We need more voices for Peace

by Jeremy Corbyn

Over the past few months, human beings have been forced to endure a level of devastation that should haunt the world forever. As I write this, 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza. Such is the scale of inhumanity that by the time you have finished this article, that number may already be outdated.

Earlier this year, South Africa launched a case against Israel at the ICJ under the Genocide Convention. I attended the hearing. It was devastating — horror after horror, laid out in plain sight for all to see. The arguments were brilliantly marshalled by South Africa, and they should be commended for doing so. It is regrettable that most of our media did not deem these arguments important enough to broadcast.

The ICJ found a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza. Despite this, Israel has continued its bombardment of Gaza, and has overseen catastrophic levels of starvation, dehydration and disease. Children in Gaza have been seen gathering flour from the ground, eating grass and drinking polluted water. How much longer will our government sit back and let these crimes against humanity carry on? What does it say about international law that Israel can continue its indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza.

It is these questions – these injustices – that drive hundreds of thousands of us to demonstrate and protest in our towns and communities time and time again. The demonstrations have been made up of people from all faiths, backgrounds and ages, united in a call for an immediate ceasefire, for the release of hostages and for an end to the destruction of Gaza. We will be here as long as it takes to put an end to this unconscionable slaughter, and to build the only path to a just and lasting peace: an end to the occupation of Palestine.

When I speak at these demonstrations, I look out to a sea of Palestinian flags, and I am buoyed by the determination of people to show solidarity with those living under systems of violence and occupation. And I am moved by their willingness to prove how these systems were global in scope and scale. Some of the loudest cheers are reserved for those who emphasise that what’s happening in Gaza is not the only war that is going on. As I say at these demonstrations, I want us all to be active as well for peace and justice elsewhere: in Yemen, in Sudan, in West Papua, and in the Congo.

Some 17 million people in the region are living in hunger and food shortage. The people of Yemen have been bombarded by weapons supplied by Britain from Saudi Arabia for years. Now, the British government have launched military strikes itself, in response to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Our government could have called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Instead, they decided to bomb one the poorest regions in the world, where 17 million people are living in food insecurity. I have been in Parliament for 40 years, and I have warned against military action in the Middle East time and time again. I have witnessed governments ignore our calls for peace. And I have witnessed the consequences: death, poverty, terror, instability and mass displacement. When will our government learn from the mistakes of the past and pursue a path of de-escalation and peace?

These principles of de-escalation and peace should form the basis of a consistent and ethical foreign policy. In Ukraine, human beings continue to die in a war that has now gone on for two years. Since the very beginning, we called for immediate de-escalation and condemned Russia’s invasion. We deplored the loss of life, the destruction of homes and the obliteration of communities. And we called for peace and diplomacy to prevent the further loss of life. Now, more than a year later, it seems as if global leaders are finally waking up to our demands for a peaceful end to the tragic cycle of violence. Their delay has cost thousands of human lives.
Far less attention is paid to wars and conflicts in the Global South. As of January 2024, at least 13,000 people have been killed in the war in Sudan, and out of Sudan’s 45 million people, 6 million are internally displaced, and 25 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), decades-long conflict between the Congolese armed forces the M23 group have led to civilian deaths and mass displacement. This conflict cannot be understood independently from the continued exploitation of natural resources from private companies, which has created a playground for various armed factions, who have used violence to maintain control over mines in the DRC.
In West Papua, 60 years of illegal occupation by the Indonesian military and government has created an era of unbroken brutality and suffering, marked by widespread torture, rape, imprisonment, and murder of West Papuans. We must continue to demand that the United Nations carry out its responsibility of holding and supervising the legally required free and democratic vote by all indigenous West Papuans on the question of decolonization and their choice on independence.

All human life is equal, and we need a consistent foreign policy that stands up for human rights everywhere. Parliament is desperately short of voices for peace. As the MP for Islington North I will never give up the idea that a more peaceful world is possible.