By ISL (Britain)
Genocidal attacks on Gaza since October 8 continues. The Israeli government tells Palestinians in the north of Gaza to go south then bombs civilians traveling south while bombing the south and hitting schools, hospitals and mosques.
Meanwhile the colonial settlers (supplied very recently with more weapons) and the Israeli army isolate the towns and cities in the West Bank, kill over 100 Palestinians and continue their destruction of Palestinian villages and continue the West Bank dismemberment.
So, all over the remains of Palestine, the second Nakba is happening.
The British Prime Minister Richie Sunak says what Israel is doing is self-defence, is supporting genocide. The government has authorised the export of £472m worth of arms to Israel in the past eight years, including support for its combat aircraft that are now striking Gaza amid an humanitarian crisis. (www.declassifieduk.org).
It’s a continuation of its past history. In Palestine, the period of British rule from 1917 to 1948 before the state of Israel was declared – and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes – was brutal.
The UK has sold arms to Israel in spite of its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, since 1967. Four major military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and 2021 have killed almost 4,000 Palestinians.
The legacy of brutality of past colonialism includes current UK manufacturing arms exports and components that are used in bombardments in formerly colonised territories, and increasingly against civilians.
The mass demonstrations in London have included great numbers of young people, Palestinians and many immigrants. On October 28 a large number of protestors occupied the busy Waterloo station demanding a “cease fire now”.
The government is no doubt alarmed and the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has told parliament he has begun the process of deporting foreign nationals and revoking visas of anyone whose behaviour is deemed to spread incite antisemitism, even if it falls ‘below the criminal standard.’ (Guardian, 25 October 2023). This subversion of the legal system must be opposed and stopped.
The reason for another anti-democratic law is that 100,000s have been marching against Israel’s genocide, the worker and trade union blocks on marches in London and other cities have been growing.
The Unite union branch of parliamentary staff called on all parliamentarians to ensure that they are not complicit in Israel’s grave violation of international humanitarian law and called on them to demand an immediate ceasefire.
Labour Party refuses to call for ceasefire and ignores the unions
A Labour party conference meeting in September was originally titled “Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid,” but “End Apartheid” was removed from its listing. Meanwhile, Histadrut (the Israeli unions controlled by Zionists parties) was wholly welcomed to their conference.
The unions have already broken from Labour in the TUC congress September 2023 resolution to support the Palestinian struggle and BDS, and are declaring support for and speaking on the protests. But the unions need to mobilise much more of their members.
More than 250 Muslim Labour councillors from across the UK have also signed a letter to Starmer calling for a ceasefire, but Starmer refuses.
After the October 7, he at first said Israel had the right for self -defence, that is to bomb Gaza, then later he added according to international law! Starmer has issued edicts to try to ban Labour MPs and councillors from joining the protests.
Labour councillors in areas with large Muslim communities resigned over the leadership’s ‘unwillingness to show value to the humanity of Palestinian lives’, Keir Starmer wrote to Labour councillors in an attempt to clarify comments made in an LBC interview in which he said Israel had ‘the right’ to withhold water and power from Palestinians. (Guardian, 16 October 2023.)
Labour’s conference included events sponsored by an arms firm, Babcock, that signed a major deal with Israel last year to develop a ‘next generation’ deep-find radar’ search-and-destroy system. Babcock had 12 UK military export licences for Israel since 2010, with categories ML4 (Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges, and related equipment and accessories.)
The Merseyside Pension Fund (a local government pension scheme), a prime target of the Tory idea for an anti-BDS bill) has £6,918,800 invested in Babcock. Merseyside councils are controlled by the Labour party.
The only thing any serious member of the Labour can do is to leave the Labour Party and help build a class independent and internationalist new party of workers and the oppressed, while building the struggle in support of Palestine and keeping the unions building support.
Stopping arms for repression – a Workers Tradition
Further actions are taking place in response to the appeal by 30 Palestinian trade unions “Stop Arming Israel” launched on 16 October. Calls in France are being made by the teachers’ union tendency Emancipation and others. Let’s spread this appeal and our response for action to stop weapons being made and transported for Israel.
“Many of the bombs being dropped on Gaza are being dropped from drones made by unionised workers in Britain. The missile strikes, too, will be being guided by drones, again made by unionised workers in Britain. Key components for the F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, which have been vital for many of the attacks on Gaza, were made by workers in British trade unions, whether at Elbit or British Aerospace…” newsocialist.org.uk
A key issue are companies in the UK which supply the Israeli military. Many of those have investments from the Local Government pension schemes. The Merseyside Pension Fund (for the local government pension scheme, prime target of the anti-BDS bill) has £6,918,800 invested in Babcock. Babcock has 12 UK military export licences for Israel since 2010, with categories ML4 (Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges, and related equipment and accessories), ML11a (Electronic equipment for military use), ML14 (Specialised equipment for military training or for simulating military scenarios), ML22a (other technology).
Over 150 trade unionists created a blockade at the entrances to a factory in Kent at the site of an Israeli weapons manufacturer, on 26 October and proclaimed, ‘Workers for A Free Palestine’. The demonstration targeted Instro Precision Ltd in Sandwich, a subsidiary of arms manufacturer Elbit Systems which is one of Israel’s largest arms producers responsible for making drones and artillery for the military.
Activist members came from the Unite, UNISON, NEU, UCU, BMA, BFAWU, RMT and IWGB unions (public and industrial unions) and demanded the UK stop arming Israel in response to Israeli slaughter of Palestinians.
There are many ways to build workers’ actions in support of Palestine. PalestineAction take direct action, such as in Oldham near Manchester. They organised 18 months of protests, occupations and blockades, then Elbit Systems closed its weapons factory in early October 2022. It had manufactured high-end military technologies and weapons components, including the imaging and surveillance systems for Israel’s Hermes drones. The action was supported by protests of hundreds from local community groups on a weekly basis, some of whom came from the Kashmiri people living in Bolton.
Such action continues in different areas of the UK.
Unions should surround any union action to stop arms being made or transported to Israel with solidarity. The factories making the weapons need cleaning; they have security and catering staff; someone does the payroll, someone delivers the post. The production and moving of weapons for Israel involves all kinds of workers and all kinds of processes, both inside and outside the factory. Let’s organise joint meetings of all such workers to discuss what action can be taken.
In Italy port workers refused to load a shipment of weapons and explosives destined for Israel in 2021. In 2003 ASLEF Scottish train drivers refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf. In 1973 British dockers went on strike rather than load British-made arms on to ships destined for Chile after the assassination of Salvador Allende.
In 1920 stevedores on London’s East India Docks refused to move guns to the Jolly George, a ship chartered to take weapons to anti-Bolshevik forces after the Russian revolution. The engineering and other factory unions threatened a general strike if the government tried to send the Jolly George to support military action against the Soviet Union. The government backed off and never sent a ship after that.
There is a European and world tradition of refusing to send arms to oppressors, let’s build on it.
– Unions refuse to manufacture arms for Israel.
– Unions refuse to transport arms to Israel.
– Stop all military sales, investment and connections by companies based in the UK or the British government with Israel.