Gaza Update (2): We're not going away

We’re not fickle at Amnesty, honest. Neither are we inconsistent,temperamental or unreliable. But this blog may give you that impressionfrom time to time so I need to set the record right straight away.

Iam returning to the crisis in Gaza on which I have blogged a few timesbefore, but it may be some time before I revisit the subject and theissues again. That won’t be because I don’t care anymore or becauseAmnesty has moved on – quite the opposite, it’s a singular strength ofours that we work day-in-day out wherever freedom, dignity and justiceare denied, crisis or no crisis.

It is also a strength of oursthat our preoccupations are universal and global, so the human rightswork we are involved with is wide-ranging and deep rooted. We work for civil and political rights such as freedom of speech and fair trials and against the death penalty and torture . We work for economic, social and cultural rights, defending lesbians and gay men, fighting forced evictions and forced labour, standing up for oppressed minorities and for the right to organise a union. We’re challenging violence against women across the world and at home. Soon we will be launching a major global campaign on poverty. We are also campaigning for individuals at risk and prisoners of conscience, as well as working on country-wide concerns.

This diverse remit means that there are many interfaces – some strongerthan others – between Amnesty and unions, and if I am going to be ableto do justice to the richness of our solidarity and the depth of ourshared passions and values in a year-long blog – and be fair too aboutour differences – it means I will have to cover a lot of ground, and I will be inviting other trade unionists to add their own perspective to the rich mix.

Withthis important caveat, I will try wherever I touch on new themes toprovide some links where the single-minded can follow through and, ofcourse, all issues are open to be revisited as circumstances demand.This is what I now want to do for Gaza.

As thankfully, acessation of sorts of hostilities has taken place, we are working hardto prevent a further outbreak of violence and to demand futureuniversal respect of humanitarian and human rights norms. Amnesty iscalling for athorough, independent and impartial investigation of abuses ofinternational human rights and humanitarian law, including Israeliattacks which have been directed at civilians or civilian buildings inthe Gaza Strip, or which are disproportionate, and Palestinian armedgroups' rocket attacks directed at Israeli population centres. You can find out more and take action here. We’re also focusing on preventing more arms reaching the belligerents by calling for an arms embargo. Our ongoing Gaza Crisis page will keep you up to date with our views and calls for solidarity as the situation unfolds. You can also read Amnesty’s extraordinary blogfrom one of the first foreign teams to get into this brutalisedterritory. Meanwhile I can also report the delivery of a secondhumanitarian flight organised by the transport unions. There’s more on the LabourStart site. Much of the important activism, of course, takes place in the workplace and the union Branch. Here's Lambeth Unison, for example.

At some point, but only when this crisis abates, we will step-down our crisis response teams and networksfrom this particular emergency to prepare for wherever else in theworld, whether Burma or Zimbabwe or some still unforeseen circumstancerequires their rapid-response capabilities. When we get to that pointwe will retain our wider and unstinting commitment to human rights inPalestine, the Occupied Territories and Israel, and the committedreader can track the latest news and reports from our International Secretariat or get involved in our long-term work;the cessation of hostilities does not mean, unfortunately, the outbreakof peace. The illegal occupation of the West Bank has lasted fortyyears – we’re not about to stop our work or abandon our obligations tosolidarity.

Amnesty and trade unions have worked well andconsistently on human rights crisis interventions. During the Burmese(Myanmar) government’s crackdown against monks and others in the autumnof 2007, we joined with the TUC and others to organise a 10,000 strongdemonstration in London at which our Secretary-General Irene Khan spokealongside International Transport Worker’s Federation General SecretaryDavid Cockroft, we all mobilised our activists and the TUC coordinatedthe stewarding. Watch a video here.Likewise the National Union of Journalists and Amnesty took to thestreets together during the Pakistan State of Emergency later thatyear.

These examples highlight the most fundamental truthabout the connection between Amnesty and the trade unions: – the labourmovement and amnesty are both activist movements that recognise thepower of solidarity. We are both rank-and-file movements, reliant onthe energy and commitment of our members and supporters. And weare each motivated by, and committed to, shared values of justice,equity and dignity. Crucially, we are both global movements,recognising that an injury to one – anywhere in the world – is aninjury to us all. We are not going away, and where we can we’re goingto work together.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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