In the narrow, densely populated ribbon of land by the Mediterranean that is Gaza, hundreds of civilians have been killed and injured by the Israeli military. But while the worst horrors of the conflict are taking place in the strip itself, the war has also unleashed a fresh wave of racial and religious sectarianism far beyond the Palestinian territory.
In Israel, street violence against Arabs has spiralled.
In Jerusalem, two young Arab men were hospitalised after being beaten by a mob with baseball bats and metal pipes. Both right-wing street movements and the government ministers are attempting to construct a popular narrative in which any opposition to attack on Gaza is treachery. On social media, there has been a proliferation of pages calling for retribution against “traitors”, inciting violence against Arab Israelis who they view as an enemy within.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for a boycott of Arab businesses, and some Arab Israelis have been sacked from their jobs for criticising the Gaza invasion online.
In Europe, protests against the actions of the Israeli state have repeatedly shaded over into outright anti-semitism. In Germany, footage has emerged showing hundreds of protesters chanting “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone.” In France, eight synagogues have been attacked, and a riot took place in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, home to a large Sephardic Jewish community. Cars, kosher shops and identifiably Jewish restaurants were attacked and burned. A Jewish cultural centre in Toulouse was also attacked with firebombs which failed to ignite.
In Norway, the Jewish museums of Trondheim and Oslo were closed for fear of attack. In Austria, protesters attacked Israeli footballers playing for Maccabi Haifa. In Britain, police have recorded over a hundred anti-semitic crimes since the bombing of Gaza began, including the beating up of a rabbi in Gateshead, and the smashing of a Belfast synagogue’s windows two nights in a row.
This grim litany of racism and mob justice demonstrates the potential for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pit Jews and Arabs against each other not only in the Middle East but throughout the world.
Reactionaries on both sides stoke this division. Socialists oppose all racism and ethnic division, wherever it appears; we work to unite workers across the boundaries of race or religion. This is doubly urgent in the case of Israel and Palestine.
The best hope for a peaceful solution is the development of solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers around a programme of consistent democracy and self-determination for both peoples. There are embryonic signs of such a movement developing, as thousands of Israelis and Palestinians gather in the squares of Tel Aviv to protest against the bombing.
The left in Britain and around the world must stand with those in Israel and Palestine fighting to turn back the tide of chauvinism, and for peace.