Unions appear to excuse Hamas

Unions appear to excuse Hamas

A 'Solidarity with Palestine' statement was signed by up to 2000 members from Australia's largest unions, while the NSW Teachers Federation were slammed for their statement.

A pro-Palestine rally in Sydney. Photo: Anna Arkayeva/TASS/Sipa USA
A pro-Palestine rally in Sydney. Photo: Anna Arkayeva/TASS/Sipa USA

Barely 10 days since Hamas’s murderous assault in Israel, a “Solidarity with Palestine” statement was signed late last week by up to 2000 members from scores of Australia’s largest unions, that not only failed to condemn Hamas for its actions, but blamed Israel for them.

While the statement’s first sentence expressed the signatories’ horror about “the current war between Israel and Hamas, and the unspeakable bloodshed it has caused”, the next sentence claimed, “This tragedy is a direct result of Israel’s blockade and siege of Gaza, and of the apartheid and ethnic cleansing it maintains in the West Bank, and within its own borders.”

It concluded with a commitment to “support the demonstrations around Australia for Palestine”.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s co-CEOs, Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin, told The AJN that the statement’s signatories are “the same small minority of ‘usual suspects’ who have been trying for years to hijack the cause of trade unionism, to serve their disgraceful anti-Israel agenda”.

“They have made a mockery of the words ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ by their failure even to mention, let alone condemn, the appalling atrocities of Hamas that sparked the current crisis – the brutal murder of whole families, the beheading of infants, the rape of women, and the public degradation of hostages,” Wertheim and Ryvchin said.

“Nor have they called for the release of the hostages.

“They turn a blind eye to the true ‘root cause’ of the bloodshed, which is the openly declared commitment of Hamas to obliterate Israel and its Jewish population.

“It seems that their sense of humanity is reserved for everyone except Jewish Israelis.”

Meanwhile, the ACTU released a statement that expressed mixed messages about the Israel–Hamas war.

Its statement called for an urgent ceasefire and the release of all hostages, and condemned “the bombing, killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians by the terrorist organisation Hamas on 7 October”, describing Hamas’s actions as being “totally reprehensible”.

But it also went on to claim, “This latest escalation is part of a decades-long conflict that must be brought to a just outcome.”

And it called on “all countries to recognise, without delay, Palestine as a sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

In a post on X in which she provided a link to the statement, ACTU secretary Sally McManus commented, “The killing of civilians & collective punishment must stop.”

Meanwhile, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has slammed a statement made by the NSW Teachers Federation on the Israel–Hamas war as “completely blind to the reality on the ground and indifferent to the trauma currently being experienced by Jewish Australian teachers and students”.

The 600-word statement mentions “occupied Gaza” several times, accuses Israel of “atrocities” and states that “the actions of the Israeli government cannot be justified in any way”. It also states that the “root cause” of the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine is “the unjust and illegal occupation of Palestine”.

“It accuses Israel of indifference to the plight of civilians and conducting ‘indiscriminate military strikes’, yet Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to minimise civilian casualties,” said the NSW JBD in a statement.

“It expresses concern ‘for the children of occupied Gaza’, yet fails to mention there are Israeli hostages currently being held by Hamas in Gaza, many of them young children.

“Regrettably, the federation’s tendentious statement has the potential to exacerbate the alarming surge in antisemitic incidents being experienced by Jewish students at schools across Sydney. At a time when all stakeholders are called upon to act responsibly to maintain community cohesion, the NSW Teachers Federation has failed miserably to do so.”

The AJN understands a number of Jewish teachers are outraged by the federation’s statement, while comments on the federation’s Facebook page have caused much distress.

“Teachers are expected to be politically neutral during class,” a NSW Department of Education spokesperson told The AJN.

“We provide clear guidance around this for all our employees in our Code of Conduct.”

The NSW Teachers Federation is not part of the NSW Department of Education.

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