0141 337 8100 Facebook TwitterInstagram
Home/STUC Congress/Congress 2024/Live Decisions of Congress 2024/General Council Statement - Palestine

Live Decisions of Congress 2024

General Council Statement - Palestine

General Council Statement - Palestine

The General Council condemns the Israeli Government's military operations in Gaza which continue to result in the tragic loss of Palestinian lives at a horrifying average rate of 250 people per day. This figure significantly surpasses the daily death toll of any other major conflict in the 21st century.  

The brutality and violence of the Hamas attacks and the taking of hostages on October 7th must also be condemned but cannot justify the indiscriminate killing of over 33,000 people so far, including the deliberate targeting of journalists, rescue and aid workers. 

The consequences of the Israeli Government’s genocidal actions extend beyond immediate casualties. We are witnessing a mass disabling event. Over one million Gazans have sought refuge along the Egyptian border, leading to severe overcrowding and dire living conditions. The Israeli Government’s stringent restrictions on aid delivery have resulted in limited access to essential provisions, including food, water, fuel, hot water and medicines, creating a substantial threat to life due to extreme suffering, starvation, displacement and disease. 

We support the United Nations International Court of Justice efforts to investigate and address mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations and applaud the South African Government for seeking to end the slaughter in Palestine through its Application of ‘The Convention on The Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’.  

We also note that the UN Security Council has now voted, with a US abstention but UK support, for an immediate ceasefire. However, the Israeli government has roundly ignored the vote and the US and UK have taken no action.  Indeed, both continue to provide military support to Israel making each country potential accomplices to Genocide.  

We condemn both the UK Government and all UK political parties which have failed to call for a ceasefire and the immediate halting of weapons sales to Israel. 

The General Council is deeply concerned by the risk of escalation. We condemn the Israeli Government attacks on surrounding countries as well as the retaliatory attack by Iran over the weekend.

We reaffirm our support for strategic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as led by recognised international BDS movement, including its endorsement of the Time to Divest campaign, which has coalesced civil society groups - including trade unions - to scrutinise public pension funds investments in Israeli, British, and multinational companies complicit in the atrocities in Gaza and Occupied Palestine and achieved subsequent divestment. 

In line with its previously agreed position on BDS, the General Council supports targeted boycott, sanctions and divestment designed to have maximum impact and garner the greatest international support. In the case of pension funds, Congress recognises that many of these are deferred wages pension schemes on which workers have representatives, thus any action or otherwise should be worker-led as represented by their unions.  

Congress opposes the sale of any arms to Israel and supports the growing campaign, including more than 600 lawyers, academics, retired senior judges, and former UK Supreme Court justices, demanding an end to arms sales from the UK. We acknowledge the UK Government as the key decision maker and the need for effective and sustained political lobbying of all parties to pressurise the UK government. We recognise our primary purpose as trade unions is to represent our members in the workplace. This includes supporting their collective right to take such action as they democratically decide. Specific actions in workplaces and sectors should be driven by workers from below, rather than by the STUC. We further recognise the right of civil society to seek to influence the arms industry, but not at the expense of undue pressure on or harassment of workers. 

The view of the General Council is that it is strategically more effective to target political parties – including front bench Labour politicians – than the arms industry. While the arms industry have limited regard for reputation or public pressure, politicians do - especially in a general election year. As we have seen in the last 6 months, UK politicians have shifted position significantly due to public pressure. 

The General Secretary gave evidence in Westminster Parliament Committee in opposition to the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill which seeks to outlaw boycott and sanctions.  It will continue to engage with MSPs to ensure legislative consent is withheld for the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill and the provisions of any resulting legislation are not enacted in Scotland. 

Congress sends our solidarity to those on both sides who have courageously sought to build dialogue and joint activity in the most appalling and challenging circumstances. This includes those in Israel who have opposed the occupation, defended Palestinian rights and argued for a peaceful and democratic solution. We send our solidarity to health care workers, firefighters and other emergency service workers, delivering humanitarian services in the most appalling conditions. We further condemn the violence which has resulted in the deaths of at least 109 journalists and media workers.

Congress agrees that there must be an end to the systematic violence, discrimination and denial of rights that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people, both now and historically; and that there will not be peace in the Middle East until there is a political settlement that includes a free and independent Palestine with an end to the occupation. 

We recognise that there are a large number of important players and allies in Scotland and across the UK with whom trade unions might wish to ally. These include pro-Palestine campaign groups, peace groups, charities and aid bodies. 

Affiliates’ view on who are their key civil society and campaigning partners on this issue differ.  The General Council does not believe it is appropriate to dictate to affiliates with whom they should affiliate. The General Council will publish links on the STUC website to these groups and will continue to work with such groups as appropriate and dependent on the activity in question. 

Whilst recognising the right of campaigners to undertake a wide range of peaceful activities, the trade union movement is most effective if it focuses its activities strategically. This means supporting aid organisations, supporting and mobilising for national Scottish demonstrations and working with the BDS movement on the basis outlined earlier.  The STUC will not support or publicise mobilisations aimed workplaces unless agreed by their trade unions.   

The General Council recognises that over and beyond the continued activity outlined above, the crisis in Gaza and the imperative for a long-term political solution based upon international law, requires an ongoing campaigning response and strategy. 

To this effect Congress agrees that a special conference should be arranged for late summer/early autumn to further develop the Scottish Trade Union position; to agree a refreshed BDS strategy and to promote to Scottish civil society and political parties, the need for a unified campaigning approach to pressure governments to choose the right path. 

The General Council will use such an event, and its other campaigning activities to persuade all political actors, including a prospective Labour Government, to adopt an unequivocal foreign policy position which recognises the need to make the Israeli government accountable for their actions in Gaza and bring Israel in line with international humanitarian law and UN resolutions. 

This should include: 

  • The Westminster Government to play an active role to find a resolution for peace across Palestine, including in the West Bank; 
  • An end to Scottish public funding of companies jointly identified by trade unions and the BDS movement as strategic BDS targets;  
  • The ending of trade between Scotland and Israel which sustains illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank;  
  • Actively promoting consumer boycott with a particular emphasis on products labelled as Israeli produce but emanating from the Occupied Territories. 
  • The suspending of any diplomatic relations between Scotland and Israel; and the UK and Israel; 
  • An immediate international investigation into the Israeli Government’s war crimes against the people of Palestine; 
  • Continued pressure for a permanent ceasefire, the return of hostages and the cessation of acts of escalation in the region; 
  • Opposing the escalation of conflict in the Middle East, including the UK-US bombing in Yemen and wider regional assaults;
  • The UK Government should publish any legal advice it has received that Israel is breaking international law;
  • The UK Government to recognise Palestine as an independent state in accordance with STUC Policy; and 
  • Continuing to build our solidarity and relationship with Palestinian trade unionists.