Skip to main content

labor Palestinian Trade Unions Call for an End to Arming Israel

As Israel escalates its military campaign, Palestinian trade unions call on their counterparts internationally to halt the arms trade with Israel.

A photo of a man viewing the rubble of a bomb
A man reacts as he watches rescuers and civilians remove the rubble of a home destroyed following an Israeli attack on the town of Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on October 15, 2023. ,Mohammed Faeq/AFP

On Monday October 16, 2023, Palestinian trade unions released an urgent call for international trade unions to take action to halt the arms trade to Israel. The call comes amid a ruthless bombing campaign of Gaza, following Hamas’ October 7 offensive into Israel, and as Israel prepares for a ground invasion into the territory.

In the week following October 7, the full force of the Israeli military-industrial apparatus was put on display. Over just six days, Israel dropped more than 6,000 bombs onto Gaza. Human Rights Watch verified videos documenting Israel’s use of the lethal chemical white phosphorous in Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced the ministry was purchasing 10,000 rifles, body armor and helmets to distribute to settler militias for use in the West Bank.

As Israeli politicians called for retaliation, using genocidal language that likened Gazans to “human animals,” leaders in Britain and the United States in the week following October 7, dispensed with even the fig leaf of “restraint” that usually accompanies Israeli bombing campaigns of Gaza. The United States, in addition to dispatching two aircraft carriers laden with F-18 fighter jets to the region has instructed US defense companies to expedite munitions to Israel, causing an immediate $30 billion surge in US defense stocks.

During the May 2021 Unity Intifada, a collective of Palestinian trade unions called for international solidarity from international unions, urging them to divest their pensions from companies implicated in the occupation and release statements of solidarity. The latest call—which is reprinted in full below—focuses on the weapons industry and infrastructure of the blockade and occupation.

Graphic designed during the Unity Intifada in May 2021, courtesy of Workers in Palestine.

Israel has demanded that 1.1 million Palestinians evacuate the northern half of Gaza, whilst subjecting them to constant bombardment. This ruthless move is part of Israel’s plan, backed by unwavering support and active participation from the US and majority of European states, to carry out unprecedented and heinous massacres against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza and to ethnically cleanse it altogether. Since Saturday Israel has indiscriminately and intensively bombarded Gaza, and cut off fuel, electricity, water, food, and medical supplies. Israel has killed more than 2,600 Palestinians—including 724 children—leveling whole neighbourhoods, wiping out entire families and injuring more than 10,000 people. Some international law experts have begun warning of Israel’s genocidal acts.

Elsewhere, Israel’s far-right government has distributed more than 10,000 rifles to extremist settlers in ‘48 Palestine and the occupied West Bank to facilitate their escalating attacks and pogroms against Palestinians. Israel’s actions, massacres, and rhetoric point to its intention to implement its long promised second Nakba, expelling as many Palestinians as possible and creating a ‘New Middle East’ in which Palestinians live in perpetual subjugation.

The response by Western states has been one of complete and total support for the State of Israel, without even a cursory nod towards international law. This has amplified Israel impunity, giving it carte blanche to carry out its genocidal war without limit. Beyond diplomatic support, Western states are supplying Israel with armament, sanctioning the operation of Israeli weapons companies within their borders.

As Israel escalates its military campaign, Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes—most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research. The time for action is now—Palestinian lives hang in the balance.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

This urgent, 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. We need you to take immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade. We take inspiration from previous mobilisations by trade unions in Italy, South Africa and the United States, and similar international mobilisations against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s, the fascist dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s and elsewhere where global solidarity limited the extent of colonial brutality.

We are calling on trade unions in relevant industries:

  1. To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel.
  2. To refuse to transport weapons to Israel.
  3. To pass motions in their trade union to this effect.
  4. To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution.
  5. Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the US, funding to it.

We make this call as we see attempts to ban and silence all forms of solidarity with the Palestinian people. We ask you to speak out and take action in the face of injustice as trade unions have done historically. We make this call in the belief that the struggle for Palestinian justice and liberation is not only a regionally and globally determined struggle. It is a lever for the liberation of all dispossessed and exploited people of the world.

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Gaza.
General Union of Public Service and Trade Workers
General Union of Municipal Workers
General Union of Kindergarten Workers
General Union of Petrochemicals Workers
General Union of Agricultural Workers
Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees Generation
Union of Media and Print Workers
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
General Union of Palestinian Teachers
General Union of Palestinian Women
General Union of Palestinian Engineers

Palestinian Accountants’ Association
Professional Associations Federation including:
Palestinian Dental Association—Jerusalem center
Palestinian Pharmacists Association—Jerusalem Center
Medical Association—Jerusalem Center
Engineers Association—Jerusalem Center
Agricultural Engineers Association—Jerusalem Center
Veterinarians Syndicate—Jerusalem Branch.
Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate
Palestinian Bar Association
Palestinian Nursing and Midwifery Association
Union of Kindergartens Workers
Palestinian Postal Services Workers Union
Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities Professors & Employees

The General Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Palestine
The Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions
Palestinian General Union of Writers
Palestinian Contractors Union
Federation of Health Professionals Syndicates
Palestinian Union of Psychologists and Social Workers