Protesters march in solidarity with Palestine in London earlier this month (Picture: Guy Smallman)

When Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer proclaim their support for Israeli “self-defence” and then whisper that it shouldn’t breach international law, they’re guilty of the most profound hypocrisy.

The Israeli military has always embraced the doctrine of collective punishment, that inflicting death and destruction on whole populations is the best way to crush resistance. Indeed, the Zionists learned it from the British during the brutal suppression of the great Palestinian revolt of 1936 to 39.

If Palestinians attacked British troops, the colonial forces would often destroy nearby villages. British soldiers publicly beat and sometimes shot Palestinians as part of the reprisal. Even when just searching homes, the soldiers were encouraged to completely wreck them in order to teach the “natives” a lesson.

On one occasion an officer was dissatisfied by how much damage his troops had done in a village. He had them watch while he showed them how to really smash up someone’s home—and then had them wreck the village a second time.

The most notorious incident took place in September 1938 at the village of al-Bassa. British troops loaded some 50 Palestinian men onto a bus, and then made the driver go over a mine.

The Zionist settlers were mobilised by the British to help crush the Palestinian resistance and saw their methods firsthand. They embraced this brutal method of colonial warfare. It became part of Israel’s military doctrine in the aftermath of the assault on Lebanon in August 2006, when its air force destroyed the Dahiya district of Beirut.

General Gadi Eizenkot made clear that, what Israel had done to Dahiya, it would do to every village or town that dared to resist.

As he put it, what happened to Dahiya would “happen in every village from which Israel is fired on”. “We will apply disproportionate force and cause immense damage and destruction,” he threatened. As far as he was concerned, “harming the population was the only means of restraining” resistance group Hezbollah.

Eizenkot is today a minister in Netanyahu’s government. Israel has consistently used this “Dahiya doctrine” in every attack on Gaza since its 2009 offensive. The United Nations (UN)-commissioned Goldstone report concluded, “The Israeli government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence.”

But the reports’ authors “consider the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target—the people of Gaza as a whole”.

The operations were part of “an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas”. This indictment is even more true today.

Israel’s offensive in 2009 murdered some 1,400 Palestinian men, women and children. Today’s Israeli assault has inflicted more pain and suffering than all the previous attacks put together.

The Israelis have even killed over a hundred UN staff in their murderous assault—something that seems to leave Starmer and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy unmoved. What we are seeing is the most brutal murderous collective punishment, carried out with the support of both the Tory government and the Labour opposition.

That’s what makes it all the more important to keep mobilising against Israel and its backers in parliament.

International law professor Richard Falk says the Dahiya doctrine is “not only an overt violation of the most elementary norms of the law of war and of universal morality”. It is “an avowal of a doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name—state terrorism”.

We have to say, “Not in our name!”

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