Thursday, 31 July 2014

Trade unionists worldwide call for an end to the siege of Gaza

Thursday, 31 July 2014 from

Trade unionists worldwide call for an end to the siege of Gaza

The military occupation of Palestine, and the complicity of the most 
powerful states on earth in this occupation, is a massive injustice.

Unfortunately, we only tend to receive news about this situation every
few years when the Israeli “Defence” Force decides to murder hundreds,
if not thousands of civilians. The harsh daily reality of life in the Gaza 
strip and the West Bank are mostly ignored in between. Instead, when 
violence flares up we are presented with an ahistorical picture which
 mistakes “blaming both sides” for objectivity. Whilst schools and 
hospitals are being bombed, whilst children playing on the beach are 
targeted, whilst chemical weapons such as white phosphorous are 
deployed, our media outlets parrot IDF press releases about defending
 itself. What is often conveniently left out of this narrative is the fact 
that Israel is militarily occupying Palestine and proceeding to build
illegal civilian settlementson this land; one of the grossest violations 
of international conventions. This is not a straightforward case of 
interstate conflict, but is instead a case of occupier against occupied.

However, as evidenced by the voting patterns in the UN, and the 
protests which have erupted in cities and towns globally, the majority
 of the world has its eyes wide open with regards to this. The 
governments of some the poorest countries on earth, such as Bolivia, 
have spoken out against Israel’s offensive. They join their Latin 
American neighbours Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, El Salvador and Chile
 in breaking off normal diplomatic ties due to what they deem to be
 “crimes against humanity”.

On the 26th of July in London I joined with tens of thousands of people in a march from
 Downing Street to the Israeli Embassy in protest against the siege of Gaza. The crowd 
was diverse, with people from many different backgrounds and many different organizations. 
I was especially proud to see grassroots trade unionists 
carrying their branch banners, and trade unionist leaders
 up on the platforms speaking.  
British trade unions now have well established links with organizations such as the 
Palestine Solidarity Campaign. (Dozens, including my trade union Unite, hold 
official affiliation). These links between trade unions and social movements are 
vital in terms of political strategy, and recognize that we need to organize both within 
civil society and as producers at the place of work. Beyond pressuring our government
 to change its policy, trade unions such as Unison and the FBU are actively campaigning
 in support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign which
 is putting economic pressure upon the Israeli state and companies which are complicit 
in the occupation.

Photo: Demonstration in London. From The Weekly Bull on Flickr and
 reproduced underCreative Commons 2.0

Trade unions from all over the world have answered the call 
from Palestinian trade unions for solidarity. From New Zealand
 to South Africa, they are reaching beyond immediate bread and
 butter issues in order to condemn these atrocities. As most big 
social democratic parties have lost their role as educators, and 
the media has become even more concentrated into the hands 
of the elite, the role of trade unions as political educators rather 
than just tools for collective bargaining is important.

Obviously though this commendation for the actions of trade 
unionists should not be seen as triumphalism. Press releases
 condemning the occupation, marches and rallies should all be
 applauded, but we have been here before and their strategic 
effectiveness is questionable. I can’t offer the definitive answers
 assuming that there even are any, but there have been some 
great summaries out there recently in terms of practical action 
which you can take today both as an individual and as a trade

  1. Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign   
  2.  Hear from people on the ground
  3. Challenge media bias
  4. Join a group and take to the streets 
  5. Listen to dissenting Jews and Israelis
  6. Confront the arms trade

  1. Stop handling goods imported from or exported to Israel
  2. Divest your trade union pension  and other funds from Israel 
  3. Dissociate from Israeli trade unions complicit in the occupation
  4. Support our call for a military embargo on Israel
  5. Share information with your members 
Laurence Goodchild - Rugby Greens Trade Union Officer

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