Israel has unleashed terror on Palestinians, bombing Gaza and killing at least 215, including 61 children, in a week.
The bombardment has left the two million inhabitants of Gaza, more than half of them refugees, with no safe tap water and limited electricity.
This is the fourth Israeli war against the Palestinians of Gaza, following attacks in 2007, 2012 and 2014.
Since 2007, the enclave has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its inhabitants of food, fuel and medicine.
But Palestinians are fighting back. On 18 May, they held a general strike across Israel and the occupied territories.
As Palestinian journalist Rami Younis put it: “It’s a historical event. For the first time since 1936—that’s 12 years before the Nakba, the catastrophe of the Palestinian people, or the founding of the state of Israel—for the first time ever, we are striking, all over Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
The strike was apparently first called by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel. This is an umbrella group of Palestinian councils and political parties inside Israel’s borders and has semi-official status in Israel.
Palestinian teachers’ unions, lecturers’ unions and the lawyers’ Bar Association in the West Bank announced their support for the strike. Palestinian prisoners’ organisations said they would join it.
It was also backed by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Middle East Eye reports that unlike previous strikes—symbolic actions called by the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party Fatah—this one is “pushed and organised by ordinary Palestinians”. This time, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority fell in behind the strike, declaring that all public sector institutions in the West Bank would shut down.
The strike builds on weeks of resistance, including within Israel itself. Palestinians have taken to the streets in at least 11 towns and cities, including Lydda—known as Lod by Israelis—Nazareth, Haifa and Jaffa.
One Palestinian news source reported protests took place in more than 200 places across the West Bank—met with fierce repression by the occupying Israeli military.
There was a major protest in Bethlehem and in other cities including Tulkarem, Qalqilya and Hebron.
Significantly, there have also been protests in solidarity at the borders in neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan. Some protesters at both demonstrations crossed the border.
This latest conflict was sparked by an attempt to steal Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah.
Video went viral of an Israeli settler arguing with a Palestinian woman in the garden of her East Jerusalem home as he said: “If I don’t steal it, someone else will steal it.”
Settlers are using a law passed in 1970, a mere three years after Israel illegally invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, to “legally” force Palestinians out of their homes if Israeli courts decree that the land was owned by Jews before the arrival of Palestinians. Yet hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were dispossessed in 1948 with the formation of Israel have no right to return.
The institutionalised racism of the Israeli legal system and the seizure of land by settlers on the West Bank have reduced Palestinian territory to a fraction of its former self. Palestine is now limited to Gaza and fragments of the West Bank.
All the while, the United States and its allies, including Australia, continue to provide almost unconditional support to Israel as a loyal ally in a region where most people are hostile to Western imperialism.
Scott Morrison has urged “restraint”, refusing to condemn the bombardment of Gaza and saying Israel has the right to defend itself.
At the same time, his government is considering negotiating a free trade agreement with Israel to boost the $1.3 billion annual trade between the two countries.
Israel’s brutal bombing of Gaza underscores why the respected NGO, Human Rights Watch, last month issued a report declaring that Israel is guilty of crimes of apartheid against Palestinians.
It stated that Israeli authorities “have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity.
“… these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
Socialists stand with the Palestinians and support their fight for liberation. There can be no justice without the formation of a single, democratic state with equal rights for Muslims, Jews and Christians, and which guarantees the right of return for all Palestinian refugees forced from their homes since 1948.