OVER recent weeks the world has been gripped with horror at the scenes coming from Gaza. There is no need to repeat here a description of the scale of the destruction.
Thanks to social media reports coming directly from Gaza, and the courageous reporting of journalists such as Jon Snow, the world knows the true extent of the destruction. There is an unprecedented global outrage against the Israeli State for their actions, which break international law many times over. People know these are war crimes, and our basic humanitarian instincts want to see an end to the bloodshed.
We have felt this before. Since the dawning of this new millennium in which some had hopes of humanity moving beyond conflict, we have witnessed the UK play a pivotal role in entrenching the unjust nature of the world order. Look to the disaster in Iraq, research the arms deals and witness the capitulation to US power at every turn. And now, in amongst the carnage of occupation and bombing, the UK offers Israel its “staunch” support. Of the £12 billion in arms sales from the UK to the some of the world’s most oppressive regimes almost half were sent to Israel. War is big business. Books, academic papers, and investigative journalism has revealed and exposed the scale of the war economy. The world remains dominated by the United States, and Britain plays a key role in acting as its key sponsor. This much is obvious.
But the era we are entering now is more complicated than a dynamic between old allies and adversaries. Now the economic crisis in its global framework is punctuating political and economic conflict between states. We have not moved on from the scramble for resources. Just look at the investment China is making in resource-rich Africa. The Chinese State now owns the biggest port there, after an investment of £6bn. Powerful states are seeking to shore up their influence in the world, economically, strategically and militarily.
Competition is intensified in a period of crisis, which is partly why we are seeing the world become more unstable. This process is rapid, and it can be combustible. Take Ukraine for example. If you had said to the Make Poverty History protesters in Edinburgh in 2005 that less than ten years later Russia would have been suspended from the G8, they would not have believed it.
The world is changing fast. But in amongst the complexity of the state system and the horror of Gaza, where does Scotland fit? What sort of foreign policy do we really want, and how can we get it?
Here is an element of the referendum debate that needs more discussion, because Scotland can play a defining role in the world. An independent Scotland raises the potential impact we can have on the world stage. This is partly why a Yes vote can be such a powerful platform for social change internationally.
But to match the potential we must change direction from the start – and that means challenging what has gone before. It is vitally important – and to be roundly applauded – that the Scottish Government has delivered on humanitarian aid and practical support for Gaza. But we also need to call for sanctions on Israel. It is of historic importance, and of global significance, that an independent Scotland removes Trident. But it is also grave mistake to enter the foreign policy straitjacket that is Nato. Now is the time to be bold, and for Scotland to stand firm on such questions.
We already have a majority for this, those who opposed the Iraq war, who want to scrap Trident, who are opposed to the occupation of Palestine and the horrific situation in Gaza. We should break with tried and failed UK foreign policy completely and develop a future where the onus is on supporting the oppressed, rather than the arms companies, the CIA and whoever is sitting in the White House.
An independent Scotland can have a transformed international agenda. We owe it to the people who have been at the receiving end of UK foreign policy, directly or indirectly, to chart a new course. One that replaces war and occupation, with mutual aid and justice.
Jonathon Shafi is co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign