(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON - A new movement to unite trade unions and other NGOs working against boycotts of Israel began operation last week.
Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) is led by labor officials from three continents - Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (US/Canada); and Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community, a British trade union - aims "to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbullah in the labor movement" and fight for "genuine peace, justice and reconciliation."
The new organization also condemns boycott calls by trade unions.
"... in recent years, a number of national unions and trade union centers have changed course and abandoned that role [of trade unions]. Instead, they have rallied behind those Palestinians who are opposed to the peace process. Some have gone so far as to deny Israel's right to exist," TULIP declares in its mission statement.
"A number of those unions have called for boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel, and only against Israel. They are attempting to demonize the Jewish state, to deny it legitimacy, and to whip up hatred against it. Sometimes that hatred even spills over into anti-Semitism.
"Those unions are wrong - terribly wrong," the statement continues.
TULIP says a two-state solution within secure and recognized borders is the only workable solution and calls for trade unionists around the world to join forces "in support of genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace with justice, based on a two-state solution with secure and recognized borders."
Israel, it says, has already taken the steps toward this goal, by agreeing to the Oslo Accords and later by the unilateral withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon in 2000 and the Gaza Strip in 2005. Palestinian moderates led by President Mahmoud Abbas also support this process, the group maintains.
The new organization said it would work together with Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists, and associated NGOs, to find ways to provide practical on-the-ground assistance, "rather than empty slogans," in order to fight the boycott calls.
TULIP said it would also provide information and opportunities to begin the process of "turning back the tide" and encourage unions to play a constructive role in the peace process.
Citing the positive role of some unions, it says the people want a process to succeed in delivering peace, justice and reconciliation.
"The International Transport Workers Federation, for example, has done much to bridge the gap between transport workers unions in Israel and Palestine and to reach ground-breaking agreements. The International Trade Union Confederation has encouraged dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian national trade union centers. Trade unions can play a positive role here, and often do. And individual unions in a number of countries have invited Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists to their conferences, helping to promote discussion and agreement.
"This is the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind - bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and reconciliation. It is a role we can be proud of," the new movement said.