Israel/Palestine,  Trade Unions

Real solidarity trumps gestures

We’re a little late with this, but it’s worth noting. Professor Alan Johnson wrote at Left Foot Forward last month:

Should British trade unions build on their links to Israeli unions or break them? Which course of action would be best for the Palestinians?

That question has been posed by the decision of the 2011 TUC conference to:

“Call on all unions… to review their bi-lateral relations with all Israeli organisations, including [the Israeli trade union federation] Histadrut.”

The Fire Brigades Union runs a humanitarian project, ‘FBU Dundee to Nablus Project’ and in October the project team delivered humanitarian aid to the Nablus Municipality Fire Department.

Leaving Dundee, the firefighters travelled from Scotland to Palestine, passing through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Israel. Along the way they strengthened links with firefighters in Austria, Greece, Israel and Palestine.

The project team met with the Israeli Histadrut in Tel Aviv on October 11th.

Jim Malone, FBU regional organiser for Scotland, speaking at the House of Commons this week, picks up the story:

“The meeting was hosted by the Histadrut and lasted for a very interesting four hours. [There took place] a robust exchange of opinions as to the understanding the FBU and the Histadrut had as to the human and trade union rights afforded Palestinian workers and the Palestinian people.”

When the Histadrut discovered the Israeli authorities were delaying the progress of the humanitarian aid from Haifa to Nablus, it offered its full support. Avital Shapira, head of Histadrut international relations, mobilised the union’s resources and liaised directly with the port authorities. And this week the humanitarian equipment was released.

The FBUs Jim Malone was ecstatic. But he also understood what had made the difference.

Today’s news is fantastic, we were faced by many challenges in delivering the project, however with the help of the Israeli Histadrut, the PGFTU and the Nablus Municipality Fire Department we have achieved our goal in delivering this vital equipment.

This is what solidarity could look like if we would only dump the talk of ‘derecognition’ and boycott. What is good for the Palestinian workers is the critical but constructive use of the historic links between the Israeli and UK unions, not their destruction for the sake of making a gesture.

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