Tom Watson MP - Candidate for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; Supporter of Israeli Apartheid
|Tom Watson - right-wing candidate for Labour Deputy leader|
Many people will heard of Tom Watson MP, one of the candidates for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, from his work campaigning against child abuse, Murdoch etc. However there is a darker side to Tom Watson. Contrary to popular belief he is firmly on the far-right of the Labour Party. He was Political Advisor to the last General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of EngineeringWorkers, Sir Ken Jackson. Those with long memories will remember that Sir Ken stood for General Secretary in 2002 and was defeated by a Broad Left candidate, Derek Simpson. Jackson did everything he could to avoid accepting the verdict of the AUEW electorate for what was the first election for a new union, Amicus. As his Wiki entry says:
|David Ben-Gurion - Histadrut's First Secretary-General - As Israel's Prime Minister he was a devoted supporter of the Expulsion of the Arabs of Palestine|
|Buy Local Goods - i.e. Boycott Arab Goods (this was a time when Zionists were fully in support of Boycotts)|
Watson could not have been his political advisor if they hadn’t shared the same politics and agenda. He later became a supporter of Gordon Brown and he is thoroughly New Labour. He is also Vice President of the Trade Union Friends of Israel. In 2012 he wrote the article below in support of ‘the new Histadrut’. The ‘new Histadrut’ is in fact very much like the old Histadrut except that it has been shorn of its vast conglomerate of industries and enterprises. Yes that’s right, the old Histadrut was the second largest employer in Israel after the State itself and as such was no union. It was a corporatist body.
|Histadrut picture - In the style of Stalinist art|
That is why its Secretary General, the former Defence Minister Pinhas Lavon could say of it in 1960 that Histadrut was '“a general organization to its core. It is not a trade union.'
|Histadrut poster in the 1930's - urging boycott of Arab melons|
However in the late 1980’s its enterprises began to go bankrupt and in 1985 the Stabilisation Pact in Israel forced it to sell off its companies, relinquish its health care system (Kupat Holim) and basically confine itself to representing its members.
Even so Histadrut was a unique institution. You join the federation first and then you are allocated to a department or union. It’s like joining the TUC and then being placed in UNISON.
|TUFI - an Organisation of pro-imperialist trade unionists|
But Histadrut was, from its very beginning in 1920, a racist body. It campaigned for Jewish Labour (Avodat Ivrit) and Jewish produce (Totzeret Haaretz), i.e. a Boycott of Arab Labour and Produce. It sought to divide Arab from Jewish workers and set up a tame Arab section, the Palestine Labour League. David HaCohen, former managing director of Histadrut’s building company, Solel Boneh, described what this meant:
|Histadrut logo - Zionist to the core|
“I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my trade union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there … to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they had bought … to buy dozens of dunums [of land] from an Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is prohibited; to take Rothschild the incarnation of capitalism as a socialist and to name him the ‘benefactor’ — to do all that was not easy.”
|The New Histadrut - much like the old one but a bit leaner|
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister was also became the first Secretary General of Histadrut in 1921. He followed a rigorous policy of Jewish labour mounting pickets of employers who continued to employ Arabs. Arabs were being driven out of the labour market as a prelude to being drive out of their land. As Ben-Gurion noted of employers who continued to employ Arabs: ‘it is for this petty profit, not a twentieth of net income, that he would foist on the colonies the evil of mixed labour, which can only provoke trouble on national and social fronts alike.' (my emphasis) [Rebirth & Destiny pp. 73-4]
The article below is a typical propaganda piece. Histadrut has refused membership to Palestinian workers in the West Bank whilst taking, courtesy of the military occupation which has never opposed, 1% of their wages even though it offered nothing back in return. After extreme pressure, what Watson calls ‘a groundbreaking agreement in 2008’ it returned a small fraction of what it had stolen.
Unsurprisingly the main concern of Watson’s ‘review’ of Alan Johnson’s propaganda pamphlet was opposition to the Boycott of Israel. Like propagandists for South African apartheid, Watson argues that it ‘set back the cause of peace’ whereas what has set back the cause of peace is the theft of Palestinian land, settlements, settler violence etc.
|Tom Watson MP - candidate for Deputy Leader|
The New Histadrut: Peace, Social Justice and the Israeli Trade Unions
At a time when those opposed to a two-state solution are calling to break the relationship between British and Israeli trade unions, BICOM Senior Research Fellow Professor Alan Johnson has written an important new pamphlet, published by the Trade Union Friends of Israel, which provides a unique insight into the history and activities of the Histadrut. The pamphlet details the Histadrut’s progressive aims and values and its cooperation with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). Professor Johnson lays out the origins of the Jewish labour organisation, their role in the foundation of the State of Israel, the subsequent creation of an Arab workers section, and the groundbreaking agreement in 2008 between the Histadrut and the PGFTU. The pamphlet highlights the Histadrut’s inclusivity as a powerful champion of vulnerable workers, its positive working relationship with its Palestinian counterparts, and why this relationship should be strengthened, not undermined, by UK trade unions. The pamphlet also details why boycotts damage Palestinian workers, set back the cause of peace, and risk isolating British trade unions from the wider international trade union movement, which has chosen engagement, practical solidarity and critical dialogue.
As Vice President of TUFI I’m pleased to endorse the pamphlet, The New Histadrut: Peace, Social Justice and the Israeli Trade Unions. Its contents and recommendations are a powerful source of information for all those wanting to engage with the Israeli and Palestinian trade unions. If we want peace in the region then surely we should be nurturing and supporting trade union dialogue. A pathway to the goal of two states needs the support of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians. Who better than trade unions to facilitate this to build confidence and understanding.”
Rt Hon.Tom Watson MP 20.6.12.
As someone who had not yet decided which candidate to back in the Deputy Leadership ballot, I was interested in whether or not it is true that you are a supporter and indeed Vice President of Trade Union Friends of Israel and therefore the Israeli union Histadrut?
If this is true then I am surprised because Histadrut is an Apartheid union which began life campaigning for Hebrew Labour (i.e. a boycott of Arab labour) and anyone acquainted with the subject will know that they effectively campaign for a colour bar in the civil service when Britain was the Mandatory power. Something Ernest Bevin vehemently rejected incidentally.
Until 1959 Histadrut didn't accept Arab members and even then it separated them into a separate Arab section. It has also never opposed building settlements in the West Bank, which is not surprising since the building firm they owned, Solel Boneh, built most of them.