospitals and sanitation facilities were often forced to rely on back-up generators.

To expect people to submit quietly to such conditions — to things that we would never tolerate for ourselves — is to contribute to and naturalise their dehumanisation. As the Palestinian journalist Hebh Jamal wrote this week: “I do not rejoice over death. I rejoice over the possibility to live. I cannot condemn the militants if I believe even for a second that there might be a possibility of all of this finally coming to an end.” We affirm the right of Palestinians to rejoice at the prospect of liberation, and, as a British publication, we add a secondary point: Given our state’s brutal and bloody history in Palestine, its cheerful profiteering from the manufacture of Israeli arms, and its continued frustration of any attempts at nonviolent resistance, nobody in Britain has any right to ‘condemn’ Palestinian resistance, whatever form it might take.

But also, and more urgently: as Britain sends warships and planes “to support Israel”, any condemnation—however well intentioned, whatever qualifications are insisted upon—involves making yourself useful to genocide by accepting the terms that form the basis of Israel’s justification for its ongoing assault on the Gazan people.

And we should be very clear: this is precisely the purpose of the continual demands for condemnation and equivocation. They construct a moral terrain whereby a ‘crime’ has been committed that is so outrageous as to make punishment — which is to say, sustained technologised mass murder — appear both inevitable and ethical. The logic runs like this: if everyone agrees that there must be punishment (and the word ‘condemn’, which contains within it a sense of marking-out for punishment, is deployed in order to to bring about this agreement), then the only discussion to be had must concern the technicalities of how that punishment should be meted out. These technicalities are, of course, held to be a matter best left to the specialists in repression—armies, police, security services—and with them lies the fate of so many precious human lives.

To refuse to play the condemnation game opens one up to all sorts of accusations. At best, one might be accused of celebrating deaths, or of lacking compassion; at worst, of racial hatred—as though this was a religious or ethnic conflict, some expression of atavistic ‘primitive’ acrimony, rather than a very simple question of oppressed vs. oppressor, where one side has no fuel to power its hospitals, and the other is dropping white phosphorus on those hospitals whilst cheerfully buying up ad space on YouTube to distribute disturbing and misleading war propaganda in hopes of rallying support for its genocidal actions.

It's a very simple question of oppressed vs. oppressor, where one side has no fuel to power its hospitals, and the other is dropping white phosphorus on those hospitals whilst cheerfully buying up ad space on YouTube.

Likewise, if one points to the occupation, the blockade of Gaza, the 75 years (at least) of Nakba, as an explanation for the Hamas action, one might be accused of “denying the agency of Palestinians”—as though Palestinians are granted or denied “agency” by the fiat of random Westerners on the internet. As though an abstract debate about free will, mediated through a typically dishonest liberal switcheroo, is at all appropriate or helpful in the face of an actually-occurring genocide.

But of course, it isn’t intended to be appropriate or helpful. All of this serves no purpose other than to obfuscate and mystify what is, in fact, very clear and simple. It seeks to create the impression that the situation is more complicated than it is. It wants, among other things, to pretend that the originary problem is Hamas, when we know that the Nakba predates the establishment of Hamas by at least 40 years, and that, were Hamas to dissolve tomorrow, the oppression and occupation of Gaza would continue unabated, with other justifications. Those who would engage us in these games want to insist that things such as liberation and basic human dignity are contingent on the whims and preferences of the powerful, or on ‘good behaviour’, when in actuality, they are in nobody’s gift to grant or to withhold, and nor are they up for debate or discussion.

Liberation and basic human dignity are in nobody’s gift to grant or to withhold, and nor are they up for debate or discussion.

The purpose is to bog us down in ‘nuance’, to muddy the waters, to complicate the simple — to tire us out, to demobilise us, to splinter and fragment our solidarities. When people believe that situations are simply too complex to understand, they are likely to give up trying, to shift their attention elsewhere—all too often, inward. And that’s something that needs to be resisted, if we are to be of any use at all in “the real movement that abolishes the present state of things”.

Because, ultimately, this isn’t about individuals in Britain and their personal moral stances. It isn’t about what ‘public opinion’ thinks of anti-genocide protestors, or about forming ‘compelling narratives’, or about how we ‘feel’ as spectators. We are not the story here. Our personal brands and public images do not matter. What matters is the imminent and ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people—a collective punishment that is effectively co-signed every time we take our eyes from the horizon of liberation or the bonds of solidarity, and focus instead on our own navels.

Many of you reading this will be members of a trade union, such as Unite or GMB, that includes workers who produce weapons for the genocidal Israeli state.3 At the time of writing, none of these unions have, to our knowledge, even put out a statement in support of Palestine. Such a statement or a motion of support would be the very least they could do; but the real question (especially given the “back to the workplace” tendency of the post-Corbyn left) is whether these unions will organise their workers to withdraw their labour from genocide—and whether ‘rank-and-file’ members are prepared to apply the necessary pressure to make this happen. It is our hope that enough of you will choose to do so. However, absent any action from organised workers and trade unions, there remains the possibility of direct action against arms manufacturers, or the disruption of arms shipments at ports.

In the words of the Palestinian poet Rasha Abdulhadi:

“Wherever you are, whatever sand you can throw on the gears of genocide, do it now. If it’s a handful, throw it. If it’s a fingernail full, scrape it out and throw. Conversations, protest of any size, BDS at work/school/worship, refusal of labour & strikes, anything you can reach.”

Perhaps, in Britain, what we can reach and affect isn’t much—but we do it anyway, with commitment, and in unshakeable solidarity. This is the call, this is the demand, this is the task. Everything else can wait.

We will be publishing more on this, and we also invite contributions. In the meantime, please consider:

Further reading:

From Land Day to Nakba Day: the Meaning of Return — on the specifically settler-colonial and eliminationist character of the Israeli state, including the violence of its founding.

Palestine, Feminism, and the Pitfalls of Liberalism—in Germany and Beyond—a discussion between Noor Blaas and Anna-Esther Younes, on the intensifying criminalisation and exclusion of Palestinian identity within European societies.

Joint Statement on Censorship of Palestine Campaigning in Schools—on the uses of Prevent legislation to harass students who demonstrate solidarity with Palestine.

  1. These figures come from the UNRWA

  2. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has a slightly lower figure, suggesting in its 2022 report that infant mortality rates in Gaza stood at 13 deaths per 1,000 live births. For comparison, infant mortality rates in England and Wales are, per the Office of National Statistics, around 4 deaths per 1,000 live births. 

  3. Details of direct manufacturers of weapons for Israel are hard to find, though we continue to research this, and would encourage comrades in trade unions to undertake their own research—which we would be keen to share. We know that Unite and the GMB both represent large numbers of workers at BAE Systems: a company involved in building the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which was used in the 2021 attack on Gaza. Both unions also have members in Rolls Royce—also involved in the F-35 fighter jet—as well as Babcock, a major supplier to Israel, in close collaboration with Elbit. At present, we do not know which union Elbit workers are in. Other unions with significant numbers of members in arms manufacturing, including those who manufacture weapons for Israel, include Community and Prospect, which, together with Unite and GMB, lobby to support and increase arms manufacturing as part of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions


The Editors (@NewSocialistNS)

The New Socialist editorial collective.