Linking up with Palestinian trade unionists in Nablus

Sheffield TUC has taken part in two zoom calls with our trade union brothers and sisters in Nablus, including with Shaher Saed PGFTU General Secretary and Rana Shahin PGFTU International dept. We are beginning to learn more about the reality of living under a brutal Israeli occupation and what it means for ordinary workers. Every day there is news about more arrests, even killings, attacks by settlers and incursions by the Israeli military. Evictions of Palestinians are not just happening in Sheik Jarrah in East Jerusalem but across the Occupied West Bank wherever there are Israeli settlers. We are told that demolitions of Palestinian house are happening every day. We are keen to develop this partnership and find effective ways to deliver real solidarity and above all get the message out here in Sheffield about the realities of life for ordinary Palestinian workers and their families in the city of Nablus.

PGFTU calls for boycott of Israeli settlements and companies

Palestinians who are forced to work in Israeli settlements must pass through tight security. In Borkan, a settlement near Nablus, 7000 Palestinians are working with no rights and no social security. Products from these settlements are even sold in Palestine but the labels have been changed to show them as Israeli products. Shaher Saed, PGFTU General Secretary said “We need a strong campaign to stop investment in these illegal settlements and to boycott all these products”

Palestinian workers need to find work in Israel

Because of the Israeli Occupation, the West Bank’s economy is not free and unemployment is very high. Palestinian workers need to seek work in Israel but very few can obtain an official permit. Instead Israeli brokers charge up to half your salary to obtain a permit and locate work for you. But you are then an illegal worker with no rights and no social security. Health and safety (or lack of it) is a serious issue – illegal workers who are injured and cannot work receive no compensation and no right of redress. On top of all of this, workers face long hours of delay, abuse and intimidation at Israeli check points.

Palestinian unions negotiate new minimum wage with Palestine Authority

A new improved minimum wage has been negotiated and although not mandatory it is believed the Nablus Authority will implement it. Workers are being encouraged to refuse work below the minimum wage. A campaign is under way to secure an agreement on social security with the Minister of Labour.

Tragic accident exposes use of child labour on Israeli settlements

See this report:

Recently 8 Palestinian children were killed and a 9th died later in a tragic road accident on their return from a spell of work on an Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley, built on occupied land belonging to a Palestinian village. The children, all boys aged between 14 and 17, came from Aqraba a village east of Nablus. The loss of so many young children has devastated the local community where they live, but it has also exposed the shocking use of child labour on Israeli settlements. The children were doing agricultural work but there are no legal protections. Child labour in Israeli settlements is common in the West Bank villages, especially in southeast Nablus, because of the hard economic conditions. Abu Saleh uncle to two of the boys said his nephews went to work there with other youth of the village. “There aren’t enough jobs in Palestinian towns or in the city. The few jobs available pay even less than Israelis. Young people who want to begin to work have very little choices”.

IT’S OFFICIAL: AMNESTY FINDS ISRAEL IS AN APARTHEID STATE Amnesty International’s damning new report “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity” sets out how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention. Palestinians have for many years named Israel as an apartheid state. They have now been joined by a growing list of human rights organisations that have determined that Israel’s actions meet the internationally recognised legal definition of apartheid, including the 2021 reports by the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

Brutal repression is the name of the game under Israeli Occupation

In the West Bank, in two separate incidents at the end of 2021, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces: one during demonstrations where Palestinian protestors reportedly hurled rocks at Israeli forces and another following a search-and-arrest operation. On 10 December 2021, Israeli forces shot and killed a 31-year-old Palestinian with live ammunition during ongoing anti-settlement protests in Beita village (Nablus). Since regular protests began in early May 2021 in Beita and Beit Dajan, nine Palestinians have been killed and over 5,700 injured, including 218 by live ammunition, 1083 by rubber bullets and 4341 others who required medical treatment for inhaling teargas.

On 13 December last year, Israeli forces conducted a search-and-arrest operation in Nablus and exchanged fire with armed Palestinians; a 31-year-old Palestinian man was killed, and two others were injured in unclear circumstances.

Across the West Bank, 348 Palestinians, including 109 children, were injured by Israeli forces during protests and clashes following search-and-arrest operations. The majority of injuries were reported in three separate incidents in Burqa and Beita, where 204 people, including 80 children, were injured in clashes that erupted with Israeli forces following the entry of Israeli settlers into Palestinian villages. Another 133 were wounded during anti-settlement protests near Beita (114) and Beit Dajan (19) in the Nablus governorate. An additional seven Palestinians were injured during three search-and-arrest operation in Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. Overall, 44 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, eight were physically assaulted and 296 were treated for teargas inhalation that required medical treatment. 3 Young men shot dead in Nablus by Israeli force 8th February

We received a brief WhatsApp message from Nablus on 8th February: “Very sad day in Nablus, the Israeli occupation invaded Nablus this afternoon, and shot to death three young people”. We don’t have more details.

Palestine Pensions Divestment Campaign

Sheffield TUC has joined with Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine and Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign on a campaign to persuade the South Yorkshire Local Government Pensions Authority to divest from companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation. We have written to Cllr Munsey, Chair of the Pensions Authority quoting the OHCHR’s (The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) data base of companies involved in serious human rights abuses. Many local authority pensions including SYPA have holdings or exposure to companies on that list. We have received a helpful reply from Cllr. Munsey and a meeting has been arranged for early March 2022 with officers of the Pensions Authority to see how we can take this forward in a meaningful way. The Authority is keen to stress that divestment is a last resort, but they are willing to embark on a process to engage and persuade. The Local Authority Trade Unions have been kept informed, and there is a guarantee that the Fund and the pensions it pays out are fully protected.

Sheffield Festival of Friendship with Palestine 6thJune–9thJuly

A fundraiser is being held at Crookes Social club on 2nd April. Please do support this fabulous event. Enjoy a lovely evening of entertainment and help us raise funds for the long-awaited Sheffield Festival of Friendship with Palestine. More details to follow!

UCU victory over suspension of Palestinian lecturer at Hallam University

The Sheffield Hallam University UCU Branch was swift to come to the defence of Shahd Abusalama, a visiting Palestinian lecturer who was suspended without pay earlier this month by Hallam University following anti-semitism allegations made by Jewish News. The allegations referred to old social media “likes” she made in response to posts highly critical of the Israeli oppression. Shahd who has experienced at first hand the brutality of the Israeli occupation back in her homeland vehemently denied the charge. She received over 300 letters of support from around the world and the local trade union movement was also quick to come to her defence. UCU reps took up her case forcefully, and at her hearing with management secured her reinstatement and the dropping of all charges. Both Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle have responded by levelling charges of anti-semitism against Hallam University itself and publicly claiming the University is not a safe place for Jewish students, even though there is no evidence for this. Sheffield TUC has unanimously approved the following statement

Sheffield TUC statement of support for Shahd Abusalama, visiting Palestinian lecturer at Hallam University

“Sheffield Trade Union Council extends its full support to Shahd Abusalama , visiting Palestinian lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University against the totally unjustified allegations of anti-semitism levelled at her by Jewish News and others. We congratulate her UCU union branch for standing solidly by her and successfully representing her in her hearing with managers of Hallam University to get her suspension without pay swiftly lifted and all charges dropped. The huge levels of support expressed for her internationally and locally was very gratifying and demonstrates that such false charges of anti-semitism will no longer be tolerated.

Sheffield TUC stands foursquare behind the Palestinians in their fight for justice, an end to the occupation and oppression by the Israeli state and for a free independent Palestinian state.

We welcome the recent Amnesty International report which declared Israel is an apartheid state.

Sheffield TUC will continue to campaign for justice for Palestinians via the Sheffield-Nablus Trade Union Partnership and to give support to Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine”

Sheffield TUC hosts “Block the Boat” zoom event 30th June 2021

We are very grateful to Katy Fox-Hodess, Sheffield TUC Executive Committee member and UCU rep at University of Sheffield, for setting up an international zoom webinar to explore solidarity actions taken by Dockworker trade unions in Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Italy against Israeli ships and ships supporting Israel’s occupation.  This trade union solidarity in support of Palestine is very impressive and takes to the form of delaying or blocking the handling of goods from shipping deemed to be complicit in the oppression of Palestinians. Trade union legislation in many states would prevent this type of action taking place but strong Dockworkers unions in some nations have the ability to take such international solidarity action. The webinar heard from trade union leaders in Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Italy explaining how they were able to inflict pressure in this way. Thanks to Katy, Sheffield TUC was congratulated for its ability to host this international solidarity event.