Palestine solidarity shows how fighting trade unionism comes hand-in-hand with international solidarity


“We call upon the British Government to stop its support of hostilities including halting of UK arms sales to Israel to bring about immediate peace and a just settlement based on UN resolutions and international law”.

RMT Union Statement

By an NEU activist

Following the current siege of the people of Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces, the left of the trade union and labour movement has led the efforts to offer solidarity to the people of Palestine who have been effected by this current siege. The efforts by left caucuses and leaderships has led the majority of Britain’s largest unions to issue statements demanding an immediate ceasefire and in support of the hundreds of thousands strong demonstrations in London, and growing actions around the country.

This week, it also led to a powerful joint call from the General Secretaries of the NEU, RMT and FBU for support for Saturday’s march for Palestine in London, despite the Home Secretary’s ongoing efforts to demonise the protest.

In response to the tragic and escalating violence, the actions of left activists across the National Education Union led to the union’s executive committee issuing a statement which argued that “the siege of Gaza must be immediately lifted to avoid an otherwise catastrophic humanitarian crisis” and offers the solidarity of the Union to the “children and young people, their teachers and other educators. We thank educators who are doing their best to maintain education in the most appalling circumstances”. The NEU statement ends with the final rallying call to the international movement stating that “we must all work to build a peaceful future” by urging all members of the international community to bring an end to this conflict as urgently as possible.

The National Education Union’s statement was joined by a statement issued by the Public and Commercial Services Union’s left led executive on the 13th of October. The PCS statement begins by stating in the strongest terms its opposition the actions of Hamas but also its opposition to the Israeli government’s response to the attack by Hamas through “cutting off food, electricity and fuel from 2.4m people, including one million children” which the union argues is “a form of collective punishment which is against international law”.

These statements were joined by the Labour Party affiliated union, the Transport Salaried Staff Association, which argues that “we stand on the brink of a catastrophic humanitarian disaster and the very grave possibility of a wider regional conflict” and ended with a call to the Labour Leadership “to act in the interests of peace and international law in this most challenging and crucial moment”.

These statements were joined by the staunchly internationalist Rail, Maritime and Transport union who’ statement called for “an immediate end to hostilities on all sides, an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to the continued bombing and the threat of ground invasion.  We call for the immediate opening of humanitarian corridors to allow for the supply of essential goods, energy and medical aid”. The RMT union carried on to call upon “the British Government to stop its support of hostilities including halting of UK arms sales to Israel to bring about immediate peace and a just settlement based on UN resolutions and international law”.

These ceasefire calls were also joined by the Fire Brigades Union whose statements began by offering the Union’s “condolences to those who have lost loved ones”. The Union’s statement carried on to argue that “Gaza has been subject to a 16 year blockade in conditions which have already been described as being like an open air prison for the 2.3 million residents” which is likely to be exacerbated by “the conflict and will do nothing to resolve long standing grievances and disputes; notably the illegal occupation of Palestinian land; the regular expansion of illegal settlements and associated settler violence; and the widespread use of imprisonment without trial by Israel of Palestinians”. The Union ends its statement by sending its “solidarity to those voices on both sides who have courageously sought to build dialogue and joint activity in the most appalling and challenging circumstances. This includes those in Israel who have opposed the occupation, defended Palestinian rights and argued for a peaceful and democratic solution”.

At the time of writing, other unions including ASLEF, BFAWU, CWU, UCU, UNISON and Unite have all now joined the call for a ceasefire too. In the latter two unions, activists from UNISON Time for Real Change and Unite United Left have been at the forefront in their unions in building solidarity with Palestine.

It is vital that every left labour movement activist works with fellow activists within their union and the wider movement to take up the call of a ceasefire now and, to support the growing marches called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others both in London and nationally.

Featured image: Protesters demand a ceasefire in Gaza at the demonstration held by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on November 4th, 2023. Photo credit: Labour Outlook

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