[Boycott - Economic - Europe]
TGWU - Major British workers' union joins moves to boycott Israel
Haim Bior, Haaretz Correspondent
8 July 2007
Britain's Transport and General Workers' Union has called upon its 800,000 members to boycott Israeli-made products based on what they term Israel's "criminal policies in Palestinian territories."
The decision to call for a boycott, reached at a union conference in Brighton, is declarative and does not include concrete steps to implement the boycott.
The TGWU is the second British union to call for a boycott on Israel this year - last month the British public services union UNISON also urged its members to refrain from purchasing Israeli products, basing the call on Israel's "criminal behavior in the territories," and Israel's responsibility for the Second Lebanon War.
In the last six months, Ontario, Canada's public services union also proposed a similar anti-Israel boycott, as did several professional unions in South Africa. In addition, Britain's University and College Union called upon its members earlier this year to consider an academic boycott of Israel, which would include holding funding from research projects run by Israeli professors and preventing Israeli lecturers from participating in seminars.
Histadrut International activities director Avital Shapira said Sunday afternoon that the Histadrut labor federation views the TGWU's boycott call with severity. According to Shapira, the Histadrut has decided not to cooperate with these unions. "They expect us to help them with everything surrounding joint activities with Palestinian unions, but in light of their behavior toward us, we will hold these activities without them."
The British embassy in Israel issued a response Sunday saying "the British government opposes boycotts of any kind."
"The boycott declared by the Transport and General Workers' Union will not harm the growing commercial relations between the two countries," the statement said.
TGWU joins the campaign
Bernard Josephs, Jewish Chronicle
A top union leader evoked the Holocaust as the Transport and General Workers Union voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to impose a boycott of Israeli goods.
..only six union members voted against the [boycott Israel] resolution.
Barry Camfield, deputy general-secretary of the union, told delegates at its annual conference in Brighton that Britain had stood alone against Hitler and had liberated Jewish victims of the Holocaust. “So we will not have the Israeli state telling us that the boycott is antisemitic,” he said.
Mr Camfield urged TGWU members to put pressure on Israel. He blamed the fighting between Hamas and Fatah on “Israeli oppression”.
Like most supporters of the boycott motion — which was backed by all but a handful of delegates — the official went out of his way to deny that the boycott was aimed at Jews. Nor, he added, was it intended to stop dialogue with Israeli trades unionists.
“Members,” he said, “should examine their purchases so as not to buy Israeli goods.”
Seconding the boycott motion, Brid Smith argued that some people believed that boycotting Israeli goods could lead to antisemitism. “I don’t accept that. We are refusing to buy Israeli products, not Jewish products. There are many Jews, some of them in Israel, who agree with us. It is spurious to say that this [boycott] can be turned against the Jewish people.”
Opposing the motion, delegate Jim Horton said that while the union should support a Palestinian state, it should also support Israel’s working class.
“The boycott will perpetuate divisions between Palestinian and Israeli workers. It would alienate the Israeli trades-union movement.”
Another delegate warned: “The boycott will inevitably end up being seen as anti-Jewish and antisemitic.” But only six union members voted against the resolution.
The TGWU decision was seen by anti-boycott campaigners at the conference as a blow. Steve Scott of the Trade Union Friends of Israel said the movement was in for a “long, hot, summer”.
TUFI would continue to lobby trade unions to persuade them that there were two sides to every argument.
Another TUFI official said there had been attempts to meet the TGWU executive about the boycott motion, but that calls for such a meeting had met with no response.
On Wednesday, the Stop The Boycott campaign branded the T&G’s vote “gesture politics”. Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “The new government’s policy in the Middle East centres on what Gordon Brown has described as an ‘economic roadmap’, promoting economic engagement and investment for peace. The Palestinian people are in desperate need of such engagement at this time.
“The T&G vote cuts right across this strategy, sends out the opposite message and is actually a kick in the teeth to the Palestinians.”
The TGWU vote now means that four unions have passed a variety of resolutions aimed at boycotting Israeli institutions, goods and services. They are the National Union of Journalists, Unison, UCU, the academics’ union, and the T&G itself.
Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has begun appealing for “support in our campaign to promote a sporting boycott of the Israeli national football team, who will be playing England on September 8 at Wembley”. It asks for volunteers “with a strong knowledge of the football scene to help run the football campaign over the next few months”.
The NUJ executive is due to consider implementation of its boycott resolution today. Nearly 400 journalists have signed an online petition, started by the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, calling for it to be overturned.
Academics sign up as ‘professors’ of Haifa University
More than 100 academics from around the world have signalled their opposition to any academic boycott by responding to a call from the University of Haifa to be symbolically appointed as affiliated professors. Many of them are from Britain, including Professor Shalom Lappin, one of the first to resign from the University and College Union (UCU) after it passed its academic-boycott resolution on May 30.
Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, rector of the University of Haifa, who says he receives more new requests each day, said: “It is encouraging to see the trend of academics, who are totally absorbed in research, protest the effort to force political opinions through a boycott of academia, the symbol of freedom of thought and expression.”
The appointments will enable the academics to introduce themselves at conferences and academic forums as researchers from the university.
Separately, 51 Nobel laureates in a variety of disciplines have signed an open letter, under the umbrella of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, deploring the “shameful” UCU decision “to boycott contact and exchanges with Israeli educators and academic systems”. Led by Mr Wiesel, the list includes former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama and former South African president F W de Klerk.
What the TGWU resolution said
“Conference notes that Enough! is a coalition of charities, trade unions, faith and other campaign groups who are committed to peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. This can only be built on justice, equality and freedom. In order to achieve this goal governments like the British government must stand up for international law and human rights.
“This conference welcomes the TGWU’s decision to support the Enough! campaign and calls upon conference to play a full role by:
“Actively participating in the events planned throughout 2007 such as the national lobby of parliament in November 2. Building partnerships with other campaigning organisations such as War on Want who are actively supporting the Palestinian people.
“This conference deplores the actions of the Israeli government in its treatment and attitude towards the Palestinian people in failing to recognise their legitimate aspiration of a Palestinian state.
“We therefore call upon conference to support a boycott of Israeli products and goods and call upon the government to take a stronger stance in support of the Palestinian people.”
Histadrut to cut ties with UK union
Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post
The Histadrut Labor Federation is to cut all ties with the Transport and General Workers Union, the 800,000 member British union which last week joined the growing roster of British trade unions demanding boycotts of Israel.
We send a message to the Israeli state by our support for a boycott of Israeli products and goods.. As with South Africa, a boycott played a key part in liberating that country from apartheid. Now, we work to liberate the Palestinian people from their suffering at the hands of the Israeli state's military machine.
assistant general secretary
Transport and General Workers Union
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini is also expected to propose on Monday that his organization cut all ties with groups that back boycotts. This follows last month's introduction of a bill by Kadima MK Otniel Schneller requiring the tagging of exports to Israel from countries where anti-Israel boycotts are being promoted with stickers stating: "This country is involved in an anti-Israel boycott."
On Sunday, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv reiterated its opposition to the escalating series of UK union boycott moves. "The British government opposes boycotts of any kind," it said in a statement, going on to say that "the boycott declared by the Transport and General Workers Union will not harm the growing commercial relations between the two countries."
The Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), which merged with Amicus, another union, on May 1 to form "Unite," approved an Israel boycott call at its biennial Delegates Conference in Brighton, England, last week.
The union backed a boycott of Israeli products in protest against "the treatment of the Palestinian people."
"We send a message to the Israeli state by our support for a boycott of Israeli products and goods," said Barry Camfield, assistant general secretary of the union. "This is not a call to boycott dialogue or for industrial action. As with South Africa, a boycott played a key part in liberating that country from apartheid. Now, we work to liberate the Palestinian people from their suffering at the hands of the Israeli state's military machine."
"This vote won't help the Palestinians and it won't help bring about peace," said Lorna Fitzsimons, chief executive of BICOM [British Israel Communication and Research Centre] and co-chair of the Stop the Boycott Campaign. "Let's be clear this is a bad day for TGWU and their members, bringing itself into disrepute."
I say this to Jewish men and women across the country, in a country that stood against Hitler and the Nazis to liberate Jewish men and women in the Holocaust, that Jewish men and women in this country and across the world must reject the Israeli state and what is happening in the name of Jewish men and women..
assistant general secretary
Transport and General Workers Union
The Trade Union Friends of Israel was refused a meeting with the TGWU's general secretary prior to and at the conference last week. Throughout the four-day delegates' meeting, TUFI had a stand in the conference center.
Doreen Gerson, executive vice chairwoman of Trade Union Friends of Israel, said: "The vote was extremely rushed, as time had run over and there was not enough time for discussion, and the many delegates who wanted to speak against the motion were denied the opportunity."
Ahead of the vote, Eric McDonald, secretary of TGWU's Birmingham branch, which proposed the boycott motion, compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris [Read Harris's blog on JPost.com] called McDonald's words a "despicable expression of anti-Semitism." Harris cited the "Working Definition of anti-Semitism," first adopted by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, and now endorsed by various European bodies, including the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism.
"Whereas traditional anti-Semitism stigmatized and isolated the individual Jew, these recent boycott votes are attempts to stigmatize and isolate the Jewish state," said Harris.
The union also called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and the ruling-out of military engagement with Iran or Syria.
During the Second Lebanon War last August, Camfield spoke at an anti-Israel demonstration in central London. To a crowd waving Hizbullah flags, Camfield said Israel deliberately targeted schools, hospitals, blocks of houses and UN observers, all while "protected by the US, supported by Britain."
He also called for Jews around the world to reject Israel. "I say this to Jewish men and women across the country, in a country that stood against Hitler and the Nazis to liberate Jewish men and women in the Holocaust, that Jewish men and women in this country and across the world must reject the Israeli state and what is happening in the name of Jewish men and women," he said.
Schneller drafted his export sticker legislation soon after Britain's University and College Union decided to consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
"We must respond to this current trend in the UK. If the British think that they can pass judgment on us as a group and boycott us in this manner, than we must respond similarly to the British," Schneller said.
Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.
Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1183901654301&pagename= JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
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