Israel/Palestine,  Trade Unions

British TUC adopts anti-Israel motion as peace talks resume

Cross-posted from Eric Lee at TULIP

On Tuesday, 14 September Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) sponsored a fringe meeting at the annual conference of Britain’s Trades Union Congress. TUFI has sponsored such events each year, but this year’s meeting came at a particularly difficult time.

Not only have several British unions intensified their anti-Israel positions in the last year, going so far as to call for severing relationships with the Histadrut, but TUFI itself was forbidden to have a stall at the annual conference of Britain’s giant public sector union, UNISON.

The TUC, fortunately, remains a place where advocates of peace and a two-state solution can still have a stall and hold a fringe meeting.

Neverthless, the TUC resolution which was passed — yet again a compromise between unions which support the pro-Hamas Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and more moderate ones — is a disaster.

It is a one-sided attack on the Jewish state with no acknowledgement that another side might also be involved in this decades-old conflict.

As a very small example, the resolution denounces Israel for building a security fence which it considers part of a “deliberate strategy to undermine the viability of the West Bank” — but not a word about the actual effect of the fence, which has been to put an end to suicide bombings in Israel.

And the practical part of the resolution makes certain that British unions will not be playing a constructive role in the peace process now taking place in the region.

Here are the two paragraphs that matter — the ones that commit the TUC to actually doing something:

“Congress instructs the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall.”

This blanket endorsement of the BDS campaign and the PSC is a major change in TUC policy, which used to be committed to a strategy of engagement and reconciliation. No longer.

The next paragraph is clearly the result of compromise, but read it carefully:

“Congress instructs the General Council to bring to Congress a report on the impact of the boycott and investment withdrawal strategy, together with the outcome of the PGFTU/Histadrut discussions recently facilitated by the ITUC and TUC. Congress agrees to join unions around the world for maximum coordination internationally for active solidarity to end the siege of Gaza and for a free Palestine.”

The resolution acknowledges — barely — Histadrut cooperation with the Palestinian unions. But the drafters were clearly clueless about this, as they refer to ‘discussions’ rather than the actual cooperation on the ground that was discussed at the TUFI event.

It also mentions a non-existent TUC role facilitating these ‘discussions’, and the reference to the ITUC is disingenous to say the least.

The ITUC actually has played a constructive role, not least by rejecting utterly calls for a boycott of the Jewish state.

The key bit is the final sentence, which is blatantly anti-Israel. And the clue is the use of Hamas terminology — the call for a “free Palestine”.

The resolution doesn’t contain a word about Israel’s right to exist.

And it completely ignores the calls by Palestinian unions only last week to boycott settlement goods but do not call for a general boycott of Israel. The views of the PGFTU clearly do not matter to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its supporters in British unions.

To them, the Palestinian trade unionists are traitors to the cause, as they collaborate with Israeli unions all the time.

At the TUFI meeting, former TUC president Roger Lyons stressed the irony of the British unions passing a resolution which doesn’t mention even once the historic peace talks that were taking place that very day between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, meeting in Egypt.

Those talks — which Hamas and the global BDS movement have denounced — should have been at the heart of a TUC position, but were ignored in favour of calls for a “free Palestine”.

With the passage of this resolution, the TUC, which once encouraged peace and reconciliation betwee Israelis and Palestinians, has chosen the side of those who reject the peace process.

And in doing so, it has excluded itself from playing a constructive role in the region.

Gene adds: Eric Lee notes that the Israeli trade union federation Histadrut has been fighting for the rights of Jewish and Arab workers, including a recent general strike at Ben Gurion airport that resulted in an improved pension plan for airport workers. Of course the TUC recognizes none of this.

Meanwhile the TUC leadership continues to emphasize its warm solidarity with Cuba’s government-controlled “trade union” the CTC, which supinely approved in Thatcheresque terms the government’s drastic plans to fire half-a-million workers in the next six months, with no apparent safety net.

Where are the real trade unionists in Britain?