At the time of writing, it is 113 days since the most recent escalation of the long-running conflict between Palestine and Israel began. It followed the appalling attacks by Hamas that resulted in the deaths of 1200 Israeli people – both civilians and soldiers – and the taking of 250 hostages, more than a hundred of whom remain in captivity. The EIS remains clear that these actions are indefensible.

By way of response to the attacks by Hamas, Israel has launched a series of assaults on the people of Gaza and the West Bank, that has seen some 25,000 people killed, the vast majority of them women and children. It is estimated that around 25,000 of the 60,000 who have been injured are children. Thousands of them share a new and chilling acronym – WCNSF – Wounded Child No Surviving Family.

70% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed. Hospitals and public buildings have been brought to rubble; universities, colleges, and schools decimated. Public services in Gaza are in ruin. Hunger and infectious disease are rife. Some 10,000 Palestinian people – the majority of them workers, have been arrested and detained in Israeli prisons.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian jobs have been lost and thousands of work permits withdrawn from Palestinian workers by the Israeli government, which continues to withhold millions in tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority, meaning that thousands of public sector workers have only been partially paid over the past few months, if at all.

Israel’s collective punishment of the people of Gaza and beyond for the actions of Hamas is comprehensive. Some might ask why this is a trade union issue. With such a litany of human and workers’ rights abuses – how could it not be?

The hallmark of the trade union movement is our solidarity – solidarity that reaches well beyond our own workplaces and our own sectors of employment. Look at the support that striking EIS and EIS-FELA members in their fights for pay justice have received in the past year from trade unionists across Scotland, the UK and internationally.

Trade union solidarity transcends borders. Our internationalism is how we have learned to understand injustice wherever it shows itself in the world. To understand what it looks like; why it exists; who’s behind it and how to challenge it – how to challenge it when we’re right within touching distance of the powerful people, organisations and governments who act as oppressors.

But as a trade union movement we’ve learned how to challenge injustice too when we’re not the direct targets of it, when we’re at a geographical distance but are called upon by our sisters, brothers and all other siblings who are in the grip of it to receive their testimonies by letter or email or some other media- and we challenge it by taking to the streets, like thousands have in major Scottish cities every single week since the latest onslaught upon Gaza began, bringing our trade union banners and making our trade union voices heard amongst the many others of like-mind. We make our solidarity visible on the streets.

Or we express our humanitarianism and send donations, through Medical Aid for Palestinians to help assist the wounded and sick; or we send donations through Education International to help ensure that education can continue in some form amidst the horror; or because of our commitment to women and girls’ equality internationally, we donate to women’s organisations in Palestine through the United Nations Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund; or we write to the UK government calling for it to stop selling arms to Israel that are killing and maiming Palestinian children; or we encourage our members to teach young people in our schools about the conflict between Palestine and Israel, using resources that we make available on our own website and we write to local authorities asking them to encourage and support teachers to teach critical thinking about the conflict using a rights- based approach.

These are all the things that we do as an outcome of democratic decisions arising from debate of motions brought by our members to EIS AGMs and Council over a long number of years because, sadly, this conflict has been going for decades – three quarters of a century, with the legacy of British empire and colonialism in the territory pre-dating that. That’s another reason why the oppression of the Palestinian people that continues from this historical context also has to be a matter for trade unions in all parts of the United Kingdom.

The history of the oppression of working people in the United Kingdom is interwoven with the oppression of peoples across what were once areas of British imperial and strategic interest, such as Palestine, which was occupied and administered by the British, under a League of Nations Mandate, between 1920 and 1948.

The tragic legacy of that continues in Palestine today, and albeit on a much less life-threatening scale, oppression of working people continues here – draconian legislation brought in by the current UK government to curb citizens’ right to protest and workers’ right to strike, is indicative of that.

The history of the oppression of the Palestinian people is a trade union issue and the exploitation and oppression of workers here and everywhere else in the world are different faces of the same dice – a dice that’s never loaded in favour of workers but always loaded in the favour of those who hold the vast bulk of the wealth and the associated power.

What trade unionists have to even the score up a bit, is our collective industrial power and our solidarity

What trade unionists have to even the score up a bit, is our collective industrial power and our solidarity – including our international solidarity that defies all borders – all of this built on the foundations of equality, fairness and justice for workers as human beings wherever they are in the world: Scotland, England, Argentina, Palestine… ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ is a truth, not a cliché.

Trade unionism is about people – people coming together to challenge injustice in their workplaces, to fight it in wider society at home and abroad, and to act collectively to bring about change for the better so that all human lives can be lived peacefully and with equal human rights and dignity.

We challenge the injustice today in Gaza and Palestine more widely, just as people, trade unions and other civil society and faith organisations, did to bring about the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

People did that: citizens and workers the world over with their consciences guiding them to take to the streets, to listen and to learn about what was going on – what was happening to their sisters, brothers and all other siblings in Soweto, in Sharpeville, across South Africa – over the decades of apartheid, to speak out, to boycott South African goods and to build the pressure on politicians to represent that collective conscience in our parliaments until the apartheid regime was brought to an end by the weight of international public and then political opinion.

The same reason that South African apartheid was a trade union issue is why the injustices and oppression being wreaked upon the Palestinian people today should concern all of us who wish to protect and advance trade union and human rights the world over. We believe that a better world is possible, and so we strive for it. Driven by belief in and hope for a better future, as trade unionists we understand that the collective struggle for social justice, peace and equality is winnable, bit by bit, no matter the complexities, no matter the challenges, if we remain solidarity-strong with all who strive for the same.