Unite for Gaza – speech during national day of action

18 Aug

Unite’s Zarier, Richard, and Jared at Hamilton rally for Gaza,

The following speech was given by Unite’s Jared Phillips in Hamilton as part of the August 16 national day of action for Gaza.

Unions including Unite, FIRST Union, and other unions and unionists have been vocal about this current round of aggression by Israel’s government. Unite formally supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign which is building awareness about the oppression of Palestine. Unite also formally supports the measure of immediate withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories, that Israel must abide by UN resolution 242 requiring it to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders.

The union also seeks to play a role educating about the history of Palestine’s oppression. Unions are the largest membership organisations in society. They can play a substantial role educating on the true nature of the world situation and world events. Unions can play a good role on this front. If you are a union member you should encourage these types of activity – things like education programmes and solidarity fund collections – within your unions.

The Council of Trade Unions also adopted a resolution on Palestine and recently participated in the Peace Like Mine campaign along with unions around the world.

World opinion is shifting favourably against Israel’s war machine. One week ago people in South Africa participated in the largest mobilisation in that country since apartheid. 150,000 people marched in London. These are just two examples.

In the US, in the belly of the beast, a centre of world imperialism, the shift is being seen particularly amongst young people with a majority of 18-29 year olds saying that Israel’s actions are unjustified and only a quarter supporting Israel’s actions.

This is a very positive development. The reactionary US government continues to arm Israel but change can come up from below.

Just one example of this is in Seattle where socialist council woman Kshama Sawant – a prominent figure in the successful struggle for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, a campaign with tens of thousands of grassroots supporters – sought council engagement on a letter to Obama, the senate, and the house of representatives, calling for an immediate end to all US military aid to Israel.

This attracted targeted criticism from the Israeli ambassador to the US. This is the key demand in the US in relation to Israel/Palestine; Stop funding Israel’s state terror.

In Israel itself we must also support people fighting for change from below. At the moment a minority of 10% of Israeli society opposes Israel’s aggression. But it’s a courageous 10% to stand against the increasingly right-wing, racist, war-mongering government, against the sections of society who sit and cheer like spectators as they watch airstrikes land in Gaza, and against Israel-nationalist thugs in the streets. We don’t want that progressive 10% to remain a minority. We want to see them grow and win battles against the Israeli government and state.

We need to support movements from below throughout the world and throughout the region. A mass movement led by Palestinians and supported by mass movements from below will surely bring an end to Israel’s state terror and oppression.

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