UK's largest union calls for Israel boycott

2 million member 'Unite' calls it "rogue" and "terror" state.

Unite union 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Unite union 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON – Describing Israel as a “rogue state,” a “terror state way beyond apartheid” and a “war state” with “no appetite for peace or coexistence,” Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, voted last Thursday for a complete boycott of Israeli goods and services at its annual conference in Manchester.
The motion – which accused Israel of an array of allegations including “a policy of ethnic cleansing,” “the enforced bankruptcy of the Palestinian Authority” and “the continued building of the apartheid wall” – passed unanimously.
As a result, the union, which has some two million members, will now “actively and vigorously” promote a boycott of Israeli goods and services “similar to the boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era,” as well as a policy of divestment from Israeli companies.
The motion called a boycott “the most effective way to ensure the Israeli government is made aware of the extent of opposition to its crimes against humanity.”
Four speakers spoke in favor of the motion; no one spoke against it.
Raymond Morrell, from the London and Eastern region of Unite’s Aerospace and Shipbuilding sector, described Israel as a “terror state” that goes “way beyond” what South Africa once was.
Des Loughrey, from the union’s activist committee in Scotland and who represents youth workers and the Not-for- Profit sector of Unite, called Israel a “rogue, apartheid state... It has no appetite for peace or coexistence...It is a war country...Unite must build a boycott campaign using its might.”
The European Union and British and Irish governments were also blamed for “failing in their obligations under international law” to challenge the “activities” of the Israeli government.
With no mention of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, the motion called for an annulment of the European Union-Israel trade agreement and for sanctions to be imposed.
“A reasonable response would be the imposition of political and economic sanctions.
Instead, it is the Palestinians who have been punished by the withholding of grant aid, while the criminal actions of the Israeli state are further appeased by continuing to grant them preferential trading rights,” the motion said. “The litany of human rights abuses, atrocities and war crimes should long ago have led to the ending of the agreement.”
In contrast to the University and College Union, which called to cut ties with Israel’s Histadrut labor federation at its conference the previous week, Unite wants to strengthen links with the Histadrut, but will host a solidarity conference to support and work with trade unions in actions against Israel.
“While we want an independent Palestinian state and will work with all trade unionists to achieve this, we deplore the course trade unions are currently taking,” said Stephen Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI). “Unite have had no real debate on this matter and they had not thought out this fully. Thousands of Unite’s members’ jobs could be at risk because of this policy and I see no one giving up their mobile phones or laptops with Israeli-made components.”
The Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), a movement working to unite trade unions and non-governmental organizations to counter boycott calls of Israel, said the decision would not allow Unite to play a constructive role in promoting peace
“The decision by Unite to support the BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions] campaign targeting Israel is a major setback to efforts to get unions to play a constructive role in promoting peace in the Middle East,” said Eric Lee from TULIP. “Decisions by smaller unions to support a boycott can be readily dismissed as insignificant, as can bureaucratic decisions such as the one made by [public sector trade union] UNISON to block TUFI from having a stall at its conference next week.”
The action by Unite, however, should “set alarm bells ringing in Israel and at the Histadrut in particular,” Lee added.
“This was a decision taken by Britain’s largest union at its national conference, and is especially significant as a result. The fact that the resolution was passed unanimously is particularly worrying,” he said.