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Greece: May Day protesters condemn Gaza war

May 1, 2024 at 2:33 pm

Members of the pro-communist union PAME take part in a demonstration in front of Greek Parliament to mark May Day (International Labour Day) in Athens, Greece, on May 1, 2024. [Socrates Baltagiannis – Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds of Greek workers marched through central Athens on Wednesday to demand pay rises that would bring their salaries close to the European average, Reuters has reported. The workers also protested against Israel’s war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Ships remained docked at Greek ports and buses and metro services in the capital were disrupted as transport workers joined a 24-hour strike called by Greece’s largest trade unions in the private and public sector for Labour Day.

Protesters demanded pay rises that will make up for a series of wage slashes imposed by previous Greek governments as part of austerity measures in return for the international bailouts that kept Greece afloat during its 2008-2018 debt crisis.

Greece’s economy has been growing at nearly twice the euro zone rate in recent years and the country last year regained investment grade status after 13 years in the “junk” category. As public finances have recovered, wages for state workers increased this year for the first time after 14 years and the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which was re-elected last June, unveiled this week a plan for a performance-based bonus of up to 15 per cent of annual salary from 2025.

State workers deplored the handouts, saying they were pittance which failed to make up for a cumulative 40 per cent drop in their salaries over the decade-long meltdown, just as food and house expenses kept rising.

Many of the demonstrators who had gathered peacefully outside the Greek parliament buildings held Palestinian flags and let balloons fly in the sky in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. “It was our duty not to forget that genocide on this day,” said Marianna Tsagari, 48, who joined the demonstration.

Israel strongly denies accusations that its offensive in Gaza, which aims ostensibly to destroy the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, after its October attack on southern Israel, constitutes a genocide. Nevertheless, Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. South Africa, which took the apartheid state to the ICJ, has since claimed that Israel is ignoring the court’s ruling.

Although around 1,200 Israelis were killed on that October day, many were actually killed by Israel Defence Forces tanks and helicopters, not Hamas fighters, according to Israeli media. Just over 250 hostages were taken back to Gaza.

The occupation state’s subsequent military offensive has to-date killed 35,000 Palestinians, most of them children and women, and wounded 70,000 more. An estimated 8,000 Palestinians are missing, presumed dead, under the rubble of their homes destroyed by Israel.

More than six months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lie in ruins, pushing 85 per cent of the enclave’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, according to the UN.

READ: ‘Yes, it is genocide’ in Gaza says Israeli professor of Holocaust studies