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The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions appealed to workers all over the world to stop Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing, in an open letter published Oct. 16.

Signed by 18 trade unions and professional associations, the statement calls for unions around the world to escalate strike action against imperialism.

This means work stoppages and other actions to “take action against complicit companies involved in Israel’s brutal and illegal siege.”  It also calls on workers across the world to “refuse to build weapons destined for Israel” and “refuse to transport weapons to Israel.”

Such an appeal is of the utmost importance and urgency. To stop Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign, we need a mass international movement of working-class solidarity, where workers have real power—in the workplace.

The history of the working class is full of examples of class solidarity with the oppressed against imperialism. In the past century, workers mobilized to thwart Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, to stop arms shipments to Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile and, in 2021, workers in South Africa refused to ship war materials to Israel in solidarity with their fellow workers abroad.

We need to revive these traditions of internationalist workers’ solidarity now more than ever.  It is a literal question of life or death. The international working class is the only force that has the power to truly free Palestine. 

The Canadian ruling class, like its American and British allies, is covered in Palestinian blood

More than a dozen Canadian companies are involved in the arming of Israel, supported by arms export permits from the Trudeau government.  The Canadian government has also enabled Israel’s attack on Gaza with complete diplomatic support and a secret deployment of Canadian commandos. 

Canada’s imperialist ruling class has made its support for that of Israel very clear. Both must be fought.

Canadian unions need to pick up the call of Palestinian workers 

Already, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Unifor, PSAC, and others have issued statements opposing Israel’s siege. In some cities, they’ve mobilized protests and “days of action” in support of Gaza.

The Hamilton and District Labour Council demanded Canada stop arming the Israeli government. 

At CUPE’s October national convention in Quebec City, an emergency resolution in support of Palestine was also passed by a two-thirds majority. It demanded, among other things, an “end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the restoration of aid and the basic necessities of life”. It also resolved to “conduct member education about the history of Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine, Canada’s complicity, and what trade unions can do to support a just peace.”

PSAC too has called for an immediate “end to the blockade of Gaza.” 

These are important expressions of solidarity.  But more must be done. 

These messages and protests need to be coupled with real action to stop Israel’s siege. This will mean, first of all, mobilizing any and all workers at companies involved in the production, transportation, and shipping of war materials to Israel to refuse work. 

In Italy, CGIL metal workers in Modena organized a mass solidarity demonstration under the slogan “Free Palestine” on Nov. 4. The workers’ appeal read:

“For some weeks now, in the streets of cities all around the world – from Paris to Amman, from London to Rabat and New York, and far beyond – millions of young people and workers have rightly been mobilising against the Israeli army’s bombing of Gaza and in solidarity with the Palestinian people It is necessary to also organise a mobilisation in Modena for an end to the bombings, against the invasion of Gaza and also against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Labour must lead

Many Canadian workers oppose Israel’s siege and want to help free Palestine. But they will hesitate to take action alone. As isolated individuals, we can be disciplined for standing against our ruling class. But united, we are unbeatable. After all, the whole world can see how Israel consistently disregards international law to oppress Palestine—backed by the Canadian state. So why should we respect their laws?  

We all remember how just about a year ago, the mobilization of unions in support of CUPE education workers forced Doug Ford to retreat from attacking the striking workers. Every worker ought to use that as a reference point in our common fight against oppression and exploitation, at home and abroad.

Across Canada, workers are showing their solidarity in the streets. Most workers in Canada do not support Israel’s siege and want to stop it. 

We’re not outnumbered. We’re out organized.

Let’s answer the call of the Palestinian unions. 

Let’s halt the Israeli imperialist war machine. Let’s fight imperialism at home. Free Palestine!