LONDON – Scotland’s trade union federation voted last week to reaffirm its support of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella organization of trade unions in Scotland, said at its annual conference in Dundee that it was backing the campaign because of Israel’s “failure to comply with international laws and agreed principles of human rights.”
“Following extensive debate and deliberation, the Scottish trade unions have endorsed a report recommending STUC support a boycott and disinvest from Israeli companies, call for sanctions against Israel, and encourage positive investments in the occupied Palestinian territories,” STUC said.
Last year, it also voted to support a boycott and “review” of its relationship with Israel’s Histadrut labor federation. In December, it launched a “STUC Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions activists pack” to further its work.
Speaking after the debate, STUC general-secretary Grahame Smith said: “The STUC is deeply concerned at the daily violations of human rights experienced by Palestinian people.
“The decision taken by our Congress is not a knee-jerk reaction, but arrived at after careful consideration over a two year period. During this time the STUC engaged in discussions with interested groups in Scotland and the UK, and undertook a fact finding delegation to Israel and Palestine.”
The delegation visited the region in February 2009. It met with Histadrut and Palestinian trade union representatives and with Israeli rights group B’Tselem. It also laid a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.
Following the visit, Smith called for a “divisive” boycott.
“On our recent visit to Israel and Palestine, we witnessed the human rights violations experienced by ordinary Palestinians on a daily basis. We saw how restrictions on movement and checkpoints prevent people from going to work, to school and to visit their families even when they are sick and dying,” he said at the time.
“We heard powerful arguments from [Palestinian rights group] Al-Haq outlining how Israel is in breach of the Geneva Convention and the need for other signatories to international laws to hold Israel to account,” he added.
Smith went on to say the STUC had “carefully considered” the complex issues and concluded: “We believe that we have a moral obligation to show solidarity to Palestinian people. STUC calls for divisive boycott of Israel.”
Last week, Smith reaffirmed the STUC commitment to a boycott of Israel.
“By taking this decision, the STUC intends to campaign for economic, political and social pressure to be brought upon the Israeli government, and world powers, to reach a peaceful and just two-state solution for Palestine and Israel,” Smith said.
Israel was the subject of four motions at the three-day conference. Motion 105, raised by Midlothian TUC, accused Israel of war crimes and the British government of being complicit in them.
“This Congress notes that a year after the barbaric onslaught of Gaza, the collective punishment and near imprisonment of its people by the Israeli occupation forces continues,” the motion read. “Congress welcomes the efforts of the STUC to carry forward the 2009 resolution on boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Congress recognizes, however, that our own government is complicit in allowing Israel to continue to act with impunity.
“Congress asks the [STUC] general council and affiliates to campaign against the complicity of our politicians, and demands their support for the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council that Israel should be prosecuted for war crimes.”
Raised by Dundee TUC, Motion 106 called for a complete boycott, the isolation of the Histadrut and action against the Jewish National Fund.
“That this Congress is proud of the STUC’s history of support for the rights of the Palestinians, and the leading role it has taken, alongside the Congress of South African Trade Unions and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, as confederations supporting a BDS policy against the Israeli state, in support of the Palestinian people,” the motion said.
“Congress now believes that a more critical policy should be adopted in relation to the JNF and the Histadrut. It believes that the JNF was founded, and continues to act, to promote exclusively Jewish access to land in Israel, Palestine and the occupied territories, to the exclusion of Palestinians.
“Congress believes that the JNF’s activities, and the organizations that it supports, function almost exclusively for the purpose of securing and expanding the Israeli state’s Zionist colonization of Palestine, the occupied territories and Palestinian-owned land within Israel.
“Congress notes the longstanding links between the JNF and the Histadrut and believes that the Histadrut requires to be isolated, as part of our wider policy of BDS, as a tactic to pressurize it to amend its policies and practices, as they concern Palestinian workers and the wider struggle for self-determination of the Palestinian people,” concluded the motion.
The motion called for the Scottish charity regulator to review JNF’s charity status and for the STUC to withdraw its recognition of the Histadrut “until a time when Congress feels it follows policies and practices consistent with international trade union standards of equality and solidarity.”
However, following the intervention of the Fire Brigade Union, the motion that passed replaced the call to sever ties with the Histadrut to “reviewing” them.
“Condemn the Histadrut statement, regarding the attacks on Gaza, and calls on the general council to carry out a further review of the STUC’s relationship with Histadrut, to determine if their policies and practices are consistent with international trade union standards of equality and solidarity,” the Fire Brigade Union amendment read.
Jim Malone, from the Fire Brigade Union, said it sends “a clear message of support to the Palestinian people”
“In condemning Histadrut for its collusion in the continued oppression and dehumanization process by the Zionist government in Tel Aviv, the STUC have shown the lead and look set to break its link with the government sponsored Histadrut.”
Last year, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions voted to support a boycott of Israeli goods and services. Last week, the Irish Congress held a one-day conference that looked at furthering the BDS campaign among trade unions in Ireland.
“The STUC has shown, yet again, that it is only interested in divisive
and counterproductive boycott calls rather than contributing in a
constructive way. Calls for a boycott only help those working to
delegitimize Israel and do nothing to help Palestinian workers,” said
Stephen Scott, from Trade Union Friends of Israel.
“The STUC, which has nothing like the stature and influence of the TUC
[the UK’s Trades Union Congress], has a long history antipathy to
Israel and even the Histadrut,” said Stanley Grossman, from Scottish
Friends of Israel. “These anti-Israel motions ignore any considerations
for the security of Arab labor in Israel or from the Palestinian
Authority and are not much more than gesture-politics aimed to satisfy
the more virulently anti-Israel elements, mainly far-left. However
unpleasant and uncomfortable, they will probably have little direct
effect on Israel trade and even less in the wider political sphere.”