“Silence is not an option, Palestinians who we visit give us a clear message – they tell us that their voices are silenced so they need us to speak out and tell the world what is happening.”Louise Regan
By Louise Regan
This year will mark 75 years since the Nakba. That is 75 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Over 750,000 Palestinian were driven in to exile and more than 500 villages were wiped from the map. Those Palestinians that fled left their homes with their keys in their hands – 75 years later they are still waiting to return.
In the trade union movement, we have a long and proud history of standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The trade union movement understands the need to stand with all those who are in struggle against oppression here but also globally.
We know that 2022 was the deadliest year since 2004 with at least 146 Palestinians killed including 34 children. Already this year more than 84 Palestinians have been killed, five times as many as had been by this time last year. Just this week four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza and a primary school in Jabbet al-Dhib – near Bethlehem in the West Bank – was demolished. This is not a new situation but it is clear that the current Israeli government is intent on increasing the pressure on Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
The UN reports that at least 299 Palestinian structures have already been demolished by Israel this year – leading to over 440 people, including children, being displaced from their homes and a further 57 schools currently have demolition orders in place. Over the last 75 years Israel has used demolitions to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land, and the current far-right government is fast tracking new demolitions across East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
On one of my visits to a primary school in East Jerusalem I remember a young girl crying. When I spoke to her teacher she explained that the girl’s house had been demolished the day before and the family had nowhere to go. The teacher showed me a picture of the devastated family alongside the pile of rubble that had been their home. It was heart-breaking to witness the pain and suffering of such a young child.
However even with this increasing hostility and threat towards them it is humbling to see their resolve to stand firm and resist the things that are happening. In East Jerusalem communities like Silwan, Jabal al-Mukaber, and Hizma Palestinians are refusing to leave their homes. I have met with a number of the families in Sheikh Jarrah who are at threat of eviction from their homes. I have heard their stories, extended families who have lived in the homes since the 1950s now at risk of losing their home again.
It is essential that we remember and educate our members about the Nakba, to hear the stories of Nakba survivors and their descendants and to remember the brutality of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people in that period. But we must remember that the Nakba is ongoing and continues. Every home or school demolished, every olive tree uprooted, every child imprisoned, every family forced to mourn their loved ones killed by the Israeli military, every new generation of refugees born outside their homeland—these are crimes layered on top of decades of injustice.
On my recent visits to Palestine I have been shocked to see the extent of the land being stolen to build illegal settlements, settler only roads, communities threatened with expulsion from their land because the area has been declared a military zone by Israel. These acts are illegal under international law and yet ignored by the international community who remain silent as Palestine is built out of existence.
Despite this Palestinians have stood strong, they continue to demand freedom, self determination and the right to return. The names of the villages from which they were expelled are etched in their minds and on the muraled walls of the refugee camps which they were expelled to.
The injustices against the Palestinian people cannot continue to be ignored. Support for their cause continues to grow and we have to continue to educate and agitate around this issue.
Time is running out; more and more land is being stolen from the Palestinian people. Silence is not an option, Palestinians who we visit give us a clear message – they tell us that their voices are silenced so they need us to speak out and tell the world what is happening.
To every trade unionist I say – join the march but then go back and tell people in your union and your communities what is happening on a daily basis to the Palestinian people. We have a duty to fight for the right to freedom and justice for our friends in Palestine.
- Louise Regan is an executive member of the National Education Union (NEU) writing in a personal capacity. You can follow her on twitter here; and follow the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- “NAKBA 75 – National Protest: Free Palestine – End Apartheid” takes place on Saturday, May 13th, assembling at The BBC, Portland Place W1A, London. Find out how you can take part here.
- If you support Labour Outlook’s work amplifying the voices of left movements and struggles in the UK and internationally, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.