Palestine – what next for the Labour Movement


“There is an attempt to silence the voices who speak out in support of Palestine. Don’t be intimidated, stand strong and know that you will stand on the right side of history.”

By Louise Regan

In a week where the Israeli military shot and killed a two-year-old boy, Muhammed Tamimi, in Nabi Saleh and injured his father and two other Palestinians it is hard to even begin to think about what we need to do.

There have already been over 150 deaths of Palestinians since the start of this year. Despite this the media coverage is limited and our government remains silent.

As socialists we have to be committed to speaking out against injustice wherever we see it both here in the UK and globally. 

This year marks 75 years since the Nakba – the catastrophe, when over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes and villages. But the Nakba was not a single event in time, Palestinians have faced an ongoing Nakba since that time from the restriction of movement, the house demolitions and forced evictions to the continued expansion of illegal settlements stealing more and more of their homeland.

There has been a longstanding and increasing solidarity with the Palestinian people from the labour and trade union movement but words are no longer enough. As with all acts of solidarity there comes a time when action is required and that time is now.

In 2005 Palestinian civil society called upoon the international community to support their cause and stand in solidarity with them by backing their call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. BDS aims to end international support for Israeli violations of international law by forcing companies, institutions and governments to change their policies. As Israeli companies and institutions become isolated, Israel will find it more difficult to oppress Palestinians.

However we have a government who is currently trying to prevent us from taking legitimate solidarity action in support of those oppressed globally. The government’s Foreign Affairs (Economic Activities of Public Bodies) bill, or anti-boycott bill, will limit the ability of public bodies to make ethical choices about spending and investment that reflect widespread public support for human rights, climate goals and international law. This bill will shield companies engaged in human rights abuse or environmental destruction by preventing public bodies from cutting financial ties with them over abusive or illegal actions committed in a foreign state, unless expressly permitted to do so by the government. It will also violate the rights of Local Government Pension Scheme members by preventing them from choosing how their deferred wages are to be invested. 

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns are part of the fabric of democracy, they provide a peaceful way for people to push for justice and pressure regimes, institutions, or companies to change abusive, discriminatory, or illegal practices.

The best-known boycott was the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. Had this legislation been in place, it could have forced public bodies and British universities to do business with that regime. The anti-boycott bill is part of a string of attacks on democratic participation and freedom of expression which includes the anti-strikes bill and recent legislation undermining the right to protest. Over 60 national civil society organisations – including national Trade Unions, environmental, human rights and faith groups, and a wide range of campaigns for social and climate justice – have signed a statement opposing these plans.

As trade unionists we have a duty to oppose this restriction on our legitimate right to campaign and fight back against oppression and injustice.

Alongside campaigning against this anti-democratic legislation we now more than ever have to amplify the voices of the Palestinian people. We know that their voices are silenced, their stories are not heard and their oppression is hidden. This is a moment in time, a moment when we have the opportunity to try and change a huge injustice, an injustice that our country is complicit in.

So our job and our duty now is to speak out – take a motion to your trade union branch calling for them to back the right to boycott campaign, arrange for a speaker to come and talk about what is currently happening in Palestine and how members can get involved in campaigning for justice and finally we must speak out. There is an attempt to silence the voices who speak out in support of Palestine. Don’t be intimidated, stand strong and know that you will stand on the right side of history.

As Nelson Mandela said “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Featured image: Louise Regan takes part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration

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