UK union to maintain partial boycott

Britain’s Jews welcome decision not to escalate sanctions; union also votes to strengthen ties with radical fringe group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

israel boycott groceries 311 (photo credit: AP)
israel boycott groceries 311
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON – Britain’s trade union federation voted at its annual conference in Manchester on Tuesday to continue its boycott of Israeli goods and services from West Bank settlements, but dropped plans for a full boycott campaign.
The Trade Union Congress also voted to strengthen ties with the radical fringe group the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
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However, the motion stopped short of a full general boycott of Israel.
“Congress instructs the General Council to work closely with the PSC to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall,” the motion said.
At its conference last year, the TUC voted to support a targeted, consumer-led boycott of goods from the West Bank settlements and to work closely with the PSC in order to build an effective boycott campaign. It also voted to campaign for disinvestment from companies associated with “the occupation,” as well as those engaged in building “the separation wall.” Consequently, many expected a stronger course of action at Tuesday’s conference furthering the boycott and divestment campaign, but in the end it was dropped from the motion.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision to not implement a full boycott, saying it was a blow to the boycott movement.
“The TUC today rejected a general boycott of Israeli goods, despite the efforts of the PSC. This is good news, and a serious setback for the pro-boycott movement. We recognize the efforts of serious trade unions, the TUC and international TUC leaders in opposing this divisive measure,” said Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman in a joint statement with Mick Davis, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council’s executive committee.
“However, the tone of the TUC’s resolution is at odds with the realities of Israeli- Palestinian trade union cooperation and the renewed peace process. We are also concerned that the resolution again mandates TUC to work closely with the PSC, an organization that does not share TUC’s support for a twostate solution. Communal leaders will be meeting with TUC leadership to raise these concerns.”
“The TUC took a sensible decision not to boycott Israel. We are now looking forward to the TUC supporting trade union cooperation between the Histadrut and PGFTU [Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions],” said Stephen Scott from Trade Union Friends of Israel. “However, we are disappointed at the stupid and unjustified criticism of the Histadrut, as well as at the lack of acknowledgement of the current peace talks.”
“The TUC motion was ignorant, discriminatory and immoral. The TUC is now deeply involved with the PSC, an organization which promotes vicious extremists and funds terrorists,” said Jonathan Hoffman, co-chair of the Zionist Federation of the UK.
“This motion is what one would expect from the trade union organization of Iran (if one exists), rather than from that of a civilized Western democracy. Every trade union member should now be considering his or her position.”
The motion was raised by the transport union TSSA, whose president Andy Bain accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” urging delegates to “make the boycott work.” “The occupation has seen industries taken over. You are moved off your land and walls are built to divide people from their land,” he said.
The motion also condemned the Histadrut trade union federation for its backing of the government during the Gaza flotilla incident in May.
Hugh Lanning, from the PSC group, said the vote showed that British trade union members were prepared to stand up “in support of an oppressed people” in the same way they had during the effort to end apartheid in South Africa.