Address to Vigil for Palestinian Health Workers Killed in Gaza


Edinburgh, Saturday 3rd of Feb, 24. Written by Paul Laverty.  

“Isn’t curious how we here today obey the by-laws and the instructions, to stick to a route, to stick to this enclosed space, to stick to times, to mind what we say, but those with State power shred the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, and the Genocide convention.  

They demand total obedience from us, while they demand total impunity for themselves.  

Isn’t it strange that someone can be imprisoned for a lifetime under the Terrorism Act for supporting a proscribed organisation, but the leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, can champion collective punishment? Who can ever forget that first interview from him when he gave the vital thumbs up to Israeli State as they cut off food and water to 2.3 million people? Who knows how many weakened souls have perished as a result in these past 120 days? Please remember that when it comes to the next election.  

Isn’t it chilling how millions marched on the streets against the illegal war in Iraq, yet failed to stop the slaughter? I remember the Lancet magazine article of those times; over a million died directly or indirectly, yet Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (a vital figure in that cabinet) and Alisdair Campbell, key advocates of that war, are never of our media today as voices of reason?  

 Is that not an insult to the dead, and those in Faluja, Iraq, who are born to this day with birth defects from uranium dust from shells long after the war?  

Impunity in action.  

20 years from now are we going to see history repeat itself with hotels for tourists in Gaza, tourists on Gaza’s beaches, owned by Israeli settlers while Palestinians rot in refugee camps in the Sinai after Egypt has sold its soul and been bought off again?  

We should remember the words of the great Czech writer Milan Kundera “The struggle against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”  

Inspired by the past, let’s look at the present with rigour. Look at how “the axis of reaction” tries to crush peaceful resistance.  

By undermining the UN itself, trying to fire the General secretary Antonio Guterres, and attacking the ICJ.  

They undermine the BDS movement with the anti-boycott bill, called the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill. We must fight that tooth and nail.  

Look how even the space in our own imaginations has been shrunk.  

 The fear to say what is just plain common sense, or just state international law as it stands. Every single politician and BBC commentator repeats that Israel has the right to defend itself. But have you ever heard one of them say that Palestinians have the legal right to resist an illegal occupation? Of course, they too have the obligation to adhere to international humanitarian law. Professor John Dugard, one time UN Special rapporteur and esteemed international law expert has written about the right to resist for decades. It is hard to imagine BBC journalists are so ignorant of such basic facts. Censorship in action.  

Look at how Labour MP Kate Osamor was suspended for tweeting about genocide in Gaza and was forced to tug the forelock, like many before her.  

It seems the entire Labour party leadership has floated off to the Big Vet in the sky and been collectively neutered, to the despair of many decent grass-root members.  

 “Sir Keir Neutered”, a more appropriate title, proclaims he has uprooted antisemitism. What he’s done is uprooted any criticism of Israel. The wonderful Stephen Kapos, the inspiring Holocaust survivor spoke eloquently of McCarthyism within the party. Our brilliant Jewish comrades in Jewish Voices for Labour know this chapter and verse – look up their website.  

Look at how language itself has been mangled by labour leaders. Singing from one song sheet they now speak of “a sustainable ceasefire” and Israel’s “disproportionate” reaction. I asked my MP Ian Murray why he had not called for an immediate ceasefire given the civilian massacres. He wrote to me on the 18 of January and said, “Nobody is refusing to call for a ceasefire. It’s about how you can get to a place of delivering it. We all want an end to this tragedy but the delivery of a ceasefire is only possible when both sides agree……” Since when did the principle become dependent on the delivery? Did abolitionists only call for the end of slavery when it was deliverable and the slave owners agreed? As for calling Israel’s crimes against humanity “disproportionate” and not terrorism demonstrates the moral rot inside the Tory and Labour party. By simple logic, if there is a “disproportionate” there must be a “proportionate”? What would be a proportionate figure for the 1000 plus children who have had a limb amputated, or the 1,300 who have lost both parents? Would a 10 per do them?  

How all these ripples of lies and violence from the Israeli State have damaged our body politic and raised existential questions about the health of our democracy. Shamefully, not much digging by the fourth estate with resources. You can’t even ask these questions without being accused of being an antisemite. But if we shut up, hide under a rock, take refuge in bafflement or refuse to inform ourselves, what are we? For the record, if Netanyahu and his right-wing thugs in his own cabinet were being attacked for being Jewish, I’d do everything in my power to defend them. So would every political friend I know. But I hope one day we shall see them in the dock at the Hague for their crimes against humanity.  

Why can’t we recognise all atrocities since 1948, including those of the 7th October. No life is more important than another.  

Frederick Douglass, once a slave, and then inspired freedom fighter, revealed the secret of progress. It is timeless. He said,

This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; and it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.  

So dear friends how do we not only demonstrate, but how do we impinge on power? That is the great creative challenge to us all. Specifically, how do we stop arms sales to Israel after the ICJs ruling that genocide is plausible?  

Perhaps we must be more disobedient in our spirit, in our imaginations and what we do collectively. They once called Edinburgh the Athens of the North. It does feel in these times that the Enlightenment is on the streets, and the forces of barbarism are in our Western Governments as they shamelessly collude with mass murder and fast approaching starvation.  

I repeat Frederic Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without demand, it never did, and it never will”.  

 So let’s demand.  

Let’s impinge, each of us, how we can, even in the most modest manner, no matter how humble.”  





Comments (10)

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  1. Jim Ferguson says:

    I agree completely and whole-heartedly with the sentiments expressed above. Well said! Good on ye!

  2. Ranaa Ahmed says:

    Well said. Gaza really is hell on earth . The brave Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah who had been working in Gaza said recently that more than half of amputations could have been prevented if the patients had been operated on in time. I also heard that 20k children have lost either one or both parents. heartbreaking. IInshallah there is a permanent ceasefire soon.

  3. Margaret Brogan says:

    I agree with every word. Thank you for putting my anger, disgust.and frustration into coherent form.

  4. George Archibald says:

    Well said Paul Laverty.
    The quote from Frederic Douglass is so powerful, and important.
    The Tory and Labour parties stance on calling (not calling!) for a ceasefire is reason enough to NOT vote for either of them. They are simply appalling, and not the brightest either because if they DO call for a ceasefire Israel and Hamas will ignore it anyway. But they would have taken the higher ground.
    To wait till both sides agree BEFORE calling for a ceasefire is completely absurd.
    Everyone should write to their Labour or Tory MP (copy Starmer and Sunak) to demand that they call for a ceasefire immediately. Then when they ignore that WE will at least have the higher ground!

  5. John says:

    Thank you for putting into words what many people are thinking at present.
    I am afraid that to many in power in west the lives of innocent Palestinians just do not matter enough (if at all).

  6. Sandy Watson says:

    I can only agree regarding power: it is never given, it has to be taken.
    Those in power in the west, as well as elsewhere, have taken it.

    And the rest of us have allowed it, if not, indeed, enabled it.
    That is, there is self-interest – even if mistaken self-interest – at play.

    Many seem to believe that it is better to be in competition for what’s available, to gain what they want at the expense of others.
    Sadly, few would agree these days that cooperation and collaboration and sharing is preferable.
    And many believe it’s impossible or at least unachievable.

    The lifestyle we all aspire to lies behind this.
    I sense the only way that radical/significant change can happen is if there’s a sea-change in what we all want from life, how we all work towards that.

    I remain positive in my aspirations towards a fairer more caring, more just and more equitable society/world. But right now, I’m not feeling optimistic.

    There’s far too much greed and exploitation going on – at global, international, national and even at local levels.
    Of course, I’m accustomed to the calls of naivety, stupidity, hopeless faith in humanity…etc that result from saying what I’ve just said above.
    On the other hand, if we can’t deal with this, the future of world is not looking good.

  7. Hugh McShane says:

    100% agreement with this piece..

  8. SleepingDog says:

    While I agree with very much of this, even allowing for the maybe ad hoc nature of a public address, I winced at the Athens-Enlightenment-barbarism language towards the end, especially given my readings in recent years. And then you have to work out what you do, perhaps in a forthcoming secular Scotland, with ideologies where some (human) lives are elevated above others, which I understand is central to traditional forms of Judaism and the racial hierarchies of British imperialism alike.

  9. John Marshall Bryden says:

    Paul Laverty certainly speaks for me. No way i will support Starmer or Sunak in this (or in anything else).

  10. Hala George says:

    What a wonderful article that hits the spot of reason. All true and every line of it. Would love to know from Paul and many thousands of us who feel the same about the two hardly distinguishable Parties, re home or foreign policies, What Do We Do Come Election Time ??

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