“My family in Germany were killed by Nazis because they were Jews. What Israel has constructed in Gaza is a concentration camp.” Pete Cannell interviews Merilyn Moos – the daughter of Jewish refugees who organised against the Nazis in Germany. Much of her extended family died in WW2 concentration camps. Here she explains why she supports Palestinian resistance and liberation.
Could you say something about why you support Palestinian resistance?
Well, I see Israel as an outpost first of British imperialism and now basically maintained by American imperialism. And what Israel is doing, although it’s quite incoherent in its goals, is trying to push out the Palestinians from the land which they have historically lived on. So in the same way that I would have supported any nationalist struggle against imperialism I support the Palestinians. I think it should be a united Israel/Palestine because I don’t think that a two-nation state is any longer viable. I know the arguments about having one state, but I don’t see any other resolution. So apart from the barbarism of what the Israeli state is doing to the Palestinians I support their right to live there and their right to return, preferably within one state.
The phrase ‘from the river to the sea Palestine will be free’ which Suella Braverman is trying to effectively criminalise, is not calling for the extermination of Israelis but for Palestinian freedom and effectively for a one state solution. I think that the Israeli state was always an insecure state from the moment it was established. It had taken over other people’s land and was surrounded by Arab countries whose populations at least are generally in sympathy with the Palestinians. So there is no way that Israel can be stable, there is no way that it can solve the Palestinian problem in terms of its perspective and so the only solution is a one nation state.
How do we win over a wider layer of people to the movement for a free Palestine?
If there was sufficient groundswell of popular organisation and popular resistance, that would encourage the tiny left in Israel. An internal critique of the barbarism of the Israeli state would make it much easier for people who define themselves as Jewish and have seen themselves as left to feel able to openly support Palestine. It’s all about popular mobilisation; if one could get popular mobilisation so that people in Egypt for instance started to be openly in favour of the Palestinian revolt, I mean that that alone would encourage an increased awareness of how unpopular the Israeli position is. You’re getting terribly respectable politicians saying ‘well the West has now lost its ideological ascendancy over the global south’, but the more one can get opposition within the Middle East, especially but not exclusively in Israel, the more it’ll draw people who are predominantly on the left in this country to supporting Palestine. But, given we are in Britain, we need to mobilise on the streets and in our workplaces, try to get our unions to support the demonstrations and, if anybody is still left in the Labour party, demand their branches also support the demonstrations.
What do you think of the argument that at one point at least Netanyahu was hoping to drive most of the population of the Gaza Strip out through the southern border into Egypt?
Sisi’s response from Egypt was not suddenly a humanitarian position but it would have been complete dynamite in terms of his relationship with wider society in Egypt. It would have been a return to the days of the Arab Spring. So Sisi’s policy is about protecting his own position. Some of the Israeli cabinet want a greater Israel free of all Palestinians which means driving a million into Egypt. Some in the Israeli Government remain open to maintaining some Bantustans. They don’t seem to have a concept that even if they were to kill everybody in Gaza there will be a new Hamas. They have no way of stabilising a greater Israel never mind the fact that they’re surrounded by the Middle East.
The rhetoric that’s been from the British government is that support for a free Palestine is antisemitic and pro-Hamas. What do you say about that?
Israel is committing genocide. In a similar way to how the Nazis finally launched genocide against the Jews, the Israeli state is launching genocide against the Palestinians. I would try and use that mid 20th century history to show the similarities. What is happening is that criticism of Israel is being constructed as anti-semitism. That is after all what Starmer has been insisting on. But being anti-Israel isn’t the same thing as being anti-semitic. Indeed, I suggest that this equation which Netanyahu and others are promulgating will increase anti-Semitism as people think that hating Israel is the same thing as hating Jews.
I’ve come across a lot of people who are quite ignorant of the history of Palestine – what can we do about that?
I’ve talked to people about the Mau Mau and Kenya, again that’s a long time ago, but also about the way in which in America the white colonialists decimated the local indigenous population. In South Africa, there was a prolonged liberation struggle against the white colonialists. I try to find analogies which will ring a bell, which will ring some conceptual bell for people. Even Iraq will seem like history to many young people today but that’s another example of how the Government lied and caused misery and death across Iraq and elsewhere. Again, the larger the public presence we have now, the more interest and questions young people will have.
I want to end by talking about my own background. My family in Germany were killed by the Nazis because they were defined as Jews, although my parents who were active anti-Nazis escaped. What Israel has constructed in Gaza is a concentration camp. My parents could get out of Germany when the Nazis were after them; virtually nobody can leave Gaza. Gaza is a concentration camp where, as under the Nazis, people are being starved to death. I want to make very clear that it is partly because of what my family went through that I am strongly pro-Palestinian.