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Thursday, 18 June 2009


For the second time in 3 years, the National Conference of UNISON, Britain's second largest trade union, has voted to support a Boycott of Israel, as well as demanding a removal of all settlements and the demolition of the Apartheid Wall. The salient parts of the motion are below:

‘Conference reiterates its belief that a just solution must be based on international law and Israel must:

Withdraw to its 1967 borders;

Allow the refugees the right of return;

Remove all settlements from Palestinian occupied territories and occupied Syrian Al-Joulan;

Demolish the apartheid wall;

Respect the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination and to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council to:

b) Call on the British government to support a ban on imports of all goods, especially agricultural products from the illegal settlements in the occupied territories and until such a ban is introduced, to support a boycott of these goods;

c) Calls for Israel to end their blockade of Gaza and for all suspected war crimes to be fully

d) Continue to press the British government to… to end arms exports to Israel, including components via a third party, immediately to end all economic, political, intelligence and logistical aid to Israel; and to work within the European to end the European/Israeli Agreement that allows Israel favoured trading status.

e) To work with and support civil society organisations in Israel, including the scores of young Israelis imprisoned for refusing to take part in the army of occupation, who oppose the continuing occupation and support the rights of Palestinians such as Workers’ Hotline, workers’ advice centres and Sawt el-Amel;

f) To actively oppose and condemn anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia;

g) Support recognition of the outcome of the last elections to the Palestinian Authority (2006) which were certified as free and fair by international observers;

h) Send a letter of solidarity to the staff and students at Islamic University of Gaza and the Al-Azhar University – Gaza;

l) Conference also expresses its grave concern at the statement 13 January 2009 of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labour in Israel) supporting the military assault on Gaza, and in general at its lack of opposition to the occupation. We therefore agree to a review of our relationship with the Histadrut’s PSI affiliates, Union of Clerical Administrative and Public Service Employees (UCAPSE) and the Government Employees’ Union and to call on the TUC,
STUC, Wales TUC and ICTU to review their relationship with the Histadrut.

There is no disputing that the resolution is an advance, especially the call to review links with Histadrut, on policy of the last 2 years. Despite this the resolution has its weaknesses, for example in accepting that there is any kind of equivalence between the oppressed and oppressor (Hamas rockets) and restricting the call for Boycott to the products of the West Bank settlements rather than a boycott of Israeli institutions and products.

The weaknesses stem from seeing the solution as being a 2 States solution. When you take that position, and posit the conflict as primarily a national one rather than one of a settler colonial occupation, then you accept the validity of the Israeli state behind the Green Line, including the Jewish nature of that state.

It is entirely regrettable that activists in Palestine Solidarity Campaign had to pressurise and force their own Executive, and in particular Trade Union Organiser Bernard Regan, to even take up the question of Histadrut. This extended to a secret letter send from Bernard Regan to various trade union executive members and bureaucrats urging them to attend the conference to support the right slate and vote down the proposals on Histadrut.

At the moment PSC’s position on the Histadrut is no different from that of Unison and the Scottish TUC whereas PSC, as a solidarity organisation, should be in advance of the organisations it is trying to persuade. As it stands, PSC has nothing to say to unions like UNISON which have adopted the position of reviewing links with Histadrut. Do we support and urge breaking links or are we going to continue along the path of allowing pressure from trade union bureaucrats to dictate policy to PSC? Indeed far from us seeking to change the policy of the unions, it is they who are effectively dictating PSC's policy!

Unsurprisingly, the ex-Marxist/Trotskyist 'Alliance for Workers Liberty' group was the only group claiming to be on the left which opposed a Boycott of Israel. Their slogan was 'solidarity not boycott' but as I explained to their paper sellers, the best form of solidarity is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Unfortunately the AWL chooses once again to ally itself with the oppressor against the oppressed.

Tony Greenstein (Conference delegate from Brighton & Hove UNISON)
Gaza violence condemned - UNISON Conference Report
(18/06/09) Conference responded today to the calls of UNISON members to "ratchet up the pressure" on Israel to withdraw from Gaza, demolish the apartheid wall and respect the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. It also instructed the NEC to review the union's relationship with the Histadrut (General Federation of Labour in Israel), in light of the federation's support of the military assault on Gaza in 2008, and its lack of opposition to the occupation.

In what has become an annual motion on the conflict, UNISON "wholeheartedly condemned" the use of violence on both sides, whether the Israeli assault on Gaza or the rocket attacks against Israel.

But it also noted the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli blockade of Gaza, where 79% of the population live below the poverty line, unemployment has reached 50%, people have no access to electricity for 16 hours a day, and 80% of water does not meet World Health Organisation standards for drinking.

Alison Shepherd of the NEC told delegates: "We believe in a two-state solution, but that does not mean that we believe this is a conflict between equals."

The NEC is to call on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza and on the British government to support a ban of all goods from the illegal settlements in occupied territories. It has also been charged to seek a full investigation of suspected war crimes.

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