British trade union calls for boycott

06/24/2010 22:27

One of UK’s largest unions votes for boycott, expelling Israeli envoy.

One of Britain”s largest trade unions passed a motion at its annual conference in Bournemouth last week accusing Israel of lying over the Gaza flotilla incident and has called for a complete boycott of Israel and for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, it was confirmed on Thursday.

The emergency motion was introduced on the third day of the annual conference of UNISON, the largest public sector union with around 1.4 million members. It said Israel was “brazenly lying” over the flotilla incident, as it “attempted to define it as an attempted lynch mob of its troops by passengers on the boats. “This is a further sign that Israel does not respond to words of condemnation, only action will have any effect,” the motion states.

One attendee said that the few Unison members who spoke against the motion were heckled.

UNISON member Lilach Head, a care worker from Devon, spoke against the motion and was heckled. She said the atmosphere was intimidating and the vote was called before more people could speak against it.

“Only three people were able to speak against the motion, there were six others waiting but then the vote was called. There was no hope,” she said.

The union will now support a full boycott of Israel – economic, cultural and sporting; it has joined the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and will suspend ties with the Histadrut.

In addition to these measures, UNISON is calling for Britain to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“Conference reaffirms the support for an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel and call on Unison to join the scores of unions around the world who have endorsed the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Further to that as an immediate sanction for the illegal attack on the flotilla, we call on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador,” the motion states.

The union had already banned a organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation from having a stall at its conference.

UNISON”s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, a pro-Palestinian activist and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – a fringe group that advocates a one-state solution and major player in the boycott and delegitimization campaign against Israel – wrote to Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) saying the union was unable to offer the organization a stall because “we have no ongoing work with the TUFI, nor are we affiliated to the organization.”

“More than 2,000 delegates to UNISON”s national conference, representing our 1.4 million members, did indeed carry a motion condemning the Israeli attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla, in which nine people were reportedly killed,” a union spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“The motion noted that the boats were carrying much needed humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza [and that] the passengers on the boats were civilians.”

Asked if the wording and the sentiments expressed in the motion were a fair and honest reflection of the views of the members, the spokesperson said: “Our 2,000 delegates were well aware of the words in the motion before it was carried. We have constantly called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and have pushed the case for a peaceful settlement – including an end to the bombings, on both sides.”

Asked how the motion would be implemented, the spokesperson said: “Our international committee will be taking forward the actions called for in the motion when it meets in the next couple of weeks.”

“Again, this is making accusations before the facts have been established and an investigation into this tragic incident have been completed,” said Stephen Scott, director of TUFI. “The outrageous attack on their fellow trade unionists in the Histadrut, who have called for a lifting of the blockade restrictions and the resumption of final-status peace talks, is counterproductive.

The Israeli embassy in London said the motion was “misleading” and “dishonest” and an “outrageous attempt” by anti-Israel activists to manipulate the union to serve their agenda.

“We categorically reject this misleading and dishonest motion. This is yet another outrageous attempt by anti-Israel elements to manipulate a union into serving their agenda.

“At a time when public sector workers face unprecedented challenges to their jobs and conditions, it is bizarre that the union”s leadership is focusing an emergency meeting on an overseas situation of which they are so clearly ignorant and prejudiced,” the spokesman said.

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 motion presented an “utterly one-sided view” and could have easily been written in Iran.

“UNISON continues to speak with two voices,” said TULIP spokesman Eric Lee. “On the one hand, the union”s official policy remains support for a two-state solution, which was reaffirmed by the union leadership – and the union has actually done some good work on the ground, promoting Jewish-Arab peace and reconciliation.

“However, this resolution was hastily drafted and even more hastily adopted; it contradicts the union”s own long-standing position and instead presents an utterly one-sided view of the conflict. It fact, it so demonizes Israel that it could easily have been written in Teheran,” Lee added.

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