Global trade union rebuffs Israel boycott

By Jennifer Lipman, June 28, 2010
Ofer Eini has been elected as one of ITUC’s vice presidents

Ofer Eini has been elected as one of ITUC’s vice presidents

An organisation representing trade unions in more than 150 countries and 176 million workers worldwide has rejected calls to boycott Israel and pledged its “universal recognition” of the country’s right to exist.

At its world congress in Vancouver, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) stated its rejection of “the extremist policies of Hamas”.

And in a defiant slap to the boycott movement, the leader of Israel's Histadrut, its umbrella trade union body, Ofer Eini, has been elected as one of ITUC’s vice presidents and given a place on its 25-member executive board.

Trade unions around the world have been vocal in calling for divestment and sanctions on Israel, with Britain’s largest union, Unite, unanimously passing a motion to boycott Israeli companies earlier in June.

The University and College Union also passed several anti-Israel resolutions at its recent Manchester conference.

Yet in a striking volte-face, calls from different trade unions for a campaign against the Jewish state were unsuccessful. The conference instead committed ITUC to support for a two state solution and the 2002 Road Map for peace.

An anti-Israel resolution by the Congress of South African Trade Unions was not even debated, while one embracing Histadrut as “crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development” was adopted.

The ITUC resolution also acknowledged that Operation Cast lead in January 2009 was “in response to rocket attacks” on Israel, as well as criticising Egypt for placing “heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza”.

Eric Lee, a leading trade union activist and a founder of the Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine organisation said: “This is welcome news for Israelis and Palestinians.”

He added: “It is a blow to the supporters of Hamas who have tried hard to isolate and demonise Israel within the trade union movement".

Last updated: 4:48pm, June 28 2010