International Trade Unions Urgently call for Ceasefire in Gaza amidst Ongoing Human Rights Violations

The Israeli-Hamas war is taking a huge toll on lives, work and public services in Gaza. More than 14,500 people have been killed including 5,500 children and over 20,000 have also been injured since the bombing began. The dead include over 160 Healthcare Workers. Urging an end to the Israeli occupation and the protection of Palestinian rights, PSI organized an online event with more than 60 participants present to hear directly from public sector union leaders on the ground in Gaza.

Delegates at 31st World Congress of Public Services International (PSI) which took place in Geneva on October 14 – 18, 2023 took a strong and clear position when they voted to support Resolutions 48 The war in Israel and Palestine and 32 For a Free and Sovereign Palestine State. The resolutions are a call to action that reaffirm PSI's affiliates’ commitment to justice, human rights, and the self-determination of all people. These resolutions follow the resolution on Palestinian solidarity: Support for the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) passed at PSI’s 2012 global congress in Durban, South Africa.

The conflict between Israel and Gaza is situated in the broader context of escalating global authoritarianism, systematic attacks on democracy and workers’ rights. Against this backdrop, the international community grapples with how to mediate conflicts, promote diplomatic solutions, and prevent the escalation of violence. The ongoing conflict, now in its deadliest year for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 16 years, has led to severe human rights violations, including forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, and restricted access to essential services. According to UN Reports, 2022 marked the sixth consecutive year of an alarming increase in Israeli settler attacks in the occupied West Bank.

PSI demonstrates its affiliates’ commitment to the principles of justice by calling on the international community to take immediate and effective action. The organization advocates for economic sanctions and other measures to hold Israel accountable. PSI is also mobilizing its affiliates. Leaders from PSI affiliates around the world were invited to participate in an online event to hear directly from public sector union leaders on the ground in Gaza. This was followed by discussions on concrete proposals for local solidarity actions.

Dr. Salama Abu Zaiter, President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers – Gaza, highlighted the deliberate targeting of hospitals and medical staff by the Israeli occupation. He revealed shocking statistics, stating that 207 medical staff, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, were killed, and over 36,000 individuals, predominantly children and women, were wounded. “The occupation mainly targeted hospitals and the medical staff. 26 hospitals, 55 clinics and 56 ambulances were taken out of service due to Israeli aggression and dozens of ambulances stopped their operations due to lack of fuel”.

Ms. Samira Abdel Aleem, an Executive Board member of the Public Services Trade Union of Gaza, drew attention to the plight of women in Gaza during the ongoing 16 Days of Activism campaign. She emphasized that, despite the campaign against gender-based violence, women in Gaza are experiencing egregious violations of their humanity and dignity. “Women in Gaza saw their homes destroyed over their heads, 4,000 women have been killed so far, thousands are injured or trapped under the rubble and more than 500,000 women in Gaza are sleeping outside or in shelters and tents where living conditions are unsanitary and where their privacy is not respected among thousands of displaced persons” she said. Ms. Abdel Aleem also expressed concern about the impact on women’s employment, with 80% losing their jobs due to the destruction of facilities employing most of the female workforce and with women’s health. “In Gaza, women are looking for their most basic needs such as sanitary pads not included in the aid provided by relief agencies and not available in the market such as other goods and products”.

As the international community observes World Children’s Day and commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms. Abdel Aleem posed a poignant question: What would the world say to the women and children of Gaza during these critical times?

Resolutions and Statement

PSI’s resolutions, combined with the urgent calls from Palestinian trade unions, reflect a global effort to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The world watches closely as international trade unions unite to demand a ceasefire and justice for the Palestinian people.

We are reaching out to you in the midst of a dire situation in Gaza, where the General Union of Health Workers, led by Dr. Salama Abou Zaaiter, urgently seeks your support. In the face of the ongoing aggression, we present a unified call to action to address the critical needs of the people of Palestine.

Concrete proposals for local solidarity action:

International Solidarity: We urge trade unions worldwide to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and support the health sector and to continue the demonstrations and marches in solidarity with Gaza and its people.

Ceasefire and Lifting the Blockade: Call for collective pressure to achieve a permanent and unconditional ceasefire and an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Humanitarian Aid and Freedom of Movement: Advocate for united efforts to open crossings, ensure humanitarian aid, and guarantee freedom of movement for patients.

Medical Supplies and Equipment: Demand the safe arrival of essential medical supplies, treatments, and equipment to address the healthcare crisis.

International Missions: Call on trade unionists and experts to join international missions to meet the health needs of Gaza.

Psychological Support: Recognize the psychological toll on health workers and call for global support in implementing psychological support and training programs.

International Advocacy: Appeal to friends worldwide to support the Palestinian cause in international arenas and end the aggression and occupation.

Justice and Peace: Emphasize the need for the world to uphold international law, recognize the right to self-determination, and build an independent Palestinian State.

End the Genocide: Call for a collective voice to end the genocide in Gaza and ensure the right to live in safety.

Restore Health Sector: Mobilize efforts to restore the health sector and rebuild what the occupation has destroyed.

Urgent Relief for Displaced Unionists: Urgently ensure relief for displaced trade unionists in schools and shelters not equipped for winter.

Sub-regionals specific actions:

Brazil: Establish connections with the Palestinian Association in Brazil and engage in dialogue with Brazilian media and government.

Spanish Inter-America: Work on solidifying solidarity efforts in Chile, collaborate with global unions, and highlight upcoming demonstrations in Mexico.

Arabic countries: Address urgent needs, including field hospitals, free movement of people, arms embargo, and support from other regions.

Global Actions:

Establish a specific emergency fund for donations.

  • Share educational resources among unions.

  • Support disruption of global supply chains contributing to the Israeli government’s actions.

  • Discuss attacks on health and aid workers in international forums, meetings and bodies including the International Labour Organization and International Labour Conference the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health Organization, among others.

  • Utilize social media to counter misinformation, reinforce the unions’ call to action, and promote disruption of global supply chains.

  • To enhance and support the professional development of healthcare workers in Palestine through comprehensive training programs, information sharing and exchanges.