by Philip Ferguson
Last month B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reported:
“In 2019, Israeli security forces killed 133 Palestinians, including 28 minors. Of the casualties, 104 were killed in the Gaza Strip, 26 in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and three within Israel. Most of these deaths were a direct outcome of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and military and backed by the legal system. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s announcement, that there is a basis for investigating possible war crimes by Israel relating to some aspects of this policy, is unavoidable in light of Israel’s refusal to change it.
“In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed 104 Palestinians, including seven women and 22 minors.
“Over half of the persons killed – 56 – were not taking part in hostilities; 46 were; while regarding two others, B’Tselem does not know whether or not they were taking part in hostilities. Another two Palestinians from Gaza, one of them a 15-year-old who took no part in the hostilities, were killed within Israeli territory shortly after crossing the fence with Gaza.
“Israel carried out numerous attacks in the Gaza Strip throughout 2019. In two rounds of fighting in May and November, Israel killed 60 people, almost half of whom – 27, including six women and 10 minors – were not taking part in hostilities. One strike, on 14 November, killed nine members of the Sawarkah family.” This was around the very time the NZ collaborators were junketing in Israel and having a fine old time.
As Abby Zimet reported in an article on Common Dreams on November 14, “In the last two days of airstrikes over the open-air prison that is Gaza, where two million beleaguered people, almost half of them children, are packed and trapped, Israel has killed at least 34 Palestinians and injured more than 111. Many of the victims were children. The dead included eight members of the Sawarkah family – three adults, five kids – killed around midnight as they slept in their modest home without running water or electricity. The only survivor of the slaughter of the Sawarkahs was a month-old girl named Marah; her mother, father, aunt and siblings were all buried in the rubble.” (A further member of the Sawarkah family, the father, died later.)
Last year saw many weeks of protests at the fence the Israeli state put up to separate Gaza from Israel. Palestinians demanding the right to return to the territory hundreds of thousands had been evicted from in the late 1940s were shot dead and wounded at the fence. Israel’s armed forces killed 32 unarmed Palestinians at the fence in 2019, six of these being under 16. The policy of the Israeli state is to use live rounds on unarmed protesters,and 27 Palestinians were murdered with live rounds. Four were killed when hit in the head with teargas canisters and one when hit in the head by a stun grenade fired by a launcher.
The purpose of this state violence and murder is to discourage Palestinians from demanding their just right of return. Protest at the border for the right of return and we’ll kill and maim you is the message from the Zionist state.
On the West Bank, where various levels of rebellion are an ongoing fact of life, murderous repression in continuous. Here 26 Palestinians were murdered by Israeli state forces, five of them minors. Among the Palestinian victims of state murder were Sajed Muzhar, a 17-year-old volunteer paramedic who was trying to attend an injured person in a refugee camp. Here are some cases highlighted by B’Tselem that are of a common variety:
“Six of the casualties in the West Bank were killed during, or shortly after, incidents that involved throwing Molotov cocktails or IEDs (or allegedly involved such activity). B’Tselem investigated three of the cases and found that none of the persons killed had posed any danger at the time of their death. One of them, 22-year-old ‘Omar al-Badawi from al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, did not even take part in the clashes in the camp. He was shot by a soldier while trying to put out a fire started by a Molotov cocktail that landed near his house, and died soon after.”
Furthermore, B’Tselem “found that almost all the incidents in which Israeli forces killed Palestinians in 2019 were the result of the reckless open-fire policy Israel implements in the Occupied Territories. In the Gaza Strip, this includes bombing densely-populated areas and giving patently unlawful orders that permit live fire at unarmed demonstrators by the fence with Israel. These orders, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, are still in place, although the military itself admitted in July 2019 that as a result it kills people for no reason. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the policy includes shooting to kill in instances defined as ‘incidents of assault, even when these means are unjustified, and opening live fire in circumstances that do not entail mortal danger to security forces or other individuals.
“Israel continues to implement this longstanding open-fire policy, despite its horrific, predictable outcomes, and it is fully backed by the government, the military and both the civilian and military legal systems.”
The Palestinians don’t ask much of us living in the comfort and tranquillity of the imperialist centres. They simply ask that we not help prop up the Zionist state and assist and prettify it as it murders and maims the Palestinian masses. That we not help the Israeli state present itself as some kind of beacon of light and liberality in the ‘darkness’ of the Middle East.
Instead, they ask that we support the call by mass organisations of the Palestinian people to boycott Israel, to force western companies to divest funds, and that we apply sanctions to the state of Israel. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is the most basic form of solidarity we can give to the Palestinian liberation cause. BDS helped the South African liberation struggle against apartheid and it is from there that the Palestinian organisations saw the potential assistance that similar solidarity could give their own struggle.
They don’t ask us to risk our lives, jobs, money etc, although their own lives are at risk every day. Supporting BDS really is the least we in the imperialist world can do.
However, just like apartheid South Africa, even in the wake of massacres like Soweto in 1976, had people from New Zealand traipsing over there on junkets and helping the apartheid state present a ‘positive’ image to the world, so Israel has some NZers – people scabbing on the struggles of the viciously oppressed Palestinian masses – taking advantage of the possibilities for junketing.
Yes, while unarmed Palestinian protesters were being murdered by the Jewish-exclusivist and murderous regime and state in Israel, a group of NZ ‘journalists’ and academics, along with leading Zionist apologist Juliet Moses, were junketing in Israel. The junket was the work of the Israel-Australia Oceania Chambers of Commerce, part of their promotion of ties between Israel and the imperialist states in the south Pacific (Australia and NZ) and the whitewashing of Israel, in the same way that junkets used to be organised to South Africa to help promote ties and make apartheid look good. They also took the time to, as one of them put it, “represent New Zealand in paying tributes to the fallen Kiwi soldiers at the historic 102nd anniversary of ANZAC Battle of Beer Sheba ceremony.” (See here, for a gushing account of the junket, an account which managed to say nothing about the killings and repression of Palestinians that we taking place while they were there.) Of course, what NZ troops were doing in the Middle East in World War 1 were helping Britain and France carve up the region and deny the people there self-determination. As well as carrying out a massacre. See here.)
Workers with just a very rudimentary form of class consciousness know that you don’t cross picket lines, even if you disagree with going on strike. People who do are called scabs. People who junket in Israel are crossing the picket line that is the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. They lack even the most basic human empathy with the oppressed.
Even if I disagreed with BDS, I still wouldn’t go on a junket to Israel as part of the programme of activities organised by a capitalist business outfit that is committed to the Israeli state and business interests generally. It’s called crossing class collaborationism, it’s called crossing a class line, it’s called scabbing on people in struggle.
And, needless to say, you won’t find any of these pampered junketeers, who think it’s all about them and their ‘right’ to junket, going to Gaza to find out what life means for Palestinians oppressed by the Israeli state. That would be way too uncomfortable and way too real.
By contrast, look at people like Unite leader Mike Treen, tasered repeatedly, and bashed, by Israeli state forces in July 2018 while taking part in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. An active anti-imperialist for nearly 50 years, Mike could be putting his feet up, but he was there, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians to considerable risk to his own health and safety. Tasered along with him was a 69-year-old woman, a surgeon who could have been enjoying the comforts of home or performing surgery in the comfort of a hospital in a western imperialist country.
In 2010, the Israeli state cold-bloodedly murdered ten human rights activists on board one of the Freedom Flotilla ships, the Marvi Marmara, and injured more than 50 others on the flotilla.
Even a NZ pop singer, Lorde, certainly showed more class/political consciousness – and just more plain human empathy – by pulling out of playing Israel than the likes of Morrissey, Dionne Warwicke, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Nick Cave, Radiohead etc who are in the same category as Cliff Richard and others who played apartheid South Africa. Lorde, to her credit, chose not to scab.
The NZ journalist-junketeers, however, chose to scab – and to stab the Palestinians in the back. They expressed the revolting imperialist mentality – in this case, that their desire to junket is far more important than the rights of millions of brutally oppressed Palestinians. They deserve nothing but our contempt. And those who excuse their scabbing deserve the same.
The Marxist alternative is here: For a campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle
You can also support the work of Kia Ora Gaza, here. It “is a New Zealand network dedicated to support international efforts to break the inhuman and illegal Israeli siege and naval blockade of Gaza by delivering humanitarian aid, fostering fraternal relations, enhancing understanding of Palestine and the Middle East, and cooperating with others who have similar aims.”