Tag Archives: World news

There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it

It would be great if this Brexit nonsense could be stopped, but I am not very hopeful. A lot of people seem to think that we will suddenly be in some sort of “little England”  eutopia.  I will be the first to congratulate them if it works out that way but I don’t think it will.

Why are we cutting ourselves off from the rest of Europe and its moderating effect?

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This article titled “There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it” was written by Tom Kibasi, for The Guardian on Monday 31st December 2018 15.47 UTC

If it was the season of peace and goodwill towards all, then politics failed to get the memo. Not only did hostilities continue through the Christmas period, some of the main protagonists announced in advance that they were incapable of taking a break. If anything, the holidays provided more opportunities for irate, booze-fuelled Twitter rants. One particular object of ire was Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas interview in the Guardian, where he appeared to dash the hopes of many on the left that Labour would immediately become the party of remain.

As the political class sobers up in January and returns to Westminster, it will become apparent that little has changed. The size of the majority against the prime minister’s deal will have diminished but – as No 10 briefed in the run-up to the internal confidence vote in her leadership – it only takes a majority of one. Bizarrely, Downing Street has chosen to amplify the threat of no deal by announcing more money and even the deployment of troops. But this strategy seems set to backfire: it will only give comfort to the European Research Group hardliners that there can be a soft landing to jumping off the cliff edge.

It makes sense that Labour should seek a general election because its critique of the government goes well beyond the handling of the Brexit negotiations. From an electoral perspective, there are more marginal constituencies that backed remain than marginals that supported leave. It is an open secret in Westminster that a new centrist party is readying to launch and, together with the Liberal Democrats, could form a repository for enough remain protest votes to deny Labour a majority if it were to go into a general election promising to deliver Brexit. It has never been apparent why Labour should fear losing leave voters to the Tories more than losing remain voters to other parties.

While it is true that many Labour constituencies voted to leave, for many of these voters Brexit is a far less important issue than stagnant wages, large class sizes and lengthening NHS waiting times. Moreover, many of these areas are strongly tribally Labour, and what has changed since 2016 is that Brexit is now “owned” by the Tory party. Crudely, many of these voters hate Tories more than they want Brexit. For all these reasons, it is inconceivable that Labour would go into a general election without a promise of a further referendum with a remain option.

Yet in all likelihood the government would win a confidence vote even if it had lost the vote on the deal. With May’s deal defeated, a general election ruled out, and no deal a calamity, there would be few options left. One option could be for a renegotiation of the political declaration (rather than the withdrawal agreement) but a closer economic partnership would probably see May lose as many Tory MPs as she might be able to persuade opposition MPs.

Even if the political declaration were to be tweaked, it would not be binding on May’s successor—making it politically dangerous for Labour to endorse.

So after the meaningful vote, Labour may be confronted with a choice between no deal and a second referendum. In all likelihood, pro-European MPs will put down an amendment to the finance bill requiring a referendum as a condition of the government collecting tax. Labour may have little option but to back a second referendum if it is to protect the country from no deal which it rightly believes would be a disaster. In this scenario, Labour will want to remind the public that they are being forced to the ballot box again as a result of May’s failure to negotiate a deal that parliament could support, not because of the choices made by the opposition.

That’s why there have been many credible reports of No 10 and Conservative central office ramping up preparations for a second referendum. Paradoxically, it may be that Downing Street is talking up no deal precisely in anticipation of a second referendum – so that it can claim that it was willing to go ahead with no deal but that Labour forced a second referendum. Whatever the manoeuvres, the public are likely to conclude that the government is responsible for the failure of the Brexit project.

With more than 80% of Labour members wanting to remain in the European Union, Labour would plainly back remain in a future referendum. While the remain and leave blocs have proved more resilient than many anticipated, there has been an important shift towards remain, and even more so when offered against the specifics of either May’s deal or no deal rather than the undefined leave option. Corbyn has been repeatedly criticised for his lack of enthusiasm for the EU; but this may prove to be a decisive advantage. It is mildly Eurosceptic voters who need to be persuaded, and Corbyn could speak authentically to this group about the balanced case for voting to stay in the EU.

Crucially, the most significant group of swing voters in a future referendum are working-class women – this group has been hit hard by austerity and Brexit is not their top issue. These are precisely the same voters that Labour needs to win a general election. If Labour’s second referendum message of “vote remain, let’s rebuild Britain instead” can convince them in 2019, it could build the momentum for a Labour victory in the next general election too. And it would smash the generational project of the right, leaving conservatism in disarray.

If there is a second referendum, only Labour can win it – and winning it might be Labour’s path to power. All of this will be determined in the coming weeks. It’s time to take a deep breath.

• Tom Kibasi is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He writes in a personal capacity

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France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?

I like this idea, but i don’t think we will be seeing a UK version anytime soon.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?” was written by Frances Ryan, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 17.03 UTC

In France it could soon be illegal to discriminate against people in poverty. Under proposed legislation – already approved by the senate and likely to be passed by the chamber of deputies – it would be an offence in France to “insult the poor” or to refuse them jobs, healthcare or housing.

Similar laws banning discrimination on the grounds of social and economic origin already exist in Belgium and Bolivia, but the French version is said to be the most far-reaching. Anyone found guilty of discrimination against those suffering from “vulnerability resulting from an apparent or known economic situation” would face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 (£32,000).

It is easy to judge the proposed French law as showing the worst excesses of the state, or to bemoan the practicalities of how difficult it could be to implement. But most of us are content to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, or sex. Is it so ridiculous to add poverty to that list? And if it does feel ridiculous, why is that?

Whether it’s the discrimination of people in poverty or how government should respond to it, this is not a problem just for other countries. “People think that because we are poor, we must be stupid,” Oréane Chapelle, an unemployed 31-year-old from Nancy, eastern France, told Le Nouvel Observateur. Micheline Adobati, 58, her neighbour, who is a single mother with no job and five children, said: “I can’t stand social workers who tell me that they’re going to teach me how to have a weekly budget.” One study reported by The Times found that 9% of GPs, 32% of dentists and 33% of opticians in Paris refused to treat benefit claimants who lacked private medical insurance. Doctors say they are “reluctant to take on such patients for fear that they will not get paid”.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are attitudes – and even outright discrimination – that have been growing in Britain for some time. You can hear it in stories about local authorities monitoring how much people drink or smoke before awarding emergency housing payments. Or when politicians respond to a national food bank crisis by saying the poor are going hungry because they don’t know how to cook. It is there in the fact that it’s now all too common for landlords to refuse to rent flats to people on benefits. Britain is front and centre of its own discrimination of the poor – whether that’s low-income workers, benefit claimants, or the recurring myth that these are two separate species.

Economic inequality cannot survive without cultural prejudice. The media and political rhetoric surrounding the new round of cuts – from the benefit cap to child tax credits – shows this well enough. Benefit claimants “slouch” on handouts as hardworking taxpayers toil away to pay for them. Families on benefits should reproduce – or “breed” – as little as possible. Benefit sanctions – a system in such dire straits that Iain Duncan Smith’s own advisers have warned that it needs to be reviewed – are based on the very premise that the feckless poor need an incentive to get themselves out of poverty.

It is reflective of the success of the demonisation of people on low incomes or benefits that discrimination against these people could be seen as less damning than when it happens to other groups. Equally, to believe that “the poor” do not deserve protection from such prejudice buys into the myth favoured by our own government: poverty is a personal choice that the individual deserves to be punished for.

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The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour

Fingers crossed that we can move forward. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 1st May 2015 12.15 UTC

The campaign is nearly over and it is time to choose. We believe Britain needs a new direction. At home, the economic recovery is only fragile, while social cohesion is threatened by the unequal impact of the financial crisis and the continuing attempt to shrink the postwar state. Abroad, Britain remains traumatised by its wars, and, like our neighbours, is spooked by Vladimir Putin, the rise of jihadist terrorism and by mounting migratory pressures. In parts of Britain, nationalist and religious identities are threatening older solidarities, while privacy and freedom sometimes feel under siege, even as we mark 800 years since Magna Carta. More people in Britain are leading longer, healthier and more satisfying lives than ever before – yet too many of those lives feel stressed in ways to which politics struggles to respond, much less to shape.

This is the context in which we must judge the record of the outgoing coalition and the choices on offer to voters on 7 May. Five years ago, Labour was exhausted and conflicted, amid disenchantment over war, recession and Gordon Brown’s leadership. The country was ready for a change, one we hoped would see a greatly strengthened Liberal Democrat presence in parliament combine with the core Labour tradition to reform politics after the expenses scandal. That did not happen. Instead the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have governed together for five difficult years.

That experiment has clearly run its course. The outgoing government proved that coalitions can function, which is important, and it can be proud of its achievements on equal marriage and foreign aid. But its record, as our recent series of editorials on detailed themes has shown, is dominated by an initial decision to pursue a needless and disastrous fiscal rigidity. That turned into a moral failure, by insisting on making the neediest and the least secure pay the highest price for an economic and financial crash that they did not cause. The evidence is there in the one million annual visits to foodbanks, a shocking figure in what is, still, a wealthy country.

David Cameron has been an increasingly weak prime minister. On issues such as Europe, the integrity of the United Kingdom, climate change, human rights and the spread of the low-wage economy, he has been content to lead the Tories back towards their nastiest and most Thatcherite comfort zones. All this is particularly disappointing after the promise of change that Mr Cameron once embodied.

The union at risk

The Conservative campaign has redoubled all this. Economically, the party offers more of the same, prioritising public-sector austerity which will worsen life for the most needy – imposing £12bn of largely unspecified welfare cuts – while doing little to ensure the rich and comfortable pay a fair share. Internationally, the party is set on a referendum over Europe which many of its activists hope will end in UK withdrawal. It’s also set on an isolationist abandonment of British commitment to international human rights conventions and norms, outcomes which this newspaper – unlike most others – will always do all in its power to oppose. At the same time, the Tories go out of their way to alienate Scotland and put the UK at risk. The two are related: if a 2017 referendum did result in a British exit from the EU, it could trigger a fresh and powerful demand for a Scottish exit from the UK. The Conservative campaign has been one of the tawdriest in decades.

The overriding priority on 7 May is therefore, first, to stop the Conservatives from returning to government and, second, to put a viable alternative in their place. For many decades, this newspaper’s guiding star has been the formulation offered by John Maynard Keynes in a speech in Manchester in 1926: “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.” The task on 7 May is to elect the parliament and government that will come closest to passing Keynes’s triple test.

Some despair of the whole system, believing a model created for two-party politics is now exhausted, failing to give adequate expression to the diverse society we have become. We are hardly newcomers to that view: we have demanded electoral reform for a century and believe that demand will find new vigour on 8 May. But for now, this is the voting system we’ve got. How should we use it?

To the charge that they enabled a government whose record we reject, the Liberal Democrats would plead that they made a difference, mitigating and blocking on issues such as Europe, the environment, child benefit and human rights, without which things would have been worse. That adds weight to the view that the next Commons would be enhanced by the presence of Lib Dem MPs to insist on the political reform and civil liberties agendas – as they did, almost alone, over Edward Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability. Where the real constituency choice is between these parties and the Conservatives, as it is between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the south-west, we support a vote for them. But they are not the answer.

In Scotland, politics is going through a cultural revolution. The energy and engagement on show are formidable – and welcome. The level of registration is an example to the rest of Britain. If the polls are right, and the SNP is returned as Scotland’s majority party, we must respect that choice – and would expect all parties that believe in the union, and the equal legitimacy of all its citizens, to do the same. We do that even as we maintain our view that, whatever myriad problems the peoples of these islands face, the solution is not nationalism. Breaking apart is not the answer: not in Europe and not in the UK. We still believe that the union rests on something precious – the social and economic solidarity of four distinct nations – and that is to be nurtured and strengthened, not turned against itself.

A sense of what is just

Which brings us to Labour. There have been times when a Labour vote has been, at best, a pragmatic choice – something to be undertaken without enthusiasm. This is not such a time. Of course there are misgivings. The party has some bad instincts – on civil liberties, penal policy and on Trident, about which it is too inflexible. Questions linger over Ed Miliband’s leadership, and whether he has that elusive quality that inspires others to follow.

But Mr Miliband has grown in this campaign. He may not have stardust or TV-ready charisma, but those are qualities that can be overvalued. He has resilience and, above all, a strong sense of what is just. Mr Miliband understood early one of the central questions of the age: inequality. While most Tories shrug at that yawning gap between rich and poor, Labour will at least strive to slow and even reverse the three-decade march towards an obscenely unequal society. It is Labour that speaks with more urgency than its rivals on social justice, standing up to predatory capitalism, on investment for growth, on reforming and strengthening the public realm, Britain’s place in Europe and international development – and which has a record in government that it can be more proud of than it sometimes lets on.

In each area, Labour could go further and be bolder. But the contrast between them and the Conservatives is sharp. While Labour would repeal the bedroom tax, the Tories are set on those £12bn of cuts to social security, cuts that will have a concrete and painful impact on real lives. Even if they don’t affect you, they will affect your disabled neighbour, reliant on a vital service that suddenly gets slashed, or the woman down the street, already working an exhausting double shift and still not able to feed her children without the help of benefits that are about to be squeezed yet further. For those people, and for many others, a Labour government can make a very big difference.

This newspaper has never been a cheerleader for the Labour party. We are not now. But our view is clear. Labour provides the best hope for starting to tackle the turbulent issues facing us. On 7 May, as this country makes a profound decision about its future, we hope Britain turns to Labour.

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Christianity, when properly understood, is a religion of losers

A thought for this Friday


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Christianity, when properly understood, is a religion of losers” was written by Giles Fraser, for The Guardian on Friday 3rd April 2015 11.00 UTC

When he was nothing but a suspended carcass, dripping with his own blood and other people’s spit, there were no worshippers around clapping their hands and singing their hymns. They were long gone. At the very end, ironically at the moment of greatest triumph, he had no followers left. That says something profoundly counterintuitive about what a successful church looks like. For if the core of the Christian message – death first, then resurrection – is so existentially full-on that nobody can possibly endure it, then a church that successfully proclaims that message is likely to be empty and not full. Which is also why, quite possibly, a successful priest ought to be hated rather than feted. For here, as elsewhere in the Christian story, success and failure are inverted. The first will be last and the last first. The rich are cast down and the poor are exulted. The true king is crowned with mockery and thorns not with gold and ermine.

Christianity, properly understood, is a religion of losers – the worst of playground insults. For not only do we not want to be a loser, we don’t want to associate with them either. We pointedly shun losers, as if some of their loser-ness might rub off on us. Or rather, more honestly, we shun them because others might recognise us as among their number. And because we secretly fear that this might actually be true, we shun them all the more viciously, thus to distance ourselves all the more emphatically. And so the cock crows three times.

But it is true. Deep failure, the failure of our lives, is something we occasionally contemplate in the middle of the night, in those moments of terrifying honesty before we get up and dress for success. Ecce homo, said Pilate. Behold, the man. This is humanity. And the facade of success we present to the world is commonly a desperate attempt to ward off this knowledge. At the beginning of Lent, Christians are reminded of this in the most emphatic of ways: know that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Those who used the period of Lent to give things up are invited to live life stripped bare, experiencing humanity in the raw, without the familiar props to our ego. This has nothing to do with the avoidance of chocolate and everything to do with facing the unvarnished truth about human failure. There is no way 100 top business leaders would endorse the cross. It is life without the advertising, without the accoutrements of success. It is life on a zero-hours contract, where at any moment we can be told we are not needed.

But here’s the thing. The Christian story, like the best sort of terrifying psychoanalysis, strips you down to nothing in order for you to face yourself anew. For it turns out that losers are not despised or rejected, not ultimately. In fact, losers can discover something about themselves that winners cannot ever appreciate – that they are loved and wanted simply because of who they are and not because of what they achieve. That despite it all, raw humanity is glorious and wonderful, entirely worthy of love. This is revealed precisely at the greatest point of dejection. The resurrection is not a conjuring trick with bones. It is a revelation that love is stronger than death, that human worth is not indexed to worldly success.

In a world where we semaphore our successes to each other at every possible opportunity, churches cannot be blamed for failing to live up to this austere and wonderful message. The worst of them judge their success in entirely worldly terms, by counting their followers. Their websites show images of happy, uncomplicated people doing good improving stuff in the big community. But if I am right about the meaning of Christ’s passion, then a church is at its best when it fails, when it gives up on all the ecclesiastical glitter, when the weeds start to break through the floor, and when it shows others that failure is absolutely nothing of the sort. This is the site of real triumph, the moment of success. Failure is redeemed. Hallelujah.

@giles_fraser

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I was Paloma Faith’s support act – but politics can’t reach the parts music can

Nope sadly it can’t anymore: Perhaps it is just apathy? Or is everybody really happy about the way things  are now?  


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “I was Paloma Faith’s support act – but politics can’t reach the parts music can” was written by Owen Jones, for The Guardian on Wednesday 1st April 2015 06.00 UTC

Music can inspire, move, even devastate, like few cultural forms. Its functions and roles differ: making that morning jogor an afternoon of exam revision bearable, the backdrop to millions of unforgettable nights out, the comfort blanket after the traumatic end of a relationship.

Music can date our lives like the rings of a tree trunk. We sometimes listen to a song because it conjures up a period of our lives. And because of its raw emotional power, music has the potential to make us contemplate social injustice more effectively than any column the likes of me can churn out. Yet this function has been neglected – partly by circumstance, partly by conspiracy.

When I told friends or acquaintances that I was going to be the Brit award-winning singer Paloma Faith’s support act, the response was a mixture of bafflement and concern that either my career or life was going to end in a volley of bottles at London’s O2 arena. I shared their nerves, though comforted myself with the positive response I received when I took to the stage at Glastonbury to rail against injustice and nuclear weapons in 2013. This audience would be rather different, it was pointed out. Faith was taking a risk, too, but her courage and strength inspired me. The daughter of a Spanish immigrant, fed up with the scapegoating of those at the bottom and the failure to hold those at the top to account, concerned that a disillusioned electorate would not use their hard-won democratic rights, she wanted to find new ways to engage her fans. But here’s what moved me: she wanted to rebuild a link between music and politics that was once strong, but which has been heavily eroded.

Politics and music once blossomed. When the US was convulsed by struggles over civil rights and the Vietnam war in the 1960s and 1970s, music reflected many of the contemporary traumas. Marvin Gaye’s anguish at the social ills of the era was voiced in songs such as What’s Going On. “Vietnam, police brutality, social conditions, a lot of stuff,” he said at the time. “With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” I remember singing Pete Seeger’s pained anti-war anthem Where Have All the Flowers Gone at primary school; little did I know how he and other politicised musicians such as Paul Robeson were hounded and persecuted by the McCarthyites for speaking out.

There was Bob Dylan, of course, capturing the upsurge in challenges to the US social order in 1964 with The Times they are a-Changin’. He was consciously allied to the insurgent struggles for emancipation, saying later: “The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” The blue-collar hero Bruce Springsteen was radicalised by Ronald Reagan, and – rather like Paloma Faith – railed against the demonisation of immigrants. Hip-hop is often portrayed as corrupted by hyper-commercialism and rampant individualism, but Public Enemy incited rebellion among US youth in the late 1980s.

The marriage of music and struggles against an unjust status quo is a global phenomenon, of course. Chile’s Victor Jara – Latin America’s very own Bob Dylan – was part of the movement that culminated in Salvador Allende’s election. Shot dead by August Pinochet’s henchmen, he penned a poem in his final hours: “Silence and screams are the end of my song”. From the struggle against Nigeria’s military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, Fela Kuti founded the entire musical genre of Afrobeat. As if to underline the potentially subversive power of music, the Russian authorities had Pussy Riot locked up in 2012 for singing against Putinism in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

And then there’s the political music traditions of Britain too, of course. When Thatcherism stripped industry from swaths of the country, entire communities were left without work or hope. With despair growing, no wonder the Specials’ Ghost Town resonated in 1981. Red Wedge brought together musicians united against Thatcherism, including Billy Bragg, Madness and Paul Weller.

Yes, politicised musicians are still there, but all too often they are deprived of a mainstream platform. What happened? It’s complex, certainly. Like much of the media and popular culture generally, barriers have been erected that prevent those from non-privileged backgrounds from making it. From acting to journalism to music, it is those who can afford to live off the bank of Mum and Dad who are favoured: everything from the housing crisis to the benefit sanctioning regime help see off musical acts with limited financial means. The accelerated commercialisation of music hasn’t helped either: the big businesses dominating mainstream music are hardly sympathetic when it comes to musicians sticking it to the man. There’s fear: speak out, and the Daily Mail will retaliate with a series of hatchet-jobs on your personal life. And then there’s the general decline of the left: all those defeats under Thatcherism, the disappointments of the New Labour era, the unabashed free-market triumphalism of the post-Cold War era.

No era lasts forever, of course. That celebrities such as Paloma Faith, Russell Brand and Michael Sheen are speaking out about politics is symptomatic of a broader trend. There is a rich seam of disillusionment with Britain’s current social order, and it occasionally bubbles to the surface. It is often directionless, lacking a coherent alternative in which to invest hope and truth, and frequently contradictory. But it is there all the same.

The current election campaign will be marked by character assassinations, while the Britain of food banks, zero-hours, in-work poverty, housing crisis, job insecurity and young people facing a future bleaker than their parents will not be given the hearing it deserves. When I supported Paloma, no bottles were thrown: the crowd (some who I’m sure were pretty bemused) listened politely and cheered me at the end, no doubt with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Let’s be honest, though; even well-intentioned commentators and politicians fail to stir popular emotions about the great causes of our time. Music, though, can reach us where modern formal politics often does not: our hearts. Love and loss always have their place in music. But there are other traditions, too, and maybe our musicians should start rediscovering them.

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Gaza is not as I expected. Amid the terror, there is hope

I can’t imagine how things are over there. Yet people carry on as best as they can


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Gaza is not as I expected. Amid the terror, there is hope” was written by Paul Mason, for The Guardian on Sunday 3rd August 2014 19.00 UTC

I have been reporting from Gaza all week, and, amid the stream of dead and injured civilians wheeled on trolleys before me, frantic people gesturing in my face, and nights spent in an unlit city under bombardment, I’ve come to a conclusion I did not expect: Gaza “works”.

What I mean is that, given resources, connections with the outside world, and time, this narrow political entity could function normally. With its smooth sand, blue sea and skies, it could even become a tourist destination. It already has a massive pool of trained and educated human capital – though, sadly, its most expert people are trauma surgeons. As it is, hotels stand deserted along the beachfront in Gaza City. Their embarrassed waiters struggle to boil coffee on single flames. The fishermen in the port sneak out maybe 20 yards in canoes, while hostilities are on, 100 yards in motor boats during the sporadic ceasefires.

Everyday life, even for those with money and friends in the west, is becoming impossible. Water queues form, petrol stations are empty. Equally unnerving, for the young, urbanised kids, the internet is sporadic. I met two women – educated professionals: the top floor of their apartment block had been demolished by an Israeli rocket. Now they, too, were in the world of queues, poor hygiene, homelessness. A decent handbag does not exempt you. The currency is the shekel, but the biggest concern is gold. Palestinians keep their wealth in gold and jewellery. Around 250,000 people have been displaced and moving into a packed and filthy school, to sleep alongside the donkeys of the poor, does not strike people with gold as any better than staying and waiting for the shells to hit.

Gaza works because of Gaza’s people. Since Hamas took control in 2007, the place has been run by a group designated as terrorist, and under Islamic rule. Unable to rebuild after the Israeli invasion of 2008-9, they instead built tunnels – nobody knows how long – in which the military wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, live, store their rockets and fight. The tunnels are also used to bring in the essential supplies that have been banned during the seven-year siege of Gaza.

Strangely, then, for much of the day, you see the place as it might be if Hamas did not exist. Non-Hamas police keep order; women without hijabs move around as freely as the women in full veil; doctors returned from Germany and Canada saw the shattered bones of youths who have lived and may die in this small strip of land. And two-thirds of the population skip and play and wrestle – for they are children.

When this war is over, nothing good will happen in Gaza until the seige and blockade are lifted. Indeed, with 40% of the urban area unlivable because of the destruction, there will be a massive humanitarian crisis for months. Solving that crisis is not just a matter for NGOs. The way it is solved will dictate whether Gaza can survive. UNRWA, the UN agency for refugees that has opened its clean, blue-and-white schools to a dirty, chaotic surge of displaced humanity, says Gaza is “on a precipice”. The hospital I’ve just been in has 95 blast and bullet wounds to treat, with six intensive care beds.

Logic dictates that either aid flows inwards, on an unprecedented scale, or people will flow outwards – not tomorrow, but as the weeks roll by without sanitation or power. Palestinians fear that a humanitarian crisis will be used to move them permanently off the land captured by the Israelis, and ultimately into camps in Egypt.

I have been to Muslim countries where there is deep conservatism, low education and suspicion of the west. This is not one of them. I constantly meet highly educated people who speak English; cheerful and friendly people – which is amazing in itself, given the level of terror the night brings. The world is not so blessed with educated, resourceful people that it can afford to waste the lives of 1.8 million Palestinians behind the iron grilles and the concrete walls that delimit Gaza. I have lost track of how many times I’ve met a young guy, 18 or 19 years old, proud not to be a fighter, a militant, or a duck-and-dive artist on the street. When you ask what his job is, the common answer is “carpenter”. Working with wood – not metal or computer code – is the limit of what the blockade has enabled the skilled manual worker here to achieve.

Faced with such hopelessness, naturally, many become resigned: “Living is the same as being dead” is a phrase you hear among young men. It is the perfect rationale for the nihilist military organisation some choose to join. But its opposite is the resourcefulness that rewires a house after its front has been blown off; that sits on the carpet making bread on a hot pan after a home has been reduced to dust.

There are only two economic routes for life to flow back into Gaza and, given the bitterness of this conflict, the route from Israel will not be the main one. Egypt holds the key to Gaza’s economic integration to the rest of the global economy. Open the Rafah crossing, and the need for the tunnels disappears. To the world this forlorn, impoverished and totally battered society has become a byword for impossibility and despair. But nobody has told Gazans. I found them full of hope.

Paul Mason is economics editor of Channel 4 News. Follow him @paulmasonnews

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