Gaza Update a calamitous abuse of human rights and humanitarian norms

The situation in Gaza has reached a point of absolute calamity. Today, Day 20, we have news that the death toll has passed 1,000, including 315 children and 95 women. The evening news bulletinsin the UK are also reporting that the main distribution hub in Gaza forthe UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) has been hit by whitephosphorous shells, setting alight warehouses in which thousands oftonnes of food and medicine were stored. It is carnage, completelyunjustified, inexcusable, deplorable carnage against civilians, healthworkers and relief workers. Far from making the people of Israel more(deservedly) secure, the reliance on such overwhelming brutal andindiscriminate force rather than diplomacy put them ingreater peril long-term. Our reaction has not only to be rooted insolidarity and humanity but can also impact our own direct self-interest.David Milliband, UK Foreign Secretary, interviewed tonight onChannel 4 made the point that the statelessness of the Palestinianpeople was a powerful recruiting sergeant for disaffected extremistshere at home. He also stated in the interview thatthe “war on terror” was a mistaken notion , which chimes with our consistent work on terror, security and human rights.

Butthere are glimmers of hope and solidarity. Nine Israeli human rightsgroups, which include B'Tselem, Amnesty International's Israel sectionand Physicians for Human Rights, have called for urgent humanitarianintervention in an unusually sharply worded open letter. Meanwhile European commission moves to upgrade political and trade links with Israel have been put on hold. Our own campaigning efforts , with others, to halt a munitions shipment to Israel have borne fruit, with a decisionby the Pentagon to suspend delivery. This is not quite as dramatic asthe extraordinary achievement of the Southern African trade union movementand the ITF in relation to the An Yue JiangChinese arms shipment destined for Zimbabwe in April last year, but aresult nevertheless. Finally, the extraordinary team at Avaaz.org havereally delivered the goods: 479,536 signatures so far to their “Gaza: Stop theBloodshed!” petition  – they are aiming high – will you help them reach a million?

Meanwhile,the humanitarian effort continues, and the ITF together with my goodfriends in the wonderful Jordanian aviation union and others havescheduled a second relief aid airlift for next Tuesday. Let’s hope that none of the supplies in the last mercy flight were lost in the reported shelling of a Red Crescent office and hospitals today.

We’re doing our bit as Unite members in the Amnesty trade union shop.We voted today to raise a collection amongst ourselves and to place acollection tin in our reception area, destined to the TUC Aidhumanitarian appeal. Please join us. It’s no substitute for a ceasefire, or for the long struggle aheadfor a lasting peace and security and statehood for Palestinians andIsraeli’s alike, but is what we can do here, now, today, as well as sign up for Amnesty’s actions.

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