Israel/Palestine,  Trade Unions

Australian union leader blasts BDS

While the British Trades Union Congress continues its basically hostile approach to Israel, it’s important to note that other Western trade unions have not succumbed to one-sided Israel bashing.

Last year Rich Trumka, president of the American AFL-CIO labor federation, told the Jewish Labor Committee:

[G]iven the traditions, the heritage, the commitment, and given the values Jewish workers have always brought to the labor movement, I don’t think it ought to come as any surprise that the Jewish community here – and around the world – has never had a stronger ally than the AFL-CIO. And tonight, let me tell you that, so long as I’m president, you will never have a stronger ally than the AFL-CIO. That’s why we’re proud to stand with the JLC to oppose boycotting Israel.

Brothers and sisters, there is only one way we’re going to stop the violence in the Middle East, and it’s not by bashing Israel; it’s by supporting President Obama’s peace initiative.

Also last year, the president of the German trade union federation DGB affirmed support for cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian unions and opposition to boycotts.

Speaking at a joint Histadrut-DGB event…, the President of the DGB, Michael Sommer, expressed dismay over trade unions advocating boycott measures against Israel… At the same event, the chairman of the Histadrut Ofer Eini said that trade union boycotts only “damaged workers’ organisations” among Palestinians and Israelis and it was “absurd” to boycott one side when the Histadrut and [Palestinian trade union] PGFTU were working so closely together.

Now Paul Howes, president of the Australian Workers Union, has delivered an excellent speech to the Zionist Federation of Australia conference in Melbourne, which you should read in full. Among other things, Howes explains why support even for a boycott of goods from West Bank settlements (the position adopted by the TUC) plays into the hands of those who simply want to do away with the State of Israel.

The international BDS movement have adopted a strategy which says if you can’t get commitment to a complete anti-Israel BDS in a particular international community, oh well they’re happy with the wedge potential of just targeting the West Bank settlements.

But this stance should be seen for what it is – the pea and thimble trick. Confuse people so you never really know under which shell the pea is hidden.

It is of course a variation on the old Soviet strategy of building coalitions with ‘useful fools’ as allies. The ‘useful fools’ in this instance are people who are really, truly, quite genuine and honest peace campaigners.They genuinely only want to target the illegal settlements in the West Bank.But they are being used!!!!!!!

In reality, for the international BDS movement leadership, there is no difference between the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel.For them if the ‘useful fools’ want only to talk about the West Bank that’s OK.

For them this is the first step; part of their broader campaign to demonise all Israel; this for them is just a useful first step to attack the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

It doesn’t take much to find out what the international BDSers actually back: a campaign which wants to see Israel disappears.

Omar Barghouti – the international BDS movement founder – has been quite explicit in stating that his real aim is not a two State solution but the end of Israel itself.

In Barghouti’s own words he supports: “ a Palestine next to a Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to an Israel.”

The international BDSers want to fight the good fight, ready to spill more blood – both Israeli blood and Palestinian blood.

The real attitude of BDSers toward the TUC’s support for a “partial boycott” was made clear when the Communist Party of Britain’s John Haylett wrote in The Morning Star:

[I]t is important that the popular understanding will be that the TUC is in favour of a boycott of Israel and that Britain’s trade unionists are advocating membership of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

In other words, Haylett both assumes and hopes that ordinary people will misunderstand the exact nature of the TUC’s position. A Communist with a contemptuous attitude toward the masses? Must be a first.