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“Arab, Jewish, Black and White, Workers of the World Unite!”

Carolyn Egan

May 4, 2024

Campuses across the US, and now in Canada, have experienced an eruption of student protests decrying Israel’s war on the Palestinian people. They are demanding an immediate ceasefire and divestment of investments supporting the state of Israel. This hearkens back to the anti-Viet Nam war protests of the 1960s, and later the boycott campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. They were both part of global movements which had significant impact on the politics of the times.

The occupations that are taking place today are being held outside in tent encampments, bringing attention to the horrific violence that we are seeing in Gaza. They are being met with police intervention and arrests as university officials demand that they leave campus even though they are enrolled at the universities and colleges in question. It is important to note that these occupations are made up of Palestinian and Jewish students along with their supporters. They are non-sectarian, denouncing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism. Students have often been in the forefront of campaigns of this nature, and have had a real role in radicalizing young people around them.

Trade unions in Canada have taken strong positions, also calling for an immediate ceasefire, and in some instances to stop the shipment of weapons to the Israeli state. Delegates at the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the largest in Canada, voted strongly in favour of a motion that in part states:

”Whereas military equipment and components made in Canada, supplied and facilitated by export permits issued by the Canadian government, have been used by the Israeli military to carry out these attacks on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, with $28.5 million worth of permits issued in the first two months of the war in Gaza remain in effect;

Whereas Israel’s occupation of Palestine is, in effect, another colonial occupation project…

Whereas working class opposition to Israel’s US backed war on the Palestinian people goes hand in hand with the labour movement’s motto that “an injury to one is an injury to all” as well as the call “Arab, Jewish, Black and White, Workers of the World Unite”;

Be it resolved that the Toronto and York Region Labour Council supports the call by the Palestinian trade unions for unions everywhere to take immediate action to stop the shipment of all that facilitates Israel’s US backed genocide against the people of Palestine; that we stand in solidarity with dock and transportation workers in Barcelona, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere who have refused to handle shipments for this war; and that we support and encourage similar workers actions here in Canada to stop the issuing of export permits and to prevent the shipment of any and all military components and equipment destined for Israel…We call for an immediate end to Israel’s bombing and ground assault in Gaza, for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank…”

Many local actions have been taking place such as the Ontario Federation of Labour’s demonstration at the office of Premier Doug Ford to protest the banning of wearing a Keffiyeh at the legislative building. The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the National Union of Public and General Workers and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers which represent the vast majority of public sector workers in the country are calling on the Canadian government to immediately suspend the trade of arms and military equipment with Israel. Many other labour councils and unions have done the same.

As important as these statements are, unions must also follow the example of the students and come out into the streets in much larger contingents than we have seen to date. The organized working class must put its weight behind these words and strengthen the movement against the genocidal war in Gaza now!


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