Craigmillar Stands with Gaza

Derek Durkin shares how communities of north Edinburgh are organising in solidarity with Palestine.

The events of 7th October and the rightful international condemnation of the Hamas attacks were followed by a joint campaign by western governments to present those events as the start of the conflict in the Middle East. Of course, political activists and those that keep an eye on international affairs are only too aware that this is a smoke screen that ignores the historical problems dating back more than a century.

Photo credit: Sanad Latifa. From the Network of Photographers for Palestine exhibition at the Trade Unions in Communities base, Craigmillar.

Yes, it is right for humanity to condemn the murder of civilians and the kidnapping of innocents. However, the response of our own UK Government and indeed main UK opposition parties have been nothing short of utter hypocrisy. How can you possibly condemn the attacks by Hamas on October 7th and ignore the terrorist attacks carried out by the most powerful military force in the Middle East? How can you say Hamas are guilty of crimes against humanity and at the same time support the targeting of hospitals, schools and refugee camps by the Israeli war machine? How can you demand the release of kidnapped Israelis but ignore the fact that one baby is killed and two others injured every ten minutes in Gaza? How can you give unequivocal support to a regime that denies the very means of life, power, water and food to the Palestinian population? Make no mistake, those in government and opposition who support “the right of Israel to defend itself” in the full knowledge of the brutality being inflicted on innocent Palestinians are as guilty of war crimes as Netanyahu and his terrorist government and should be subject to the full force of the International Criminal Court in future.

Worldwide demonstrations are currently taking place in opposition to the Israeli genocide being carried out in Palestine. From Bueno Aires to Washington, from Kerala to Kuala Lumpar, chants of Free Palestine are being heard across the globe. It is quite clear that, not for the first time, governments are out of touch with the people they supposedly represent.

woman watching bombs
Photo credit: Samar Abu Elouf. From the NPP exhibition at Trade Unions in Communities, Craigmillar.

Western governments led us blindly into the second world war by ignoring the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s. Whilst our leaders prevaricated many workers reacted by taking up arms and fighting fascism head-on in the Spanish Civil War. Had they been successful, the second world war would never have happened. We cannot afford a repeat of this today in the Middle East.

There are also similarities with the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa. Whilst governments turned a blind eye to the racist actions of that country, the people of the world rose in solidarity. The apartheid regime was overthrown and Nelson Mandela, labelled by Thatcher and many of her cabinet a terrorist, was lauded and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. That victory should give encouragement to those who may feel, as time goes on, that long-distance opposition to the war crimes of Israel is futile. We, as activists, have a duty to spread Palestinian solidarity among the wider public. We need to convince those who see this as an event happening very far away that does not involve the UK, that nothing could be further from the truth. So, what can we do?

Since the end of last year, we at Trade Unions in Communities have been organising events from our base in Craigmillar for people to come together, eat together, and work together in solidarity with each other and with people across the world. We are reaching people who don’t know unions exist. By teaching people about unions and building links across our community, we have found ourselves with many opportunities to spread solidarity with Palestine.

Our doors are open to all, and everyone who comes into our centre in Niddrie sees the latest exhibition by the Network of Photographers for Palestine, ‘We Stand With Gaza’. One display shows a set of incredible photographs capturing the reality of the siege but also the power of people’s resilience. Another display demonstrates the diversity and strength of solidarity in Scotland, as well as Chile, Germany, and the USA. Together they demonstrate the power of resistance and solidarity.

Many people in our community have been joining the Edinburgh protests every Saturday, including refugees who live in Craigmillar and Niddrie. We are planning to organise a march one Saturday morning that starts here in our neighbourhoods and makes its way to the Parliament or the Mound to join the central rally. Think how widely and deeply solidarity will spread if there were marches through communities like ours across the whole country converging by foot or by bus with central marches and protests in towns and cities.

At Leonardo, a factory in Edinburgh that makes parts used by Israel, we have been gathering outside the gates at six or seven in the morning to speak with workers. The aim is not to accuse anyone of complicity, but to share information about the demands that Palestinian people are making to end the production in Scotland of arms supplied to Israel. Imagine if enough trade unionists and others got involved in developing a strategy, gathering support, and building a campaign so that the workers in those factories could make a decision to stop producing those weapons without risking their livelihoods dissolving in a flash.

Another thing that Trade Unions in Communities has been doing is encouraging local union members to bring motions to their branches for discussion and debate. Union branches can and should be places where issues like Palestine are debated so that people who might not be knowledgeable about the details become informed and then engaged. Lots of union branches have already been debating how they can practically support the Palestine solidarity campaign. What is to stop every union branch in the country debating a motion, and resolving to do whatever it can for Palestine? This is not about trade unionists taking their own path or positions apart from the broad campaign for Palestine, but about us putting their practical support and resources behind the wider movement of solidarity and resistance.

There are many things we can do. But if one thing is certain, we cannot allow this carnage to continue and whilst calls for a ceasefire are welcome they are not enough. Until the siege of Gaza and Israeli control of the Palestinian people are ended there will be no peace.

The photographs featured on this and the next page are from the NPP’s latest exhibition, ‘We Stand With Gaza’. It is now on view at the Trade Unions in Communities Hub, 121 Niddrie Mains Road, Edinburgh.