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Rulers fear protest—we need more of it

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Issue 2598
The huge march in solidarity with Gaza in 2014
The huge march in solidarity with Gaza in 2014 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The courage and determination of Palestinian protesters has been met by the ferocious terror of the Israeli state.

Israeli forces gunned down 17 Palestinian protesters—and injured more than 1,500—at the border with the Gaza Strip last week.

The 30,000-strong demonstration had marched on the border to demand back land that Israel robbed from Palestinians.

Despite the lethal repression, the massacre underlines how ruling classes fear the masses when they take to the streets.

Demonstrations can help to topple regimes, or be a launchpad for wider social struggles.

That’s why they are sometimes met with bullets.

Israel has been rocked by mass resistance in the past—and fears it could happen again.

The First Intifada—30 years since Palestinians rose up against Israel
The First Intifada—30 years since Palestinians rose up against Israel
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The killing of Palestinian labourers on the Gazan border inspired the First Intifada, or uprising, in 1987.

It led to five years of mass resistance to the Israeli occupation across Palestine.

And the Intifada inspired other revolts against US imperialism and dictatorship.

In Britain the struggle is at a much lower level, but the Tories also fear mass protests. Theresa May presides over a weak and divided government.

Mass resistance on the streets, and in workplaces and campuses, could force her out.

Donald Trump, leader of the most powerful imperialist state, backed out of coming to Britain earlier this year for fear of mass protests.

Tens of millions marching worldwide—including two million in London—raised the banner of revolt against warmongers George Bush and Tony Blair in 2003. It made politicians much more wary of going to war.

The US and Britain tried to bomb Syria in August 2013, but prime minister David Cameron couldn’t get it through parliament.

Mass protests also help shift people’s ideas. Opposition to US imperialism was at the heart of the anti-war movement. This also transformed Palestinian solidarity politics, which became mainstream on the left.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel won support from many unions. And Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza saw tens of thousands in Britain march on the Israeli embassy.

Since 2014 the pro-Israel right have tried to claw all of that back. They want to erase the impact the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements have had on British politics.

That is what is at stake in the arguments now about antisemitism and Palestine.

The best response this week is to defend Jeremy Corbyn – and put tens of thousands onto the streets of Britain in solidarity with the Palestinians.

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