Australian unions recognise the power and necessity of BDS

Now this is news, a growing realisation that the status-quo in Palestine is simply oppressing Palestinians. Civil society is rising:

Australian unions are signing up to an international campaign to boycott Israeli goods.

But a fight is brewing over a proposal for the Australian Council of Trade Unions to endorse the movement.

The broad-based divestment and boycott campaign is targeting companies that profit from the Israeli settlements.

The Electrical Trades Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Queensland branch of the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Finance Sector Union have all passed a resolution supporting the international campaign of “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) against Israel.

Communications Electrical Plumbing Union national secretary Peter Tighe told The Australian the electrical branch of his union had adopted the resolution and he would now take it to the broader CEPU, then the ACTU.

“We had a 30 or 40 minute presentation from a delegate who had visited Palestine,” Mr Tighe said.

“The council decided we would support the BDS. We are not anti-Jewish; we just think the human misery over there is outrageous. We think the Israeli government is captive to some extreme views on the Right.

“We think it’s got to a stage where we are going to have to have bans across the board.

“Working people can’t sit on their hands forever.”

Mr Tighe, who sits on the ACTU executive, will take a resolution to the peak union body.

“We will use our influence within the ALP to push this position,” he said.

“Now you have a few unions with the same view and we can influence the political process more, we are not just one voice.”

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said he would fight any plan to see the ACTU endorse the sanctions.

“We don’t believe that it’s in the interests of Palestinian or Israeli workers to seek to divide them in the peace process,” Mr Howes said.

“Unions are free to do what they wish but certainly I think it’s a bit naive. Some unions are not fully aware of what they are signing on to.”

Of course, the Australian editorial opposes any kind of BDS, simply hoping and praying that someone, somewhere, will convince Israel to give up its occupation. Without pressure and pain, this will never happen:

If there is logic behind the international campaign to boycott Israel and the decision of some Australian trade unions to back it, we are struggling to see it.

Assuming sanctions work (and that is a big assumption), there are many regimes with a far greater claim to global opprobrium than that of Israel, a nation the Left once supported. The frustrating truth is that nothing has changed on the ground to justify the international Left’s perfidy. Everyone of goodwill agrees where this conflict will end, with two states separated by borders that approximate the 1967 boundaries and Jerusalem as a shared capital. So let’s make it happen.

The starting point must be talks without precondition. The Palestinians must dump their disingenuous tactic of linking construction of West Bank settlements with a return to the negotiating table. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, must use the advantages of incumbency to resist pressure from the Right and orthodox religious parties and pursue a path to peace that allows room for compromise. While political chaos would be in nobody’s interests — not that of the Israelis nor the Palestinians — Mr Netanyahu should not hoard a cent of his political capital in the pursuit of peace.

Settlements, however, are not the main issue. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, has negotiated with the Israelis in the past without demanding the sort of freeze on construction he now insists is a precondition to resuming talks. Any further delays would betray a basic lack of enthusiasm among Mr Abbas and his colleagues for negotiations and an attempt by them to drive a wedge between Israel and the Obama administration, which erred by allowing the settlements issue to assume the centrality that it has.

Mr Netanyahu, of course, has not helped by backing legislation in the Knesset that requires new non-Jewish citizens to take a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The best hope is that this is part of a broader strategy aimed at shoring up essential political support that will assist him in eventually striking a peace deal. The presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a state visit to south Beirut is a salutary reminder of just how urgent it is for both men to get to grips with reality.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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