Since 1930 Equity has undertaken international solidarity work to advance the cause of the trade union movement, and in the interests of artists facing oppression. Our longstanding involvement in the Middle East dates back almost 40 years, and the events of this month have demanded that we engage in as practical a way as possible to the threats faced by artists and working people in Israel and Palestine.
We have reached out to our sister union in Israel, Shaham, to share our condemnation of the attacks by Hamas. It is heartbreaking that appalling acts of violence occurred at a cultural event; a music festival. Cultural spaces and events – whether the Supernova festival, the Freedom Theatre of Jenin, or the Regional Theatre of Donetsk – should be places of sanctuary and expression, not death and fear.
We have offered whatever practical help we can to Shaham, and stand ready to do so. We join the call from across the international trades union movement for the immediate and safe release of civilian hostages held by Hamas.
Equity also has longstanding relationships with the Alrowwad Cultural Centre in Bethlehem and the Freedom Theatre in Jenin. It is remarkable that in the face of substantial personal loss on the part of those who lead the Alrowwad Centre that they have opened the doors of their centre to displaced Gazans and tirelessly strive for peace and justice. We will remain in dialogue with them about how we can support them at a time of incredible hardship.
The daily apartheid suffered by Palestinians and the impact of illegal settlement in both Gaza and the West Bank has wrought devastation. According to the UN, the occupation deprives Palestinians of their human rights, driving continued violence – since 2008 until September this year, 6,407 Palestinians and 308 Israelis were killed. The latest violence has so far caused more than 1,400 deaths in Israel and more than 2,600 deaths in Gaza, according to authorities from both sides.
In the face of the threatened collective punishment of the Palestinian people for the crimes of Hamas, we oppose the Israeli government’s withholding of vital utilities to Gaza, and condemn the order from Israel for civilians to leave northern Gaza. Such actions can only lead to ethnic cleansing, or worse, as per the warning from the United Nations Special Rapporteur last week. The UK government and all politicians must clearly and unequivocally condemn this siege – and do all in their power to stop it, or the death toll will continue to rise into the thousands and beyond. The UK must be committed to a lasting peace, consisting of a full withdrawal of Israel to the internationally recognised borders of Palestine.
Equity is deeply concerned about the impact of the current situation on freedom of expression in the Middle East, in the UK, and around the world. We condemn the decision to stop pre-planned performances by the Freedom Theatre of Jenin in Paris, and stand ready to help them however we can to continue to tell the stories of Palestinians through their work. We condemn those politicians in the UK who seek to characterise Palestinian solidarity as extremist, and recognise that there can be no apologism for antisemitism or Islamophobia.
Equity recognises the grief and fear that the crisis in the Middle East creates for our members from Arab, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds. That antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in the UK have risen demands our solidarity and action. We urge any member whose dignity at work is threatened in this context to seek support from the union.
To all artists: good work. To all workers: good art. To all people: Equity.
You can read more about Equity’s international work here.