UE General Executive Board Calls for End to Bloodshed in Gaza

16 January 2009

Meeting in Pittsburgh, January 15 and 16, UE‘s General Executive Board adopted a statement condemning the current war in the Gaza Strip.  The union’s national leadership body reiterated the position adopted by delegates to UE’s 70th Convention in 2007, which called for “replacing the lopsided pro-Israel policy of the U.S. with a good faith, even-handed effort to achieve lasting peace between Israel and Palestine based on full justice and mutual respect.”  The GEB called on the incoming Obama administration to move quickly to initiate such a new policy.

Statement on the Conflict in Gaza

We are appalled by the rising death toll and human suffering that have resulted over the past few weeks from the worsening conflict between Israel and Palestine, in particular Israel’s military assault on Gaza.  While we in no way condone the provocative and senseless firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas, the Israeli response shows a complete disrespect for human life and violates all standards of international law.  More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, and of those, more that 300 are children.  Close to 5,000 have been wounded already, as the fighting continues.

In a scathing statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which carefully avoids taking sides in conflicts, has accused the Israeli army of failing to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded and to recover the bodies of those killed in the fighting, many of whom are women and children.

Even before the current military offensive began in late December, the humanitarian situation in Gaza was dire.  Gazans live in poverty with one of the highest population densities in the world — 1.4 million people crowded into a territory just 25 miles long and approximately 5 miles wide.  Malnutrition is widespread, and conditions have been made worse over the past three years by Israel’s economic blockade causing severe shortages of food, medical supplies, heating and cooking oil and other essentials.  Many Gaza civilians have lost access to safe drinking water and to electricity, in the recent fighting.  The Vatican said in recent days that the conditions in Gaza “increasingly resemble a big concentration camp.”

Delegates to UE’s 70th Convention in September 2007 adopted a resolution on the need for change in U.S. foreign policy.  On the Israel-Palestine conflict, it called for “replacing the lopsided pro-Israel policy of the U.S. with a good faith, even-handed effort to achieve lasting peace between Israel and Palestine based on full justice and mutual respect.”  The resolution said that the current “one-sided” U.S. policy “perpetuates injustice, instability, and the threat of war,” and pointed out that, “U.S. aid to Israel far exceeds that of any other country, although Israel is by far the richest country receiving U.S. aid.”

We agree with the January 2 statement issued by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), a leading labor voice for peace with which UE is affiliated, which said in part:

“The U.S. government supplied Israel with the military means to carry out this attack and has generously underwritten the Israeli government and military with tens of billions of U.S. tax dollars.  Our government’s failure to condemn this latest action makes it complicit.  The economic crisis which daily deepens in the U.S. requires that we seriously reorient our foreign policy and stop spending hard earned taxpayer dollars on proxy wars and reinvest the needed resources right here at home. . .  We urge all parties to agree to an immediate cease fire and seek peaceful and lasting solutions.  Recent history demonstrates that bombings, rocket attacks, blockades and military invasions won’t provide the best road to peace and security for the peoples of the region.  Quite the contrary, such actions perpetuate the cycle of death, destruction, fear and heightened insecurity among the people of all countries, including us here in the U.S. . .”

Senzeni Zokwana, president of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM, with which UE is affiliated) and president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa, issued a statement for the ICEM that calls on all parties to address the serious humanitarian needs in Gaza.  “There must be the immediate opening of border crossings to ensure that the people of Gaza are supplied with food, water, fuel and medical treatment.  The Israeli blockade of Gaza must be immediately lifted and full, unimpeded and urgent access for medical teams allowed.”

UE reiterates its position in favor of peace, security, justice and mutual respect for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.  We add our voice to the many voices calling for an immediate end to the killing and the suffering.  We call on the new Obama administration to immediately inaugurate a new U.S. policy that addresses the needs and aspirations of the Palestinians as well as of Israelis, and that will bring about true peace on the basis of human rights principles.

UE General Executive Board

January 16, 2009

This statement by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America was first published on the UE Web site.