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We must force the government to act over Israel’s reckless killings

LABOUR is right to expose the utter cowardice of Theresa May’s government in failing to condemn Israel’s massacre of unarmed civilians on the Gaza border.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not even dare to remain in the chamber when faced with an urgent question from his shadow Emily Thornberry, who denounced the one-sided slaughter of Palestinians by Israeli troops: “Many of them shot in the back. Many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.”

Today we learned the name of the youngest victim, eight-month-old Leila Anwar Ghandoor, who died from tear gas inhalation.

Leila may not have been a deliberate target, though this does not diminish the responsibility of the Israeli Defence Forces for her death given its frequent recourse to lethal force against children.

The same cannot be said, however, of scores of others who perished on Monday in a hail of bullets as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gushed over the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

“This is a great day … a great day for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu crowed. “Remember this moment.”

It will be all our responsibility to do just that and fight to end the impunity with which Israel flouts international law, kills when and where it pleases and intensifies its colonisation of occupied land.

US President Donald Trump’s brazen decision to move the embassy encourages the Israeli leader to further shred the prospects of future peace, as was clear from his designation of Jerusalem as the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” a signal that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian East Jerusalem will continue, the bulldozers will carry on destroying the archaeological relics of the city’s Byzantine and Arab heritage in a bid to rewrite the past and the Israeli government will do everything in its power to permanently thwart the Palestinian struggle for an independent state.

Chillingly, it has that power — at least while backed up by “the most powerful nation on Earth,” as Netanyahu gloated at the opening ceremony. Or at least while that backing from Washington is not effectively challenged.

Johnson’s stand-in in Parliament, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, did not supply that challenge with his waffling about “a need to establish the facts of what happened,” as if week after week of lethal attacks on unarmed demonstrators, many of them recorded on film, defended by Israeli officers and celebrated by Israeli politicians, left any room for doubt.

Nor did the government with its repetition of the tired claim that “extremists” have sought to “hijack” the Great Return March protests. Monday’s violence came from one side, despite the disgraceful bid by Labour Friends of Israel to muddy the water by calling on Hamas to take responsibility.

Only real pressure on Israel will force it to retreat from its current disastrous course and make it enter into serious negotiations over Palestine’s path to independence.

The Morning Star stands in solidarity with all those who demonstrated yesterday demanding our government begin to apply that pressure, with a ban on arms sales the very least we ought to expect.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign must be stepped up — the Tories’ bid to ban it was deemed unlawful last year — and MPs who defend the occupation of Palestine or try to blame it on the victims must be held to account, by their CLPs and where relevant through withdrawal of trade union funding in the case of Labour MPs.

With some notable exceptions — South Africa’s withdrawal of its ambassador to Israel is to its credit, as is the solidarity shown to Palestine by Cuba, Venezuela and some others — governments around the world are indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians.

That means it’s up to us to mount a campaign on such a scale that they are forced to act.

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