Tony Greenstein | 27 March 2024 | Post Views:

Protest Outside Unite HQ

Wednesday March 27 2024 6.30 p.m.

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For once I was lost for words. Never was the saying that Hypocrisy is the Tribute that Vice Pays to Virtue truer. It takes a special kind of gall to have done absolutely nothing in support of the Palestinians as they are bombed and ethnically cleansed in Gaza, to have held hands with the far-right Campaign Against Antisemitism as she banned Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie from Unite premises and then to write to the General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions boasting of Unite’s record.

On March 7, as part of its ‘war against Hamas’ Israel bombed the headquarters of the PGFTU in Gaza City. The Federation’s five-story building had attached to it several other facilities providing services to the Palestinians, including a kindergarten that served 380 children, as well as a large automatic bakery.

The PGFTU Offices in Gaza After Israel Bombed Them

In a statement, signed by Basheer Al-Sisi, a member of their General Secretariat, he spoke of how the Federation has “lost thousands of members, union offices, facilities, and other institutions” as a result of the “wholesale slaughter and forced dislocation—ethnic cleansing” committed against the Palestinian people in the last six months.

Palestinian workers from Gaza who were in Israel at the time of October 7 were rounded up, imprisoned and tortured. A number of them died yet Graham kept her silence throughout.

The PGFTU is controlled by Fatah, not Hamas, but that did not stop Israel bombing its offices. The ‘war against Hamas’ is a fiction meant only for stupid westerners and the BBC/Sky.

It is of course welcome that Graham has, at last, written expressing her solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. But it is long overdue. It is also welcome that she has, for the first time, condemned Israel’s ‘war crimes’ but we will never forget that this only came nearly 6 months after Israel’s attack and with deaths and injuries over 100,000.

Graham even boasted that Unite has donated £50,000 to Medicins Sans Frontiere, which isn’t even a Palestinian organisation when Unite could have donated a much larger sum to Medical Aid for Palestinians, which is permanently on the ground in Gaza, as a host of Unite branches have done.

Demonstration Outside Unite Exec Meeting by Unite Members, March 11

£50,000 is chicken feed. It is reported that Graham and Unite’s legal bill for defending itself in a labour court in Dublin, against its former Regional Organiser Brendan Ogle is over £1m (1.35m Euros) and that is before Graham starts defending herself against a libel action by Ogle which no doubt Unite will pay for.

There have been regular demonstrations in London against genocide in Gaza ever since October 7. Not only has Sharon Graham refused to attend or speak but she has forbidden Unite’s national banner being taken on the march.

Will Sharon Graham be attending the Demonstration next Saturday 30 March. I won’t be holding my breath. Graham even tried to prevent Peter Kavanagh, Regional Organiser for the London & Eastern Region speaking at the demonstration on January 13th and threatened him with loss of a pension bonus if he did.

This is in addition to suspending Simon Dubbins, a Unite official who organised a meeting on Palestine at the Labour Party Conference in defiance of her wishes.

Graham also didn’t mention that Unite members had staged a demonstration/lobby outside Unite headquarters on March 11th at the beginning of the Executive Meeting in protest at Unite’s complete inactivity on Palestine.

Suffice to say that Graham also failed to mention that she and her supporters had opposed any discussion of Palestine at the meeting and in response to those who did wish to discuss it told them that ‘Palestine is not a service that Unite offers to its members.’

Perhaps the height of Graham’s hypocrisy was her boast that ‘I am sure you are aware that Unite has a longstanding policy in support for the Palestinian people.’ How would the PGFTU be aware when she has refused to put the policy on Unite’s website. Is Shaher Saed, the General Secretary of the PGFTU expected to be telepathic?

Tonight we will be holding a meeting of Unite activists who do want Unite to start giving real solidarity to the Palestinians – this includes

1.           Unite being present on all future national demonstrations

2.           Instructing dockers and Unite workers to boycott all arm shipments to Israel and all trade with Israel as and until its genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza stops.

3.           To fund members wanting to attend the demonstrations and to publicising the demonstrations on the website and internally.

4.           Unite policy on Palestine to be displayed on Unite’s website

5.           That Unite donate £250,000 to Medical Aid for the Palestinians

6.           That an Emergency Executive Committee Meeting be called in order to discuss what Unite can now do on Palestine.

7.           That Unite let Keir Starmer and the Labour Party know that until they reverse their position of support for Israel’s genocide they won’t get another farthing from Unite.

Let us hope that Sharon Graham’s letter to the PGFTU is a sign that she has at last recognised that her previous stance of support for Israel’s genocide is unacceptable and that the Union must revert to its traditional position of support for the oppressed not the oppressor. I fear though that Graham’s letter is about as far as she intends to go and that these are mere empty words.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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