UNISON welcomes the ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas, and the suspension of the latest deadly assault on Gaza, which has needlessly devastated so many lives.
For 11 days, the people of Gaza have endured Israeli military airstrikes, killing 242 Palestinians including 66 children. A further 1,950 people have been injured and 106,000 forced to leave their homes in search of protection. A dozen people in Israel have died, including from rockets fired from Gaza, with 27 Palestinians in the West Bank.
UNISON condemns the violence and regrets the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives.
For the fourth time since 2008, the people of Gaza will now begin rebuilding their homes, livelihoods and public services, while continuing to live under a tight land, sea and air blockade that has isolated two million Palestinians from the rest of the world for the last 14 years.
While the bombs may have fallen silent for now, unless the root cause of this most recent oppression – 54 years of occupation – is dealt with, then the ceasefire will only be temporary.
On 21 May, Israeli police again raided the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque (pictured above) and clashed with worshippers, in scenes reminiscent of the horrific attack we witnessed 11 days earlier.
Palestinian refugee families, who have lived in UN built homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem since 1956, continue to face expulsion to make way for an illegal settlement.
And the Israeli government continues to implement its policies of defacto annexation, demolishing Palestinian homes and property and expanding illegal settlements across the West Bank, undermining any hope of a viable, contiguous, independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The continued oppression of Palestinians we have seen in recent weeks further demonstrates why UNISON, human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem and UN special rapporteurs, recognise that the systematic discrimination faced by the Palestinian people constitutes the crime of apartheid under international law.
The international community must act now and take concrete action to end their complicity in the occupation, colonisation and oppression endured by the Palestinian people for decades.
We urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respect the independence of the International Criminal Court and end his opposition to the investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Furthermore, we call for the UK government to take action to demand an end to the occupation, including:
- suspending the UK’s arms trade with the government of Israel and supporting calls for a UN arms embargo;
- prohibiting trade with illegal settlements and suspending the UK Israel Trade and Partnership Agreement until the Israeli government complies with its human rights clauses and international law; and
- demanding a halt to the planned evictions of families in Sheikh Jarrah and other communities, the destruction of Palestinian homes and other property, and the building of illegal settlements, which violate fundamental human rights, are illegal under international law and undermine the prospects of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.
UNISON will continue to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a legitimate and practical way to persuade the Israeli government to end its repression of the Palestinian people and contribute towards the building of peace.
We urge governments, public bodies and businesses to uphold their ethical and legal responsibilities to ensure human rights and international law are respected.
This statement was originally published on UNISON’s national website on 25 May and it can be found at this link: https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2021/05/unison-statement-on-gaza-ceasefire