The following article by Gerry Hassan was first posted on his blog and then reposted by the National. We were unable to get through to Gerry, so we asked Laura Webster, the editor of the National, who gave her permission for us to repost. Gerry’s article makes a significant contribution to challenging the Campist politics found on both the Right and Left, which supports one imperialism against another.


THIS year is the twentieth anniversary of the disastrous, illegal Iraq War. Much of the current global order, in particular the Middle East, are the direct consequences of that wound.

The West’s domestic policies two decades ago were driven by the illusions and deceits of a “progressive globalisation” where economic liberalisation and privatisation, alongside an IMF and WTO agenda reducing tariffs and trade barriers, was meant to produce a world of greater global prosperity and an expansion of human rights and freedom.

This vision, heavily promoted by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, has not occurred. Instead, we now live in an age of global disorder, instability and disruption, partly shaped by the false promises and hubris of “progressive globalisation”.

Yet from Palestine to Ukraine to China’s increasing belligerence towards Taiwan, we are living in an age of unbridled imperialism – significantly shaped by the power interests of the West, acute geo-political tensions and the decline of the US.

The inexorable decline of the US can be seen economically, politically and geo-politically, alongside the relative decline of Europe and the West – the UK included. In this, a major factor has been the rise, increasing assertiveness and global influence of China which across Asia, Africa and Latin America is increasingly rivalling the West.

The West’s reputation never recovered in the aftermath of 9/11 and the military over-reach in the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Politicians across the West and US and UK failed to heed the lessons of these ill-thought-out, disastrous military expeditions and 20 years after Iraq, there is little sign that America knows how to embark on a foreign policy which does not add to regional instability and anger in the Middle East and beyond.

Witness the balance of forces in recent UN votes. At the UN Security Council debate just over a week ago, on an Article 99 resolution brought by the UN Secretary-General calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, thirteen of the fifteen council members voted for it including France, while the UK abstained and US vetoed it.

Similarly in the more recent General Assembly vote on a non-binding resolution, 153 states voted for a ceasefire, 23 abstained and a mere 10 opposed it: the UK again abstaining and US opposing it.

Such is the emerging balance of opinion across the Global South. Increasingly it rejects the West’s view of the world and its interests and is prepared to advocate and chart an independent course sceptical of the West’s geo-political interests.

In this environment, various “sub-imperialist” states have become important regional players. In the Middle East this includes the likes of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iran.

In the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, for example, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar has played a major diplomatic role, negotiating the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and the brief humanitarian pause which saw a temporary cessation in hostilities.

The current state of the world cannot be understood without recognising the role of imperialism – Western imperialism in particular. Israel was born in the aftermath of the Second World War and Holocaust, due to the chaotic retreat of the British Empire in the region and fuelled by the debts incurred to the UK in 1939-45.

The story of the UK in the Middle East – the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire post-World War One, leading to a British “mandate” over the newly created territory of Palestine – is well-known. Less understood is the role of British authorities in the 1920s and 1930s encouraging Jewish settlement into what was Palestine and supporting the idea of Israel.

Ronald Storrs, the first military governor of Jerusalem under British rule, said that Israel was intended to be “a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”. Unfortunate, but revealing words considering that Northern Ireland was created by arbitrary partition and British retreat.

The actions of the Israeli state must be seen in this light. The creation of Israel in 1948 to provide a Jewish homeland imposed partition on what had been the territory of Palestine. This led to war between Jews and Arabs, victory for the former, and the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, called “the Nakba” by Palestinians – meaning catastrophe in Arabic.

This was followed by the 1967 War, whereby Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza with their large Palestinian populations, as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai – the last returned to Egypt via the Camp David Accords of 1978.

This has left, despite the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and Palestinian authorities, 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza – and 1.9m living in pre-1967 Israel denied full human rights.

The fundamentals of this are missing from UK and Western discourse. 75 years of Palestinian statehood are being denied, along with 56 years of illegal Israel occupation and settlement building on the West Bank.

Decade after decade of Western politicians demand that Palestinians accept the right of Israel to exist, which the PLO did in 1988 and from which it gained nothing when the Israelis trashed the Oslo agreements.

No senior Western politician consistently demands that Israel accept Palestine’s right to exist and the Palestinian right to self-determination. Israel exists. It is a regional superpower, a nuclear power aided and funded by the West.

It is no accident that Western politicians cannot acknowledge the injustices and inequalities in the situation or say the words “illegal Israeli occupation” and acknowledge its systemic disregard for humanitarian and international law over decades.

Meanwhile decades of occupation and repressing and killing Palestinians has aided an increasingly ultra-right-wing Israeli politics where the language of dehumanising Palestinians is regularly used. After the Hamas attack on October 7 and Israel’s military response, Avi Dichter, a member of the Israeli War Cabinet, said: “We are now actually rolling out the Gaza Nakba. That’s how it will end,” openly referencing the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Netanyahu said in the past few days he is “proud to have prevented a Palestinian state”; the Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely caused controversy when she articulated the reality of Israel’s position that there was “no possibility” of a two-state solution and asking the Sky News presenter: “Why are you obsessed with that?”

There is worse. “There is no population in Gaza. There are 2.5m terrorists” said Eliyahu Yossian, former IDF intelligence officer. Ghassan Alian, major-general in the IDF, commented: “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and water. There will only be destruction. You wanted hell; you will get hell.”

In such circumstances a principled anti-imperialism across the world stands in solidarity and empathy with the people of Palestine. But it does not stop there. It unequivocally champions the cause of Ukraine and Ukrainian independence in the face of Putin’s aggression and recent invasion of February 2022.

Supporting the cause of democracy, human rights and freedom, while opposing military invasion and repression, is beyond many across the world. For example, the US and UK states are, whatever the qualifications of Joe Biden and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Israel’s actions, supporting their operations in Gaza with logistical and intelligence information – as well as with US aid and weaponry.

However, it is true that parts of the left and anti-imperialist opinion, in their opposition to Western-backed actions, are sometimes morphing into support for Hamas, downscaling their repressive nature or trying to validate the October 7 attacks.

In relation to Ukraine, there is a section of the left who sympathise with Putin, believing his argument that Nato expansion was a valid reason for his invasion of a sovereign independent country. Similarly, the US Republican Party and Donald Trump agree with much of this latter position, admiring the strongman anti-democratic politics of Putin.

The current global sympathy with the Palestinian cause and against Israel’s aggression is significant. It should be welcomed and built upon. But we need to have a consistent, coherent anti-imperialism and solidarity across the world.

The state of global disorder is no accident. It is a product of imperialism, Empire and of Western hubris. For a principled anti-imperialism to be strong it has to stand with the oppressed, the marginalised and dispossessed everywhere.



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