USA: Labour unions call for “end the death and devastation” in Middle East

On February 16th, “Seven national unions and over two hundred local unions today formed the National Labor Network for Ceasefire (NLNC) to ‘end the death and devastation’ in the Middle East, and to expand support for the ceasefire among unions nationally.” In doing so, these unions outflanked many Democratic politicians by explicitly coming out against the ongoing invasion of Gaza by Israel since the October 7th-8th attacks by Hamas.

Genocidal War Outrages US Workers and Youth

The invasion of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces since the October 7-8th attacks by Hamas has killed 31,000+ Palestinians (72% reported to be women and children), displaced 1.7 million, and left 7,000+ reported missing or trapped under rubble. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification reports that Gaza will experience a famine by May 2024 if a ceasefire is not reached and Israel continues blocking aid shipments, with 79% of residents already experiencing emergency or catastrophic hunger.

IDF airstrikes have killed at least 196 aid workers since the assault on Gaza began. On April 2nd, precision air strikes killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen. The attacks forced the organization to suspend famine relief efforts in Gaza out of fear for its members’ safety. While the Israeli state denies the attack was intentional, the facts that the aid convoy was clearly marked and had coordinated its convoy with the IDF indicate an effort to intimidate aid workers into leaving Gaza.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government vows to invade Rafah, the last “safe zone” for civilians in Gaza, threatening even more bloodshed. Families of the 134 hostages held under horrendous conditions by Hamas (at least 31 are confirmed deadfear for their loved ones’ lives and protest the Netanyahu regime for delaying a release agreement.

US workers are outraged as our tax dollars fund the Israeli state’s genocidal war in Gaza and apartheid occupation in the West Bank. The Biden Administration bypassed Congress to approve hundreds of weapon shipments to Israel since October 7th. More recently, Congress approved $3.3 billion for Israel to purchase American weapons and military equipment, along with a one-year ban on US contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

Democratic Party is a Dead End for the Anti-War Movement

Protest actions by Muslim Americans, youth, and anti-war activists across the US are pressuring the Democratic Party and Biden Administration to temper their support for Israel while criticizing Netanyahu’s far-right governing coalition. A handful of politicians are even calling for an end to US military aid to Israel until the IDF allows sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza.

As discussed in our recent web article, “Hundreds of Thousands Vote Against Gaza War in Democratic Primaries: A First Step Toward Breaking with Pro-War, Capitalist Parties?,” efforts by activists to turn the Democratic Party into a real force to oppose US Imperialism are fighting a losing battle. Even if the anti-war movement secures temporary victories, the Democratic and Republican Parties, funded and controlled by capitalist donors and their lobbies, always return to supporting US imperialism.

How Workers Can End the War

The working class has a way to apply real pressure to win a ceasefire. We make society run through our labor, and the labor of millions of US workers is needed to fund, manufacture, and ship military aid to Israel.

Blocking the production and shipment of military aid to Israel through strikes and workplace actions could pressure the Biden administration and, by extension, Netanyahu’s regime to end the war. Pressure from the labor movement played a decisive role in countries like Britain and Ireland severing ties with South Africa’s Apartheid regime in the 1980s, boosting the efforts of workers in South Africa.

The National Labor Network for a Ceasefire’s statement against the war makes several key demands, including calling for a permanent ceasefire, the release of all hostages held by Hamas, and the immediate supply of aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The NLNC goes further than the overwhelming majority of US politicians as well as the AFL-CIO’s statement in favor of a negotiated ceasefire.

The NLNC’s announcement is a good first step, but unions and workers must do more to win a ceasefire. The NLNC is asking workers to sign a petition supporting their statement. Despite the signatory unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, the organization has only collected just over 6,000 individual signatures. Mobilizing rank-and-file members to sign the petition and organizing mass demonstrations of union members and allies would begin to increase pressure for a ceasefire.

By mobilizing their membership, organized labor could lead the call for building democratically-run organizations to sustain and grow the anti-war movement. Such organizations could link up with independent, anti-war, and pro-worker candidates and begin to build a new party for the working class. Mobilizations could also build toward strike action–like that which helped end Apartheid–to guarantee an end to military aid for Israel and other repressive regimes, regardless of which corporate politicians win the elections.

To go a step further, a strong, anti-war labor movement in the US could lend support to independent workers organizations in Palestine and Israel and help to build an alternative to the genocidal Netanyahu regime and right-wing, anti-worker Hamas. Such organizations would have real power to end the war and work toward creating a socialist federation of the Middle East with rights and protections for all workers regardless of nationality.


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May 2024