Trade unions praise Israel visit

Trade unionists from Britain and Australia have taken part in a joint tour of Israel and the West Bank.

British unions, including the Prison Officers Association, Bakers Food and Allied Workers’ Union, GMB and USDAW, sent 17 delegates on last week’s four-day trip organised by Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi).

They visited Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, and held a meeting with Ofer Eini, the chairman of the Histadrut, Israel’s General Federation of Labour.

Mr Eini praised Tufi for leading the delegation at a time of violence between Israel and Hamas. Two members of the group had pulled out of the tour citing security fears.

While in Rishon Le Zion the trade unionists were forced to take cover by the side of the road after an air raid siren went off.

Delegates also met the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) in Nablus.

Oliver Stockley von Statzer, a special projects officer for the Community Union — which represents steel workers, textiles workers and shop staff — said the trip had given him new insight into life for Israelis and Palestinians.

He said: “My perceptions were changed entirely. Because I had not been to Israel before I only knew details from what the media portrays.

“It was interesting to meet Israelis and Palestinians and experience their views on the conflict and the possibility of a two-state solution.”

He said the experience had given him a greater understanding of the realities of life for Israelis living with the threat of Hamas rocket attacks.

“It’s important that more people get involved in this sort of delegation to get more of an idea of what really happens,” he added.

Last updated: 5:45pm, November 29 2012