From the Carnage Rises Hope? Palestine Liberating the World.

Volume 6 – Issue 2 – June 2024 / Dhul Hijjah 1445


The industrial scale slaughter in Gaza has unmasked many things: the hollow claims of a western civilisation that preaches humanism but practices genocide, the continuation of a neo-imperial world order on the Global South seven decades after “Independence”, and the tendency to intensified violence that is characteristic of declining empires.

But these last few months have also reminded us of the indomitable spirit of colonised peoples to resist against seemingly insurmountable odds and the willingness of ordinary people around the world to risk reputation, limbs, livelihoods and even lives to rally behind the oppressed. The current phase of the struggle against Zionist settler colonialism has been marked by a remarkable and unprecedented level of civil society activism.  It has seen dockers refusing to load ships carrying weapons, activists trashing weapons factories, protestors hounding politicians and disrupting their meetings, students demanding their universities divest from Israel and ever-expanding boycotts against Israel and its supporters.

The pressure being applied by the resistance is impressively unique in its scope and strategic effectiveness. Another feature has been its diversity and inclusiveness, spanning every conceivable political, religious and racial stripe. One of the most potent challenges to Israel’s campaign of mass extermination has come from within the Jewish community, from individuals who have had enough of their faith being hijacked in the pursuit of a political project predicated on the replacement and subjugation of a native people by ethno-supremacist invaders in the service of equally racist and violent imperial powers. The presence of dissenting anti-Zionist Jews are a welcome antidote to the hasbara tactic of conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism to smear anyone who dares to speak out.

It is in the vein that the author of our first essay tackles the internal dilemma posed by being Jewish and the associated cultural expectation of supporting the Zionist entity.  Jennifer Loewenstein cannot reconcile her Judaic identity with allegiance to a state or ideology that demands this level of suffering simply in order to exist. She protests against the domination of US Jewry by Zionist federations that attempt to silence internal opposition with the same iron fist that puts down external critics. And she warns against the obvious dangers of conflating Judaism with Zionism, an ideology in whose name the most bestial acts are routinely carried out.

Searching for a historical precedent for the sheer magnitude of the carnage in Gaza, Loewenstein finds a precedent with the Roman destruction of Carthage in 146 BC during the Third Punic War where in an act of sheer vengeance and after a three-year siege, Roman warriors burned, looted, and razed the ancient city of Carthage to the ground. Some historians like Ben Kiernan have cited this as early support for genocide.

While the term genocide dominates popular and civil society discourse around Gaza it remains noticeably absent from the political discourse of western powers. Our second essay by Afroze Fatima Zaidi locates this omission in an international order that exists in the first instance to protect the gains and prevailing system of white supremacy. Colonial genocide is a formative component of European identity, hence Europe’s willingness to act as an accomplice. Moreover, “white supremacist colonial ideology goes beyond racism as discrimination – it holds the coloniser as superior and therefore more entitled to space, land, freedom, cultural identity and heritage, and the right to live. Colonising forces have therefore joined hands to endorse the settler-colonial Zionist project, offering Israel impunity as well as political, material, and ideological support.”

Zaidi sees the United Nations as more of a hindrance than a help with the legal rules around prosecuting a genocide both ambiguous and selectively applied. This renders the term almost meaningless in international law. Where it does hold weight, however, is in the court of public opinion, where it is instinctively recognised as a grave injustice against a specific group of people that should be opposed and prevented. Like Loewenstein, she sees hope in the snowballing global movement that is challenging governments everywhere and demanding they intervene to end the genocide.

Our third piece, an extract from the upcoming second edition of Imam Dawud Walid’s book “Towards Sacred Activism”, takes up this theme of political activism. Addressed to Muslims, it sets out an Islamic underpinning for social and political activism. In an indirect way it is also a rebuke to the political quietists who shun engagement for reasons of dogma, pusillanimity or indifference. The struggle for justice in Palestine is a religious duty for every Muslim. It is a religious obligation just like prayer and fasting. One cannot claim to be following Allah’s will if one abandons the battlefield and ignores the requirement to “speak the truth in the face of a tyrant” and “to enjoin good and forbid evil”.  Activism is a religious imperative rooted in divine injunctions, not a lifestyle choice or activity that can be switched on when time or mood allows. Due to be published later this year, the book is essential reading for all Muslims involved in social/political activism.

Our final essay in this issue by Arzu Merali leaves Gaza for the political battlefield that is education in England to examine how it is being used to advance new notions of normative Britishness.  For several decades schools have been the object of an ideology driven tussle for control between local authorities and central government. At first, Westminster was concerned with breaking the left’s stranglehold on policy through its influence over local councils. In recent years that has given way to an attack on “wokery” or the purported influence that minorities, particularly Muslims, exert on school settings. Merali unpacks the ideological agenda driving the targeting of Muslims in manufactured moral panics epitomised by the Trojan Horse Affair and the more recent Michaela School affair.

Buffeted by the winds of globalisation and the loss of power and prestige on the international stage, much of the English political class has made a reflexive dash for the sanctuary of a nostalgic nativism that seeks to recreate an idealised, monochrome past in which Muslims are either airbrushed out or seen and not heard or scapegoated to erode civil liberties or justify military intervention in Muslim lands. At the hands of unreconstructed Islamophobes like Michael Gove and Suella Braverman, education is also an anvil on which a recalcitrant religious community can be hammered to made to fit inside a top down, secularised, one size fits all notion of citizenship.

Whilst the powers that be in the ‘West’ are set on controlling their citizenry, the grass roots have different ideas.  From lone students challenging prayer bans, to student encampments at university demanding divestment from genocide, injustice is no longer silently met.  Let’s make the conversation on these pages part of that movement for justice.