Around 600 people packed into a Socialist Worker meeting in London on Thursday to hear Tariq Ali, Ilan Pappé, Refaat Alareer, Richard Boyd Barrett and Sophia Beach speak out. Here are extracts from some of their speeches
Radical, writer and activist
When I heard that Hamas decided to go in and say to the Israelis, “Here we are, get out of our territory, lift the siege”, I was actually very happy. Obviously, I was not happy by the death of civilians anywhere.
I thought then about the Vietnam War—the press reported another [Vietnamese resistance] bombing of a café in Saigon, which was then controlled by the Americans. The Vietnamese replied, saying, “Yes, we did it. All the places we’ve bombed are used by US soldiers. We don’t like killing civilians, but if the US leave Vietnam, we will stop bombing these places.”
The same goes for the Algerian war. I recommend you see the film The Battle of Algiers, one of the most brilliant Western films ever made about anti‑imperialism. It shows what a national liberation movement is like.
In one part, a resistance fighter is asked why they bombed cafes where French families were killed. He replied that they [the resistance] would be more accurate if the French gave them an air force.
Every single liberation movement is attacked for this.
There is no equal sign between Israel and Palestine. Israel is a nuclear state that has been armed by the United States and its allies. Western powers have granted them the right to bomb whenever they like, whether in the West Bank or Gaza.
Yet on the first occasion the Palestinian resistance decides to hit back, there has been complete criticism. But there’s no criticism in Palestine, nor on the streets of Cairo, nor Rabat in Morocco.
Nor in Jordan, where the king and queen made public speeches that you would never hear from any Western politician today. They demanded that the siege be ended. We’re talking about a monarchy in Jordan saying this. They are following the 500,000 people that protested in the streets of Amman.
But in the countries bought-off by the US, especially Sisi in Egypt, will not do anything because their future depends on American money. The Egyptian army has been bought, so it does absolutely nothing.
People are saying what’s happening in Gaza is not genocide. No, it’s not genocide on the scale inflicted on the Congolese at the hands of Belgians—the largest genocide of the 20th century. It’s not a genocide like the Armenians in the First World War. It’s not similar to the genocide of the Holocaust—the judeocide—during the Second World War.
But this killing of Palestinians is undoubtedly genocide. Do not doubt that—all our politicians know it. They can’t deny it. They say but what can we do about it?
Here’s an example of how it could be ended. In 1957 Israel occupied Gaza and committed many atrocities. The US president, General Eisenhower, called in the Israelis and said, “I want you out of Gaza over the next two weeks” and then said, “if you don’t get out of Gaza, we will impose sanctions against Israel”. The Israelis left. The US, without whom this war could not be fought, could stop the war. But it won’t because Israel is too valuable to them.
Hundreds of thousands marching now on the streets are telling these politicians, “Call us what you like. We’re going to be on the streets.” This is why the few decent people left in the Labour Party should not give into these absurd accusations of antisemitism. I think we should express our solidarity with Labour councillors who have resigned from the party.
The global fight, of course, will carry on. I appeal to the Palestinian Authority to stop the collaboration with Israel. Here’s your opportunity to break with them, say you will no longer sit at the table with Netanyahu and the outright fascists in his government today.
And say you won’t talk until they end the siege of Gaza. They should say to Israel that, “You can’t obliterate us. We refuse to die, and we are going on, and large parts of the world are with us.”
Palestinian writer, activist and lecturer
Refaat spoke to the meeting from Gaza, noting, “there are bombs in the distance” as he contributed.
“My mother asks if there is any good news. Officially there is no good news, just the inhumanity of the Israeli occupation and genocide. But the good news is really the hundreds of thousands who are on the streets in London, across Britain, in Europe, and in the Arab world.
“This means that more people are learning about Palestine, increasing their activism around Palestine. This must continue and grow. I urge you to reject the Israeli lies. Israel lies about everything. In Gaza, we say that if Israel says one plus one is two then check your maths.
Israeli historian and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
We are witnessing a crucial and very important moment in the struggle for Palestine. As activists, we need to contextualise what happened on 7 October. We need to position it in a broader historical context.
It was used as a pretext to make the oppression in the West Bank worse. In the last 20 days, the Israeli state has killed more Palestinians in the West Bank than it has done in the last year.
The attack has also been used as a pretext for the US and leaders in Britain to suppress freedom of speech on Palestine. Those in power were trying to do it before, but now they have the pretext to do it much more harshly. It was also a pretext for the Israeli government to smooth over its internal divisions.
The most important pretext is that Israel can now show the civilised world that all its crimes against the Palestinians should be absolved.
An important piece of context is to say that long, cruel colonialism can be beaten. If you use the example of the rebellions of the African slaves or the Algerian movement for national liberation from French settlers, you can say that it’s possible to win.
Jewish revolutionary socialist activist
Millions have taken to the streets to support the Palestinians. Hundreds have walked to the Rafah crossing, which borders Egypt and Gaza. These protests are of huge significance. There is a tide turning but things hang in the balance. What happens in Palestine in the coming months can shape politics in the Middle East.
The question of fighting Israel is also a question of fighting imperialism. Israel is the watchdog of the US, and it’s been let off the leash. That’s why we’ve seen suppression and censorship. We’ve had venues cancel meetings, and home secretary Suella Braverman is trying to criminalise protesters.
To counter this, we need to get organised.