Palestinian unions say Israel boycott would harm them

The leader of Palestine’s equivalent of the TUC has told a delegation of British trade unionists that they are not interested in general boycotts of Israel.

Shaher Saeed, general secretary of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), told representatives of seven unions that the organisation had so little interest in the subject it had never discussed boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and therefore had no policy on the subject.

“The only area where the PGFTU did have a boycott policy was with regard to produce from West Bank settlements. Even then, there was concern about whether that boycott could do more harm than good for the 30,000 Palestinians employed there,” said Steve Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi), who was with the delegation that met Mr Saeed.

The delegates were Sheila Bearcroft, GMB central executive council member and TUC president 2009; Gerry Moloney, head of communications, Advance Union; Mike Dixon, national executive member, Usdaw; Robert Mooney, national executive member, Community Union; Duncan Harrod, public relations and communications officer, Community Union; and Terry McCorron, chair, Unison branch, attending in a personal capacity.

The delegates maintained a daily blog during the trip and in it, Mr Moloney wrote: “Listening to people from both communities on the subject of the proposed international trade union boycott, it is evident that all parties oppose this action. In a meeting with the Jerusalem municipality workers, one view from the Palestinian contingent was that a boycott would be more detrimental to the Arab workforce than any other.

“The reason was that in the event of economic sanctions, it would cause a detrimental impact on the employment levels of their community.”

On another day, Mike Dixon wrote: “There was a discussion about the boycott and it is clear that Palestinians don’t want it — all they want is equal pay and a living.”

The group met high-ranking Israeli officials as well as Palestinians during the four-day trip, one of two groups that Tufi takes every year to meet trades unionists on both sides.

Mr Scott said: “Both Histadrut (the Israeli union federation) and the PGFTU are working hard to improve relations. It is very important that UK unionists see and hear for themselves the views of people on the ground, rather than the one-sided rhetoric of some of the organisations in Britain.”

    Last updated: 5:29pm, November 12 2009