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An appropriate and praiseworthy response to the carnage

An appropriate and praiseworthy response to the carnage: trade unionists refusing to load munitions for Israel's war in Gaza

Note: We have gotten used to terrible news coming out of the Gaza Strip virtually every day. Still, now there is a record new low point when we thought we already reached rock bottom: the news of more than a hundred Ganzs being killed within minutes for the sole crime of being desperately hungry and trying to get to the truck carrying some of the far too scarce humanitarian supplies reaching the ruined city of Gaza.

The Israeli Army asserted that most of them were not killed directly by the soldiers' shots, but rather were trampled in the panicked stampede. This might or might not be true - pending an objective investigation which will probably never be made, the exact circumstances cannot be clarified. It scarcely matters. It is Israel which consciously and deliberately created the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Gazans' desperate need for food. Killed directly by Israeli soldiers or killed while trying to get to the food which Israel denies to them - either way, the blood is entirely on Israel's hands.

A few days before this new tragedy and atrocity, I and Yossi Schwartz - a fellow activist whom I have known and respected for many years - decided to draft and publish the following joint statement. Despite deep disagreements about the long range solution to the bleeding conflict tearing up this country, we have hardly any difference about the current horror in Gaza.

We have hammered out all details of the text, in a friendly discussion and minor debate with each other and with other fellow activists.

We had the final text prepared and ready to be unleashed just as this new piece of terrible news came - which of course makes our text all the more relevant and urgent. This statement is intended, in principle, for anyone in the world who cares about what happens in Gaza - but in particular, it is intended for anyone who is in any way involved in a trade union, most especially for anyone who might in some way influence the union's decision making process.

Adam Keller

Joint Statement

The United States has a long-standing policy of providing Israel with massive amounts of military aid (which incidentally provides enormous profits to the American armament industries). This was greatly expanded and intensified since the outbreak of the current war in Gaza.

The constant flow of munitions from the United States - and to a lesser degree, from other Western countries - is completely indispensable for Israel to sustain its war. Israel's own armament industry could in no way provide for a massive bombing campaign, in which Israel in a few months threw far more bombs on a very narrow and overcrowded strip of land than what the US itself did over years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Supplying arms to Israel has been traditionally justified as "helping Israel defend itself" and anyone objecting to it was castigated as "wanting Israelis to be exposed to danger"'. However, the war which Israel launched - ostensibly as a response to the deadly Hamas attack on Israeli communities and military outposts on October 7, 2023 - was soon revealed to have not the slightest resemblance to any kind of "self defense", and it was never meant to be such.

Rather, it is a completely unrestrained rampage, an orgy of killing and wanton destruction.

Under a constant barrage of enormous one-ton bombs - of which a constant supply is provided to Israel by the boatload - schools, universities, Mosques (and some Churches), libraries, public buildings of any kind and most of the private houses in the Gaza Strip were destroyed or greatly damaged. The city of Gaza was left in ruins, as were many smaller towns and villages. Thirty thousand Palestinians were killed, including more than ten thousand children, and the death toll continues to rise. A million and half people were driven out of their homes, to live in horrifying conditions under the open sky.

The International Court in the Hague, the highest tribunal set up to deal with violations of International Law, met to hear South Africa's charge that Israel's acts in the Gaza Strip may culminate in actual genocide - the most terrible of all crimes. Sixteen out of eighteen judges - prominent jurists of various countries and backgrounds - were unanimous in taking very seriously the danger of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Specifically, The International Court found it plausible that Israel’s acts could amount to genocide and issued six provisional measures: ordering Israel to take all steps within its power to prevent genocidal acts, including preventing and punishing incitement to genocide, ensuring aid and services reach Palestinians under siege in Gaza, and preserving evidence of crimes committed in Gaza.

The response of Israeli civil and military leaders was to make preparations for an all-out assault on the city of Rafah - the very place to which Israel had driven, in earlier stages of the war, a million and half Gazans displaced from their homes. Israeli warplanes continue to pound Raffa, the southern town of the Gaza Strip with bunker-busting bombs. Pleas for a ceasefire continue to be ignored by Israel. Indeed, Israeli leaders persist in making preparations for a massive ground assault on Rafah, even though Israel's own allies warn that this may lead to a terrible carnage and an untold humanitarian disaster. Yet President Biden's making such dire predictions has not made him stop the constant supply of arms and munitions to Israel.

It was under these terrible circumstances that the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) issued an urgent appeal calling on "trade unions in relevant industries" to refuse to build weapons destined for Israel as well as refusing to transport such weapons.

Some unions in various countries did respond to that call. For example, five Belgian transport unions issued a joint statement saying they were refusing to load or unload arms shipments heading to the war zone, and the Barcelona dock workers’ union announced that it "would not permit activity, in our port, of ships containing war materiel" and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

We the undersigned, Israeli citizens and activists in political organizations, who are shocked and horrified by the acts of the Israeli government and armed forces, and who want to see a future of brotherhood between Israelis and Palestinians, regard the above acts by Belgian and Catalan trade unions as an appropriate and praiseworthy response to the terrible carnage in Gaza. We call on all other trade unions worldwide to emulate that example, refuse to build weapons intended for Israel and to load or unload such weapons.

Adam Keller for Gush Shalom Yossi Schwartz for the ISL, RCIT section in Israel/ Occupied Palestine