Unions, community groups demand Israel respect UN resolutions

Sydney Nakba rally. Photo: Isaac Nellist

Israeli settlers’ forced eviction of Sheikh Jarrah residents in East Jerusalem, the storming of the Al-Asqua Mosque by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Israel’s air strikes on Gaza's homes, hospitals and media organisations have sparked outrage around the world.

In Australia, tens of thousands of people took to the streets on May 14 in all major cities and some regional cities to protest Israel’s violence and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Nakba protests called for Israel to end its attacks and for the Australian government to demand Israel cease fire.

Unions and community groups are also stating their concern with Israel’s attacks and the Australian government’s silence.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) on May 18 called for an immediate end to the “unjust and illegal occupation of Palestine” and condemned the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip, in which more than 250 people, including 66 children, have died in the past week.

The ACTU also wants the federal government to take “firm action” to “stop the escalation of violence”, “end the occupation of Palestine” and work for a “sustainable peace” in accordance with resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN Security Council — the removal of illegal settlements, the withdrawal of Israel from all Palestinian lands along with the dismantling of the Separation Wall.

It also highlighted the “repeated harassment of Palestinian trade unionists by Israeli occupation forces”.

Australian Unionists Supporting Palestine (AUSPalestine) called for peace, justice, equality and solidarity, saying that “indigenous peoples around the world, Arabs, Muslims and all those suffering under imperialism will identify with the Palestinians’ struggle”.

It endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and called on the federal government to “heed its obligations under international law, and heed Australian public opinion, and end its partisan one-sided support for Israel,” including cancelling military contracts with Israel.

Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA) called on May 19 for Israel to immediately stop bombing Gaza and to end its attacks on communities in occupied Palestinian territories.

“Australia must immediately implement a humanitarian aid program for Gaza following the destruction of water, electricity and medical services,” it said.

APHEDA, which has worked with Palestinian organisations for more than 30 years, said the latest bombing attacks damaged “a large agricultural program” it helped establish in Gaza.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said on May 19 that “Israel must immediately stop attacks on Palestinian territories” and called for “the immediate cessation of violence in Israel and Palestine”.

ITF President Paddy Crumlin said the attacks by the Israeli military “are clearly in breach of international law”.

“The international community must pressure Israel to tackle the root causes of the latest violence: the planned illegal and unjust displacement, dispossession and eviction of Palestinians from their lands like those in Sheikh Jarrah; the injustices of the Israeli occupation; the blockade of Gaza; and impunity for historic war crimes and violations of international law,” Crumlin said.

The ITF statement has been shared by the Maritime Union of Australia.

The United Workers Union, a longstanding member of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network, said on May 21 that it stood with “the Palestinian people, the global trade union movement, and with United Nations and humanitarian and aid organisations in condemning these unwarranted attacks”.

It also said it “deplored the lack of leadership by the Australian government who have refused to call on the Israeli Netanyahu government to cease the bombing of Gaza and restrain the attacks on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Greens spokesperson Janet Rice said on May 14 that the violence from the Israeli government is “unlawful” and stems from the “unjust occupation of Palestine which has subjected Palestinians to systematic discrimination and oppression”. The Greens are calling on the federal government to recognise Palestine.

Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sam Wainwright said Israel is an apartheid state, which makes it “both unjust and incompatible with peace”. “The insistence on Israel’s 'right to exist' is really a demand for the maintenance of a supremacist 'Jewish' state, in which Palestinians are second-class citizens.”

Jews Against the Occupation released a statement condemning attacks on Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. It highlighted their brave resistance, acknowledging the imbalance of power — “puny stones against the rifles of the settlers and the military might of the IDF”.

The Australian Anthropological Society reiterated its support for the people of Palestine. “As anthropologists concerned about the devastating intergenerational effects of settler colonialism in Australia and around the world, we condemn ongoing efforts to dispossess Palestinians of their lands, homes and livelihoods.”

The Campaign for International Cooperation and Disarmament (CICD) said on May 19 that Israel’s “criminal actions are endorsed by the US administration, tolerated by the European Union, and supported by the Australian government”. It challenged the US, EU and Australian government’s justification of Israel’s aggression with excuse that it was its’ “right to self defence”.

“The Zionist colonisation of Palestinian land and the brutal suppression of those resisting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza continues largely because of US financial and military backing: together with diplomatic support and complicit silence of so many western countries such as Australia,” the CICD said. It noted that the US provides more than $3.8 billion a year to Israel — more than $10 million every day — while imposing some of the “world’s harshest sanctions against the Palestinian people”.

It said Israel’s attacks “have achieved something unprecedented since 1948: solidarity across Palestinian factions in all the occupied territories”.

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network called on May 15 for the federal government to: condemn the violence against Palestinian protesters; call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine; pursue peace and non-violence; and stop awarding contacts to weapons manufacturers that supply the IDF.

Sydney Stop the War Coalition on May 13 called on the federal government and Labor opposition to “demand Israel stops its attacks and condemns crimes against the people of Gaza and East Jerusalem” and “refrains from signing any trade deals with apartheid Israel”.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network is asking people to send a letter to MPs to call on Israel to stop and implement sanctions if it refuses.

The University of Sydney National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch on May 26 passed a motion in solidarity with all Palestinians in their resistance, as well as university colleagues. The motion called on members “to participate in active solidarity with Palestinians, including in ongoing demonstrations” and “note[d] the importance” of upholding an academic boycott of Israeli universities. The University of New South Wales NTEU branch also said it stood with all Palestinians and also sent solidarity to colleagues in Palestinian universities.

A statement in solidarity with Palesine from members of the children's book industry calls on writers to "stand unequivocally in solidarity with Palestinians as they resist colonisation". "Our industry professes to nurture and enrich the experience of childhood. How then can we stay silent as children are targeted, murdered, orphaned, incarcerated, dispossessed and traumatised by an occupying state?," the sign-on statement says.

[This article was updated on May 27.]