OVER the past week, there has been an escalation in events in the Middle East. The world cannot look away, nor should it bury its head in the sand and hope another nation-state seizes the initiative.

We at the Scottish Trades Union Congress condemn the Israeli attacks on surrounding countries as well as the retaliatory attack by Iran last weekend. When we hope for peace – and work stridently towards it – we cannot allow escalation to occur and not call it out.

Similarly, nobody should dare condone the actions of Hamas on October 7. They were inexcusable. They were unjustifiable. They were horrific. What we have seen since then is an unjustifiable slaughter inflicted on the people of Palestine, except on an industrial scale.

We re-iterate, without fear or favour, the total condemnation of the indiscriminate targeting of tens of thousands of Palestinian men, women and children at the hands of Israeli forces.

The life of a Palestinian is equal to the life of an Israeli citizen. It’s also equal to the life of UK citizens. There is no hierarchy on this.

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The targeting of the World Central Kitchen aid workers, in an alleged mistaken identity attack by Israeli forces, showed a clear rogue state in all its inglorious power.

A power that has, to date, killed more than 33,000 Palestinians since October 7 – a total that equates to almost 20% of the size of Dundee, where our STUC Congress took place this week.

I’m proud of many things within our movement. I’m proud of the fight we take to employers. I’m proud of our lobbying efforts on government. I’m proud of each and every single worker who has made the brave choice to engage in strike action over the past 12 months.

But at our Congress, one thing that stood out above all else was how proud I am of our movement on standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Palestine.

Make no mistake, we are making a difference. It’s all too easy, especially in the darkest of times and as these atrocities unfold, to believe we can’t influence the global politics at play. But we can.

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However small or miniscule we think our voices are, we are being heard by those in the political sphere. But we need to push harder.

In what has arguably been one of his finest moments as First Minister over the past 12 months, Humza Yousaf has been an unflinching voice of calm and reason when calling

for peace in Palestine and an immediate ceasefire. It’s even more admirable given the anguishing personal circumstances inflicted on his family,

During our Congress, he was clear: “The Scottish Government and the STUC have stood shoulder to shoulder in recent months, offering a moral clarity and vital political pressure when many others have all too often equivocated.

And with continued uncertainty in the Middle East, I know that the message leaving your conference this week is as strong as ever. At its core, we believe violence begets violence.”

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Anas Sarwar, too, addressed our Congress and was clear that the actions of the Israeli forces do not comply with international humanitarian law and the sales of arms to Israel should stop. It is time for Keir Starmer to echo that call.

It will take political leadership to broker a peace agreement in the conflict. But make no mistake, it takes an angry, mobilised movement to get the politicians into that place.

And if the politicians should fail us again, they will have the blood of innocent lives on their hands.

Their failure brings shame on all of us. Their failure empowers Israel to deliberately target women and children – the most hideous form of oppression and torture of a nation. This occurs because our world leaders have failed to use their powers to stop this genocide.

To give credit where it is absolutely due, too, Stephen Flynn (below) and the SNP Westminster Group have played a consistent and leading role in calling for a ceasefire in Westminster. But it shows the broken, shambolic debacle of the Westminster system that their last motion on the call for a ceasefire descended into an unedifying farce of politicking.

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This is no time for party politics. This is about our humanity. It’s time for unity and it’s time for courage. It’s time for all of our politicians in Westminster to come together.

Now more than ever we need to raise our voices, we need to harness our power and demand action, from every politician, of every stripe and party, to stop the exporting of arms to Israel and call for an immediate ceasefire.

Yes, I can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Selling arms is a lucrative business. It’s a money maker. It employs many people, with a lot of them trade union members.

But our movement doesn’t shy away from these issues. When a genocide is taking place, ordinary people cannot sit idly by.

We will keep on demanding action until the bloodshed ceases; we will keep demanding action until the rebuilding is completed; we will keep demanding action until the illegal settlements are dismantled and until we see the delivery of the right of Palestinians – and the right of the people of Israel – to live in peaceful, recognised, secure and independent states.

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At our Congress, this past week we held an emotionally charged debate on this. We heard directly from the Palestinian ambassador and how vital he, and the people of Palestine, believe the support of our movement to be for the cause of peace.

They’re not wrong. When it comes to witnessing a genocide being inflicted before our eyes, trade unionists don’t look away. Neither should you.

Whatever debate there has been on this conflict, let me assure all readers, delegates and trade unionists that the STUC will continue to take the strongest possible position to support the people of Palestine in their time of gravest need. And you should too.