Beyond ceasefire

The call for a ceasefire reflects the horror people feel at Israel’s genocidal pounding of Gaza. But allies of Palestine can make stronger demands, ones that name Israel as the aggressor and uphold Palestinians’ right to self-defense.

Seattle, January 2024. Palestinian-rights supporters stop traffic on I-5 to demand an end to the bombings in Gaza. Photo: Doug Barnes / FS
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With each passing day, Israel’s barbaric, sustained devastation of Gaza continues to foster outrage around the globe. The news and images of Israel Defense Forces brutality are almost unbelievable, documenting the indiscriminate destruction of the densely populated strip, home to over two million Palestinians, half of them children.

Millions worldwide have been hitting the streets to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people. In the U.S., polls indicate that over 60% disapprove of Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s onslaught. This is a positive shift, with many people now coming to terms for the first time with the catastrophic nature of the Zionist takeover of Palestine.

The most prominent rallying cry is “ceasefire now.” But is this demand the most effective one to raise?

No equivalency

The conflict is not one of equals, despite the attempt to characterize it as such by Israel’s apologists. Quite the opposite. It is one in which an occupying power is suppressing an indigenous population. With one of the world’s most modern militaries, Israel is fully backed by the unparalleled might of its U.S. sponsor. Calling for a ceasefire does not draw a distinction between the violence of the oppressor and that of the oppressed.

One does not have to be a supporter of Hamas or its actions to see that the focus on “ceasefire” denies the Palestinian right to self-defense. As the slogan goes: “When people are occupied, resistance is justified!”

Politicians and labor leaders, feeling immense pressure from below, are in a frenzy to pass ceasefire resolutions to satisfy their outraged constituents. Young people especially are threatening to withhold their votes in November over the unwavering support for Israel from “Genocide Joe” and Democratic politicians generally. At the same time, the ceasefire resolutions of Democratic Party officials typically use politically ambiguous language to maintain the fiction of power equivalency and temper criticism of Israel.

No solution short of uprooting the cause

“Ceasefire is a Band-Aid,” says Raya Fidel, an anti-Zionist Israeli American professor and Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) writer and activist. “As long as the occupation continues, ceasefire is actually a preparation for the next war.”

Indeed, there have been five ceasefire agreements since 2007. None of them have amounted to more than preservation of the status quo, providing opportunities for Israel to further the ultimate goal of the Zionist project: complete removal of Palestinians from their homeland.

Meanwhile, as the destruction of Gaza dominates news of the conflict, daily atrocities are taking place elsewhere in the Palestinian territories. In the West Bank, gun-toting Jewish settlers continually escalate attacks in the drive to expand their turf. Many of their weapons are rifles made in the U.S. They harass and murder with virtual impunity. Backed by the U.S., the Israeli government encourages the violence, which according to international law takes place illegally and on stolen land.

Ceasefire agreements pertaining to Gaza do not address these continual but mostly under-the-radar violations.

Solidarity with a stronger impact

Palestinians who call for a ceasefire know the limits of this appeal, and many also raise other demands, like the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Under vicious occupation and all-out assault, Palestinians may have to make difficult choices to live to fight another day.

As international allies of Palestine, we are under no such constraints. We have the ability and the obligation to call for more. For example, an immediate halt to Israel’s genocidal aggression. No U.S. military support to Israel. Hands off pro-Palestinian protesters in the U.S. and everywhere. End the occupation!

Workers are bringing demands like these into their unions — writing, organizing for, and passing resolutions which indict Israel and push for a decisive end to this ongoing nakba. (See here for one example.)  More of this agitation is needed. Imagine the power of such demands taking hold in the labor movement and community organizations and coalitions!

Palestine will be free only when Israel can no longer maintain its grip. This will require the global solidarity movement to go beyond the call for ceasefire and demand forcefully and en masse that Israel unconditionally stop its aggression and end its occupation. To attain this would clear the way for a lasting solution — establishment of a secular, socialist, multi-ethnic state with equal rights for all.

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