Gaza crisis – “this is not a conflict of equals”.

On Saturday the 9th of August, York Greens marched with the York branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Denise Craghill, Chair of York Green Party, made this speech at the rally that followed.

“I’m chair of the Green Party in York and I also work for the Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, so Graham has asked me speak with both those hats on.

The Green Party stands for a fair and humane settlement in Palestine which guarantees security and decent living standards to both Palestinians and to Israelis – whether within one state or twPalestine rally 2014 inc. Deniseo. Such a solution has to involve an end to the use of violence and the implementation of all United Nations resolutions on the region, including an end to illegal settlements, the removal of the illegal separation wall, fairly shared access to natural resources such as land and water and addressing the Palestinian right to return.

Ultimately any resolution will have to involve negotiation and as we have seen in Northern Ireland and in South Africa, even when it seems impossible, a just resolution can be achieved – but only if the political will is there – and only if those with the power to make a difference are prepared to take action.

This is not a conflict of equals. Every death is a death too many whether Palestinian or Israeli. Every child living in fear of violent death and destruction is a child too many in that situation. Yet the figures speak for themselves – over 1,800 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians and nearly 10,000 injured – compared to 67 Israelis dead, almost all soldiers. The scale and ferocity of the collective punishment of civilians being used by the Israeli government and military in Gaza is legally unacceptable under the Geneva Convention and beyond all basic human decency.

Thanks to massive financial and military support from the United States along with arms sales from European governments including the UK, the Israeli army is the fourth most powerful army in the world. Before the current onslaught began its eight year siege of Gaza was well on the way to making this tiny strip of land unlivable. Over 1.8 million people are crammed into an area only slightly bigger than the city of York with very limited supplies of food, medicine and other basic commodities and little chance of employment. The impact of this on water supplies and sanitation is disastrous. On top of all this the Israeli offensive over the last 4 weeks seems to be trying to raise Gaza to the ground, although it is also very likely to have recruited yet more embittered Hamas fighters.

At the same time it has drawn the eyes of the world back to the region in a way that is perhaps a bit different. The sense of outrage at Israeli military actions is very widespread. Now is certainly the time for every one of us to put on as much pressure as possible for a just settlement in Palestine as well as an end to the current violence – for actions that go further than just a general wringing of hands.

We know that this is not a conflict between two warring parties who just can’t get on with each other, but that it has much deeper roots not only in history but in today’s global power politics. To quote John Pilger, the United States regards Israel as its ‘Deputy Sheriff’ in the Middle East. We need to make it clear that more and more people understand the injustice in the region and that there is a high cost for politicians in any country who support Israel’s unjustifiable actions. We need to campaign for an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to arms sales to and from Israel and for hard hitting international sanctions against Israel and Israeli companies until UN resolutions are implemented. Many household names such as Barclays, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar are involved in Israel/Palestine – bankrolling arms suppliers, providing surveillance systems and in home demolitions respectively – we need to do everything we can to encourage them to dis-invest.

Today – 9th August – is Nagasaki Day – the day in 1945 when the United States dropped its second nuclear bomb on Japan. Along with the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima 3 days earlier this killed 340,000 people and ushered in the nuclear age. Today there are around 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world, all more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Most are held by the United States and Russia but Israel has around a hundred – although the Israeli government refuses to confirm their existence, it is now generally acknowledged. Whilst a great deal of coverage is given to the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, little reference is made to the existing Israeli nuclear arsenal and it’s contribution to insecurity and conflict in the region. When conflict escalates as it is at the moment in Gaza, the thought of a military which is prepared to bomb hospitals, schools and UN shelters also being in charge of 100 nuclear bombs is very frightening – and all the more reason to re-double our efforts for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflicts in the region. Write to your MPs and MEPs, text them and tweet at them as well; boycott Israeli goods and tell the companies why; boycott and write to companies who invest in Israel and tell them why. Raise a storm of protest that brings the real issues into the open and calls for justice for Palestinians”.

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