The Gaza conflict and the hierarchy of oppression

Many years ago Winnie Mandela, wife of Nelson Mandela was considered to be a hero. She had to suffer for years whilst her husband was in jail, maybe for life. Yet she still carried on the struggle for freedom against apartheid South Africa.

I also considered her a hero, then one day she announced “With our boxes of matches, and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country”. What she was describing was a horribly sadistic method of murdering someone. In that instant, for me, she was no longer a hero. She was in fact a very nasty person. I was pleased that Nelson divorced her, although I also felt sorry for him that she had turned out this way when he was in jail. Yet for many people she remained a hero, including by left wing progressives who normally oppose the death penalty, presumably for it’s cruelty.

So the point to understand here is that for many on the left there is a hierarchy of oppression. It is OK to be cruel if the oppression you are fighting against is perceived to be even more cruel. However the risk you take if you ignore the cruelty of those that you support is that they may turn out to be just as bad or even worse. Consider Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe.

Which of course brings us to the conflict in Gaza. Israel wants to “destroy Hamas” and in doing so has created a hell on earth for the people living there, suffering from bombing and famine. I dread to think what the final death toll will be, maybe over 100,000? It is as though the Israeli government wants to destroy the Palestinian people in order to destroy Hamas. But what would a Hamas government look like if it were to take power, real power where they could do what they want? Given the cruelty involved in the pogrom they committed they may well be like Daesh/ISIS.

So, last year I went on the peace vigil organised by Layla Moran and others. Not taking a side between Hamas and Netanyahu, but in my case recognising this is an asymmetric conflict where my natural sympathy is with the Palestinians as the oppressed, amid others who were there who really are 50:50 or in some cases more supportive of Zionism. We want a resolution to the conflict where the extremists on both sides are excluded. At the same time peace also requires that the extremists put down their weapons, so logic tells me that they cannot be excluded for this to happen. And given that I do not know what to think about where we go from here.

What I hope is that both the Lib Dem Friends of Israel and Lib Dem Friends of Palestine can at least agree that the
Netanyahu government and Hamas should be seen for who they are, the worst kind of oppressors.

* Geoff Payne is the former events organiser for Hackney Liberal Democrats

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10 Comments

  • Nigel Jones 9th Jan '24 - 11:11am

    I agree that the confict will not be resolved until and unless both Hamas and the current leaders of Israel are removed from power. Apart from the first couple of days from 7th October, our government and our party should have been quicker to show we are not taking sides. Even more importantly we should have given explicit support for the comments of Gutterez of the UN that we must remember the context and join him in trying to bring about an international response and not leave it to the Israelis to do what they want. Our response took away any chance we might have had of working with other nations including those in the Middle East to find a solution, but it is never too late for us to change our approach and use our relationship with the US more challengingly.

  • I can’t speak for the entire LDFP committee, but the only equivalence I see between Netanyahu and Hamas is in the unjustifiable violence each has committed since October 7.
    The idea of a ‘hierarchy of oppression’ makes less sense to me. Hamas is a militant expression of the resistance movement which arose from the high-handed decision by Britain to donate part of Palestine to Jews from Europe. Israel got the lion’s share of Palestine in 1948 but its current leaders want more – in fact they want all of the rest of mandate Palestine, plus the Golan Heights, which they took from Syria in 1967.
    Like any coloniser (and the template was created by history’s greatest colonisers, the Europeans) Israelis have felt it necessary to regard the people whose land they are taking as inferior. For me, that, not a hierarchy of violence, explains why the Israelis seem oblivious of world opinion as the taking of innocent lives progresses inexorably past the last benchmark , 20,000 Palestinians dead towards the next one.

  • The Lib Dem Friends of Palestine and the Lib Dem Friends of Israel have always agreed on one fundamental matter – that there needs to be a ‘two-state solution’, in other words the creation of a Palestinian state. After what is happening now in Gaza, that need will be greater than ever.
    If Israel accepts that a Palestinian state is now inevitable, removing the threat of annexation of the West Bank will remove much of the long-simmering Palestinian resentment, but new levels of fear were stirred up in Israel by Hamas on October 7, and Israel’s disproportionate reprisals in Gaza are going to make normalising relations difficult.
    The US has previously been the international mediator between the two sides, but Biden has destroyed any chance of the US filling that role, and the same goes for the supine British Prime Minister. An Arab consortium will have to get the two sides together and oversee the negotiations.

  • Steve Trevethan 9th Jan '24 - 8:02pm

    Might. this conflict also be, to some extent, an American surrogate war against the Palestinians, for whatever reasons?

  • Anne-Marie Simpson 10th Jan '24 - 12:22pm

    Commenting as Chair of LDFP, what we cannot ignore right now is the “hell on earth for the people there suffering from bombing and famine” that you starkly highlight. LDFP pushes for, and fully supports, the Liberal Democrats’ call for an immediate bilateral ceasefire. This is supported in a recent poll (20-21 December) conducted by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Caabu (Council for British and Arab Understanding) by 85% of Liberal Democrats who thought there definitely or probably should be a ceasefire.

    https://www.caabu.org/news/press-release/joint-map-caabu-press-release-opinion-poll-shows-overwhelming-british-public

    71% of the British public believe there definitely or probably should be an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Palestine and the poll also found that only 17% of people approve of the government’s handling of the conflict. In conclusion, this poll shows overwhelming support for an immediate ceasefire. As Liberal Democrats and as the only national party calling for an immediate bilateral ceasefire, we should be shouting this off the rooftops! LDFP supports a two-state solution in line with Party policy and actively campaign for peace, justice and equality for Palestinians. Neither Hamas or Netanyahu are working towards this goal, in fact they use violence and brutality to actively frustrate any advancement towards this goal, at great cost to Palestinians and to Israelis, the former bearing the brunt of oppression under a 56 year illegal occupation, even in ‘peacetime’.

  • Steve Trevethan 10th Jan '24 - 5:59pm

    A. B. C. D. [Action Around Bethlehem Children with Disability], a British charity, reports that its health centre, south of Jenin, was sacked by soldiers of the I. D. F. They ransacked the building, destroyed equipment, and stole food, children’s winter clothing and even ink from their printer.

    How can such be part of a pursuit of terrorists?

    Might our party enquire about this matter?

    Might our party raise this matter with H. M. G?

  • Leekliberal 12th Jan '24 - 9:03am

    So the USA, with ‘Little Satan’ clinging to their coat-tails, have attacked targets in Yemen. After our disastrous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan etc, you might have thought we had learned a lesson, but no. The houthis are battlehardened tough people who in their terms are attacking tankers providing oil to Israel, their enemy who are mercilessly slaughtering thousands of men,women and children in Gaza. There is no way this attack will intimidate them and their is a real danger that this will widen the conflict. The Parliamentary debate that will follow is an. opportunity for the Lib Dems to challenge the Government on this doubtful strategy and for once to get a hearing in the national debate on this sad episode.

  • David Allen 12th Jan '24 - 5:14pm

    Well said, Leekliberal. The financial costs of our joining the Middle East War will dwarf the costs of diverting shipping round the Cape of Good Hope while this conflict lasts. The damage to our reputation will be even more profound.

    The US and UK can currently claim to be somewhat qualified and largely non-combatant supporters of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism. If we let the Houthis drag us into this war, we shall instead become active military allies of an extreme right-wing Israeli state facing credible charges of genocide. Then, who will continue to believe that the West can validly claim the moral high ground over Ukraine, or Taiwan, or climate change?

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