England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Palestine: Workers action to shut down the war machine

By Paul Gerrard, Socialist Alternative Manchester

The Israeli state persists in its attempt to obliterate Gaza, and the death toll mounts towards 35,000. Major world cities – London, New York, Johannesburg – continue to reverberate to the chants of tens of thousands of protesters. After seven months the movement of solidarity with Palestine is amazingly resilient and determined. Yet despite the widespread revulsion the war continues, with an assault on Rafah still to come.

More and more groups of organised workers have added their voice to the protests. In the US, the American Postal Workers Union called on US President Biden to demand a ceasefire and “not use our tax dollars for more war”. In the UK, left members of UNISON’s National Executive are pressing their Starmerite General Secretary for statements against the war and for greater support for the protests.

No arms for Israel

Last autumn, over 30 Palestinian trade unions issued a united call to stop arming Israel and dock and logistics workers worldwide have responded. Workers in the port of Naples refused to handle shipments of arms destined for Israel. Port workers in Barcelona stated they would not load or handle goods from ships carrying weapons to Israel or Ukraine.

In early November, a joint statement was released by port and transport workers associated with Unione Sindicale di Base (USB) in Italy, the Nakliyat-İş Union in Turkey, and several maritime unions in Greece. They urged their governments to halt the transfer of weapons from domestic ports and to withdraw support from the Israeli government.

Transport workers’ unions in Belgium also expressed their resistance, issuing a joint statement refusing to handle the loading or unloading of arms intended for the genocidal war against Palestinians and forcing the government of Wallonia to suspend 2 licenses for munitions exports to Israel.

Hundreds of trade unionists in the United Kingdom, under the slogan ‘Workers for a Free Palestine,’ successfully blocked the entrance to the BAE Systems factory in Rochester, which allegedly supplies components for military aircraft used in bombing Gaza. But it shouldn’t be left to a demo outside the gates, Unite should be demanding the cessation of work related to Israel’s military, no dispatch of stockpiled material, and/or alternative work on full pay.

No to war

Workers instinctively oppose war, knowing they will be the ones who bear the wounds, as World War I demonstrated (see opposite page). The joint Italian/Turkish/Greek statement referred to earlier emphasised that the history of transport workers has always been on the side of peace, against fascism, racism, occupation, and the oppression of peoples.

Socialist Alternative demands a permanent end to the massacre and occupation in Gaza. This can be massively assisted by international workers’ action, but ultimately can only be achieved by the democratic mass action of the Palestinian people themselves, as part of a wider regional struggle against imperialism and capitalism, and for a socialist Middle East. 

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