Editorials  •  Industrial

Organise a workers boycott of Israel

13 November 2023

By KD Tait

Palestinian trade unions have issued a call for solidarity from the international labour movement. The statement calls on workers to refuse to build or transport weapons to Israel, to break links with companies complicit in the occupation, and pressure their governments to end military trade and funding to Israel.

Israel carries out the colonisation of Palestine and the collective punishment of those who resist under the cover of unconditional military, financial and diplomatic support from the western powers.

The huge demonstrations against Israel’s war demonstrate the gulf that separates the mass of ordinary workers and young people from our rulers’ ‘unconditional support’ for Israel’s crimes.

Faced with the UK’s complicity with Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, it is the duty of the British labour movement to act on the appeal for solidarity from our Palestinian sisters and brothers.

This takes on even more importance faced with the Labour party leadership’s attempt to silence internal criticism of its pro-Zionist policy and ban public expressions of solidarity with Palestine.

Trade unions must act

The RMT union’s National Executive Committee has voted to support moves by railway workers to block arms shipments to Israel. All transport workers, including those in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, should refuse to handle goods or perform duties that could aid the Israeli war effort.

A first step has been taken by young trade unionists who blockaded a subsidiary of Israeli arms company Elbit in Kent on Thursday morning. Elbit has been the target of a long running campaign by direct action group Palestine Action in Leicester, Bristol and elsewhere.

The value of UK military exports to Israel is low compared to other countries. But the UK hosts an arms industry of world importance, providing access to skilled workers, a chain of production, and research, exchange and collaboration with Israel’s two most important security partners, the US and UK. This gives the UK importance to the Israeli war machine well beyond the monetary value of exports.

All Israel-UK trade contributes to supporting or legitimising Israel’s occupation. But Israel is now a developed capitalist country, exporting pharmaceuticals, luxury goods and industrial products. Consumer boycotts are ineffective because they can’t really dent the bosses’ pockets, and, more importantly, they limit solidarity to the sphere of individual acts of conscience, instead of opening the road of struggle for workers’ control in the workplace.

What we need is a campaign of workers’ sanctions to boycott the production, transport and sale of all trade with the Apartheid state. Transport, logistics and distribution workers and their unions have the power to exercise supervision and control over goods bound for and from Israel. No worker should have to take responsibility for propping up an Israeli economy based on the expropriation, exploitation and plunder of the Palestinians.

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