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Volume 53 Number 30, November 4, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum: For Your Information

Trades Unions Stand with Palestine and the Resistance to Occupation

In various ways the trade union movement has taken a stand across Britain in international solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to end occupation and the latest invasion of Gaza.

A TUC statement states that the General Council was "deeply concerned by the escalating violence and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel". [1]

It called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Middle East" and for the following of international law. Unfortunately it also equates resistance with terrorism. At the same time it calls for an end to "collective punishment". The General Council statement says, "The TUC stands in solidarity with all working people, their friends, families and communities and opposes any attempt to divide us."

It continues: "The current siege of Gaza, which comes on top of a 16-year air, sea and land blockade, has cut off food, water, electricity and fuel supplies. This is leading to a humanitarian disaster. The UN has stated that such measures amount to a form of collective punishment which is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention. We call on the UK government and international community to support the opening of humanitarian corridors and to facilitate access to humanitarian aid and stand in solidarity with emergency and humanitarian workers."

It also points out: "Gazans who work in Israel have been prevented from returning home and some have been transferred to the West Bank, after being physically assaulted and their personal belongings confiscated.

"The TUC is appalled by the destruction of Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, which killed hundreds of patients, healthcare workers and families that had been seeking refuge in and around the hospital.

"We support a road to a just peace in Israel and Palestine. UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has acknowledged that, "This most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight.

"The TUC has long-standing democratically agreed policy in relation to Palestine and Israel. We have long called for an end to the military occupation of Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza, and respect for all Palestinian rights including the right to self-determination and the right to return.

"The TUC urges the UK government and parliamentarians across the political spectrum and in all four nations to support genuine efforts towards a just, comprehensive and lasting peace that is consistent with international law, including ending settlement expansion, and is based on a two-state solution, which promotes equality, democracy and respect for human and labour rights. And we will continue to work closely with, and through, the International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC] to support efforts to secure this lasting peace".

On October 26, public sector union UNISON stated [2] that the union "supports the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel to allow the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance. The union condemns the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians - especially among children - caused by Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

"We express our concern at the collapse of vital public services - particularly healthcare - and reiterate our call for the release of all the hostages being held by Hamas.

"UNISON encourages our members and branches to take action calling for a ceasefire, including joining peaceful protests and contacting their members of parliament. UNISON will be making donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Red Cross and encourages branches to do the same.

"UNISON is deeply concerned by the dramatic increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents. Anti-racism and the right to treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of race or creed, are fundamental values of our union. All members should be able to feel safe in their places of work and the communities in which they live.

"Finally, UNISON calls on the British government and the international community to support a ceasefire leading to renewed talks aimed at achieving a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, as the only way to secure long-term peace in the Middle East."

MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Solidarity Network has also been organising solidarity amongst trade unionists [3]. It made a statement on October 20 titled "Trade unionists must stand with Palestine" It says that as trade unionists in Britain they wish to respond to the urgent call for solidarity issued by Palestinian trade unions. They say: "Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel's crimes."

The call further states: "Israel has demanded that 1.1 million Palestinians evacuate the northern half of Gaza, whilst subjecting them to constant bombardment. This ruthless move is part of Israel's plan, backed by unwavering support and active participation from the US and majority of European states, to carry out unprecedented and heinous massacres against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza and to ethnically cleanse it altogether.

"This collective punishment of the population of Gaza has been encouraged by the British government which has made no criticism of Israeli's actions or its long history of systematic discrimination and violence against the Palestinians. No wonder Palestinians fear a second Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to the mass dispossession and ethnic clearing of up to a million Palestinians in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli state. The current inhabitants of Gaza are direct descendants of the dispossessed of '48.

"The bombing of al-Ahli Baptist hospital, leaving at least 500 dead, underlines the horror of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

"Sunak and Starmer say they stand with Israel against the Hamas attacks but have been silent about the fate of Gaza. Together with the actions and statements from other Western governments this has sent a signal to Israel that it can act with impunity.

"We demand that Britain ends its military and political support for Israel's actions.

"Britain continues to issue government approved export licences to allow arms sales to Israel for example - between 2016 and 2020 alone these amounted to the value of £387 million in arms sales. And Britain has announced that it is sending two Royal Navy ships together with surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean in another clear signal of support for Israel's actions.

"We urge all trade unions to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza and beyond. Every union should debate what steps can be taken to challenge British complicity with Israel's war machine and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. As a first step, we urge every trade unionist to attend demonstrations in support of the Palestinians along with their union banners to show they are not alone in their struggle for justice."

Among the first trade unions to issue public announcements standing with Palestine was the RMT. [4] In a tweet it says that "following the call for solidarity by @WorkersinPales1, the National Executive Committee of Britain's @RMTunion voted to support Palestine solidarity demonstrations, fundraise for Gaza, and oppose the delivery of weapons to the Israeli regime."

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) states that it has affiliations that are long standing with all trade unions. It recognises the importance of working with trade unions which have a long history of supporting international causes such as the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. PSC works closely with trade unions and the largest trade unions in the UK are affiliated to PSC - while a growing number of trade union branches and regions are affiliating to the campaign. [5]


[1] Issued by the TUC on October 18, 2023


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