Tue 20 Feb 2024 8:02 am - Jerusalem Time

War on Gaza: As Greens we demand a ceasefire, no more arms to Israel and a boycott

By Carla Denyer

With another ceasefire vote in Parliament this week, the Conservatives and Labour will once again be seen as complicit in Israel's mass killing if they do not support it

The relentless death toll in Gaza continues to rise, with no end in sight. And with Israel poised to launch an all-out attack on Rafah, thousands more innocent civilians could be slaughtered, a top UN official has warned. To date, around 70 percent of those killed have been women and children.

The Green Party has long called for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and the facilitation of humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

As party leaders, Adrian Ramsay and I have used our platform to lobby the government and opposition to reconsider their positions, including writing to the foreign secretary and shadow foreign secretary, speaking at events, and raising the issue on television and radio programmes whenever we get the chance.

As the Palestinian death toll heads inexorably towards 30,000, and with no signs that Israel is willing to end the bloodshed, now is the time for the UK to scale up actions against the Israeli government until the killing stops. 

This onslaught, unprecedented for both the number of people killed and the indiscriminate nature of the killing, has galvanised people into action. Many Green Party members and supporters have joined crowds of hundreds of thousands of people at peaceful protests across the country. A number of councils have passed motions, often proposed by Green Party councillors, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Since last October, I have attended and spoken at rallies in my home city of Bristol and in London to call for an immediate ceasefire. Over time, the strength of feeling in my city against the death and destruction in Gaza has only grown. 

I was particularly struck by a school strike for Palestine, which saw young people take a stand for a day to mark the thousands of children killed in Gaza - more than 12,000 at the latest count. 

Justice for Palestinians

The children said they contacted the four Labour MPs who represent Bristol, asking to meet them and deliver their petition, but sadly none of the MPs responded. In their absence, the children asked me to receive the petition, and I committed to doing everything I could to amplify their voices.

I took the petition to a Bristol City Council meeting, and formally asked the mayor to write to the foreign secretary and shadow foreign secretary on behalf of the council and ask them to support a ceasefire.

I also visited Wael Arafat, a British Palestinian man who began a hunger strike in late October after his sister and her children were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. My heart broke when I heard about the traumatic and utterly unfair sequence of events he has experienced: he lost his parents as a small child, came to the UK as a young refugee, and has now seen many of his remaining friends and family killed. 

You might expect this experience to create an angry and embittered man, but from my conversation with Arafat in the hospital that afternoon, it was clear that he does not desire any type of revenge or retaliation. 

Only outside pressure will make Israel stop its mass killing. There are many steps the UK government could and should take

He just wants peace, and for the Palestinian people to be treated fairly and equally by the Israeli government, the UK government and the international community. Arafat told me he feels ignored by his MP and by the UK government. I was relieved to hear that he has now started eating again, but his message of peace is still so relevant. 

Unfortunately, the representatives in our city have not moved their position. I have publicly urged Bristol’s four Labour MPs to listen to the people of Bristol and join the Greens in calling for a ceasefire. None have agreed, although full credit goes to the 56 Labour MPs who rebelled against the party diktat and backed a ceasefire in parliament last November. 

Labour faces another test this week, when MPs will again vote on a motion calling for an “immediate” ceasefire. Keir Starmer has shifted his position slightly, telling delegates to Scottish Labour’s conference over the weekend that he wants to see a "ceasefire that lasts… now". However, his refusal to call for an "immediate" ceasefire will make for a challenging week in the Commons for Labour.

Catastrophic implications

The Israeli government is refusing to heed warnings about the catastrophic implications of its assault on Gaza, and especially of an all-out attack on Rafah. Decisions made by the UK government - above all its failure, month after month, to call for an immediate ceasefire - have made it complicit in the killing.  

The Green Party believes that the UK government must now not only call for an immediate ceasefire, but take specific actions against the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Firstly, there must be an end to all arms sales. Israel relies on certain weapons parts manufactured in the UK, including for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A Dutch court recently ordered the state to cease the export of F-35 parts to Israel. We call on the UK government to follow suit, and also to cease all military collaboration with Israel, including allowing Israeli use of British bases and RAF intelligence flights over Gaza.

Secondly, we need to see the implementation of measures in line with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement across the UK economy. This would include excluding Israel from international sporting and music events; withdrawing all public money from funds with investments in Israel; and ending beneficial trade arrangements with Israel. 

Thirdly, we would encourage UK authorities, including the Metropolitan Police and Director of Public Prosecutions, to pursue perpetrators of war crimes committed where UK citizens are the victims, or where UK citizens are potential perpetrators.

Finally, we can increase the pressure on Israeli leaders by introducing targeted sanctions against key individuals. This should include travel bans and asset freezes on Israel’s leadership and cabinet members, in particular those calling for new settlements in Gaza and the annexation of the occupied West Bank.

It is clear that only outside pressure will make Israel stop its mass killing. There are many steps the UK government could and should take to pressure Israel to stop the killing. If it refuses to act, it is implicitly condoning the appalling carnage in Gaza.


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