Campaigners welcome STUC statement on solidarity with Palestinian workers

PNN/ Bethlehem/

Scotland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) welcomed the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General Council statement on Israel/Palestine that clarifies there have been no relations between the STUC and the Histadrut “as a consequence of the STUC’s position on BDS and other issues relating to Palestine”. The statement also encourages affiliates to “actively work with the PGFTU and other groups representing Palestinian workers”.

Speaking on behalf of the General Council, Mary Senior outlined the STUC view that “Israel isn’t just another member of the global community or an equal partner on the world stage.  This is an apartheid occupying force, which imposes daily breaches of basic human rights on the Palestinian people.” 

With regard to the STUC position on the Histadrut, Mary Senior explained that:

“While these continuing and significant differences between our two organisations exist there is no prospect that the situation will change. STUC is certainly not looking to build bridges with an organisation that supports the occupation of another land.”

Fiona Napier, who raised the issue of the Histadrut on behalf of Aberdeen Trades Union Council, responded to the STUC statement:

“With so many issues closer to home being debated by 2017 Congress, Palestine might seem a long way away to some, but in this 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, it is all the more important to send a strong message to our comrades in Palestine that trade unionists stand with them. The General Council statement clarifies STUC position on Histadrut; following a 2011 STUC adoption of a position of critical engagement with Histadrut, Histadrut broke off relations when it’s unacceptable practices were challenged. As an organisation complicit in, and supportive of, the Israeli state’s policies of occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people, it is important that Histadrut is publicly condemned and held to account.”

Eurig Scandrett of UCU Scotland, who also spoke at Congress about the nature of the Histadrut said:

“In asserting its recommitment to BDS in solidarity with Palestinian workers, the STUC have made a bold statement that there can be no relations with the Histadrut whilst that organisation continues its complicity with the oppression of Palestinians, its defence of the siege of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank and the construction of the apartheid wall. Histadrut is not an independent Trade Union Centre – it was set up as a ‘General Federation of Jewish Labour’ and has maintained its discriminatory approach since the establishment of the state of Israel. Trade Union leaders in Palestine have asked international comrades to break links with Histadrut – this statement makes clear that no such links will be tolerated by the Scottish TUC.”

Earlier, in his address to the STUC, film director Ken Loach made a specific plea for continued solidarity with the Palestinians, and urged delegates not to be intimidated by the current attack on Palestine solidarity activists:

“I’m very pleased to see that you’re talking about Palestine and the Palestinians.  I do hope you will give them the support and solidarity they need, an oppressed people, their land stolen, their children illegally put in Israeli jail, killed with impunity, they need our support – and please don’t be put off by any fears of being called anti-Semitic because that’s a tactic that is used to stop discussion.”

The STUC General Council statement also commended “those unions and activists who have undertaken legitimate campaigning activities in line with that policy and campaign”.

While reiterating that “There is a clear line between acts of anti-Semitism (which should be condemned and organised against without reservation) and actions of legitimate protest aimed against the policies of the Israeli state”, the General Council recognised that “on a number of occasions, campaigners undertaking activities legitimately within the parameters of the BDS campaign have been wrongly targeted with accusations of anti-Semitism and, in some cases, have been prosecuted for their actions”.

The General Council encouraged affiliates “with BDS policies to support those of its members, through financial, legal and other support, who undertake activities within the bounds of the policy but who are subjected to unfounded accusation”.

UNISON’s Kate Ramsden told delegates that:

“We must not allow our legitimate opposition to the Israeli state’s terrible treatment of the Palestinian people; our support for BDS to become conflated with anti-Semitism.

“Trade unions need to be brave and stand up for their activists taking action to implement their union’s policy in a lawful way.

“And activists need to know they can count on that support.

“Because we can only conclude that slowly but surely, BDS is having an effect.”