Wednesday, June 20, 2007

UNISON supports boycott call in debate on Palestine

As I begin to get up to date with where the Conference agenda has got to I shall note in passing that the Wednesday morning at Conference witnessed debates on organising and on the environment. This included the report from the National Executive Council on our union structures.

As I write we are in the international debates. The debate on Cuba was enlivened by one contribution from a delegate who described Cuba as a “dictatorship” and opposed a motion in solidarity with Cuba. The motion went on to be passed all but unanimously.

The debate on Palestine is considerably more controversial with strong views on both sides around the question of a boycott of Israel. Tony Greenstein from Brighton and Hove branch has just won thunderous applause for an impassioned speech in support of the motion from Wolverhampton which the National Executive Council are (rightly in my view) supporting. This is a wide ranging motion about solidarity with the Palestinians – however the focus of the debate is around the question of a boycott of Israel. The motion calls for an immediate arms embargo and expresses principled support for an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott.

Leftwing opponents of the boycott proposals appear to me to cling to a very abstract view of class politics, leading them to believe that there could be some unity, in current circumstances, between Israeli and Palestinian workers. Helen Jenner, speaking on behalf of the NEC has explained that UNISON policy is absolutely in favour of dialogue, but that we have to respond to the appalling way in which the Palestinian people are being treated. UNISON is not opposed to the Israeli state or the Israeli people but to the policies of the Israeli government. Boycotts are a tactic to be considered and employed as appropriate.

Speakers in support of the motion are generally speaking from experience of the situation in Palestine, whereas opponents are giving generally more abstract presentations of an argument about workers unity, with a subtext of warnings about anti-semitism (and some exaggeration of exactly what the motion is calling for). Caroline Bedale from Manchester Community Health has given a characteristically measured response to the exaggerations from opponents to the motion.

Calls for a boycott of Israeli goods and institutions is not an attack upon the Israeli people – it is a legitimate tactic to seek to influence the practice of the Israeli government in oppressing the Palestinian people. The Conference has just overwhelmingly supported Motion 53 including the tactic of a boycott.

7 comments:

The Oxford Reader said...

Thank you, Comrade, for your invaluable explanations of what is really going on at Conference. The UNISON website just gives us a load of flim flam and doesn't make it clear what has actually happened or what any of it really means. What would we do without you?

Al said...

Sir, you are a LIER. The boycott is directed against Jews and you now that. Your pathetic statement that boycott is not against people of Israel is a lie. Genocidal maniacs from Hamas I am sure are very appreciative of your pathological hate of Israel and Jews. Last boycott against Jews was introduced and implemented by Nazis today it is UNISIN and members like you – “congratulation”.

Anonymous said...

Sir, you are a liar. The boycott is directed against Jews and you now that. Your pathetic statement that boycott is not against people of Israel is a lie. Genocidal maniacs from Hamas I am sure are very appreciative of your pathological hate of Israel and Jews. Last boycott against Jews was introduced and implemented by Nazis today it is UNISIN and members like you – “congratulation”.

Anonymous said...

way are you not putting in the argument that was giving aginst the motion?????lilach head

James Reynolds said...

Now that UNISON has singled out the only democracy in the Middle East, is it going to boycott Iranian for its suppression of the Azeris and other minorities, Russia for its genocidal war against Chechniya, China for its ethnic cleansing in Tibet, Sudan for the genocide in Darfur, British companies for their government's occupation in Iraq, Turkey for its occupation of Kurdistan.
The list is endless.
No matter what the rights and wrongs, and as we have just seen in Gaza the situation is a complex one,single out Israel a country that has constantly had to fight for its right to exist?
It should not be forgotten that Israel had war forced upon it in 1967.
Unison members should be ashamed of themselves.

Matthew Stiles said...

Just off the top of my head, UNISON also supports boycotts of Burma and of Coca-Cola (mainly because of the call from the Colombian food and drinks union SINALTRAINAL). It has also sent delegations to places like Turkish Kurdistan.
This stuff about singling out Israel is wide off the mark.

Anonymous said...

Although one can argue that Boycotts can have very positive impacts (the case of the breaking of raising publicity and breaking South Africa apartheid regime being a good example - Israelis apartheid policy deserve no less attention.) I wonder if Unisons numbers and energy could be used more effectively. For example there why not use the Unions 3 million members to look at how they can support buying Palestinians goods?

There is an amazing small group of that run an olive oil distribution company called Zaytoun www.zaytoun.org who are working to actively support farming communities that have suffered land confiscation to Apartheid / separation Wall . With the Wall being 700 km long sometimes 20 km away from the green line. Palestine’s farming are being strangled by Israel’s policy of ‘collective punishment’ and land grabbing to ensure that if they cant bypass or sell produce past the Wall then more farming communities and ancient villages are forced to leave and become refugees. Apparently 67 percent of Palestinians are from farming communities dependent on the sales of Olive oil it’s a blood line for them .So it seems to me that using our collective energy to support the buying of Palestine’s produce is a direct and positive way of pushing productive steps forward.

I understand and support the need for a boycott but in the case of Palestine just like the shanty town’s of South Africa it would be na├»ve to think that the Palestinians will not be economically hit. As they are, by the very impact of the Occupation dependent of Israeli good and are Captured economy (Israel controls all import and export of the west bank and Gaza)

Lets Think positive! millions of refugees have to just to stay alive! Our solidarity begins with them. Imagine the impact that on the ground if just a third of unisons members started starting buying Palestinian produce straight from the West Bank and Gaza! If four volunteers from Zaytoun can work to support 5000 farming families imagine what we could do …c’mon people create a future that has as sense of dignity about it. We just need to use our numbers and be unified in our support!


p.s I think it was TUFP & unison that helped support two farmers in speak in the UK about their lives and the impact that the Wall has had to them. that how i learnt about it..

A friend