By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Mirror
Colombo, November 8: With the war in Gaza entering the second month, and the killings taking the shape of a genocide, Western governments are coming under mounting pressure from their people to revise their pro-Israel stand and enforce a ceasefire or at least a “humanitarian pause”.
Last week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests in London, Berlin, Paris, Ankara, Istanbul and Washington demanding that their governments press Israel to declare a ceasefire. They castigated Israel for its grossly disproportionate counter to the Hamas’ attack on October 7.
For the 1400 Israelis the Hamas killed on October 7, the Israelis have so far killed nearly 10,000 Gazans. In the guise of hunting Hamas terrorists, the Israelis intend to clear Gaza of all Gazans and planting Israelis there instead. Many protesters have had no hesitation in describing this as “genocide”.
In London’s Trafalgar Square, protesters held placards which said “Freedom for Palestine” and chanted “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians”. Police arrested 29 for “inciting racial hatred” and two women were arrested under terrorism laws for holding a model of a paraglider used by Hamas on October 7.
Like US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for a “humanitarian pause” for the delivery of relief. But again like Biden, he has been unable to get the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a pause as Netanyahu is adamant that Hamas should release the 240 hostages first.
Meanwhile, rejecting the Arab leaders’ calls for a ceasefire, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that a ceasefire would only allow Hamas to regroup and attack again. His efforts to get the Arab leaders to back the US stand, failed miserably. There is a deadlock.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched down the streets of Washington waving Palestinian flags, some chanting “Biden, Biden you cannot hide, you signed up for genocide.” Speakers at the demonstrations denounced Biden saying: “You have blood on your hands.”
In Paris, thousands marched with placards reading “Stop the cycle of violence” and “To do nothing, to say nothing, is to be complicit.” Responding to the public mood, the French government is to hold an international humanitarian conference on Gaza on November 9.
In Berlin, demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, demanding a ceasefire. In Istanbul’s Sarachane park, protesters held banners saying “Blinken, the accomplice of the massacre, go away from Turkey.” Some posters read: “Israel bombs hospitals, Biden pays for it.”
Public Opinion Shift
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported from Washington that opinion polls in the US showed a lowering of support for Israel among young Americans, who are wary of being drawn into a Middle-East war.
A poll by Quinnipiac demonstrated the stark age divide. Respondents were asked: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Israel is responding to the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack?”. Only 32% of respondents aged 18-34 approved of Israel’s response, as opposed to about 58% of those aged 50 and older. The age divide is clear.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted on October 26. Polls taken closer to the Hamas invasion on October 7 had found greater support for Israel.
A poll from October 18 and 19 by the left-leaning Data for Progress found that 66% of all respondents, and majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents, agreed with the statement: “The US should call for a ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza.”
A group of Jewish American writers, artists and academics have written an open letter to Biden opposing Israeli attacks on the civilians in Gaza with US assistance.
“We believe it is possible and necessary to condemn Hamas’ attack and take a stand against the collective punishment of Gazans that is unfolding and accelerating as we write. Cutting off resources to more than 2 million people, demanding families flee their homes in the north, indiscriminately bombing a trapped population – these are war crimes and indefensible actions.”
“ And yet the United States government is offering moral and material support for the dehumanization and murder of innocent Gazans. We write to publicly declare our opposition to what the Israeli government is doing with American assistance.”
“We call on the US government to seek an immediate ceasefire and to use our resources towards providing aid ensuring the safe return of hostages and building a diplomatic path towards peace.”
“As Jews, as Americans, we will be made to feel a sense of safety in our communities, and in the world, not by unequivocal US support for Israel, but by our government’s insistence on the universal human rights that so many of us take for granted.”
Students have held hundreds of protests and counter-protests on universities in the US since the October 7 against Hamas attacks and Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza in response.
UK’s leaders are with Israel, but Scottish and Irish leaders are sympathetic to the Palestinians.
In England, two council leaders belonging to the opposition Labour Party, Afrasiab Anwar and Asjad Mahmood, demanded that the party chief and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer step down from the party leadership for refusing to back a Gaza ceasefire.
Starmer should resign “to allow someone to lead our party who has compassion and who speaks out against injustice and indiscriminate killing of innocent human beings,” Asjad Mahmood said.
Sobia Malik, who represents Burnley Central East on Lancashire County Councillor, announced her resignation from the Labour party saying: “Starmer’s profound inability to demonstrate empathy or compassion, let alone challenge war crimes, has made my membership untenable.”
The MP for Middlesbrough Andy McDonald was suspended as a Labour MP, for his strong stand against Israeli ethnic cleansing in Gaza and his support for a Palestinian State.
The Scottish daily The National, reported that amidst a sea of politicians offering unconditional support to Israel in the current conflict, Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf stood out “as far more supportive of peace and human rights than others.” Yousaf had called for a ceasefire and condemned the “collective punishment” of Palestinians by Israel.
Scottish voters are far more supportive of the Palestinian cause and favour a peaceful resolution to the conflict than English voters, The National said.
When asked in a poll last Thursday if they favoured an immediate ceasefire, 73% of Scottish voters rallied behind the idea – while a mere 11% opposed it.
Scottish scepticism about Israel’s military tactics is again evident in a recent poll on Israel’s use of air strikes in Gaza. When asked if they thought that Israel made an effort to minimise civilian casualties in such strikes, 49% of Scottish voters said “No” – and a mere 17% said “Yes”.
In England, only London had a higher share of respondents who were critical of Israel’s strikes (51%).
About 57% of Scots support a “Two-State solution” (which would see the creation of a Palestinian State in addition to Israel) with a mere 5% opposed to the idea. And finally, on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a mere 6% of Scots thought such settlements were acceptable.
BBC reported that in Ireland, the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Its leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said that Israel was not acting in self-defence. She also called for sanctions against Israel.
However, the Irish government said there are no plans to expel the Israeli Ambassador. Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM, said that it was important to have “some line of communication open”.
But he too said that “what is happening in Gaza is not just self-defence on the part of Israel, but it resembles something more approaching revenge”.
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