Political parties will not liberate Palestine
The Corbyn years were filled with hope that Britain could sanction Israel for its human rights abuses, but the general election defeat showed the risks of expecting this from political parties. We cannot make that mistake again, writes Huda Ammori.
Many campaigners believed that with Jeremy Corbyn in power, there would finally be an arms embargo between Britain and Israel. [GETTY]
It was early 2016, when I received a call from my mother, insisting that I join the Labor Party. Coming from my Iraqi mother, it was quite confusing considering that Tony Blair, under the Labor government, led the invasion and destruction of Iraq. Often, as a family, we lacked a political home due to the support of the main parties for imperialist projects in the Middle East. However, this time around, the revival of hope was alive, with Jeremy Corbyn, anti-imperialist campaigner and committed politician, elected leader of the Labor Party.
With progressive politics brought to the fore, hundreds of thousands signed up, believing it was the necessary vehicle for change that we all needed. For climate activists, there was reason to push for a potentially life-saving new green deal. For workers, their rights are taken into account.
For Palestinian activists, a potential avenue has been created to impose the necessary sanctions on Israel’s apartheid regime. I was hoping this would happen with an immediate arms embargo between Britain and Israel.
”We had no more time to waste, and we couldn’t afford to waste energy on the political system. The idea that it was a vehicle for change was dead. No government or political party came to save us.”
It was both an achievable and highly effective goal that would pressure Israel to end its discriminatory practices and ultimately prevent the use of British-made components and weapons in attacks. against the Palestinian people.
It was and still is the smallest of requests. Especially since Britain’s own arms export laws exclude sale to a state where there is a clear risk that the items will be used in serious breaches of international humanitarian law. Surely it is not too much for the British government to follow its own legislation and uphold international law?
In reality, there should never have been arms exports and imports from an apartheid state that actively occupies, ethnically cleanses and systematically discriminates against the indigenous population of Palestine.
Nevertheless, the most promising and frankly the only way to implement an embargo through political parties was Labor under Corbyn. Many of us have fought long and hard for this by passing motions, speaking at Labor meetings, lobbying several MPs and in 2018 the Labor Conference voted to sanction and freeze all sales arms to and from Israel.
When the Labor manifesto was released in 2019, there it was, an unwavering promise to impose an arms embargo between Britain and Israel. It was carved in stone. It was the first time in British history that a political party published such a policy in its manifesto.
After years of campaigning, it took only weeks for those hopes to be dashed. In the 2019 general election, Corbyn had lost massively. The fictional campaign against him and the Labor Party had been successful.
And with the fall of Corbyn came the rise of Keir Starmer. His penchant for apartheid and imperialism did not even enrage me, it was practically expected of such a political personality.
Each successive government since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration has permitted the colonization of Palestine and, over the past decades, has actively profited from and supported Israel’s apartheid rule over the Palestinian people. As a political leader, Starmer’s alliance with Israel is not unusual. His disregard for the rights of those on the other end of British politics is all we have ever had as the face of the British establishment.
And with all hopes dashed so close to the finish line and the retreat of progressive politics in parliament, the options for implementing social and environmental justice through the political system were non-existent.
We had no more time to waste and we could not afford to waste energy on the political system. The idea that it was a vehicle for change was dead. No government or political party came to save us.
But from the black hole of politics, a new light through direct action and popular mobilization has taken its place. Groups like Extinction Rebellion grew rapidly and Palestine Action was born.
There weren’t many people willing to accept bits of solidarity and futile statements from politicians. At this point, Palestine had been occupied for 72 years, and we had no time to waste. The Palestinians, the Kashmiris, the Iraqis and many others deserved that we, in the imperial core, acted urgently. And deed we did.
Rather than asking and begging the government to stop aiding in the ethnic cleansing, oppression and slaughter of the Palestinian people, we decided to stop arms exports using our own bodies. If Britain refused to sanction an apartheid state, we would impose sanctions ourselves, using people power. To do this, we went to disrupt, destroy and expose the heart of Israel’s weapons production, at the many sites of Israel’s largest arms company, Elbit Systems.
By taking a new and effective approach to creating change, avenues have opened up for alliances between the new wave of direct action and civil disobedience groups. Together we were strong and the bureaucracies of the political system were non-existent.
As our brothers and sisters around the world suffer under the British Imperial Police, do we continue to ask for help from the political parties that have enabled their suffering? Or are we learning from the lessons of the past and taking it upon ourselves to use our own power and act directly to sabotage the fabrication of death and destruction across the world?
For me, the option is clear, my only regret is not having seen it sooner.
Huda Ammori is co-founder of the direct action network Palestine Action and has conducted extensive research and campaigning targeting British complicity with Israeli apartheid.
Follow her on Twitter: @HudaAmmori
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The views expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or its staff.