When unions back oppression

The following message was sent to the Trade Union Action Committee of the British Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

An interesting notice appears on the website of The JC.com under the title “New labour movement is ”˜pro-peace’” (30 April 2009).

The article states that:

“A new international trades union movement committed to work for peace between Israel and Palestine has been launched this week “to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement”.

Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (Tulip), it reports, has been started by the Community union in Britain, the Australian Workers Union and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in America.”

This suggests that there is a recognition by the pro-Israeli Government supporters in the trade union movement in Britain that they have badly failed and that they are discredited by their intervention on the side of the Israeli Government and the Histadrut in support of the murderous Operation “Cast Lead”…  attack on Gaza.

Elsewhere the JC.Com website also makes reference to the STUC decision complaining that the boycott of Israeli goods would prevent the Jewish community in Scotland having access to kosher produce from Israel.…  In fact the STUC report specifically identified this issue and said that it did not wish the boycott actions to effect the religious observances of communities.

In Para. 6.3 of the General Council Recommendations it said:

“The STUC recognises the place of Israeli goods, such as kosher products, in Jewish religious observance, and wishes to ensure that a consumer boycott is targeted so that it does not affect, as far as practicable, religious observance.”

The JC.Com article completely fails to mention this of course.…  This is clearly an attempt to smear the boycott as anti-Semitic not anti-Israeli Government.

The Australian Workers Union, named as one of the founders of TULIP, invited the Histadrut to their conference this year but Ofer Eini the Histadrut General Secretary was not able to attend.…  He did however address the conference by video and his speech can be seen here.…  He reiterates the same comments expressed by the Histadrut in January this year justifying the attack on Gaza.

In responding to the speech the comments of Mr Paul Howes, the National Secretary of the AWU, could not be more ironic and tragic when he said, “We admire The Histadrut’s nation building traditions, which resonate with the history of our own union.” The racist history of the nation building process which took place in Australia is well documented.…  The indigenous peoples of Australia were driven off their lands to serve the interests of the colonists.…  A similar fate befell the Palestinians when 750,000 were driven off their land.

It would appear that one of the functions of the new group (TULIP) will be to oppose boycotts which again is interesting given that the AWU National Secretary Paul Howes is reported in The Courier-Mail on 3rd February 2009 as calling on the Australian Prime Minister to ban imported materials for big infrastructure projects.…  Apparently its OK to call for boycotts to defend members jobs (in fact of course potentially at the cost of the jobs of workers in the countries from which the imports originate) but its not OK for Palestinians and their supporters to call for a boycott to pressurise the Israeli Government to save…  the lives of Palestinian workers and end the illegal occupation by the Israeli Government which has just carried out the most barbaric attack on the peoples of Gaza.

At the moment there are no public records of the three unions having decided to establish TULIP on their websites but it is clear from JC.Com that this is an attempt to revivify the flagging fortunes of those who have so far uncritically and unconditionally supported the Government of Israel by trying to wrap themselves in the mantle of peace and bringing together trade unions to justify the policies of the Israeli Government. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has talked to the PGFTU about this on many occasions.…  They assure us that they have never heard of some of the people who claim to be playing this role of go-betweens – furthermore they point out that they are perfectly capable of initiating appropriate exchanges with trade unionists in Israel as and when they wish or need to.

The struggle to build the solidarity movement with the Palestinian people in the trade union movement in Britain and across the globe must continue and it should continue as long as it has to show solidarity with those inside Israel who oppose the policies of occupation.

Lets keep up the struggle.

Bernard Regan
PSC Trade Union Officer

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