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Unite executive calls emergency meeting as Graham remains silent on Gaza

Meeting rumoured among Unite insiders for over a week crystallises – and union general secretary’s silence over slaughter of Gazan civilians continues

Unite’s elected executive (EC) has called an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the union’s response to Israel’s mass slaughter of Gazan civilians – or rather non-response, since Unite’s general secretary appears to have been silent on it. A search of her social media for any mention of the words ‘Gaza’ or ‘Palestine’ returns zero results.

The lack of solidarity with the oppressed, let alone leadership, has infuriated branches and regional organisations of Unite, with several sending in or publishing openly outraged letters to Graham demanding action and a firm show of support for Palestinians.

And she has not merely been silent, but – as Skwawkbox exclusively revealed – used proxies to try, unsuccessfully, to cancel a Unite Palestinian solidarity fringe at Labour’s conference earlier this month. In addition, a statement Unite did make on Gaza outraged many by differentiating between the deaths of Israeli and Gazan civilians. Many saw it as another sign of Graham’s increasing behind-the-scenes cosiness with right-wing Labour leader Keir Starmer.

A letter from Unite’s Brighton branch is circulating ahead of the meeting, gathering signatures to pressure Graham and the EC into taking the right action against the ‘brutal and illegal siege’. The letter, which Skwawkbox understands already has the support of some EC members, reads:

Ms Sharon Graham, Unite the Union General Secretary
Unite Executive Council,
Ms Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary
Ms Bob Middleton, Regional Secretary
Ms Hayley Garner and Max O’Donnell-Savage (South East Region EC Members)

24 October 2023

Dear Sisters, Brothers, comrades,

Re: Unite the union’s position in relation to current genocide against Palestinian civilians

We call on our General Secretary, Senior Leadership, Executive Council and Officers to heed the call made by 18 Palestinian Trade Unions for international solidarity against war crimes that are currently being committed against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

The world is witnessing genocide.

This summer, Unite backed the BDS campaign and affirmed;

“…the Union’s recognition that Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid, calls for an end to the UK Government’s proposed free trade agreement with Israel, and for support for BDS campaigns against companies complicit in supporting Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land”.

According to the United Nations over 5,000 innocent civilians have been killed since 7 October 2023, with more than 62% of the fatalities made up of women and children. Over 15,273 have been injured.

Further, the ongoing siege of Gaza, withholding the basic necessities for life such as food, water and electricity constitutes collective punishment, and is illegal under international law.

There is much more that can and should be done to protect Palestinian people from war crimes and genocide and to show basic solidarity with    the Palestinian Trade Union movement. 

Solidarity with Palestinian trade unionists and all civilians

Our branch of Unite (Brighton and surrounds SE / 6246) calls upon Unite leadership to respond to the urgent call for solidarity issued by Palestinian trade unions. Please see below link:

They say: “Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes.”

The call further states:

“Israel has demanded that 1.1 million Palestinians evacuate the northern half of Gaza, whilst subjecting them to constant bombardment. This ruthless move is part of Israel’s plan, backed by unwavering support and active participation from the US and majority of European states, to carry out unprecedented and heinous massacres against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza and to ethnically cleanse it altogether.”

This collective punishment of the population of Gaza has been encouraged by the British government which has made no criticism of Israels actions or its long history of systematic discrimination and violence against the Palestinians. No wonder Palestinians fear a second Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to the mass dispossession and ethnic cleansing of up to a million Palestinians in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli state.

The bombing of al-Ahli Baptist hospital, leaving at least 500 dead, underlines the horror of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The coalition of Palestinian Trade Unions has called upon trade unions around the world to:

  • Refuse to build weapons destined for Israel. This is relevant for Unite as Leonardo and Babcock, two employers where Unite is active and has recognition, have links with the Israeli military. Unite has endorsed BDS and it is essential that as a union we adhere to this by ensuring our members are supported by our union in refusing to make weapons that are being used for war crimes. 
  • Refuse to transport weapons to Israel. With considerable membership in the docking and shipping industry, we call upon Unite to honour this call by taking steps to encourage and support our members in refusing to build or transport weapons to Israel while it is so clearly committing acts of genocide. 
  • Pass motions to this effect in our trade union.
  • Take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege
  • Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel. The UK government has already signalled it will give military support to the Israeli state. We must oppose this in the strongest terms as a trade union.

Throughout history, trade unions have stood in solidarity with oppressed peoples across the world. We stand on the shoulders of Scottish workers in 1973 who refused to repair engines for the fascist coup of Chile by Augustus Pinochet, and more recently, in 2021, Italian dock workers of Livorno who refused to load arms destined for Israel. We as trade unionists have a duty to stand in solidarity with our fellow trade unionists in Palestine, and to oppose the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people in the strongest possible terms.

Unite the union statement dated 16 October 2023

We ask that Unite correct the statement issued on 16 October by reference to the following questions / points :

  • Why has there not been a statement recognising and condemning the frequent attacks by Israel against Palestinian civilians ? By making a statement condemning the actions of Hamas but not doing so on the frequent occasions in which the Israeli state has undertaken atrocities you appear to place the lives of Israeli civilians above those of Palestinian civilians.
  • Why has Unite referred to Israeli civilians as “innocent” but not Palestinian civilians ? All civilians (Israeli and Palestinian) are innocent. This appears, at first glance, to repeat and amplify a stereotype that Palestinians and Muslims are not and cannot be “innocent”. We ask that you correct this and explain why there is no reference to “innocent” Palestinian civilians.
  • The statement ‘unreservedly’ condemns and expresses its ‘revulsion at the recent appalling acts of violence by Hamas’ whilst only managing to ‘deplore’ the deaths of Palestinians from Israel’s merciless bombing of Palestinian civilians ? Unite does not express its “revulsion” at the “appalling acts of violence” by the Israeli state at all. Why ? Unite appears to ignore well documented war crimes documented by neutral international organisations such as the UN, Amnesty International, Red Cross and many other respected bodies.
  • Throughout the statement Unite refers to Israelis and Jews first and only secondly refers to Palestinians and Muslims. The first paragraph is the most glaring example and is problematic. Why ? There must be equality in language used because Israelis and Palestinians are equal and must be treated as such.
  • At no point does the statement call for a ceasefire or seek to stop continued Israeli bombardment and war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
  • Unite has not expressed support for Palestine Solidarity Campaign or Stop the War in your recent statement and ask that you do so immediately.

We urge Unite to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza and beyond. Every trade unionist and every trade union should debate what steps can be taken to challenge British complicity with Israel’s war machine and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians and more importantly take action as a result. As a first step, we urge every trade unionist to attend demonstrations in support of the Palestinians along with their union banners to show they are not alone in their struggle for justice.

Action to support Palestinian trade unionists and prevent genocide

As trade unionists we must always stand on the side of justice, both in word and in deed.

We are calling on our senior leadership, executive committee and officers to respond to the call from Palestinian trade unions by:

  • Supporting the clear message(s) contained within this letter at the emergency meeting of the Executive Council this Thursday and at any and all future Executive Council meetings and Unite meetings;
  • Issuing a clear statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.
  • Encouraging and pledging practical support to Unite members who refuse to build or handle weapons destined for Israel.
  • Providing education about the occupation of Palestine to members in workplaces involved in the building and transportation of weapons destined for Israel, including video conversations with representatives from Palestine’s trade unions.
  • Examining Unite’s contractual agreements to ensure we are not engaged in business with companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege on Gaza, particularly military companies.
  • Examining Unite’s investments to ensure we are not financing companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege on Gaza, particularly military companies.
  • Issuing a public statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people, and expressing support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel to bring it in line with its obligations under international law. This would be reiterating Unite’s policy of supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions that was agreed earlier this year.
  • Make clear that Unite the union opposes and condemns Islamophobia (and specifically anti-Palestinian racism) as well as apartheid in Israel.
  • Expressly supporting and attending demonstrations that oppose war crimes and genocide committed by Israel.
  • Contacting Palestinian trade unions urgently and ask what material and political support Unite can offer and thereafter undertake any and all reasonable requests;
  • Make a sizeable donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians;
  • Make a sizeable donation to the prosecution of any politician or individual complicit in Israeli war crimes. You will be aware that the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has written a notice of intention to prosecute any UK politicians or those who hold a prominent position who aid and abet war crimes against Palestinian civilians.

In a time of overwhelming dishonesty from politicians and propaganda from complicit media to fan hunger for more war and to whitewash murder, the UK desperately needs unions and their leaders to step up and lead, providing stark and uncompromising commentary on the sickness and madness of our political-media establishment. So far, Sharon Graham appears to have provided none and indeed tried to distance Unite from solidarity with oppressed Palestinians.

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  1. There is an argument that trades unions have an important role in dissipating the demands of their membership in the interest of the status quo.
    It looks like Ms Graham is proving this.

  2. Starmer’s answers to the journalists question was contradictory and there is no way
    he can claim it wasn’t . On the one hand he was saying that depriving Gaza of fuel and water was acceptable and on the other that Isreal must observe a just form of warfare. Of course the two statements cannot both be true.

  3. Is there a reason for singling out Unite, what tangible steps (if any) have the rest of the UK’s trade unions taken?

    1. Is there a reason for singling out Unite

      singling out

      Christ on a stick. Your idiocy knows NO bounds. Read the bastard article and digest the information within it, ffs.

      1. My answer is that your recent absence (a happy time for the rest of us) hasn’t seen you return any the wiser. But then again, when one’s as thick as mince, it wouldn’t.

        Unite hasn’t been singled out as you bleat. AFAIK, none of the other unions have written to their respective leaders (as yet). Ever thought that maybe their members feel it unnecessary?

        Which other union(s) attempted to force the cancellation of palestine solidarity fringe’ at the labour conference?

        You gonna answer that?

        But nevermind palestinians being slaughtered on an industrial scale by the vindictive israeli state. Oh no. Smarmerite ally and acolyte sharon graham’s the REAL victim here, eh?

        That you just have to be contrary when people are being massacred indiscriminately, and shrieking that an organisation is somehow being singled out for being reticent to condemn or show any sort of concern for the innocent victims of state-sponsored genocide, shows just how worthless you and your opinions are.

        But then again, you’ve consistently shown far more concern for proven nonce sympathisers and enablers than you have anyone or anything else.

        There’s MY answer. Dont like it? Tough shit.

      2. Toffee, selective amnesia is a result of too much goat herding in the tropics.

    2. “In a time of overwhelming dishonesty from politicians and propaganda from complicit media to fan hunger for more war and to whitewash murder, the UK desperately needs unions and their leaders to step up and lead, providing stark and uncompromising commentary on the sickness and madness of our political-media establishment. So far, Sharon Graham appears to have provided none and indeed tried to distance Unite from solidarity with oppressed Palestinians” – Skwawkbox.

      Do you know of any other Union that is so overtly repressing and ignoring its members’ opinions?

      That Graham woman’s leadership of Unite is a major embarrassment – but In case you missed it:

    3. Yes. It’s the biggest. 1.3 million. Protests must start somewhere so would be a good example.

  4. Reported that keef’s having hissy fits, eh?

    Sound. Keep up the pressure on the box-headed dolt. Time for more CLPs to move that he openly criticizes and condemns israel’s usual 20/1 murderous overreaction, or face no confidence votes at the very least.

    Time for the supposed leftist MPs to start piping up a bit more directly and mentioning keef by name in their veiled geumbling.

    And while they’re at it; it’s time for them to demand blockhead refrain from his repeated & invariably unconditional support of toerag policy across the board (not just about israel/palestine) and – at the very least – start inserting viable alternatives to harmful policy, while whipping MPs &. Lords into VOTING AGAINST the toerags, instead of repeated abstinence – when it’s not supine, open support .

    And for those journalists and rags that still insist keef’s a leftie, it’s time for them to case him and show they’re serious about their risible claims.

    If he’s a supposed leftie, give boxhead the full Corbyn treatment, or STFU.

    If ANY of them are serious, then if there’s credence to these murmurs that keef’s gnawing the furniture about his warmongering (israeli) fetish really ought to acted upon.

    For the sake of the nation 🇬🇧 as well as that party. (See what I did there??)

  5. The tide is turning :
    Massive labor-community coalition in Canada demands: Ceasefire now-Peoles World.

    As to Graham- she has been offered a place in the Starmer Cabinet I expect. And she is earning it the traditional way by selling out workers wherever they can be found.

  6. Thank you ‘The Toffee’ for your response to them that shall be nameless. How anyone with an ounce of humanity can start their usual sniping and sidelining in these terrible, terrible circumstances, disgusts me.

    1. Well said Julia. But as well all know that’s what he/she/it/them gets paid for.

    2. We just don’t appreciate how fortunate we are, for the most part, Julia.

      Although when I say ‘we’ I refer to the ordinary Joe in the street.

      The establishment are the REAL fortunate ones that we put up with them. They’re the ones bleating loudest about their supposed tax burdens when they’re dodging the bastard thing at every opportunity.

      Get sunak on the hod for a shift. Get rees-smog changing the shitty nappies of babies on a maternity ward for a shift. Get Coffey down the sewers cleaning the fatbergs.

      The bastard lot of them don’t know they’re born, but are the first to cut the disabled benefit. They’re the ones with their fingers in the pies of those creaming off the NHS budget so torquil or sambrina or whatever stupid f***ing name those kids have been lumbered with, can go to private school at £12k per term, while some single mother has to go out working theirselves to an early bloody grave to earn half that to live on PER YEAR.

      And they tell us we’re fortunate to live here? The entitled bastards’d have us shipped out to palestine if they could.

      They wouldn’t know suffering if it kicked their heids in. They never will. It’s just something that happens to others.

      And it boils my piss.

      1. Toffee. We can’t be having that now? A resistance of a new stamp is forming. They have pissed off a lot of different people. People who don’t know about all.of the other people and Palestine could be a start.

  7. Shame-Graham’s building a progressive movement doc is good but whilst some of us know how to do it, some struggle?
    But sadly Ms G seems to think ‘Workerism’ only (yes jobs & pay are vitally important) but ALL issues impact upon workers lives, and trying to stop a Genocide in Gaza IS important, so brilliant work by the Unite branches.
    Time for ALL of Unite TO STAND UP FOR PALESTINE!
    *Ceasefire. *Free Captives All Sides.
    *Get large scale aid in. *Peace Talks to End The Occupation. *Peace.
    One Multi-Ethnic State from the rivers to the sea with the Right of Palestinian Refugees To Return & Religious Freedom.
    Then Class Politics replaces ethnic tensions.
    Last throes ‘Great Men and Women’ (?)
    As arms sales cause this capitalist crime.
    But a light shines in the oppressed of the world.
    And it’s name is Palestine.’

  8. As a Unite member, my support for the Palestinians and for the letter from Unite’s Brighton branch is total.
    I have attended one of the most inspiring demonstrations in support of Palestine and will attend another on Saturday.
    We must do EVERYTHING we can to support Palestine and expose the murderous, genocidal actions of the Israeli State which go back over 75 years.
    Starmer is beyond hope …… “A Zionist without Qualification” …… as he described himself.
    Well – Starmer – This is what you are supporting – Mass murder – ethnic cleansing – dispossession of an entire people from their lands – years of oppression and dehumanisation of the Palestinians.
    The Unite letter above spells out what Unite and other trade unions need to be doing – as a matter of urgency.
    Victory to Palestine !
    Stand with the oppressed – Not with the Oppressor.

  9. Luke Akehurst’s recent article for LabourList seems to me to reflect a great deal of concern for how damaging this issue is to the Labour Party. Many of the recent incumbent councillors who left/were expelled, did manage to get re-elected as independents. And so might those who have left over the issue of Gaza.

    His article states:

    “There’s a legitimate criticism Keir should have initially been clearer…”

    His words were actually very clear. And it is worth bearing in mind that this was in a scheduled interview for which we would have expected him to rehearse beforehand.

    “Again, Evans’ advice was to be careful, not a ban…”

    This ‘advice’ needs to be seen against a climate of fear that has been created in the Labour Party in the last few years. People could cease to be candidates for the crime of saying things that are actually true.

      1. Blunt has been coshed ( koshed ). Rape charges are undergoing. You couldn’t make this shit up

    1. I’m sorry to say that it became clear a long time ago that some in the upper echelons of Labour have a challenging relationship with actuality.
      A classic example is the willingness to conflate anti-Zionism, a perfectly reasonable political position, with anti-Semitism, which is disgusting racism, as all racism is.
      And the knowledge that the most insightful and critical writings on Zionism are by Jewish authors is most strengthening when arguing against those who choose to ignore the commissioning of assorted war crimes against the Palestinian people and, as we have learned since the terrible events of October 7th, Israeli citizens killed by poorly trained and badly led IDF soldiers.

  10. Akehurst is an apologist for Starmer’s professed Zionism.
    Nothing new there.
    Read his article.
    He is trying to play with words to support his leader and down-play 75 years of ethnic cleansing and genocide on the part of the Israeli State.

    1. We need to read the codes, signals, lloogy tik toks for this day With the back out and one sided reports we do get then why are we surprised by wierd ideas. I’ve a pretty good idea and have had since we first got word.

  11. The three main parties in the UK are bought and paid for by the Israeli State.
    This explains the paralysis on the part of our Establishment politicians who should be opposing this ethnic-cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people.
    Starmer and Akehurst disgust me.
    We must do everything possible to make our voices heard over the organised lies of the political establishment and the mainstream media.
    USA is already seen as the pariah state by much of the Rest-of-the-World.
    The UK is clearly identified to be in USA’s pocket.
    Once again, we are seen to be their running dog.
    Does this sound familiar ?

    There are several sub-themes to all this – Some of which do give me hope
    One is that there are Establishment Forces in the US and UK lamenting the fact that their carefully-constructed alliances with certain R.O.W. countries against the Russian Federation and China now lie in ruins because of the unacceptable face of US and UK positioning re Israel.
    The Global South recognise USA’s and UK’s support for genocide for the war crime that it is.
    Oh ! What a complicated web of deceit and counter-deceit do these operators sow !
    It’s not easy when two of your proxies are fighting at the same time.

    1. johnsco1…..Agreed. However when you consider Israel cannot exist without the US funding and supply of arms one can conclude it was the US, via Israel, who controls the politics in the UK. As evidenced by what Pompeo said about Corbyn when he won the Labour Party leadership and started attracting all that support.

      Don’t forget the UK and US literally made Israel from 1918 to 1948. And they use Israel to control the Middle East and supply it with all it’s weapons and money. The genocide going on now is done with the explicit help of both the UK and US, just recognise the two countries who voted AGAINST the ceasefire at the recent urgent UN meeting.

      WE ARE CARRYING OUT THE GAZA GENOCIDE, and that is why Starmer REFUSES to call for a halt of the bombing. All he want is more humanitarian supplies to be sent to Gaza so the Palestinians can die without being hungry or thirsty.

      And Graham, who Starmer supported for the Unite election, agrees with him. I hate to say “I told you so” about our Sharon…….But I will, because I refused to vote for her and she is now doing what she was placed in position to do.

  12. I agree with you baz2001.
    I voted for the United Left candidate for the Unite G.S. position.
    We ought to shine a spotlight on Graham and ask:
    — Where did she come from ?
    — Where did her nominations and support come from ?
    — Did she have backers and financiers from outside sources ?
    These questions need to be asked, because she’s letting us down badly now
    I’ve been a member of Unite (via one of its founder unions) for 50 years …. and I’d never heard of her.
    Having said that – Unite is a large and complex union – and it’s easy to hide.

    1. johnsco1….

      I agree with everything you say with regards to Graham, and see my comments below…

      Starmer supported all three runners for the Unite election apart from Howard. Why do you think that was? Answer, it kept Howard out of the running and prevented him from winning. It was a fix, and a fix that’s played out in other union Leadership Elections, notably Unison.

      I resigned my Unite membership when I was prevented from going to Unite Conference to cast my vote in the affiliation vote this summer. My Region sent a delegate to vote on my behalf without telling or asking me. So fuck Unite, they can keep their stitch ups……

      1. Howard had to withdraw because of the simple fact that he didn’t have enough support.

  13. SteveH, Go screw yourself, the conversation was not with you. Speak when you’re spoken to and not before, there’s a good chap.

    1. baz2001 – Awww diddums, do you need a safe space? 😔

      It is also worth noting that in the run up to the election Turner was in the lead until he received McCluskey and Howard’s kiss of death endorsements

  14. Some argue when Hamas attacked the armed illegal Israeli settlements they were hoping for the usual massive over-reaction from the Right Wing/Far Right Israeli Coalition Govt to re-ignite the Palestine issue, and “Pushing to gain Leadership of the Palestinians for themselves” (Ant Lowenstein) and some argue the Israeli Right/Far Right Govt took the bait resulting In the slaughter of 7,000 Palestinians including 2,000 kids so far that we are witnessing.
    Most Palestinians don’t support Hamas (Naura Erokat) and I remember meeting Arafat at a international adult education conference years ago in Tunisia.
    I posed a question as a comment seemed to imply they were better than Jewish people, it was a long time ago but I later remember him clarifying he believed (forgive the memory) they were equal and said something like we are both semites and sons of Abraham.
    Hamas wants to end the occupation but also want an Islamic state and would probably want to drive Jewish people out.
    Palestine pre 1917 was from the rivers to the sea and Arafat was very clear, his PLO would accept one multi-ethnic Democratic estate for all including the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
    So whilst we diverse citizens around the world (Black, Asian, Jewish, White W Class, Progressive M Class, Men & Women, Young/Old, Disabled, LGBT+) at demos are United and are left to try to stop the Genocide in Palestine; many of us believe Arafat’s proposal still offer hope for a peaceful solution (you can read his full speech at the UN on this in G.D.Smith, A 3,000 Year History of Palestine).
    And Bernard Regan, The Balfour Declaration, is brilliant: He talks of the British Empire using “Surrogate settlers” to achieve their imperial ends: “We will have a little Jewish Ulster surrounded by a sea of Arab antagonism.”
    But the problem is this also now still suits the USA who took up the baton on Palestine and it could be argued put oil, arms sales & capitalist investments in the region first.
    Also Biden needs to feed the US military Industrial Complex who donated to his campaign (and to the Republicans too) see the recent £10b arms package announced for Israel.
    We need to learn from history and the world needs to put peace & humanity first not profits.
    Yours in international solidarity, peace & love.

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