United, workers hold the power to stop genocide in Gaza

United, workers hold the power to stop genocide in Gaza
7 min read

Farrah Koutteineh

26 October, 2023
Palestinian trade unions have called on global workers to take action to disrupt Israel's arms supply. From South Africa to Chile to Gaza, history has shown the international labour movement's power to stand up to injustice, writes Farrah Koutteineh.
While Western powers continue to stand by Israel as it bombards Gaza, Palestinian trade unions have called on workers to take a stand. [Getty]

Whilst bombs drop over Gaza from the hands of a few, the feet of the many have taken to streets across the world to not only call for an immediate ceasefire but demanding Palestine’s freedom and liberation, once and for all.

For the last twenty days Israel has unleashed all-out genocide on the 2.4 million Palestinians imprisoned in blockaded Gaza. A place once referred to as an ‘open air prison’ has now turned into a concentration camp overnight.

Israel has intensified its already inhumane blockade by blocking all food, water, fuel, medicine, electricity and internet into Gaza. In the first few days, Israel dropped over 6,000 bombs over Gaza, the equivalent of a quarter of a nuclear bomb. More than 6,500 Palestinians - including over 2,700 children, have been killed. 

The ruling classes from Washington to Westminster have unashamedly signed off on Gaza’s genocide, ignoring calls by their own people for a ceasefire.

Last week we bore witness to the sickening scenes of UK PM Rishi Sunak touching down in Tel Aviv, blushing over Israeli war criminal and PM Benjamin Netanyahu, whilst cheering “we want you to win” merely 48 hours after Israel bombed Gaza’s Al Ahli hospital killing over 500 Palestinians.

Biden’s trip to Tel Aviv wasn’t any less repugnant, another US president salivating at the aspect of further death and destruction in the Middle East whilst pledging to increase its already colossal annual military ‘aid’ package to Israel.

The bureaucrats in Brussels and Geneva have only acted as accomplices to this genocide, whilst mainstream media have been fanning its flames by dehumanising an entire defenceless population with headlines and front pages filled with disinformation and deceit.

It is clear the establishment have given the green light for this genocide, in utter contempt of the millions across the globe that have taken to the streets to stop it.

Bearing witness to the horrifying genocide unfolding in Gaza and indeed all over occupied Palestine, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, labour associations and professional syndicates have issued a unified statement containing an urgent call to take action.

coalition of more than thirty Palestinian trade unions - consisting of health professionals, journalists, trade workers, midwives, postal workers, and more - have called for global solidarity to “end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes - most urgently halting the arms trade” and urging that the “genocidal situation can only be prevented by a mass increase of global solidarity with the people of Palestine and that can restrain the Israeli war machine.”

The call addressed to “counterparts and people of conscience” has five core demands of workers around the world: refuse to build weapons destined for Israel; refuse to transport weapons to Israel; to pass motions in their trade unions to this effect; to take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege; and to pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel and, in the case of the US, to stop funding it.

The statement also cites previous successes in trade union power when it comes to bringing a halt to Israel’s recurring onslaughts of Gaza. In 2021, unionised Italian and South African dock workers refused to load arm shipments to Israel in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Those at the very top, who are fanning the flames of genocide in Gaza, have foolishly underestimated the sheer ferocity of what the international labour movement can achieve.

It seems they may have forgotten the power of Dunnes retail workers in Dublin in 1984, and how their boycott of South African goods and strikes helped bring down the apartheid regime.

A strike and boycott effort echoed around the world that was personally commended by Nelson Mandela, who years later stated how he was touched by how, "ordinary people far away from the crucible of apartheid cared for our freedom".

Perhaps they need reminding of the unionised Rolls Royce workers in Glasgow who refused to service Chilean Dictator Pinochet's fighter jets in 1973, saving countless political prisoners' lives and managing to ground half of the junta’s air force, despite being thousands of miles away.

This past week alone we have seen millions take to the streets in support of Gaza. The mass support is there, it must now be personified into action beyond chants and rallying cries.

We should all immediately heed the call of Palestinian Trade Unions; it is well within our collective capacity to cut all arms trade between our governments and the Israeli government.

Their call is tangible and it is achievable. Israel is blocking aid from entering Gaza, depriving millions of clean water, food, and electricity. What Palestinians need right now is our hands-on solidarity, not our charity.

In Britain there is already an ongoing campaign targeting Israeli arms companies by the group Palestine Action, demonstrating exactly what Palestinian trade unions are currently calling for but needed on a much larger scale.

In 2020, Palestine Action was formed by activists who use direct action to shut down Israeli arms factories that operate across Britain. They target Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private arms company, by consistently occupying its factories and offices, and so far have already managed to permanently close one factory. They have also cost Elbit over £280 million in contracts and much more in damages.

It is important to remember that while we are standing side by side with other oppressed peoples, our oppressors are working in tandem with one another.

Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems isn’t only making arms to use on Palestinians, it is also supplying them to oppressive regimes around the world, from murderous drone strikes in Gaza, imperialist border-security operations in the US, EU, and Britain, and weapons exports to regimes including Myanmar and Azerbaijan.

Israel has a history of providing arms used to carry out genocides, from supplying bullets, rifles and grenades to the Hutu militias used to kill 800,000 Tutsi’s during the Rwandan genocide to providing Guatamalan state forces with deadly ‘galil’ assault rifle used to carry out the genocide of over 200,000 indigenous Mayans.

As workers, we should not only see the Palestinian trade unions' call to action as an act of solidarity, but as a duty to ensure the horrors of the past never happen again, anywhere in the world.

Using direct action works, mobilising within our trade unions works, we have the capability to bring down the Israeli war machine and we must bring it down with immediate effect.

The history and immense power in workers solidarity to stop injustice happening thousands of miles away is indisputable, and we must utilise it. It is times like these that remind us that, even though we aren’t in the White House or Downing Street, we are powerful, united and unionised.

It’s about time that Israel feels the wrath of the international labour movement and to remind them of those who truly hold the power to stop this genocide; united workers around the globe.

Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@newarab.com

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.