Imagine we are living in a parallel universe. 75 years ago, Britain was defeated in the 2nd World War. The RAF lost the Battle of Britain. D Day was a disaster. Britain was invaded and then colonised. The majority fled the country and cannot return. Those who survived have moved to the Southampton-Portsmouth Strip. Nearly 3 million people live as refugees in what is the world’s largest open prison, 25 miles long, 5 miles wide. The M27 is a militarised separation barrier. The coastline is patrolled. The ports are derelict. No one can leave. There is no escape. Imports and exports are heavily restricted. We depend on UN aid to survive.
Our democratically elected civil government has been designated a terrorist organisation. Three months ago, it got much worse. Armed resistance fighters broke out of our enclave. In retaliation, for the last 100 days, Southampton, Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth have been sieged, invaded and bombed. Day and night. As a result, there are tens of thousands of dead and wounded. 80% of homes have been destroyed or are uninhabitable. The Civic Hall has been demolished. Portsmouth, Solent and Southampton Universities have all been flattened. The University Hospital, Royal South Hampshire and Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth have been severely damaged and are out of operation. Southampton airport is unusable. Most churches and mosques, shops, schools and community centres have been demolished or are unusable. Mass burials are taking place daily on Southampton Common.
And then, just when we thought it could not get any worse, two million people have been forced to move to a so-called ‘safe zone’ along the Weston Shore, Netley and in Royal Victoria Park. We are living in the open air, in makeshift tents. There is little or no food, no water or electricity. There is a communication blackout. The UN are only allowed to bring in a fraction of the supplies we need to survive. Medical staff are performing operations without anaesthetics. With no sanitation, communicable diseases are rampant. diarrhoea cases surged 66 percent among children. Meningitis, chickenpox, jaundice also reported. Half a million people are literally starving.
But we know this is not a parallel universe for the people of Gaza and Palestine. It is infinitely worse than I have described. The people in Gaza are experiencing genocide and ethnic cleansing. War crimes are being committed on a daily basis. There is a very real threat of another Nakba, with Palestinians expelled into the Egyptian desert.
What do Palestinians in Gaza want? They want to live. They want an end to the genocide. Do they want a return to the status quo? No! They want freedom. They want justice. They demand the same rights we enjoy – liberty, equality, the right to self-determination. They want an end to Western indifference and complicity. What do Palestinians want of us? I suggest they want 12 things of us:
- To lobby our government to demand an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
- To demand that the UN and humanitarian agencies be allowed unhindered access to provide sufficient supplies of food, water, medical aid, tents, clothing. 500 lorries a day.
- To demand the immediate release of all hostages and all Palestinian prisoners held in detention.
- To demand Israel pays war reparations for every civilian death, every injury, every home, every institution, and every business destroyed.
- To demand support for the South African submission to the International Court of Justice charging Israel with genocide.
- To institute war crimes investigations against Israeli military and political leaders.
- To bring criminal charges against UK companies supplying Israel with weapons or military equipment used to deny Palestinian rights.
- To investigate UK citizens who have joined the Israeli military suspected of terrorist offences.
- To recognise Palestine on the pre 1967 borders as an independent, sovereign, contiguous Palestinian State.
- And if Israel continues to refuse to comply with UN resolutions and international law, to institute punitive sanctions until Israel withdraws completely and unconditionally from all territory seized and colonised since 1967. And if our government and opposition also refuse to comply with UN resolutions or the findings of the ICJ, remind them we will remember their complicity when they ask for our vote later this year.
- Join the BDS movement. BDS is the best way, a non-violent way we can constructively play an active role in the liberation of Palestine from settler colonial military-imposed apartheid. It worked in South Africa. It can work in Palestine. Boycott Israeli goods. Boycott Western companies profiting from the illegal Israeli settlements. It is your money and your choice.
- Join Southampton PSC. Find us on social media.
Let me close with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
“The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the last century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure. If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction.”