A Call for Ideological Consistency

Sergio Gryn
Nov 13, 2023
Sergio Gryn, Director of the International Department at the International Institution of Leadership – Histadrut

A Call for Ideological Consistency, for those unions and democratic organizations around the world that are still unaware of the story I am about to tell: Hamas’ Struggle Against the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions

The General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions (PGFTU) in the Gaza Strip has been suffering aggression at the hands of the fundamentalist movement Hamas. From the moment it established sovereignty in the territory, Hamas’s aggressions indicated the dictatorial and violent nature of this organization’s actions against institutions like PGFTU, which are tasked with protecting the rights of Palestinian workers. It is a tale of violence and intimidation that often goes unnoticed by many but deserves to be known.

The history recounted is just a glimpse of the policies implemented by Hamas for over 17 years, a form of governance that has stifled any Palestinian institutional expression defending workers’ rights.

In 2005, under Ariel Sharon’s government, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, displacing all Jewish residents and completely withdrawing its army.

The following year, parliamentary elections took place in Palestinian territories. Hamas won with 44% of the votes, surpassing Al Fatah (representative of the President of the Palestinian Authority – PA – Mahmoud Abbas), who secured 41% of the electorate. As a result, Ismael Haniya, Hamas leader, is appointed the Prime Minister, always under the figure of the PA president. The election results mark a turning point for the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions in the Gaza Strip and the protection of its members’ rights.

In October of the same year, specifically on the 12th, a group of 40 “militants” from Hamas vandalized the offices of the PGFTU in the Gaza Strip. Shortly afterward, 13 Palestinian workers were shot dead in Gaza by local police during a demonstration demanding payment of wages and unemployment benefits.

2007: Hamas militants arrest a Palestinian resident in Gaza | Photo Credit: AP/ Israel Today

On January 29, 2007, Hamas launched projectiles at the home of the Deputy Secretary-General of the Palestinian Trade Union Federation, Rasem Al Bayari. The following month, the same fundamentalist movement attacked the PGFTU radio station. Hamas authorities opposed the station, claiming it “poisoned” the people. It was a trade union radio station aiming to defend workers’ rights and allow them to express their opinions. The station was completely destroyed, and the workers’ voice was silenced.

In April, union leader Rasem Al Bayari was shot while traveling in his car with his family. Less than two months later, on June 12, 2007, when PGFTU no longer had any representation in Gaza, Hamas violently expelled the Palestinian Authority from the strip. After this harsh episode, the dominance of the Islamic fundamentalist movement in this territorial space became total.

The recounted history is just a sketch of the policies implemented by Hamas for over 17 years, a form of governance that has stifled any Palestinian institutional expression defending workers’ rights.

In this regard, the Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Guy Ryder, expresses in a note to the Palestinian leadership: “The ITUC deplores the violence in Gaza, after days of conflict between Hamas and Fatah fighters, costing the lives of about 90 people, many of them civilians.” Among other observations, he adds: “The ITUC is particularly concerned by reports stating that the offices in Gaza of its Palestinian affiliate, the PGFTU, are among the facilities taken over by Hamas fighters. Hamas must immediately withdraw from the PGFTU offices and all other buildings they have taken.”

It is worth noting that, contrary to what was described earlier, in August 2008, under the umbrella of the ITUC, the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions (West Bank) concluded a historic agreement with the Histadrut – the General Federation of Workers in Israel. This agreement was signed with the aim of protecting the rights of Palestinian workers employed in Israel by local employers.

Undoubtedly, this is the spirit of solidarity and cooperation that we promote in each of the courses we develop at the International Leadership Institute, and we see it reflected in the actions of our parent organization, the Histadrut.

After all that has been exposed, I wonder and ask you:

How can some worker organizations support a fundamentalist movement like Hamas that suppresses unionism?

Since when do democratic organizations (many of which have experienced living under the repression of a dictatorship) prioritize information provided by fundamentalist dictatorship bodies over evidence presented from a democratic society where there is freedom of the press, opinion, and expression?

How is it possible that certain groups, identified with basic values of coexistence for any democratic society, such as freedom of expression and association, the defense of minority rights, and above all, workers’ rights, support a fanatical and violent organization that certainly does not practice democracy in any of its facets or formats?

Is it not contradictory, not to say absurd, that progressive movements from different parts of the world manifest against democracy in democratic countries or, worse yet, in favor of a heinous and perverse dictatorship?

I pray that the rationality of our principles and ideological coherence grant us the wisdom to position ourselves in the right place.

Indeed, this will not be supporting the dictatorial and terrorist regime of Hamas, under which none of us would want to live even for a minute.

Today, long after Hamas established absolute power in the Gaza Strip, we understand that the violence exerted by this terrorist organization against the authorities and structures of the PGFTU in Gaza was just a preamble to a monster that is intentionally condemning a large part of its people, Israel, and “perhaps” the entire region to war.

Direct testimony of this is what Khalil al-Hayya, deputy to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, expressed a few days ago in an interview with the New York Times when he said that the goal of his organization in producing the massacre on October 7, was to “change the equation in the Middle East.”

In other words, the sinister massacre and its consequences were coldly calculated: they planned to sacrifice Gaza and its inhabitants. They planned to ignite a regional war – involving groups from the Resistance Axis, such as Iran, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, among others. They planned for this war to lead to their ultimate purpose: eliminating Israel and establishing a Palestinian state of a fundamentalist and oppressive nature, a kind of theocracy like the current Iranian regime or ISIS itself.

This article was published thanks to the International Leadership Institute.

It was translated from Spanish by Adi Marcus.

Each of the above pieces of information can be verified on the www.ituc-csi.org site or by searching for specific information about union leader Rasem Al Bayari:

https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/2007-02-02_PGFTU_headquarters_and_radio_attacked.pdf https://www.ituc-csi.org/gaza-ituc-deplores-descent-intohttps://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/2007-04-10_Assassination_attempt_on_PGFTU_Deputy_GS.pdf https://www.ituc-csi.org/spotlight-interview-with-rasem-al https://www.europapress.es/economia/macroeconomia-00338/noticia-rsc-csi-denuncia-intento-asesinato-dirigente-sindical-gaza-creen-acto-intimidatorio-20070202184109.html

Might interest you as well