“We listen with horror at members of the new Israeli government publicly talking about ethnically cleansing & expelling all Palestinians to Jordan, annexing parts of the West Bank, introducing a shoot to kill policy & even expressing the wish that the state should wipe entire Palestinian towns off the map.”Clare Baker.
By Clare Baker, International Department, Unite the Union & Labour & Palestine.
My trade union UNITE has always been at the forefront of building solidarity with the Palestinians.
We regularly send and participate in delegations to Palestine to see the reality on the ground and to build relations with the people who need our support. We also support the PSC and have some fantastic twinning groups with communities in Palestine and our own community sector – such as with the Shu’fat refugee camp and the Lydd London solidarity group. Along with a number of other trade unions we’ve also been very much behind the initiative that established the Labour & Palestine platform – to give a voice for grassroots support for Palestine within the labour party,
As we know, the situation on the ground is getting more and more desperate for the Palestinians. This new Israeli government is the most right-wing in its history, but we need to be clear that they are only continuing the policies of previous governments.
However now they are being very open about their motives, and they are no longer hiding behind the veneer of a so-called democracy – that was never ever a democracy if you were Palestinian.
It is good to see that there is some push back against this new government.
But we also must ask where were the appalled expressions over the many years when the rights of Palestinians were trampled on, and over the illegal occupation?
The horrific attacks that we have seen since the beginning of the year, the terrorism that the state and settlers unleash against Palestinians, is quite astonishing to witness. From the attacks by the Israeli military in Jenin and Nablus to attacks by settlers (with the protection of the Israeli military) in Huwara – we see the complete destruction of homes and property and the loss of life.
We listen with horror at members of the new Israeli government publically talking about ethnically cleansing and expelling all Palestinians to Jordan, annexing parts of the West Bank, introducing a shoot to kill policy and even vocally expressing the wish that the state should wipe entire Palestinian towns off the map.
We also see the increasing criminalisation ofoppositionto Israeli government policies, such as the closing down and criminalisation of the 6 NGOs in Israel that fought for human rights.
The criminalisation of any opposition to far-right regimes and their policies of oppression and violence is a trend that we in Unite are seeing more and more in our international work. Calling aid workers, lawyers, teachers, opposition politicians and trade unionists terrorists is a tactic being used to great effect – with no international condemnation – by many states that are becoming more and more extreme.
And the response by the international community, many politicians and in particular by the UK government is one of silence – this is an absolute outrage and frankly hypocritical when it is so vocal in calling out Russia (quite rightly) for their crimes – but where the world’s governments reacted quickly and decisively and have committed to sanctions and boycotts of Russia, when it comes to the Israeli occupation and crimes against the Palestinians our government and many others are silent.
Not only is this hypocritical of the UK government when it plans to attack the right to boycott, but also by governments doing nothing the Israeli state is given a green light to continue their suppression, ethnic cleansing, and implementation of apartheid against the Palestinians.
UNITE fully supports the peaceful campaigning of the BDS movement as called for by the Palestinian civil society – just as we supported the BDS movement against apartheid South Africa as called for by the people there.
The BDS campaign is growing and getting stronger and is having a serious impact, which is why the Israeli government have poured huge amounts of money and resources into fighting it globally around the world and why the Tories are looking to introduce the anti-BDS law.
First and foremost, we need to be clear that this law represents a fundamental attack on basic democracy and peoples’ civil rights and should be viewed in the context as well as of the suite of Tory repressive legislation – such as that to restrict protestors and to attack the right to strike.
Although the law is primarily being proposed in order to stop the BDS campaign against Israeli apartheid, it will likely be written in a way that applies across the board – meaning that any similar BDS actions we might want to take in relation to say Turkey – a state that also occupies and ethnically cleanses, will be outlawed as well because the line of the Foreign Office is currently very pro-Turkey. Or, as we have already seen in the US anti-BDS legislation in certain states is used to silence those who campaign, for example for women’s reproductive rights, against fossil fuels and against guns – we need to understand that this is the thin end of the wedge and that they will go further if we don’t stop them now.
And can you imagine if this law had been in force back when South Africa was still an apartheid state? When Thatcher supported that regime and called Mandela a terrorist? It would have meant no local authorities or public institutions could have joined the boycott, sanctions, and divestment campaign to defeat that disgusting regime.
The situation that faces Palestinians is deteriorating rapidly, the international community cannot stand by and watch an extremist racist government ethnically cleanse, oppress and commit the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people with no consequence. Because, to keep excusing this, to stay silent or to continue to do business in the illegal settlements means that these international states or companies are complicit in every terrorist attack by the state or settlers that kills Palestinians, ethnically cleanses them from their homes and forces them to live in a system where they are discriminated against because of their race.
Within the Labour Party there is clear policy that was passed unanimously in 2021, that built on the position adopted at the 2020 TUC conference. It references the Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem reports and calls for effective measures including sanctions to be implemented in order to address Human rights abuses. And despite the leadership wanting to pretend the motion doesn’t exist and having no intention to act – the reality is – the motion was passed, and it does exist – and I applaud the work of Labour and Palestine in helping CLPs have the confidence to hold discussions within the framework of the motion as labour party policy.
Labour and Palestine have done a really good job in raising the plight of the Palestinian people within the Labour Party, and we will continue to do so, despite the difficult atmosphere that exists. But it really is high time now that the Labour Party as a whole, particularly the Labour Party leadership, starts making it crystal clear on where it stands in relation to this new far right Israeli Government and some of the appalling actions and decisions that are being taken and implemented. The Labour Party must always stand in solidarity with those facing the worst oppression, and where can the need for this be clearer today than to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians?
- March for Palestine on this Saturday (May 13) – RSVP for Labour bloc here & see full details here.
- Move the Labour & Palestine motion on Supporting Palestinian Human Rights at your local meeting – see here.
- Support the Right to Boycott against upcoming Tory attacks – show support here & read more here.
- This piece was originally published by Labour & Palestine and was based on a speech given at L&P’s Labour Women Speak Up for Palestine event.