On Saturday 11 May, thousands of protesters gathered in central London for a demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). This protest was called in response to the increasingly disastrous conditions faced by the people of Palestine.
The last few months have seen renewed and increased attacks on Gaza by the Israeli military, alongside further colonisation of the West Bank. The recent re-election of Netanyahu as Israeli premier, increasingly relying on the far right to hold on to power, has further added to the defiant mood amongst Palestinians.
The main slogan put forward by the PSC, therefore, was “Exist, Resist, Return!”, encapsulating the basic demands in defence of Palestinian rights.
Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian activist who was famously sent to Israeli prison for slapping a soldier, addressed the crowd at the closing rally. She said she did not want the Palestinian struggle to be portrayed as one of victimhood, but “that in the struggle for freedom and justice, we are instead freedom fighters”.
In order to achieve this freedom, speakers called on the Tory government to stop arming Israel and on the “international community” to condemn the actions of the Israeli state.
The tactic of “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) was also proposed. Its supporters hope that a boycott of Israeli goods will force Netanyahu’s government to comply with international law - that is, to stop the bombing of Gaza and the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
There is a growing mood of scepticism within the movement, however, as to whether these methods are capable of working.
We asked Mohammed, a protester on the demo, whether these means of pressuring the Israeli state could work on a capitalist basis. “No,” he replied, “because the imperialist powers, e.g. the UK and US, secure a benefit from their alliance with Israel in the region. With it they can control the oil in the Gulf area for their own interests, and not for those of Israeli or Palestinian people.”
At the end of the day, therefore, calls aimed at the Tories and other big business politicians in the “international community” will fall on deaf ears. We cannot expect them to stop arming the Israeli state through moral conviction. The profit motive will always take precedence for these defenders of capitalism and imperialism.
Our most important act of solidarity, therefore, is to fight for a socialist Labour government back home - one that will end British imperialism abroad, and recognise and defend the rights of the Palestinians and all oppressed peoples internationally.
Back in Israel, the ruling class will never tolerate a genuine Palestinian state on its borders. A two-state solution is therefore not viable on a capitalist basis. Neither is one-state solution: under capitalism, this would either be an apartheid state or would involve uprooting generations of Israelis.
By contrast, Socialist Appeal supporters on the protest called for a solution based on workers’ unity and mass mobilisation: for a new Arab revolution and a Socialist Federation of the Middle East.