End the carnage – permanent ceasefire now

Israel’s genocidal bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza has killed at least 20,000, including thousands of children. Many international agencies have called the unremitting bombing of innocent Palestinians war crimes. Sunak’s government, with Labour support, appears incapable of calling for a permanent ceasefire as demanded by United Nations General Secretary and endorsed by the overwhelming majority of General Assembly member states.  The atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th cannot justify the carnage, the blocking of humanitarian aid in the form of water, food, medicine, and fuel to the besieged 2.3 million people of Gaza. Of 36 hospitals Israeli forces have destroyed or damaged the vast majority with only a handful barely operating.  The WHO warn that disease now threatens countless more lives.

Israel’s ultra-right government led by Netanyahu is set on a course of collective punishment against the Gaza Palestinian population removing many thousands to join millions of other Palestinian refugees who for three generations have lived in camps in neighbouring states. Coupled with the more than 500,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank it is clear that the Israeli government is seeking to ethnically cleanse every occupied territory. An occupation that has been in breach of international law and UN resolutions for decades.

Israel brands innocent Palestinians as human shields, denies them every human right and essentially the basic human right to live.

Correspondents in this edition look at aspects of the conflict. Patrick Costello examines the European Union’s tail-ending of Biden’s refusal to call for a ceasefire while Haringey councillor Mary Mason explains why she has resigned from Labour alongside more than 100 other councillors over Keir Starmer’s equivocation and failure to support a permanent ceasefire. We might note that sister Socialist parties in government in Portugal and Spain, alongside President Macron have made this call.  Caitlin Barr looks at the plight of over 60 predominantly Palestinian journalists killed in the conflict highlighting Israel’s refusal to allow foreign media to enter Gaza to provide independent reporting. Bryn Jones urges Labour to oppose the Tory Bill designed to prevent councils from taking solidarity action in a move echoing Margaret Thatcher’s anti South African boycott and sanctions position. Palestinian writer Sumud says Israeli aggression is the continuation of settler-colonial policies since 1948.

The right of Palestinians to self-determination in an independent state is the unresolved generations-old injustice. That right sits alongside the right of Ukraine to freedom and self-determination. Since Putin’s illegal invasion almost two years ago 350,000 lives have been lost with untold destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. Chris Ford reports on a recent Public Services Union delegation to the Kyiv trade union congress. Held under frequent aerial bombing threats from Russian forces, the congress heard from trade unionists in the front line of fighting, and those maintaining vital public services while defending vital rights under threat from their own government. Ukraine Solidarity Campaign participants on the delegation donated £10,000 of medical aid to a hospital in the war-torn east.

In the UK Sunak’s crusade to “stop the boats” and the Rwanda deportation plan, ruled illegal by the Supreme court, is dog-whistle politics pandering to the worst prejudices.  In the wake of a death on the Bibby Stockholm barge Sue Collinson writes of the wider hostile environment against refugees creating social division and masking the cost-of-living crisis facing millions. She exposes the hypocrisy, inhumanity, and chaos at the heart of Tory policy.

Major victims of the austerity and economic incompetence of the government are the growing numbers of homeless, now running at over 309,000, almost half being children, according to Shelter.  Tom Zagoria reports on their plight exacerbated by rising evictions from rented property and dispossessions. Targeting ex Home Secretary Braverman’s insulting view of “lifestyle choices” he outlines an alternative.

After more than a year of strikes by a wide range of workers, Labour’s New Deal for Working People promises an end to the increased restrictions on trade union action, including the draconian Minimum Standards Bill. Maria Exall reports Labour is committed to repealing all anti-trade union laws and outlines why free collective bargaining is vital to job security and protecting living standards.

Making the case for improved public health,Frank Hansen highlights the hazards of ultra processed food and the associated profiteering, dubbing it the biggest health scandal of today.

In the face of a climate emergency Dave Toke writes of the cop-out that was COP28 while Victor Anderson warns of the UK government’s Offshore Petroleum Licencing Bill designed to trap an incoming Labour government. Karen Constantine reports on the scandal of forced adoptions and the government’s failure to apologise to the thousands of women for the hurt and misery they have endured. Mary Southcott looks at the army of Labour hopefuls lining up for the next General Election with an encouraging nudge that many support a fundamental change to the voting system.

Riven by coups, arrested economic development and crippling World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes, Don Flynn sees growing disenchantment amongst African states with neoliberal democracy. Could there be a silver lining, he asks, in young Africa finding a new direction for independent development?

Europe looks a more dangerous place as we enter 2024 with ultra-right populists winning polls in the Netherlands alongside Orban in Hungary and Meloni in Italy.  Putin’s war on the eastern flank in Ukraine with continued repression inside Russia further threatens world peace alongside the spectre of a second Trump term in the US.

The UK general election cannot come soon enough. Starmer’s Labour needs to steer an independent democratic socialist course that puts humanitarian values and social justice at its heart.

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