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A delegation of representatives from the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on Saturday with the view of boycotting, divesting from and imposing sanctions on Israel.
The delegation, which will spend a week in the region, is composed of 11 senior Scottish officials from unions such as the University College Union, which recently called off proposals to boycott Israeli academia; the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, the assistant general-secretary of which, Bob Crow, is a patron of the fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign; and UNISON, the UK's largest public sector union, which has also supported a boycott of Israel and has in the past supported a one-state solution.
In a statement, the delegation said it would meet with trade unionists in Israel and the Palestinian territories to "investigate the merits of supporting a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against the State of Israel until it complies with international law and agreed human rights principles."
"This is a very important mission for the STUC - in 2007 our Congress asked us to explore the merits of a boycott of Israel because of the Israeli state's actions against Palestine," said STUC general-secretary Grahame Smith, the delegation's leader. "Over the past 18 months we have been considering the views of our affiliates and stakeholders. But it is absolutely vital that we speak directly to trade unionists in Israel and Palestine about this, and see for ourselves what is happening in the region," he said.
Smith added that while the STUC supported a two-state solution, members were "alarmed" by Israel's actions in Gaza and the occupation.
"The STUC supports a peaceful two-state solution for both Israel and Palestine. We have been deeply alarmed at the Israeli attacks in Gaza, and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands. This delegation will report back to our Congress, taking place in April 2009 in Perth. Congress will then have the opportunity to take a decision on the issue of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions," he said.
Stephen Scott from Trade Union Friends of Israel told The Jerusalem Post that any boycott would be damaging to both peoples.
"The STUC delegation needs to develop links with their Israeli and Palestinian trade union brothers and sisters," he said. "There are many initiatives between the Histadrut and Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) member unions for cooperation and development that the STUC unions should be supporting.
"While we understand the STUC's concerns and solidarity for the Palestinian people, boycotting Israel in any form would only damage any relationship and dialogue between workers from both sides."
Instead, Scott said, efforts should be made to promote peace through economic empowerment.
"Efforts should be concentrated on concrete measures for creating an enduring peace that includes economic and social development through the trade union movement," he said.