Unison condemns ‘brutal massacre in Gaza’

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Palestinians close to the Gaza-Israel border fence. Over 100 have been killed since Land Day March 30
Palestinians close to the Gaza-Israel border fence. Over 100 have been killed since Land Day March 30

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has joined others in condemning the ‘brutal massacre in Gaza’.

Writing on the union’s website, Prentis said on Wednesday: ‘On Saturday our union marched through the streets of London to call for change. We did not face physical attack nor did we fear it.

‘We certainly didn’t have to fear the use of live ammunition, snipers or soldiers firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Yet only two days later, such slaughter was wreaked upon another peaceful protest in Gaza. ‘Unison condemns the brutal massacre of 58 (now 63 – News Line) Palestinian protestors and injury to over 2,700 more, near Gaza’s border with Israel.

‘Since the end of March approximately 100 protestors have been killed by the Israeli army and more than 12,000 injured.

‘At times of such horror and slaughter, the purpose of peaceful demonstration can often be lost. Yet it is vital we combine anger at these senseless killings with our support for the cause that brought the protesters out in the first place.

‘For the last 11 years Gaza has been devastated by a tight land, sea and air blockade, which has turned this narrow strip of land into a virtual prison for two million women, children and men.

‘The blockade has denied the population access to adequate healthcare, shelter, water and electricity, and resulted in one of the highest levels of unemployment in the world.

‘The images of brave ambulance workers, risking their lives to rescue protesters injured by Israeli gunfire have highlighted the impact of the blockade on a health service still recovering from the impact of Israel’s last major attack in 2014.

‘Hospitals are at breaking point as they struggle to cope with the vast number of seriously injured protesters. Essential drugs and dressings remain in short supply and hospitals and water treatment facilities report only having enough fuel for the next few days.

‘The response of the UK government has been appalling.

‘Its attempt to apportion equal blame to both the Palestinian protesters and the Israeli soldiers who gunned them down, fails to recognise the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military, the terrible conditions endured by the population of Gaza, or the illegality of the blockade.

‘Unison urges ministers to demand an end to the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine, call for an independent UN-led investigation into the killings, suspend the arms trade with Israel, and support essential public services, including healthcare, water and electricity for the people of Gaza.

‘Many Unison branches throughout the country will want to offer their solidarity to the people of Gaza. We encourage branches to make a donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians, which is providing essential medical supplies and care to the victims of the violence.

‘As public sector workers, as internationalists and as people the scenes of ambulance workers treating those gunned down will stay with us.

‘We condemn the government of Israel for its actions that have brought fresh pain to the Palestinian people and we pledge to redouble our efforts to campaign for the rights of Palestinians, peace and a time when such aggression, violence and killing can be consigned to the history books.’

• MPs, MEPs, former ministers, trade union leaders and other political and cultural figures on Wednesday called on the British government to ensure that UK arms, finance and trade are not used to support unlawful actions by Israel.

In a letter published in the Guardian newspaper on Thursday, they wrote: ‘For several weeks you have reported the killings by Israeli forces in Gaza. Each week Israel has placed troops on the security border with Gaza with the intention to shoot to kill Palestinians demonstrating.

‘Instructions to shoot to kill were given in advance.’

The letter adds that ‘the silence of the prime minister and the foreign secretary on Israel’s premeditated killings is deafening.

‘Moreover, the UK government continues to approve arms exports to Israel despite its own guidelines prohibiting any sales of weapons that risk being used in violation of international law.

‘We call on the government to condemn publicly Israel’s actions; to support an immediate UN investigation into the killings; and to ensure UK arms, finance and trade are not used to support Israel’s unlawful actions.

‘The British government must fulfil its responsibilities to hold Israel accountable and to bring about the end of Israel’s unlawful siege and the military occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.’

Signatories included Hugh Lanning, Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Grahame Morris MP Chair, Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East; Tommy Sheppard MP, on behalf of SNP Friends of Palestine; Owen Tudor Head, EU and International Relations, TUC; Clare Short former secretary of state for international development; Jenny Tonge House of Lords; Francie Molloy MP (Sinn Féin); Unite general secretary Len McCluskey; Kevin Courtney NEU joint general secretary; Tim Roache general secretary, GMB; Mick Whelan general secretary, Aslef; Manuel Cortes general secretary, TSSA; Mick Cash general secretary, RMT; Glyn Secker Executive committee, Jews for Justice for Palestinians; Dr Anas Tikriti President, Muslim Association of Britain; Kate Hudson CND general secretary.

• The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is among a host of pro-Palestinian groups and activists that have written to the Mayor of London demanding that his office supports the right to free expression and to protection from racist violence of people taking part in this years Al-Quds rally on 10 June in the capital.

IHRC said on Thursday: ‘The letter follows an exchange of correspondence between Sadiq Khan and the IHRC since last summer around his kowtowing to Zionist and far-right extremists who are campaigning to have the annual event banned or failing that, its freedom of expression curtailed.

‘Pro-Israel advocates have been applying pressure on Khan to ban the event which highlights the continuing oppression of the Palestinians on the grounds that many of the participants carry Hezbollah flags as an expression of support for the pro-Palestinian group.

‘Last year, the demonisation campaign was responsible for inciting Darren Osborne to drive a van into worshippers leaving late night Ramadan prayers in the Finsbury Park area of north London on 19 June 2017. Osborne’s intended target had been the Al-Quds day protest that took place the day before, but he was unable to reach it.

‘Today’s open letter reminds the Mayor Khan that the march has been run as a peaceful event in the capital for over 30 years attracting a diverse range of people.

‘The police have praised the peaceful nature of this event and have had to increase their presence only in response to violent threats against it.

‘This year similar demonisation and incitement are taking place.

‘Already the same individuals have been involved in the criminal damage (which is being investigated as a hate crime) of a poster advertising the event and have made veiled threats of taking further action during the event itself.

‘In the run-up to Al-Quds Day last year and again this year, the Mayor has actively supported demands to ban the march.

‘The letter asks Mr Khan to show his “support for the lawful, peaceful and inclusive activism of Al-Quds Day by publicly, committing to its security and safety, eschewing all hate campaigns targeting it, pursuing to the full extent of the law, those who seek to incite violence against it, supporting the right to protest, free expression and the right to be protected from racist hatred and violence”.’