(photo credit: )
The following minutes are from the most recent meeting of the National Union of British Chimney Sweeps, held in London earlier this month.
Chairman: "Mr. Secretary, would you read back from the minutes the resolutions passed during this meeting."
Secretary: "Mr. Chairman, the National Union of British Chimney Sweeps has resolved to demand from employers a 5-per-hour pay raise, increased health benefits for pensioned union members and the preservation of all existing wood-burning fireplaces throughout the United Kingdom."
Chairman: "Very good Mr. Secretary. Now, if there is no further business, I move we adjourn..."
Delegate No. 1: "Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman! May I have the floor?"
Chairman: "The chair recognizes the honorable delegate from Brixton Local 101."
Delegate No. 1: "Mr. Chairman, I would like to draw the attention of this assembly to the fact that in recent months, several of our fellow unions and trade associations, including those of British academics, journalists and architects, have passed resolutions condemning Israel for its brutal oppression of the Palestinian people and calling on its members to cease all business, cultural and social dealings with the Zionist-racist Jewish state. Therefore, I call on this union to pass a similar resolution forthwith!"
Chairman: "Well, that is a very sound suggestion. Do I hear a second from the floor?"
Delegate No. 2: "Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman!"
Chairman: "The chair recognizes the honorable delegate from Golders Green."
Delegate No. 2: "Mr. Chairman, fellow members, I would like to know the relevance of this resolution to the business of this union."
Delegate No. 1: "I remind our fellow delegate from Golders Green - Mr. Ja-cob-son - that fellow Palestinian union members of our profession throughout the West Bank and Gaza are finding it difficult to make a livelihood due to the Israeli military roadblocks, patrols and barriers which inhibit their freedom of movement and prevent them from carrying out their business."
Delegate No. 2: "I point out to the honorable delegate from Brixton the fact that to the best of my knowledge, there are in fact no Palestinian chimney sweeps."
Delegate No. 1: "Technically that is correct. But I remind the floor that five years ago, this union passed a solidarity resolution twinning itself with Jenin Local 507 of the Palestinian Guild of Combustible-Belt Makers, and the Israeli military measures I just described are indeed making it extremely difficult for members of our sister union to make a living."
Delegate No. 2: "Make a dying is more like it."
Delegate No. 1: "Mr. Chairman, that remark is out of order, and I ask that it be stricken from the record. Furthermore, I point out that our comrades in the Palestinian Guild of Combustible-Belt Makers have themselves already passed their own resolution of solidarity with this union, and we would be remiss if we did not in turn recognize and reciprocate their generous and selfless gesture."
DELEGATE No. 2: "Mr. Chairman, with your permission I would like to read out the actual text of that resolution of 'solidarity.' Quote: 'To our infidel chimney-sweeping brothers in Britain: If you do not renounce your evil imperialist nation and submit yourselves to the words of the true prophet Muhammad, if you do not slay the Zionist unbelievers in your midst, cover up your lewd and lascivious sisters and bow down before the will of Allah, you will be swept from the face of the earth for all eternity by the force of irresistible jihad, jihad, jihad!'"
Delegate No. 1: "Mr. Chairman, I protest that the delegate from Golders Green is showing great cultural insensitivity by taking the words of our comrades in Jenin so literally. Clearly, in this context 'jihad' is meant to be interpreted as an affectionate token of proletarian fellowship. Let me also point out that just last year this union sent a representative to Israel, Mr. Bert, to make an official assessment of the situation facing our comrades in the Palestinian areas. His subsequent report not only confirmed the oppressive conditions in which they labor, but also described the feelings of warmth and appreciation felt by our Palestinian brethren for our efforts on their behalf."
Delegate No. 2: "May I point out to the honorable delegate from Brixton and the rest of the floor that since arriving in Gaza eight months ago, our honorable representative to the Palestinians has not been seen nor heard from at all, except for this report and one videotape in which he decries Zionist oppression and British imperialism, swears fealty to Allah and the Palestinian cause and calls on this union to pay the sum of $5 million to his captors to obtain his release."
Delegate No. 1: "Mr. Chairman, I most strongly object to the use of the words 'captors.' Our representative is clearly still a guest of our Palestinian comrades, and my understanding is that this sum is simply meant to cover additional travel expenses he accrued while visiting Gaza."
Delegate No. 2: "I forgot to also mention the severed pinkie from his left hand that was delivered to union headquarters last week."
Delegate No. 1: "And clearly there are some medical expenses owed as well. But, Mr. Chairman, all this is irrelevant. The fact remains that our Palestinian comrades are suffering every day from the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Shockingly, this includes the participation of Israeli members of our own profession. For example, I have here a photograph of an Israeli chimney sweep, having come straight from work and still covered head-to-toe in soot, standing guard outside Israel's notorious 'apartheid wall' and enforcing its racist policies."
Delegate No. 2: "Mr. Chairman, I believe the honorable delegate from Brixton has in fact confused a photo of an Ethiopian-Israeli for that of a chimney sweep."
Chairman: "Come, come, gentleman, I believe we've heard enough debate on this issue, and suggest we immediately bring this motion to the floor. All those in favor of boycotting the State of Israel and ceasing all contact with all Israeli members of the chimney sweep profession, say aye."
Chairman: "All those opposed, say nay."
Delegate No. 2: "Nay."
Chairman: "The motion passes, 171-1."
Delegate No. 2: "Mr. Chairman, can I at least ask that this union, in conjuncture with this motion, pass similar resolutions condemning the far worse human rights violations in many other countries across the world, especially in Arab and Islamic nations, and also the rising tide of anti-Semitism here in Great Britain?"
Chairman: "Now Mr. Ja-cob-son; what possible relevance could those issues have for a bunch of chimney sweeps?"
The writer is director of communications for the Jerusalem office of The Israel Project (www.theisraelproject.org)