The raising of flags is an inherently political act. When Trades Hall raises a national flag, it is an act of solidarity.
This act may seem like a small gesture, but it is an act that gets noticed. And together many small actions can build movements to make change.
For the Palestinian diaspora it can mean a great deal and signifies that the labour movement is lending its institutional power to a cause of peace, freedom and self-determination.
At a time when many global leaders are failing to be consistent about the universality of human rights, the institutional power movements can offer is needed more than ever as an important lever for change.
Today we again reaffirm our solidarity with the workers of the world, regardless of nationality, religion or ethnicity, and continue to call for peace.
To be perfectly clear – our decision to raise the Palestinian flag is not a statement against either Israelis or those of the Jewish faith. Anyone who suggests otherwise is engaged in deliberate anti-Palestinian obfuscation.
The Victorian union movement mourns for all lives lost in this conflict – whether those lives were Palestinian or Israeli.
Truths need to be told about the suffering of Palestinian people. Steps towards peace will require recognition that the ongoing oppression of Palestinians is wrong. Palestinians have the right to their own state, control over their own resources and freedom to build their own futures.
Now is the time for movements to speak up, calling for a ceasefire and the release of all hostages.
To our members who are grieving and are fearful for family, friends and workmates in Gaza, and to those who lost loved ones in Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israeli civilians, we stand with you in your sorrow.
Lastly, unions speak up on issues of international conflict because our movement is one of international solidarity. War always sees working people directly in the firing line. Importantly the Australian Union Movement spoke up against Apartheid in South Africa. When Nelson Mandella came to Melbourne to thank unionists he said:
“It was difficult to understand how workers, thousands of miles from our shores, could take the initiative, the lead, among the workers of the world to pledge their solidarity with the people of South Africa. The feeling that we are not alone, that we have millions of workers behind us is a factor which has propelled us, not withstanding, the most brutal form of oppression which we face in our country.”