Palestine is union business – Israel out of Gaza!

Weekly Melbourne rallies keep growing. Almost 100,000 rallied on 5 November. Photo by Debbie Brennan
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The tragedy engulfing the people of Gaza is horrific. Since Israel began its assault, more than half of all houses in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed. At the time of writing, over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed, more than a third of them children. The people of Gaza are without food, water, fuel and medicines.

Global condemnation of this slaughter continues to grow. Those speaking out include many anti-Zionist Jews. Among them is the Loud Jew Collective, which occupied the Geelong office of the Deputy Prime Minister in protest at the government’s support for Israel’s war. Declaring “not in our name,” they called for the disarming of Israel and demanded “stop the genocide.”

A call issued by more than 30 Palestinian trade unions urges workers of the world to lead collective action aimed at stopping the Israeli war machine. The appeal highlights examples from Italy, South Africa and and the U.S., where workers refused to ship military supplies to apartheid Israel.

Australian unionists are rallying around this call, organising collectively to build solidarity. More than 2,500 unionists have signed a petition, noting that the tragedy is a direct result of Israel’s blockade and siege of Gaza. It calls for a halt to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and an end to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Large Unionists for Palestine contingents are participating in weekly protests across the country, chanting “Union workers out in pride, we say no to genocide!”

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions calls on unions globally to back the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It advocates a boycott of Israel and all businesses that are complicit in supporting the apartheid regime. BDS was started in 2005 by grassroots Palestinian organisations. Modelled on the apartheid-era South Africa boycott, its goal is to isolate Israel internationally to force a change in its apartheid policies. BDS is powerful, motivational and educational, making it an important mobilising tactic for unionists.

Israel views academic collaboration as one of the ways to legitimise itself to the world. However support for BDS is growing on Australian campuses. Several National Tertiary Education Union branches have passed solidarity motions and are supporting the academic boycott. The University of Sydney Student Representative Council also voted to support BDS. Activists from RMIT recently celebrated a win, when the institution ceased its research partnership with Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems, which supplies weapons to the Israeli military.

The Maritime Union of Australia is another union that has long backed BDS. It supports the global Boycott HP campaign. This company, an offshoot of the former Hewlett-Packard, provides computer hardware to the Israeli army and police. Maritime workers led protests in Melbourne and Sydney against Zim, an Israeli shipping line which transports weapons of mass destruction, strengthening the Israeli war machine. Its complicity with Israeli apartheid sparked an international Block The Boat campaign.

The growing depth and breadth of support for the Palestinian people across the community, signalled by huge rallies and workplace organising, is an important opportunity to educate about the roots of the problem and discuss solutions. The Palestine occupation commenced in 1948, with at least 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homeland. They refer to this as al Nakba, which translates as “the catastrophe.” A central call must be for the right of expelled people to return to their homelands and to end the deadly Zionist occupation.

We do not, however, support the call for a ceasefire. This call implies a war between equals and would bind all parties. It robs Palestinians of their right to self-defence amidst events, which are clearly another catastrophe. We call for the immediate end to the State of Israel’s bombing and ground assault on Gaza. The United States and its allies must stop arming the predatory settler state. We also demand that the Albanese government ends military, economic and diplomatic ties with Israel. Without justice, there can be no peace. For peace to be lasting, it will require the establishment of one secular, socialist and democratic state with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis.

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