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Editorial: The Nakba never stopped – we must make this war a turning point for Palestine

ON NAKBA day, the 76th anniversary of the violent expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes when the state of Israel was established, hundreds of thousands are being forced to flee again.

More than 450,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in the last week. The population of the town on Gaza’s Egyptian border had swelled to over 1.3 million as Palestinians fled there from bombers and tanks rampaging across the rest of the besieged strip, flattening homes, storming hospitals and burying hundreds of civilians in mass graves.

First driven to the impassable barrier on Gaza’s southern edge, now they are forced north again, but nowhere in Gaza is safe. Over 100,000 have fled northern Gaza too, as Israel intensifies its bombardments there. Desperate people are being hounded back and forth, indiscriminately killed on a daily basis. 

More children were killed in the first four months of Israel’s war than in all other conflicts worldwide over the last four years. Like the majority-civilian death toll overall, this represents a war on the Palestinian people as a whole.

The invasion of Gaza is the bloodiest and most terrifying episode of that war since 1948. But it is an episode, not a standalone war, however often Establishment media mouthpieces intone that Israel is retaliating for Hamas’s cross-border attack of October 7. 

The grim reality is that the Nakba is an ongoing process. The colonisation — theft — of Palestinian land by Israel has continued ever since 1948. 

The Palestinians were not alone among colonised peoples in having their land signed away by others in 1947’s infamous Partition Plan. The British empire was notorious for such partitions. But for Palestinians the blows have kept coming, as Israeli governments pursue their goal of Greater Israel over the decades with further land grabs. 

Today’s Palestinian territories make up just 23 per cent of what was Palestine in 1947: and that 23 per cent is itself entirely under Israeli control, heavily colonised by over 600,000 illegal settlers, criss-crossed by Israeli-only roads and checkpoints, patrolled by Israeli troops and menaced by settler gangs. 

The constant expansion of the settlements, the steady ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from areas like East Jerusalem, point to the reality that no Israeli government yet has been serious about the two-state solution, a sovereign Palestine alongside a sovereign Israel, which was promised in 1947. Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is open in demanding resettlement of Gaza by Jews and calling for the Palestinian population to be forced into emigration.

Arguments continue over the one or two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, but the starting point for international solidarity is respect for Palestinian self-determination. That is denied by a murderous Israeli occupation facilitated by the support of the US and its allies, including Britain.

The world stands with Palestine: the UN general assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state last Friday, with 143 countries voting in favour. Britain shamefully abstained, and the Labour Party, which until January was committed to recognise a Palestinian state (as most of the world already does) if elected, has disgracefully dropped that commitment amid the worst violence inflicted on Palestinians for decades.

The mass mobilisation for Palestine has opened eyes to the horrific character of Israel’s war, one reason our government continues to do all it can to suppress the movement. The immediate demand is peace, but we must also build the campaign for justice. 

The invasion of Gaza must not be one more step towards the eventual absorption of all Palestine into Israel, but a turning point. The global South is awakening, US domination of the Middle East is waning and a rising China calls for a UN conference on making a Palestinian state a reality. We must force our rulers to stop sabotaging that outcome and start contributing to it.

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