As this issue of our journal goes to press, the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip is entering its fourth day, following seven days of intensive bombardment from both air and sea.
Gaza has thus become the latest victim of the imperialist "war on terror", after Afghanistan and Iraq. Because it is indeed under the cynical pretext of "defeating terrorism" that the Israeli tanks, Air Force and Navy are now bombing shopping centres and open markets, public buildings and mosques, private houses and shanty towns, while terrorising Palestinian families out of their homes, for fear of being targeted by Israeli missiles.
Already 500 Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli fire in Gaza, and 2,300 have been injured. For every Israeli citizen killed or injured by Hamas' home-made rockets, there have been a hundred Palestinians killed or injured by Israel's war machine! And the vast majority of these casualties are civilians of all ages, including children, who are certainly not "Hamas militants" contrary to the hypocritical claims of Israeli ministers.
In fact, these casualty figures are still a huge understatement of the crimes of the Israeli state. Indeed, for nearly two years, Gaza has been subjected to a complete economic blockade by the Israeli state for only one reason - its dislike of the Hamas government voted in by the Palestinian electorate in Gaza. But how many casualties has this long blockade actually caused in Gaza, even before this latest wave of Israeli bombings? No-one can say for sure. But in the long term, deprivation and shortages can be even more lethal than bombs. And the odds are that the casualties of this blockade alone run into tens of thousands.
Today, under the pretext of destroying Hamas' "fire power", the Israeli army is now reducing to rubble what little public infrastructure still remained in the Gaza Strip. Since the invasion began, all food, fuel and electricity supplies have been stopped. The 1.6 million population is being penned into an area which is just about the size of two average London boroughs, with nothing close to what would be needed in terms of drinking water, toilets, etc.. Hospitals are overwhelmed by a constant flow of casualties who cannot be treated due to lack of medicines and electricity. But never mind: according to the Israeli Foreign Secretary, "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza"!
Meanwhile, the "international community", that is the alliance of imperialist powers which strives to impose its own order across the planet, is exposing its impotence - or rather, its criminal role in allowing the Israeli state to use terror and cold-blooded murder against the Gaza population. But how could it be otherwise, given the social and economic interests, those of the rich countries' powerful banks and multinationals, that this "international community" is there to defend?
Britain's government has a big share of responsibility among these criminals. Blair, who gave his unwavering support to Israel's carpet-bombing of the Lebanon shortly before leaving Downing Street, is now the man in charge of "mediating" in the Middle East between the Israeli state and the Palestinians, on behalf of the "Quartet" formed by the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN. It is not hard to imagine what sort of mediation Blair has to offer - in any case certainly not the kind that would risk weakening the position of Israel in order to protect the safety of the Palestinians!
As to Brown, his apparently benevolent calls for an "immediate cease-fire" can hardly conceal his refusal to clearly condemn Israel's aggression against Gaza. Above all, Brown stops short of calling for the immediate withdrawal of all Israeli troops and weaponry out of Gaza's territory, sky and sea coast, and for the immediate end of Gaza's economic blockade - without which a cease-fire alone would merely officialise Israel's occupation and its holding the Palestinian population to ransom. But then, Brown and his government see nothing wrong in Israel's policy. Isn't Brown a convinced participant in the US "war on terror", whether in Afghanistan, in Iraq and, why not, in Gaza?
The United Nations are showing, once again, their real function. The UN Security Council is paralysed in its vain attempts to find a wording that would be acceptable to the US government while making some sort of a stand against the state of war created by Israel's aggression. But even the tamest wording is unacceptable for the US leaders, whether for Bush, who still holds the microphone, or for Obama, who remains cautiously silent, no doubt for fear of exposing, so soon after his election, how little difference there is, in reality, between him and Bush, when it comes to defending Western interests in the Middle East.
Just as in the case of the invasion of Afghanistan or that of Iraq, the UN is demonstrating once again that, ultimately, the only interests it is allowed to defend are those which are compatible with the political agenda of its most powerful members, that is mainly of US imperialism.
This is why, there should be no illusion about the UN's capacity to ever provide the Palestinian people with a possible way out of their on-going bloody nightmare. In fact, the UN is just as much a dead-end for the Palestinians today, as it has always been in the past, ever since its foundation. Even when the imperialist powers did come to some sort of agreement to condemn Israel's most ruthless attacks on the Palestinians, this has never altered the policy of the Israeli leaders, not even when they were threatened with UN sanctions, since they knew very well that their imperialist allies would never allow the UN to enforce sanctions which could harm the state of Israel.
Today, even the most "liberal" commentators confine themselves to highlighting what they describe as the "disproportion" in the military means used by Israel against the Palestinians. But this is only part of the story. In fact, this is a very hypocritical way of presenting a very long story.
Because it conveniently forgets that this "disproportion" goes back all the way to the days when the main imperialist powers, including the US and Britain, made the conscious choice of arming the young state of Israel in order to use its army - and its population - to defend Western imperialist interests against the poor populations of the region, including against the population of Palestine itself.
This choice meant that the Palestinians had to be sacrificed to the nationalist ambitions of Israeli politicians. It was, therefore, the rich countries' governments which first underwrote the brutal expulsion of the Palestinians from their own land by the Israeli state, before underwriting the transformation of the entire Palestinian population into a population of stateless refugees scattered in camps across the Middle East.
However, the joint conspiracy of the imperialist governments and the Israeli regime to write the Palestinian people out of history failed to crush their resilience. By the 1970s, the fighting spirit of a new generation of Palestinian youth produced an uprising which, eventually, forced Israel to embark on a "peace process", which finally produced the 1993 Oslo agreement. But the promise of a Palestinian state contained in this agreement never materialised. The only thing that came out of it was the setting up of a string of heavily-guarded Palestinian homelands - although, concentration camp, would be a more adequate description of the Gaza Strip! - in which the Palestinians were confined like animals, deprived of the means to develop any kind of meaningful economic activity, the majority reduced to abject poverty and subjected to constant humiliation by the Israeli authorities.
By the same token, by imprisoning the Palestinian population, Israeli governments imposed the same fate on the Israeli population itself, which is now surrounded by an electrified wall, supposedly designed to shield it from Palestinian "terrorism". Prison warders may be free on paper, but they have to spend their lives behind the same walls as their prisoners - which is exactly what the Israeli state is imposing on the Israeli people!
Eventually, it was Israel's policy of reducing the Palestinian population to prisoner status which was responsible for pushing a large section of desperate Palestinians into the arms of Hamas, despite the reactionary nature of its politics. Ironically, back in the 1980s, it was also Israel which had propped up Hamas, in the hope of undermining the influence of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation. So, the Israeli state, which complains so bitterly today about the leading role played by Hamas in Gaza, has only itself and its policies to blame for it! And the western governments, which call hypocritically for "an end of all violence", implying that Hamas's makeshift rockets should be considered in the same way as Israel's high-tech US-equipped army, have the blood of today's Palestinians victims on their hands.
However, the hypocrisy of the imperialist powers and the brutality of their Israeli client state may well backfire in the end, as was shown by the many mass demonstrations which have been triggered across the Arab world by Israel's aggression against Gaza, including in countries whose rulers show no sympathy whatsoever for the Palestinians. And the anger which expressed itself in these demonstrations is unlikely to recede, given the increasingly obvious objectives displayed by the Israeli leaders - that is, to terrorise the entire Gaza population into submission.
In any case, the British working class can only choose the side of the population of Gaza against the Israeli state and use every opportunity to express its solidarity with the Palestinians under attack.