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Young people in the West stand in solidarity for a Gaza ceasefire

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Mass protests have taken place across in Australia in support of a ceasefire in Gaza (image via YouTube)

The death toll in Gaza has now reached around 12,000.

Israel's latest bombing campaign shows absolutely no signs of letting up anytime soon, they've firmly rebuked diplomatic efforts to impose a ceasefire and with every passing day it only looks more and more likely that the Israeli military will soon begin a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

It's been almost a month since this latest barrage of open hostilities began, and while there's actually nothing all that new about what the Israeli state is trying to do to its captive Palestinian population, it's interesting how very differently this is being treated in the Western consciousness. All over the world, we're seeing almost an unprecedented amount of public backlash to the conflict being carried out in Gaza and most Western nations' tacit approval of it. 

Even a generation ago, as the U.S.-led international military coalition prepared to enter Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks, there wasn't this much lasting public opposition to the occupation of those nations and the America's "War on Terror". Granted, at the time, there were some big anti-war rallies, but any lingering sympathy got pretty quickly tamped down by a news media which uniformly labelled anyone who predicted the war would become a decades-long quagmire a "terrorist sympathiser".

Thankfully, the mainstream news doesn't have nearly that sort of monopoly on opinion among young adults today. Nowadays, more and more people can freely access independent journalism outlets which don't uncritically tow the corporate line, and duly use the internet and other sources to fact-check the stories and figures they hear reported.   

Today, we're still seeing a deluge of misinformation from every mainstream broadcast and print outlet in the West. At best, we get highly sanitised accounts of the growing Palestinian death toll on the nightly news; at worst, we get Zionist op-eds appearing daily in all the most supposedly-reputable papers of record in the Western World comparing the half-million people who live in Gaza to beasts fit for slaughter.

Frankly, anyone who has come of age since the golden age of "War on Terror" propaganda should be immensely proud of how strenuously young people are opposing the mainstream anti-Gaza narrative.

Overwhelmingly, younger, politically-aware people aren't falling for the outright lies coming from Israel and Israel's apologists about how the war is being conducted. We weren't convnced by the Israeli military's claims that they had discovered 40 beheaded babies. We haven't blindly believed a single time they've stated that the latest children's hospital bombing wasn't their fault. And we don't believe that the outright bombing and killing going on from Gaza to the West Bank is in anyone but the fanatical Zionists' interest. 

Disgustingly, the government of virtually every Western nation will not condemn the actions of the Israeli state, even what effort has been made to rein Israel in and curb their most egregious behaviours have been unceremoniously rebuffed. For a nation we're eager to call our closest ally in the region, which has also been reliant on Western arms and material imports for decades now, we seem awfully unable, or unwilling, to make Israel stop slaughtering hundreds of civilians a day. 

If you're the sort of progressive Westerner who is aware of (and rightfully disgusted by) what's going on over there right now, you might feel like you've been left without much recourse. Unfortunately, simply being aware of the problem doesn't do anything to help and all the sympathy in the world for maimed and murdered Gazan children won't do anything to end the war just on its own.

There is, however, one or two potentially meaningful actions that the seemingly-powerless Western citizen can do right now in response to Israel's unwillingness to stop the bloodshed. The first is to join one of the many public demonstrations going on in practically every major city in the world right now calling for an immediate Israeli ceasefire in solidarity with the Palestinian people, or even begin organising one of your own.

No one expects 75 years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict to just suddenly end in a day because of a demonstration. Nor is anyone organising in the streets claiming to be able to prescribe the perfect borders of a two-state solution or make everyone shake hands and drop their grievances just like that. However, an immediate ceasefire is a single, simple, easy-to-understand and easy-to-communicate idea.     

Cynics might say that these street demonstrations aren't likely to achieve anything. This is entirely the wrong view.

The single greatest reason why younger people today especially are likely to have kept the ongoing Gaza issue rightly at the front of their minds is because of the sustained public presence and organisational momentum continuing to try and hold those responsible for the atrocities being perpetrated upon innocent Gazan men, women and children accountable.

Had we not seen such a worldwide outpouring of explicit support and solidarity for the cause of Palestinian liberation this past month, the story would have received maybe one day in the press, then we would never have heard about 12,000 (and still counting) dead ever again. 

Demonstrations are still ongoing, including in this country, it's far from being a one-and-done thing. And if you see how many thousands and thousands of people are all willing to come out and show their support of Gaza and condemn the war-crimes our elected officials won't, it becomes all the more easy to add your voice to the demonstration too.

Hundreds of thousands across Sydney, London, Auckland, New York, Paris, Berlin, Washington DC, the list goes on, and nothing makes future protesting easier and more firmly builds bridges between different progressive groups than the experience of organising together.

The other major aspect of anti-war organising which bears mentioning is the role that strong, militant, unions have to play.

Left-wing activists here in Australia all know the story of how, in 1938, following the Imperial Japanese occupation of Manchuria and massacre at Nanjing, the longshoremen of the Waterside Workers' Federation adamantly refused to supply Commonwealth trade ships otherwise destined to deliver iron to Japanese arms manufacturers.

It's this nation's ur-example of how a coordinated and politically conscious trade union can meaningfully refuse to abet ongoing war-crimes, even as our government itself refuses to step in.       

That sort of action is so effective that it's exactly the sort of union militancy every Capitalist government the World over has spent decades since trying to tamp down with dictatorial anti-protest laws, if not outright violent suppression.

Even today, we're still seeing incredibly brave and noble actions like the recent blockading of the Victorian International Container Terminal by several hundred members of the "Trade Unionists for Palestine" group in a protest of the port's use by Israeli arms transporter ZIM.

This sort of protest should be especially lauded. We're told that, in a democracy, a nation should be beholden to its citizens. If, and when, our political leaders prove entirely unwilling to drop their support of an ethnostate currently killing thousands of innocent people a week, evidently the only thing capable of preventing our country from lending its material support to such horror is an organised workforce willing and able to withhold its labour.

If you, like an ever-increasing share of this country, also want to see all those radical progressive initiatives like "stop the genocide", or "stop letting people go unhoused" or "stop destroying the reef" realised, join a militant union and start having those conversations with your peers and colleagues about how much your country does is so highly dependent on a cooperative workforce.    

John David Card is a writer, historian and anarchist activist.

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