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UN staff union rally to ‘call for the end of Israeli apartheid’

Stating that May 1 is a day to show solidarity “with all the oppressed,” the International Labour Organization said it will “be out on the streets demanding an immediate ceasefire" in Gaza.

A view of delegates and audience attending the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on April 18, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.
A view of delegates and audience attending the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on April 18, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

A major U.N. staff union is encouraging employees to rally on Wednesday to demand an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and “an end to the apartheid regime” in Israel.

The office of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as other high-level U.N. officials, have sent out multiple directives this year reminding staff of their obligation to maintain neutrality and follow established policies when commenting on the Middle East conflict.

Still, the staff union at the United Nations’ Geneva-based International Labour Organization, which employs over 3,000 people from more than 100 countries, sent an email to its constituents notifying them that the union will take part in a rally today, which marks annual International Workers’ Day. 

The rally is sponsored by the Communauté genevoise d’action syndicale, an umbrella organization for Geneva unions.

According to a flyer produced for the rally and seen by JNS, the organizers aim to “stop the massacre and apartheid in Gaza.”

Stating that May 1 is a day to show solidarity “with all the oppressed,” the umbrella union said it will “be out on the streets demanding an immediate ceasefire and an end to the apartheid regime imposed by the state of Israel on the Palestinian population.”

The rally comes a month after JNS reported on increasingly unchecked anti-Israel political activity among United Nations staff, and a statement from the global body’s head that he “will not tolerate” such actions.

A Jewish U.N. employee who spoke with JNS for its Mar. 26 report and who still wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told JNS that the ILO staff union’s publicization of Wednesday’s rally is another piece of evidence that Guterres has not implemented any effective deterrents.

“The U.N. can send out reminders from time to time, and that is good practice,” said the employee. “But if no one is willing to remedy the situation, and no one in authority has the will to implement corrective measures and crack down on these types of blatant violations of U.N. policy on neutrality and political advocacy, then staffers will feel they have carte blanche to do what they want. And they would be right.”

The ILO staff union did not respond to a JNS request for comment.

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