UK's largest trade union begins debate on boycott of Histadrut

Welcoming the "Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign [BDS]," Motion 54 calls for sanctions against Israel.

boycott Israel 88 (photo credit: )
boycott Israel 88
(photo credit: )
A motion to boycott Israel is on the agenda of Britain's public sector trade union at its annual conference that begins on Tuesday in Brighton. With over 1.3 million members, UNISON is the largest trade union in Britain, representing people who work in public services, the voluntary and private sectors. During the four-day conference, Israel will be the subject of a call for sanctions and is mentioned in four different motions. Welcoming the "Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign [BDS]," Motion 54 calls for sanctions against Israel. This includes initiatives already taken by the Irish Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU); the Ontario region of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); the Congress of South African Unions (COSATU), and artists supporting a cultural boycott - The motion accuses the Histadrut of failing to condemn the Second Lebanon War last year and actions in Gaza following the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Schalit, and reads: "The Histadrut expressed no opposition to the invasions of Lebanon or Gaza, nor to the 'apartheid wall' throughout 2006 despite its own substantial economic conflicts with the Israeli government." The motion calls for UNISON to "encourage the Histadrut to condemn the Israeli government's blatant violations of international law" and to "participate fully" in the BDS campaign. Practical measures to realize this include cooperation with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), an anti-Israel socialist group; identifying companies and UNISON members involved in trading with Israel; highlighting to union members the scope for consumer boycott of such trade; investigating whether pension funds may have investments in Israel, or in key companies trading with Israel, and seeking disinvestment from any such pension links. The authors of the motion want discussion of these issues at branch and regional level and to organize regional conferences in cooperation with other Trades Union Congress affiliates and the PSC to discuss the BDS campaign. Another motion calls for the suspension of the European Union's trade agreement with Israel and a mandatory UN Arms Embargo on Israel "of the kind the Security Council imposed on South Africa in 1977." It also calls to campaign with the PSC and encourage UNISON branches and regions to affiliate with the anti-Israel group. Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said of the proposed sanctions: "This is a dangerous decision, because it could harm numerous workers in Israel and their employers, specifically in organizations that have commercial ties to Britain." Motion 53 says that a "just" solution to the conflict must be based on international law and that Israel should withdraw to 1967 borders and allow the refugees of 1948 to return home. The motion calls for Israel to "remove all settlements from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Occupied Syrian Al-Joulan; take down the Apartheid Wall; respect the Palestinian people's right to national self-determination and establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem." The motion galvanizes the union to support a full boycott to pressure Israel to end the occupation and condemns the sanctions placed on Hamas following the 2006 elections "which make worse the appalling economic circumstances of the occupation. It is a unique example of economic sanctions imposed, not upon an occupier, upon a population struggling against illegal military occupation." Another motion on the UNISON agenda calls for the release of the two convicted Palestinian nationals charged with the bombing of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in London in 1994, which wounded 14 people at the embassy and eight at Balfour House.