TUC backs Israel boycott call

By Jenni Frazer, September 17, 2009
The TUC are meeting today in Liverpool

The TUC are meeting today in Liverpool


After hours of wrangling and the possibility of suspension of its Middle East debate, the TUC General Council hammered out a new policy which has been greeted with euphoria by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Despite this, Roger Lyons, former TUC president and present chairman of the Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi), drew some comfort from the General Council statement, which, he insisted, "supersedes the extremist motion from the Fire Brigades Union and... marginalises the attempts by the FBU to boycott Israel."

In fact, the Fire Brigades Union's boycott resolution was passed but the General Council statement now replaces it.

However, the new policy now states that "as a result of the Gaza offensive" the TUC will call on the government to "(a) condemn the Israeli military aggression and the continuing blockade of Gaza; (b) end arms sales to Israel which reached a value of £18.8 million in 2008, up from £7.7 million in 2007; (c) seek EU agreement to impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal settlements; and (d) support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement which provides preferential trade facilities to Israel."

Mr Lyons, drawing some crumbs of comfort from the statement, said that TUFI "welcomed the TUC's decision, affirmed in its statement, to increase its support for Israeli and Palestinian trade unions that are opposed to boycotts and back the peace process initiated by President Obama.

"Over 50,000 Palestinians working in Israel could lose their jobs as a result of a boycott, as well as many British workers producing exports to Israel.

Today’s statement shows that a majority of trade unions in the UK want to provide meaningful help to the people in Israel and Palestine, rather than call for divisive and counterproductive boycotts. The sensible voices of the TUC have prevailed".

But the "sensible voices" have succeeded in pushing through a policy in which the TUC says it "will support a boycott (where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with such products) of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements — through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall".

The statement also says it will encourage unions "to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to raise greater awareness of the issues."

Last updated: 12:26pm, September 18 2009