The PCS NEC unreservedly condemns the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Flotilla and the murder of at least nine of its civilian participants.
The union's National Executive Committee (NEC) notes that the Flotilla was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, that over 600 volunteers were on board the vessels, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner and parliamentarians from several countries, and that the flotilla was still in international waters when it was attacked.
The NEC further notes that the volunteers were then held prisoner by the Israeli authorities and were pressured to sign statements saying they had entered Israel illegally even though they had been brought there by force and against their will.
The NEC reiterates existing PCS policy in calling for an immediate unconditional end to the siege of Gaza by Israel, and for humanitarian aid, including construction materials, to be allowed in.
The NEC further condemns the muted response from the British Government compared to those of other countries.
The NEC resolves to continue to support the people of Gaza and Palestine as a whole, and further commits to:
1. Make a formal protest to the Israeli embassy in London
2. Express our concerns about the UK Government’s response to the Foreign Secretary
3. Urge the UK Government to support calls for an impartial UN inquiry
4. Continue to support the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
5. Support future demonstrations in the UK, both nationally and regionally, to keep the plight of the Palestinian people high in the political and public eye
6. Send a message of support to the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
Please add your name to the global petition to call for an immediate international investigation into the flotilla assault, full accountability for those responsible, and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. In addition to signing, please circulate it to colleagues and friends. For more information please see the TUC website.
PCS, along with other trade unions and the TUC, humanitarian organisations, community groups and other civil society organisations, have signed the following open letter to the Prime Minister.
"Dear Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, are appalled at the unlawful killing of humanitarian workers on board Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandoes in international waters defying international law. The Gaza Freedom flotilla was an international humanitarian attempt to bring aid to the blockaded population of Gaza.
We agree with the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen who directly blamed the Gaza Blockade for the deaths. He is quoted in the London Evening Standard "I believe that is in violation of international law. People are entitled to have humanitarian assistance". The UN also considers the blockade illegal. We commend the Foreign Secretary’s statement calling for an end to the blockade of the Gaza strip. We now ask our government to pursue this course of action as a matter of urgency.
The blockade has heaped misery on Gaza's 1.5 million people many of whom are refugees in their own country forcibly evacuated from Israel proper. The UN humanitarian co-ordinator said last week that the formal economy in Gaza has "collapsed" and 60% of households were short of food. According to UN statistics, around 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water. A UN report last year said that on average it took 85 days to get shelter kits into Gaza, 68 days to deliver health and paediatric hygiene kits, and 39 days for household items such as bedding and kitchen utensils. It said that school textbooks and stationery had been delayed. A UN fact finding mission described the blockade as "collective punishment".
We, urge you in the name of humanity to provide leadership to end this siege, this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue for a day longer.
The time has come for the newly elected British government to use all its resources to bring an end to the Gaza Blockade. We sincerely hope and pray that the British government will initiate immediate and urgent international diplomatic initiatives to bring a closure to the inhuman Gaza blockade."
PCS’ Annual Delegate Conference in May 2009 voted by a large majority to support calls from Palestinian trade union and civil organisations for a consumer boycott of Israeli goods. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign , to which PCS is affiliated, has now called for a ban on settlement goods.
With Jewish settlements in the West Bank being illegal under international law, the European Court of Justice has now ruled that Israeli goods made in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank cannot be considered Israeli, because they are not part of Israel. This means goods made by Israelis in the West Bank cannot benefit from a trade deal giving Israel preferential access to EU markets. This makes them less competitive, as EU import duties on Israeli goods from the settlements may now be imposed.
In addition to vegetables and fruit grown in these illegal settlements, Israeli companies based around settlements manufacture a host of products including confectionery, wine, cosmetics and computer equipment. Some of the companies employ Palestinian workers, who are restricted from working in Israel, and who earn less than their counterparts in Israel.
Some supermarkets in Britain stock goods with Israeli labels on farm products from the West Bank. In December 2009 the UK government said that food labels would distinguish between goods from Palestinians in the occupied territories and produce from Israeli settlements.
Last year PCS supported the TUC Aid Appeal for Palestine, Zimbabwe and Swaziland and ran an appeal for funds amongst the membership in its 'International Insights' magazine.
Many Palestinian workers such as Nedaa AL Zaher have now benefitted directly from this support. To see her personal testimony visit the TUC website.
General secretary Mark Serwotka took part in a trade union delegation to Palestine and Israel between 13 and 20 June 2009.
Hosted by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, the purpose of the visit was to build solidarity with fellow trade unionists and workers in the Occupied Territories and specifically to follow up the policy agreed at our annual delegate conference, held in May, on supporting calls for a consumer boycott of Israeli goods from Palestinian trade union and civil organisations.
The delegation held discussions with a variety of Palestinian trade unionists and meet a broad cross section of people including representatives of the Parent's Circle - a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost children as a result of actions by the army or incidents such as suicide bombs, ex-Israeli soldiers in the Breaking the Silence group, and human rights activists.
Mark published daily blog posts on this website during the visit: