England’s Largest Trade Union Says Stop Arms Sales
Text of April 20 statement by the NEC of UNISON
UNISON expresses concern at the dramatic escalation of
violence and the loss of life in Israel and Palestine. We believe that the
current dangerous situation is a direct consequence of the abandonment of the
peace process and the invasion and reoccupation of Palestinian territories by
the Israeli army directed by Ariel Sharon.
We condemn the Israeli Government for its continuing
policy of state terrorism in violation of UN resolutions and international law.
UNISON believes that Israel’s continuing offensive against Palestinian targets will not stop the spate of suicide bombings against Israeli forces and civilians. We condemn unreservedly the killing of innocent civilians by suicide bombers and believe that there can be no justification whatsoever for such acts, but we believe that they are fueled by the deep frustration and despair of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation, and by the indiscriminate use of brute military force against innocent civilians.
UNISON reaffirms its solidarity and support for the
Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), expressing sorrow that the
recent bombings of Nablus caused great damage to the headquarters of the PGFTU.
We believe that the current military offensive and the
humiliation of Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat and his people by a supposed
democracy is unacceptable, and we support fully the calls made by the United
Nations, the EU, the U.S. President George W. Bush, and Russia for Israel to
withdraw immediately from Palestinian territories.
We believe that it is ordinary people who are paying
the true price of conflict in the Middle East and innocent civilians on both
sides who are suffering. On the Israeli side, main cities remain empty,
especially at nights, and Israelis are afraid to go out unless it is absolutely
necessary. On the Palestinian side, in addition to the severe unemployment, and
the daily humiliation of the occupation further exacerbated by the recent
reoccupation of Palestinian towns and villages, there is now a mounting
humanitarian and human rights crisis in the West Bank.
UNISON expresses concern at the worsening humanitarian
situation in the Palestinian territories, where people lack water, medicines,
and food. We support the recent UN call for Israel to respect humanitarian law
and allow full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations and services,
and international observers.
We call for an immediate halt to British arms sales to Israel, and we will approach other trade unions representing those involved in the production and transport of arms and equipment to the IDF [“Israeli Defense Forces”], asking them to refuse to produce and transport these items to Israel.
In particular we will urge the British government to
use its influence within the EU and on the U.S. administration to press for an
immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories and to insist that
Ariel Sharon participate in meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.
Furthermore, we demand the establishment of an International Commission of
Inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses, including killings of
civilians, by the Israeli army in Palestinian refugee camps. We believe that
disproportionate and excessive force has been used by Israel and that civilians
were not properly protected.
UNISON calls for an end to all violence and we renew
our call for reconciliation and for a negotiated political solution, which will
allow Israel to live in peace within secure pre-1967 borders and for the
creation of a viable independent Palestinian state, in accordance with UN
resolutions 1397 and 1402, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The international
community must now demand that Israel comply with UN resolutions 242 and 338,
which call for a full and permanent withdrawal from the Occupied Territories,
and must also insist that the refugee question be settled in negotiations based
on UN resolution 194, which recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to
In the event that the government of Ariel Sharon
continues its military aggression and refuses to comply with UN resolutions, we
call upon the UK Government and the EU to instigate economic and trade sanctions
against the state of Israel. We believe that the UK must work for this aim in
all its international discussions about Palestine particularly with the USA, and
in the UN.
UNISON calls for a boycott of Israeli goods and
services until such time as the Israeli Government agrees to comply with UN
resolutions and return to the negotiating table. We will continue to communicate
with the PGFTU and liaise with the Trade Union Friends of Palestine and the
Labour Middle East Council in setting out the future direction of this campaign.
We further call upon the TUC, STUC, and the whole of
the British trade union movement to lend support to the UNWRA emergency appeal
for the West Bank and Gaza. UNISON will contribute to this appeal with an
We also call upon the international community to bring
pressure to bear to bring an end to the continuing cycle of violence in the
region and to reinvigorate the search for a peaceful solution in the Middle
East. We reaffirm our position of opposition to escalating the military action
against Iraq, as we believe that this will only serve to exacerbate tensions in
the Middle East and create further instability and chaos.