Southampton Peace Rally for Gaza and Palestine

Do you remember the film Miss Congeniality staring Sandra Bullock who plays a police officer. There’s a scene in which she enters the Miss USA beauty pageant. Each contestant steps up to the microphone to answer the question, “What’s the most important thing our society needs?” They each smile and give the same cliched answer – “world peace“. All except Sandra Bullock who replies, “Harsher punishment for parole violators”. The crowd goes silent and Sandra Bullock realises they don’t share her enthusiasm for justice, so she adds, “And world peace” and the crowd goes wild.

Although the scene makes light of ‘world peace’, Sandra Bullock is making a point, “If we all believe in ‘world peace’, if we all want ‘world peace’ why, oh why, is it so elusive? Because peace begins, for exampole, by holding parole violators accountable. That is why the prophet Jeremiah warned “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14). 

What is the peace that does not bring peace?  It is a peace which only calls for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. It is a peace which drops food supplies by parachute while also supplying bombs to kill the same people. It is a peace that ignores the legal opinion that Israel is committing genocide and therefore selling arms to Israel is complicity in genocide. It is a peace that supports a two-state solution but will not recognise Palestine. The world’s peace is peace without justice. Peace without justice is appeasement of injustice. Peace without justice is complicity with injustice. That is the peace our politicians offer and it is obscene. 

In Gaza, peace is a serious, urgent, vital, not just need, but demand. There are people living and breathing in Gaza today who will be dead by tonight, or who will die tomorrow, or on Monday, or next week.. It is not inevitable. In a very real sense, , “Gaza is the moral compass” of the world order. If the international community cannot, or will not, hold Israel accountable for genocide, then there is no hope for peace anywhere else in the world. What is the genuine peace we should work to achieve in Palestine? I shared some of these actions last time I spoke. I make no apology for repeating them because without them there will be no genuine lasting peace in Palestine. We must,

  1. Demand an immediate, permanent and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and withdrawal of Israeli forces.
  2. Demand that the UNWRA and humanitarian agencies be allowed unhindered access to provide sufficient supplies of food, water, medical aid, tents, clothing. 500 lorries a day.
  3. Demand the immediate release of all hostages including the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli detention.
  4. Demand Israel pays war reparations for every civilian death, every injury, every home, every university, every school, hospital, clinic, and every business destroyed. $20 billion+
  5. Demand support for the South African submission to the International Court of Justice charging Israel with genocide. 
  6. Institute war crimes investigations against Israeli military and political leaders.
  7. Arrest returning British citizens who have joined the Israeli military and investigate their complicity in war crimes.
  8. Ban export licenses for British companies supplying Israel with weapons or military equipment.
  9. Institute punitive sanctions until Israel withdraws completely and unconditionally from all territory seized and colonised since 1967. 
  10. Boycott Israeli goods. Boycott Western companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. It is your money and your choice. BDS is a non-violent way to bring the liberation of Palestine from settler colonial military-imposed apartheid. BDS worked in South Africa. It can work in Palestine. 

If our political leaders will not yet take the necessary steps to achieve a just and lasting peace in Palestine, then we, civil society, must be the moral compass our sisters and brothers in Palestine so desperately need and deserve today.