The Urgency of Supporting Both Palestine and Ukraine

Rocio Lopez

Summary: Talk at a meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization on “From Genocidal Wars to Fascist Threats: Working Toward a Revolutionary, Marxist-Humanist Organizational Response” — Editors

On May Day in LA this year, I was at a rally with my friend who was holding up a Ukrainian flag. A Ukrainian Leftist approached us and thanked him for bringing the flag as he said that there did not seem to be a lot of solidarity with Ukrainians in the local pro-Palestinian movements or Left groups. And vice versa he said there was a surprising amount of sympathy amongst his Ukrainian friends for Israel.

Both the Palestinians and Ukrainians are facing genocidal wars by extremely well-armed countries with a lot of money which have long histories of colonizing and oppressing them. It is a shame that the natural connection that they are both colonized peoples fighting against those who are committing and have committed genocide against them is not made more often.

The lack of international Left support is unfortunately due on one hand, to the fact that Ukraine has the support of Western powers while Palestine does not. On the other hand, skin color and race biases prevent many Ukrainians from seeing the natural connections with Palestinians. But, as the Irish case shows, with their open solidarity with Palestine, this need not be the case.

Recently, a vast student protest movement has radically changed the discourse around Israel and Palestine in the US. While youth opinion had already significantly swung towards sympathy with Palestinians by 2021, younger Americans were ignored by the political establishment. It was not until 7 months into arming a genocidal state that the youth forced the establishment to take note of their discontent by occupying spaces at over 50 colleges from coast to coast.

In 2024 only 16% of Americans under 30 support the US giving Israel military aid as Israel commits a genocide in Gaza. For those between 30-50, only 26% of us support more military aid. The only age group that supports more Israeli aid is senior citizens over the age of 65, with 56% supporting.

Before this student protest movement took off, we witnessed an attempt at the ballot box this spring to send a message that anti-genocide antiwar voters constitute a significant bloc. By my calculations, approximately 932,700 more people voted for candidates in the California Democratic Senate race this March than voted for Joe Biden for president. That was 22% of California Democratic primary voters who refused to vote for Biden in the Democratic primary. This went relatively unreported, as there was no uncommitted option on our ballot. 100,000 Michigan voters in the critical swing state also refused to vote for Biden, representing 13% of voters. 19% of Minnesotan primary voters refused to vote for Biden. The undervote for president on the California primary ballot was highly unusual. It is usually the other way around where in normal years voters tend to leave down ballot races blank.

In late April and in May we witnessed the brutal suppression of pro-Palestinian student protests. In the early hours of May Day this year, UCLA student protesters were viciously attacked for over 3 hours by well-financed fascists who support Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians while campus authorities and police did nothing. $100,000 was raised on GoFundMe to fund the pro-Israeli counterprotest at UCLA. On May Day we showed a great deal of solidarity with student protesters with our signs and our chants.

But unfortunately later that night, in the early hours after May 1st, the UCLA administration sent police in to arrest 200 UCLA protesters. They were shot at with rubber bullets and had flash-bang grenades thrown at the camp. A week later, 44 protesters were arrested in a parking garage at UCLA before they were able to even begin protesting. It took about 2 weeks before UCLA students were able to have another antiwar protest. On May 6th 64 protesters were arrested at UCSD (UC San Diego). On May 15th, 47 people were arrested at UC Irvine for protesting for Palestine including at least 2 faculty.

As to Ukraine, I had not even heard of the Holodomor, or the Ukrainian genocide in early the 20th century until about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, genocide through mass starvation is easier to obfuscate and deny than one committed with bullets and bombs. We are seeing this in Palestine as well. The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders cites the blockade of food and clear attempts at mass starvation.

The Israeli government and its apologists yell about how civilian casualties are inevitable with the high population density of Gaza. Yet they never explain the fact they have killed people more quickly in Gaza than the US killed in the battle against ISIS in Mosul, or in the brutal Russian assault on the port city of Mariupol.

The Israelis and the US government have no remotely reasonable explanation whatsoever for why Israel is committing mass starvation in Gaza, and why it allows barely any international aid into Gaza. Even aid that comes directly from the United States and European allies of Israel is still sent through absurd bureaucratic checkpoints that prevent aid from getting through. We saw Israel attempt to defund the main international aid group in Gaza, UNRWA. Then Israel even killed clearly marked international aid vehicles killing various Western aid workers. There is no reasonable explanation for why they have destroyed almost every hospital in Gaza. Because there is no explanation for mass starvation or destroying the medical system except an attempt to annihilate a population.

Israel is surprised how Hamas could be returning to the North after all its bombing and devastation. Even if Israel managed to kill a large number of Hamas fighters, it is all but inevitable that many men who were not militants before this war will have taken up arms against Israel regardless of what their views of Hamas’s larger aims are. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the only significant militant games in town. Long gone are the left-wing armed Palestinian groups. During the lead-up to October 7th, a majority of Hamas fighters were orphans from previous wars and occupation. It is not surprising therefore that men who lost family in this war would turn to violence against an army trying to greatly reduce the number of Palestinians.

The genocide of Palestinians is also sadly happening with the complicity of the Arab dictators who are Israel’s neighbors. While the United States gave lip service to the Arab Spring in 2011, as we allegedly support democracy all over the world, it is clear the imperialist capitalist establishment was actually terrified of what democratic Middle Eastern governments might do that could go against US interests and Israel. It is far less likely that democratically run neighbors of Israel would be doing almost nothing to help the Palestinians as they faced genocide. Syrian dictator Assad and the Egyptian dictatorship serve US imperial interests far more than any democratic government would. I doubt that any democratic government in Egypt would be complicit in allowing almost no aid to get to Palestinians.

I will conclude by saying we should oppose imperialism, colonialism, and genocide everywhere. It is the only morally and philosophically legitimate position to have. Victory to Ukrainians and Free Palestine!

Since I just spoke at length about attempts to commit genocide against two nationalities, let’s also not forget about the ethnic cleansing attempted in recent years against the Rohingya in Myanmar, where 750,000 were forced to flee to Bangladesh in 2017. Nor the 1 million-person concentration camp that was perpetrated against Uighurs in China. A concentration camp doesn’t have to involve mass murder to greatly intimidate an ethnic group. It was still an attempt to forcefully assimilate an ethnic group. It was a long road to the genocide in Gaza and we should take note of what critical steps happened along the way that enabled this genocide and that laid the foundations for all attempts at genocide.


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