The delegation of Senior UK Trade Unionists listed below visited Palestine between17-22 April 2011. The delegation met with/witnessed:
- The dramatic extent of illegal settlement building in East Jerusalem and the victims of forced evictions;
- Members of the Palestinian Assembly who are currently under house arrest and have taken refuge at the Red Cross Centre in Jerusalem;
- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Palestinian Occupied Territories;
- A senior lawyer from the Campaign for the Defence of Children who is dealing with some 300 cases of children detained by the Israeli authorities;
- The illegal Israeli settlements in the centre of the Palestinian city of Hebron and the massive disruption and intimidation they bring to Palestinian residents of the city;
- Officials of an Israeli based workers rights organisation – Kav La Oved – that aims to publicise the worst abuses of Palestinian workers rights in companies in the settlements;
- An Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset – the Israeli Parliament;
- An economics Professor from Bir Zeit University who explained the desperate economic situation of the West Bank and Gaza;
- High level representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation;
- Victims of settlements expansion in Nabih Saleh (including former child detainees) who are having their land taken away and access restricted;
- The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU);
- Refugees from different camps in Nablus;
- A range of Non-Governmental Organisations – including Stop the Wall and the Boycott National Committee (BNC).
The delegation was deeply concerned about the testimonies and accounts they heard. It is difficult to capture adequately in words the extreme shock and anguish felt when a family shows video details of the violence and repression it has been subjected to for simply trying to access its own lands. It is also difficult to express the shock one experiences when first witnessing the sinister and brutal nature of The Israeli Separation Wall, a Wall that continues to be constructed on Palestinian lands, that continues to divide and effectively imprison Palestinian communities, and causes massive disruption to the lives and economy of the Palestinians. It is no less shocking to witness and experience the continuing and dramatic expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the enormous pressure on Arab-Israeli citizens to vacate East Jerusalem, and the massive illegal use of the Jordan Valley by Israeli settlers to produce agricultural products.
Based on the evidence it has seen the delegation can only conclude that Israeli actions demonstrate no intention of complying with UN Resolutions 242 or 446, and therefore no intention of stopping the expansion of illegal settlements, ending the occupation, and respecting the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people. As a consequence, in relation to trade union actions and activities concerning the Israel-Palestinian situation, the delegation wishes to impress the following points on the TUC, as well as all other national and international trade union organisations:
- The TUC position as defined in the 2010 Congress motion is absolutely correct and justified in calling for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign of complicit firms. The failure to halt the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the collapse of negotiations with the Palestinian Authorities, leaves an effective BDS campaign as virtually the only viable option for building international pressure to bring about a change in the situation;
- The TUC should re-emphasise its support for the BDS position by writing to all national centres – including Histradut and the PGFTU – with a copy of the 2010 motion. The TUC should call again on all its affiliates and allies to maximise their efforts in pursuit of establishing a pro-BDS position in the European and Global Union Federations. The TUC should also raise the issue with the European TUC by calling on it to support the international BDS campaign and pressing the EU institutions to end the EU-Israel regime of trade privileges until the situation is resolved;
- The TUC must be extremely cautious not to inadvertently legitimise a continuation of the current situation in Palestine through any actions it may undertake to implement the 2010 ITUC Congress motion. The April 20thstatement made by the PGFTU removes any doubt about its support for the BDS campaign. In light of the deteriorating situation and the end of the Israel-Palestinian Authority negotiations, together with the strong statement made by the PGFTU, the TUC should call upon the ITUC to re-examine and re-debate its position in the light of changing circumstances prior to taking any actions to implement the ITUC 2010 motion;
- The PGFTU is operating under enormous pressure and constraints and unions should therefore seek to engage with the widest range of Palestinian unions and NGOs possible, in order to ensure the broadest possible range of engagement with Palestinian civil society. A conference aimed at bringing together all BDS supporting trade unions – including the PGFTU – with the aim of creating one common position, took place in Ramallah on 30thApril 2011. The delegation strongly welcomes this initiative, and will seek to engage and work with all involved in the new umbrella coalition.
- There will be no just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians until Israel’s behaviour changes and the human and civil rights of all Palestinians are respected. Following the most recent collapse of negotiations Palestinian civil society is increasingly speaking with one voice and is now clearly calling for a concerted international BDS campaign as the most effective way of maximising pressure for Israel to change its behaviour. It is therefore incumbent on trade unions outside of Israel to maximise their efforts in support of the BDS campaign in order to bring a just and lasting peace to the region.
Stephen Cavalier – CEO Thompsons Solicitors
Gerry Doherty – General Secretary TSSA
Simon Dubbins – Director International Department, UNITE the Union
Garry Hassell – Executive RMT
Shaun Hoyle – Executive RMT
Hugh Lanning – Chair PSC and Deputy General Secretary PCS
Jonathan Ledger – General Secretary NAPO