Western governments clamp down on Palestine solidarity: organise and fight back!

By Joe Attard

Following Hamas’ surprise attack on 7 October, a bloody retribution has been unleashed by the Israeli state. In the West, capitalist politicians and the prostitute press declare unwavering support for Israel’s “right to defend itself”, and brand those showing solidarity with Palestine as “terrorist sympathisers”. This is being combined with legal repression of solidarity towards the Palestinian people, which must be boldly countered. We will not be silenced!

In Britain, the Tory government and the Labour Party opposition under Sir Keir Starmer are united in backing Israel to the hilt. The Tories’ arch-reactionary Home Secretary Suella Braverman has sent a letter to chief police constables in England and Wales, urging them to block any attempts to use Palestinian flags, songs or swastikas [!] “to harass or intimidate members of the Jewish community.”

Shamelessly drawing a parallel between waving Palestinian flags and displaying Nazi insignia, Braverman seeks to smear anybody standing with Palestine as an anti-semitic terrorist sympathiser, giving a pretence to clamp down on solidarity.

The Tories are supported by a press campaign filled with lurid details of brutal violence by Hamas, real and exaggerated, such as the unverified story of “40 beheaded babies” at the Kfar Aza kibbutz.

Meanwhile, Israeli war crimes are either justified as self-defence, or brushed over, including the recent news about the deployment of white phosphorus in Gaza. In reports of casualties, Israelis are “killed” whereas Palestinians simply “die”.

1,300 Israelis have been killed since Hamas conducted an attack on the weekend, and more than 1,500 Palestinians have died in retaliatory strikes.

On the rare occasion that pro-Palestinian voices are allowed in the media, they are forced to ritualistically “condemn Hamas”, including Palestinan ambassador Husam Zomlot on BBC Newsnight, who had moments earlier revealed that six of his relatives had been killed in Israeli airstrikes. Later, Zomlot was deliberately misquoted as having said “Israel had it coming”, with the presenter in question, Kay Burley, repeatedly refusing to retract the quote.

The message is simple: if you stand with Palestine, you support Hamas terrorism, and you don’t deserve the right to express your views. The Metropolitan Police in London have already announced that police patrols in “sensitive areas” of London had been increased, warning anyone found breaking the law would be arrested.

Academic freedoms under threat

These legal threats are combined with attacks on freedom of expression at schools and universities. A number of student societies have been harangued in the media for allegedly “glorifying” Hamas. Additionally, a teacher has spoken to marxist.com about new guidelines sent to their secondary school by the British government’s anti-terror ‘Prevent’ programme.

“Staff members were told that attending solidarity protests or vocally supporting the Palestianians in this conflict could violate the school’s policy of ‘upholding British values’ and may need to involve the Prevent Officer, which in itself is a thinly veiled threat,” they said, “Teachers were encouraged to silence children’s conversations around the conflict, and remove ‘Free Palestine’ stickers or other displays of solidarity.”

Reactionary Tory rags like the Daily Mail have run headlines accusing university academics (usually Muslims and those of Middle-Eastern heritage) of “legitimising Hamas attacks”, and demanding sanctions against them.

This media harassment and Orwellian meddling at schools and universities is being conducted by the same Tory government and press that once made a great song and dance about enshrining ‘free speech’ in universities.

At the same time as deploying counter-terroism agencies against students and teachers exercising their democratic rights, the British ruling class offer political cover and material assistance to Israeli state terror against the Palestinians. There are now plans afoot to deploy Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean to “bolster security”.

Across the Atlantic, 33 student organisations at Harvard University provoked howls of outrage by issuing a statement blaming Israel’s “apartheid regime” for the attacks on Saturday. “[These] events did not occur in a vacuum,” the letter read. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison.”

Aside from a tidal wave of condemnation in the press, demanding repercussions for the students from university authorities, a cabal of CEOs, led by billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, have insisted the “names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known”.

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Meanwhile, a truck bearing pictures of students and the words “Harvard’s leading antisemites” has been driven around the university in an act of open intimidation.

The political establishment has added its voice to condemnation of the Harvard student groups.

Republican and Harvard graduate Ted Cruz wrote on X: “What the hell is wrong with Harvard?” Meanwhile, Seth Moulton, Democratic congressman and Harvard alumni, said in an interview on WBZ-TV he was “embarrassed” by the students’ statement: “This is outright terrorism, and terrorism is never justified.”

This is rich, coming from a representative of the same government that for decades has funded Israeli terror against Palestine and uses its political clout to protect the Israeli state from accountability. The US has now sent an aircraft carrier and strike group to the eastern Mediterranean, anticipating the threat of a wider war.

‘Democratic’ Europe?

In the past few years, much has been made of Europe’s ‘democratic’ values, as opposed to the authoritarian, censorious and violent regimes in Russia, China and so forth. On the question of Palestine, however, the fiction of European democracy stands exposed.

For instance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned “anyone who glorifies the crimes of Palestinian militant group Hamas” will face legal repercussions, citing “zero tolerance” on antisemitism. “These means expressly include bans on associations and activities,” Scholz added.

This point about “glorifying Hamas” is pure sophistry to justify total legal repression of all pro-Palestine demonstrations. Indeed, Berlin police have already banned planned such demonstrations, citing the risk of “antisemitic statements and glorification of violence.”

There are reports already of police crackdowns on people carrying pro-Palestinian symbols including the national flag and wearing the keffiyeh scarf.

Also, Berlin’s Education Senator Katharina Günther-Wünsch (CDU) has banned the wearing of Palestinian scarves and other symbols associated with Palestine in schools. Stickers with inscriptions such as “free Palestine”, maps of Israel in the colours of Palestine, even uttering the words “free Palestine,” are all prohibited, as “such actions and symbols endanger school peace in the current situation.” This draconian attack on students’ basic liberties will doubtlessly prepare a backlash.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that mayors would intervene in pro-Hamas demonstrations, and a planned march in Amsterdam had to change locations following political pressure and legal threats.

Meanwhile, the Macron government in France has issued a blanket ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with Interiror Minister Gérald Darmanin saying anyone taking part should be arrested as “they are susceptible to disrupt public order.”

In defiance of the ban, thousands assembled in Paris, Lille, Bordeaux and elsewhere yesterday. These demonstrations were immediately broken up by the police using water cannons and tear gas, and dozens were arrested across the country. Such is the farce of French ‘democracy’!

Macron made the motive for this especially outrageous attack on democratic freedoms clear in a video address to the nation, saying “let’s not add national divisions to international divisions”. With his authority and popularity in the toilet, having already faced two major waves of struggle this year (against a hated and undemocratic pension hike, and the police murder of a French-Algerian teenager), Macron is fearful of another conflagration.

But his attempt to wield the hammer of state repression to enforce ‘unity’ could rapidly backfire, given the fragility of the political situation in France.

The French courts are also being used to clamp down on dissent. The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), a small left-wing party led by Phillip Poutou, is facing a legal probe for allegedly glorifying “terror” following a Pro-Palestinian statement.

While we do not subscribe to the dot and comma of the NPA’s stance, they correctly place the principal blame for the bloody events of recent days squarely at the feet of the reactionary Israeli state, and call for a new intifada to liberate Palestine.

In a clear reference to the NPA, Darmanin warned that he reserved the right to use the law “to initiate dissolution proceedings” against “groups, associations and sometimes political parties [issuing] absolutely despicable statements calling for hatred, the intifada and the glorification of terrorism.”

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This is absolutely scandalous. An intifada is nothing less than a mass uprising by an oppressed people against an occupier for the elementary democratic right of statehood. It has nothing to do with Hamas’ attack on 7 October. Is this right (enshrined in international law) not afforded to the Palestinians? For the French bourgeoisie, who once launched their own uprising against the despotic Bourbon dynasty, this right is entirely conditional on aligning with western imperialist interests.

To its shame, the French left has been silent in the face of this open threat to dissolve the NPA. Both the Socialist Party (PS) and Communist Party (PCF) have issued statements supporting Israel, in full complicity with the French ruling class. For its part, La France Insoumise (LFI), the main opposition party at the head of the left-wing Nupes coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, issued a statement calling for a cease-fire.

“The armed offensive by Palestinian forces led by Hamas comes in a context of intensification of Israeli occupation policy in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” it said. “We deplore the Israeli and Palestinian deaths. Our thoughts are with all the victims.” It further noted: “the violence unleashed against Israel and in the Gaza Strip only produce [further violence].”

This rather mild, pacifistic statement produced an outpouring of outrage. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said in a televised interview: “The position of LFI is well known, and often marked by a lot of ambiguity, by anti-Zionism, and… it’s also a way of masking a form of anti-semitism.”

Equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism is a time-honoured strategy by reactionaries to attack the pro-Palestine left. For its part, the Socialist Party also announced a “temporary break” from the Nupes alliance, threatening to bring down the coalition unless Mélenchon reverses the statement, in effect doing Macron’s work for him.

IMT under attack

Our own comrades in the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) have also come under attack around the world for showing solidarity with Palestine, for condemning the murderous actions of the Israeli occupiers, and for calling for a revolutionary solution to Palestinian oppression.

A number of student unions in Britain have attempted to censor our materials and shut down our public meetings at universities. The Marxist Society in University College London (UCL) was ordered to remove posters advertising a public meeting on Israel-Palestine, and suspended upon refusal. This was based on the scandalous charge that the comrades’ political material, particularly their slogan “intifada until victory” could be construed as “inciting violence”!

And in Cambridge University, Marxist Society comrades attempting to hold a public meeting in solidarity with Palestine were locked out of the campus!

Meanwhile, a comrade in Sweden was collared by four police officers while travelling to his home in Hagfors from a meeting in Stockholm. The train he was riding on was held for an hour without explanation while the comrade was questioned, searched and accused of “visiting web pages about Hamas.”

Apparently, his ‘crime’ was accessing articles on marxist.com expressing solidarity with Palestine, and spreading speeches from demonstrations on social media. This was enough for someone on the train to raise a report about a “suspected bomb threat”! We see here the effect that the utter hysteria whipped up in the press about anyone supporting Palestine being a terrorist sympathiser.

Most scandalously of all, the biggest Swiss media outlets have launched a full-blown witch hunt against our comades of Der Funke/L’etincelle, accusing them of organising a pro-Hamas rally in Zurich, calling for violence, and spreading anti-semitism. These outlandish and false allegations resulted in the universities of Zurich, Bern and Fribourg stripping our student groups of room-booking rights on campus.

A statement from the University of Zurich (UZH) says: “The UZH does not tolerate calls for violence. The call for ‘Intifada until victory’ spread by ‘Der Funke’ and ‘IMT’ is not compatible with the stance of the UZH. The UZH supports democratically conducted discussions.”

This appeal to ‘democracy’ is completely laughable when the university authorities are openly complicit in attacks on the basic democratic rights of speech and assembly by the Swiss state and their media mouthpieces.

Communists defiant

We have seen in recent years, with the systematic destruction of the movement behind Jeremy Corbyn in Britain for example, how the capitalists, the press and political elite shamelessly smear and slander their opponents. One of the main sources of ammunition for their mudslinging has been the question of support for Palestine, anti-Zionism, and the allegations of ‘anti-semitism’ that they inevitably attach.

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The main error of reformists like Corbyn was to give ground over this despicable campaign of lies, rather than clearly identify it as a politically motivated attack, and punch back.

The communists of the IMT treat the mendacious rubbish hurled at us by our class enemies with the contempt it deserves. We proudly and clearly declare our total opposition to Zionism. We say that the attack on 7 October was provoked by decades of brutal occupation, and the bloody repression of all attempts by the Palestinian people to peacefully protest their daily hell. We state our unconditional solidarity with the Palestinians striving for a state to call their own, and a dignified existence.

And most of all, we point our finger squarely at the double standards of our own imperialist leaders, who have supported the heinous crimes of the Israeli state, continue to do so, and are currently abetting the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, which is illegal by every standard of the imperialists’ own (admittedly worthless) international laws.

Now, the Israeli government is employing the language of genocide and ethnic cleansing in its response to Hamas’ attacks, which our ruling classes justify as “self-defence.” The Israeli army has warned 1.1 million people living in the north of Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours, an utter impossibility that a WHO spokesperson has called “a death sentence.”

Our comrades who have come under attack in recent days have all responded to the attempts to repress their activities with a bold political counter-attack, issuing defiant statements slamming the hypocrisy of their respective university authorities, the capitalist press, and capitalist governments.

The communists in London held their planned UCL meeting outside the campus, affirming their solidarity with Palestine and support for a revolutionary intifada to free the Palestinian people, as part of a revolutionary wave throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile, the ‘banned’ rally in Zurich went ahead regardless, with large crowds participating.

This must be the attitude of all groups on the left when faced with any repressive measures against expressing their solidarity with an oppressed and occupied people. We must stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in defence of the hard-won democratic freedoms of speech and assembly.

The ruling class is fearful. Working people have been battered by the cost of living crisis, and have already begun to organise and fight back, with a big uptick in strike activity. The ruling classes throughout the western world anticipate future unrest, as further attacks are necessary in their attempts to stabilise the crisis-ridden capitalist system. Moreover, they know that as Israel’s slaughter intensifies, the resulting indignation could spark a wave of protest at home.

Whilst shutting down pro-Palestine activity, they are affording their state forces more and more power to silence and shut down all forms of protest. By undermining democratic rights now, they are preparing the ground for future battles with the working class. The workers and youth must mobilise and meet these attacks with all their strength.

An injury to one is an injury to all. We say: No to anti-democratic attacks on the right to protest! Intifada until victory! Free Palestine!

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