Israel-Palestine: Unions step away from boycott policy

Submitted by AWL on 1 July, 2008 - 9:30

In June both the RMT and Unison conferences passed motions in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli unions and supporting dialogue rather than boycotts.

A motion at RMT conference denouncing the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, calling for solidarity efforts and a two-state resolution to the conflict passed by a more than four-to-one margin. While Bob Crow gave a speech in favour of a boycott of Israel, our comrades argued for positive solidarity efforts instead of such divisive tactics.

Meanwhile, the motion Unison conference passed called for the union to work with Israeli trade unions and peace campaigners as well as Palestinians. This is an improvement on last year's policy, which disdained such links and called for a boycott of Israel. Supporters of Workers' Liberty opposed that motion; we believe that workers in Israel and Palestine need to work together to bring peace to the region.

The composite centred on affiliation to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign but the PSC has a very one-sided view of how a solution can be found for the Middle East. They do not accept a role for Israeli progressives, and therefore fail to appreciate, or work with, those in Israel like the refuseniks who genuinely want to secure a just peace in the region.

However, the motion also called for links with unions and peace campaigners inside Israel. This will be a major step forward, as dialogue and solidarity between the workers in Palestine and Israel are essential to bringing peace to the region. It returns Unison’s policy to that of supporting solidarity with workers internationally and away from the sterile dead-end of boycotting. Unfortunately an even more positive motion detailing the joint work of Israeli and Palestinian peace campaigners and workers organisations from Guys and St Thomas’s was not prioritised.

Next year we will have to try again to improve the policy to focus on the potentially progressive role of the labour movement in the region and urge the union to provide practical and political support for groups like Gush Shalom who are organising convoys to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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