The recent outbreak of violence in Gaza is the most significant attack on the Palestinian territory since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Airstrikes have already killed at least 14 including an 11 month old baby. Numerous other casualties have been inflicted on Palestinian civilians, with an estimated 250 maimed or wounded, despite Israeli assurances these bombings are “surgical” and “targeted”.
Reports across the media claim that, before his extra-judicial assassination by an IDF airstrike, Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’ military leader, was considering a permanent truce. Israel’s act of pre-emptive aggression now appears to have ended any chance of a peace deal in the immediate future and has only served to escalate violence and inflict more suffering onto innocent civilians.
Despite calls from Palestine’s envoy to the UN for the “Security Council to act in accordance with its responsibilities to stop this aggression against our people”, the international community has failed to stand up for Palestinians and hold the Israeli government responsible for this new attack.
Instead Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander laid the blame firmly upon Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade for over five years without access to medical supplies, restricted freedom of movement and no ability to trade with others.
Alexander’s statement completely disregards the severe power disparity between Gaza, one of the most densely populated territories in the world forced into poverty by sustained embargoes, and Israel, a military superpower with a nuclear arsenal and full Western backing.
In a week when Israel has threatened to topple the democratically-elected President of the Palestinian West Bank territory Mahmoud Abbas, it is difficult to believe that their intransigence is any thing other than an indication of the contempt with which they hold the Palestinian people. Israel’s already questionable commitment to a meaningful peace plan and an equitable solution to the almost 70 year conflict has been cast even further into doubt.
As a principled and progressive government-in-waiting, Labour should reassert its commitment to an ethical foreign policy grounded in peace, solidarity and justice. The Tories have made clear they are unwilling to pursue a more balanced approach and deviate from the path set by Bush and Blair, who were the only two Western world leaders who failed to condemn Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2008.
Ed Miliband said in his Conference Q&A in 2011 that “you are no friend of Israel if you defend the status quo”. It is time that Labour’s foreign policy reflected this truth and embraced a commitment to standing together with the Palestinian people and rejecting Israeli apartheid. Labour must ensure it unites with global majority on the right side of history.