Now that Israeli-made famine in Gaza is commonly acknowledged, there is a scramble by those governments who have cheered on Israel in its brutal assault to distance themselves from it. Now they say that there should be a ceasefire (conditional on Israeli agreement and the release of hostages) and food, water and medicine let in to Gaza. The US also declared that Israel should not invade Rafah, an admonition instantly rejected by Benjamin Netanyahu, who no doubt feels that after close on 6 months getting away with murder in Gaza he has little to fear from western political disapproval.

This is now creating big problems for Joe Biden and his allies. The US president has spent his time since October 7th providing Israel with moral, financial, and military support, and has justified war crimes in the name of ‘self-defence’. This is now apparent to the world as not only morally abhorrent but enabling of genocide, as Israel pursues its goals with no concern whatever for the fate of the people of Gaza.

It is also harming Biden electorally, as considerable numbers of US voters say they will not cast a vote for the president in November’s election because of his position on Gaza. The conjuncture of events led the US to put a motion to the UN security council which fell short of calling for a permanent ceasefire but indicated that one would be a good thing. This was vetoed by two other permanent members of the security council, Russia and China, since it was a manoeuvre to make the US look good while not doing too much to hold Israel to account.

The US resolution did mark a considerable shift in the US position and was a sign of how desperate Biden is getting in the face of deliberate genocide in Gaza by Israel. It follows, after all, from three occasions since October 7th when the US vetoed resolutions calling for a ceasefire. But it was still on Israel’s terms, for a limited time and only with the Israeli government agreement. It was very far from a full permanent ceasefire without conditions.

However, it did reflect the growing pressure on the US (and the EU, which also put out a statement on similar lines) from world public opinion, embodied especially in the huge solidarity movement with Gaza. That’s important, because it means that the protests, debates, demos, boycotts, fundraisers, are all having an impact. At the very least, politicians fear they are losing support. So they should.

The question of Palestine is impacting on western politics, especially in the US and Britain. Sunak and Starmer here have carried out a series of manoeuvres to avoid accountability for their support for Israel. Sunak is pressing on with his ‘extremism’ agenda where he tries to brand left wing activists and the whole Muslim community as ‘the enemy within’. Meanwhile Starmer is still forcing out pro Palestine activists, including Jewish ones, for daring to criticise Israel, and is still falling far short of calling for ceasefire.

The British government and opposition must treat Israel as the pariah it is. We need to stop arming Israel to prevent it killing Palestinians, whether through bullets, bombs, or man-made famine. All the terminology and remedies reserved for those our governments don’t like should be applied to Israel: war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing are taking place before our eyes. And the need for boycott, divestment and sanctions has never been stronger.

25 Mar 2024 • by Lindsey German .-