Slaughter in Gaza. It's in the papers, on the radio, on the TV news. We stare numbed at the images of horror while eating our dinner. And then the spokespeople, one after another. Hamas are blaming Israel. Israel and the US are blaming Hamas. The Europeans and the rest of the world are blaming the US. One one thing they are all agreed, it's not their fault, the blood is on somebody else's hands. Meanwhile bloodied parents stagger through the streets of Gaza bearing the shattered bodies of their children.But what can we do? We can turn our head away, change the channel. We can say that, after all, it's nothing to do with us, that we have enough to worry about whether we're going to still have a job next month. Or we can do something different - refuse. Refuse to be stunned into passivity by the spectacle of horror. Refuse to be fobbed off with lies and half-truths. Reach out and find others who are refusing too, both here and in the middle east, so that together, one day, we will be able, together, to find a way to make it stop.

The Background

The Palestinian people's history of suffering and injustice goes back 60 years, but the background to the immediate crisis is the elections held in Palestinian territories two years ago, which were won by Hamas. After agitation by Israel a brief but bloody struggle between Fatah and Hamas left the strip in Hamas hands. Since then the whole of the land and sea border of the Gaza strip has been sealed off by the Israeli state, preventing nearly all goods and people going in or out. This act has transformed Gaza into a giant prison camp where ordinary people are starved of jobs, electricity, heating fuel, clean water and all the necessities of life. The blockade is a crime against humanity committed against the Palestinians of Gaza for the last 2 years with the tacit support of the West, including the EU and Ireland.

In the last 6 months there has been an uneasy truce between the Hamas administration in Gaza and the Israeli government. However the Israeli army broke this truce on 4 November, the night of the US election, and again a week or so later. Even so, Hamas announced the truce could be extended if the blockade could be lifted to stop the choking of the people of Gaza. This the Israeli government refused to do, prefering the resumption of Hamas rocket attacks, which would serve as a pretext for this war.

Election time

The reason for the current onslaught beginning now is the Feb 10 general election in Israel and the current government being behind in the polls. Cynically, they believe that if they can show the Israeli voters that they're getting tough with Hamas, they can boost their poll ratings enough to win again. This is why they did not want to renew the ceasefire. Although the ceasefire officially ended only on December 18, Israeli soldiers interviewed on TV, cheerfully admit they had been training for this invasion for months.

Power Games

The EU leaders tut about the slaughter and make hypocritical calls for an immediate ceasefire they, and everybody else, expect to be ignored. To the public they claim that they are helpless as long as the US supports Israeli aggression. In fact, the EU has supported the criminal siege of the Palestinians of Gaza from the start. After the election of Hamas, all EU aid to support the reconstruction of shattered Palestinian economy was suspended. EU companies sell arms to the Israeli army with the support of their governments. This December the EU foreign ministers, including Ireland, agreed to set up a "privileged partnership" programme letting Israel join many of the EU's economic and social programmes.

Caught in the middle

The Palestinians of Gaza are caught between the power games being played by the US and the EU against their regional opponents such as Iran and Syria, who are equally cynical in their arming of groups like Hamas so a dirty proxy war can be fought away from their borders. Locally, the Hamas commanders know that despite losing fighters to Israeli strikes, the more innocent civilians are killed, the more their potential pool of volunteers grows. So the political rulers on both sides see the conflict as an opportunity to increase their power. Only the ordinary Palestinian workers themselves have no hope of gaining anything, and it is their suffering that pays for all.

Refusing to serve

Israel's military machine relies on universal military service for both young men and women. Yet, increasingly, young people are refusing to serve. Although small numbers make a political point of public refusal and serving a short term of imprisonment, yet many more, up to 30% of young conscripts, are taking the easier route of refusal by evading conscription.

On the other side of the fence, Palestinian villagers are refusing to leave the struggle for their land and against the construction of the illegal "security" wall, to the corrupt and parasitic gunmen of Fatah or Hamas, and are organising their own struggles directly. In some areas they are being aided by the solidarity of groups of young Israeli activists such as Anarchists Against The Wall. It is in these small beginnings of refusal to serve the ruling classes or cabals, refusal of sectarian and racist divides and refusal of helplessness and passivity that the seeds of an alternative are being sown. And here in Ireland, we who refuse to ignore the suffering and injustice, must do our bit to help them by demonstrating our opposition to the slaughter of ordinary Palestinian people

Immediate Demands:

* Ceasefire Now! Stop the bombings and the armoured assault

* Lift the seige! End the criminal blockade and collective punishment of the people of Gaza.