Scottish union boycott ‘will breach Race Act’

By Marcus Dysch and Stephanie Brickman, April 30, 2009
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Roger Lyons: regrets the move

Roger Lyons: regrets the move

The Scottish Trade Union Congress has backed a boycott of Israel, claiming the country has breached international law and human rights.

But the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) said the boycott breached the Race Relations Act.

STUC members agreed to recommendations put forward after a two-year investigation by the organisation itself, which included sending a delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March.

It said its action would not target kosher food produced in Israel as it did not want to affect religious observance.

Edinburgh Jews rely heavily on a dedicated kosher section at a branch of Sainsbury’s, whose range comes almost entirely from Israel.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign members already protest weekly against the stocking of Israeli goods outside a Tesco store in the city, where Jewish students regularly shop.

Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, said: “The decision taken by our congress is not knee-jerk, but arrived at after careful consideration over a two-year period.”

But SCoJeC director Ephraim Borowski warned: “It is a principle of the Race Relations Act that actions have to be judged by their effects, not what people self-servingly declare to be their intent, and we have no doubt whatever that this action is in breach of the Act.”

Roger Lyons, Trade Union Friends of Israel chairman, said: “It’s a sad day when fellow trade unionists take such a one-sided, totally unproductive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. All this boycott will do is divide the two communities further.”

Manawel Abdelall, executive member of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, addressed a Scottish PSC meeting in Edinburgh last Friday.

He said: “The truth is that the STUC motion has nothing to do with Jews or Israelis as individuals. The decisions were made sincerely to put pressure on Israel because of its policies towards Palestinians. Hurting Israel economically is the best way to put pressure on Israel to change.”

Ken Ross, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, told the meeting how the passing of the motion had been achieved: “We were clever and we didn’t do any table-bashing.

“You read the witness report and see the film [made during the STUC visit to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank in March] and there’s really only one decision that can be made.”

    Last updated: 9:38am, April 30 2009