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The Iron Dome is global – and so is the resistance

In her powerful speech at ‘Still We Rise’, Naomi Klein argues that global political classes are united behind a shared supremacist vision in their defence of Israel’s crimes

9 to 11 minute read

A group of politicians, diplomats and military officials standing in a row for a photograph for US President Joe Biden's visit to Israel's Department of Defence

When my dear friend Asad Rehman asked me to help close this gathering, his specific instructions were to speak about the political situation today and to do it in a way ‘filled with hope’. A bit of a tall order and I’m not entirely sure I can deliver. Let’s see what we can do instead…. 

The last time I was in London, it was late September. Just five months ago. But five months that feel like a hundred years.

One hundred years of Palestinian parents wailing over their murdered and maimed children. One hundred years of bombed schools and raided hospitals and desecrated mosques. One hundred years of Israeli soldiers making TikToks of their war crimes.  One hundred years of teens trained in fascism blocking trucks filled with food.  One hundred years of open calls to annihilate more than two million captive, occupied, ghettoized people. One hundred years of giddily expressed plans to turn Gaza into a parking lot. An Israeli beach town. A museum. A slaughterhouse. A buffer zone.  One hundred years of fired truth tellers and one hundred years of wilfully obtuse pundits.  One hundred years of universities that can’t say ‘Palestine’ and one hundred years of NGOs that won’t say ‘genocide’. One hundred years of failed and vetoed resolutions demanding a ceasefire.

If not hope, then commitment

All of this makes it difficult to deliver that speech filled with hope. What I can muster, what I feel more deeply than ever, is resolve. Commitment. Commitment to the movements that this gathering represents. Movements for true equality, and justice — social, racial, gender, economic and ecological justice. Movements that exist in every country. Movements that have grown with tremendous speed over these past terrible months. Grown not only in the size of marches and blockades but in the depth of their analysis. Grown in their willingness to make connections across movements and issues, and in their willingness to name underlying systems.

If these months have taught us anything, it is that these movements are all we have. In your country as well as mine, there is no moral leadership except the leadership rising up from the grassroots. All we have is one another.

We should pause over this, because it is part of the horror and vertigo of our historical moment. Israel’s annihilatory campaign in Gaza is not the first genocide in modern history. Not the first time openly fascist forces have fused a violent, supremacist ideology with a seemingly limitless commitment to wipe out a people they consider a demographic threat.

The distinctive unity of the global political elites

What is unique, at least since the era of open colonialism and its genocides, is the unity this carnage has inspired among political elites in the Global North, and to some extent beyond it. After all, when fascism rose in Europe the 1930s, it had powerful supporters in our political classes, but it also had powerful opponents.

That is far less true today. All across what passes for a political spectrum, from the rabid far right to the mealy-mouthed centre left, we have witnessed powerful actors putting their partisan differences aside to come together in active support of these crimes against humanity. Far from fracturing our political class, this iteration of fascism has united it: Donald Trump agrees with Joe Biden; Rishi Sunak with Keir Starmer, Emanuel Macron with Marine Le Pen; Justin Trudeau with Giorgia Meloni; Viktor Orbán with Narendra Modi.

If Israel’s heavily armed walls and fences and drones and dome could not hold, what does that say about our own countries’ illusions of safety and control?

And so, we must ask: On what precisely do they all agree? What are they uniting behind? What are they all defending when they speak of Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’?

It’s too simple, I’m afraid, to say they are united in defense of a single state. They are, of course, but they are also united in defense of a shared belief system. Amidst the reality of global economic apartheid and accelerating climate breakdown, they are united in a shared supremacist vision of safety and security for the few. This vision is the flip side of their steadfast refusal to in any way address the underlying drivers of these crises: capitalism, limitless growth, colonialism, militarism, white supremacy, patriarchy.

As Sherene Seikaly puts it, we are ‘In the age of catastrophe’ and ‘Palestine is a paradigm’. 

Israel’s Iron Dome – a global security model

And Israel, a kind of pioneer. For decades now, since giving up on any pretext of a peace process, Israel has pursued its own security and land hunger through an elaborate system of high-tech fences, walls and its so-called Iron Dome shield. Its architects pride themselves on the ability to intercept rockets and missiles and repel all threats. That system of high-tech surveillance and enclosure is a material reality on a particular geography – it is a way of life for Israelis and was a way of slow death for Palestinians long before October 7th.

But in addition to being these things, the Iron Dome is also a model – a super-concentrated and claustrophobic version of the very same model of security to which all Global North governments subscribe, the very same governments that have lined up behind Israel’s genocidal campaign. It’s a model in which the borders of wealthy states – grown wealthy through their own colonial genocides – are protected by their own versions of the Iron Dome. 

Because, in fact, the Iron Dome is global. It stretches along our own fortressed borders, with their lethal fences and walls and detention centres, and it reaches outward into a transnational gulag of offshore migrant detention camps and disease-ridden barges and buoys embedded with saws in the Rio Grande and coast guards that watch ships drown in the Mediterranean.

And the Iron Dome also reaches inside our impossibly unequal and unaffordable countries and cities. It is the ballooning police budgets that unleash militarized forces to clear parks of encampments of unhoused people and repress Indigenous blockades against fossil fuel projects, foisted without consent. And these same forces stand ready to put down the next wave of racial justice rebellions, which they know to be inevitable. The Global Iron Dome is also the surveillance nets tracking down whistleblowers and waging war on journalists who dare to tell the truth about our wars and spying, of whom Julian Assange is only the most prominent symbol.

Might will make right

As it is for Israel, this Global Iron Dome is about a belief in the prerogative of states to meet human demands for basic rights and for the basics of life with brutal state violence. A commitment to making people who fall outside of the state’s highly policed and racialized circles of protection disappear – by locking them away, by pushing them further away, by letting them drown. And it is also about claiming the prerogative to meet resistance from the oppressed with lethal force.

Israel’s Iron Dome is extreme because its ethnonationalism and supremacist ideology are so explicit. Yet we should be clear that Israel modelled itself on racist colonial laws, logics and practices borrowed from earlier eras of colonialism forged in and by our own nations, and also that Israel is itself a model: from the start, the Iron Dome was built for export.

All of this makes it difficult to deliver that speech filled with hope. What I can muster, what I feel more deeply than ever, is resolve

We need to understand this because on October 7th, that model and that dome collapsed before the eyes of the world. Hamas’s attack – brutal and horrific – shattered the entire illusion of safety and security for the few that this model embodies. And that terrified not only Israelis, not only Netanyahu’s government – it also shook our own governments to their core.

Because if Israel’s heavily armed walls and fences and drones and dome could not hold, what does that say about our own countries’ illusions of safety and control? It begged the question: If Israel’s Iron Dome could fail, what about all the other Iron Domes? In the face of the mass displacement of people, spurred by endless wars and criminal climate arson and cruel economic policies of immiseration, will they also fail?

I believe that this fear is why our governments have united in such an unprecedented fashion to assert their central belief system: That might will make right. That he who has the most advanced weaponry and the highest walls will succeed in containing and controlling the billions in dispossession and desperation. This belief system, more than anything else, helps explain why the governments of the wealthy world have joined Israel’s revenge frenzy with such unshakable enthusiasm, and why so many have refused, months into this slaughter, to even call for the barest of minimums: a permanent ceasefire.

The security of the gilded bubbles of luxury

They understand that Israel’s unending campaign is also a form of mass communication – that it is a message. And the message is being sent not only by Israel’s government but by every government that has blessed this onslaught – with words, with votes and vetoes at the United Nations, with photo ops, with weapons, with money, and with domestic attacks on Palestine solidarity.  The message being broadcast is a simple one: That the gilded bubbles of relative safety and luxury that are dotted across our cruelly divided and fast-warming world will be protected at all costs. Up to and including with genocidal violence.

In the many pillaged parts of our planet, this obscene message has been clearly understood. Gustavo Petro, the courageous president of Colombia, decoded its meaning immediately. Back in October, just a few days into Israel’s onslaught, he stated:

‘The barbarity of consumption based on the death of others leads us to an unprecedented rise of fascism, and therefore, to the death of democracy and freedom. It’s barbarism, or global 1933.’

In Israel’s attack, and the support for it from the governments of the North and from right-wing forces in the South, he also saw a preview of a shared future, writing: ‘What we see in Palestine will also be the suffering in the world of all the peoples of the south [as] the West defends its excessive consumption and its standard of living based on destroying the atmosphere and climate… knowing that it will cause the exodus from the south to the north’.

This system, Petro reminds us, ‘is ready to respond with death’ to ‘defend the consumption bubble of the rich on the planet and not save humanity, whose majority is disposable, like the children of Gaza’.

It is worth reading Petro’s entire statement, which I think is historic, but I’ll skip to the end: ‘We are going to barbarism if we do not change power. The life of humanity, and especially of the people of the south, depends on the way in which humanity chooses the path to overcome the climate crisis…. Gaza is just the first experiment in considering us all disposable’.

All we have is each other

What else is there to say? Perhaps only this: We are hosted here today by War on Want. And the war on want is the only war worth waging, and wage it we must. We either transform this death machine through the just and equitable redistribution of wealth within the boundaries of the earth’s limits – what many at today gathering have referred to as ‘a Global Green New Deal’ – or this nightmare engulfs us all.

All we have is each other. All we have is our movements and the power we build together. All we have is our solidarity. Our determination. Our resolve. And our shared moral commitment to the preciousness of life.

With that, we can build a world with no iron domes. With that we will earn our hope.

This article is taken from a speech delivered virtually by Naomi Klein to Still We Rise festival on 24 February, 2024. Her speech can be viewed in full here starting at 21:30

Naomi Klein is the Faculty of Arts Professor of Climate Justice at the University of British Columbia and the author of The Shock Doctrine (Penguin) and Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World (Penguin)

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