TUC's severance of a strong link

September 18, 2014 13:01

The resolution which the Trades Union Congress adopted last week on the subject of Israel marks a grim watershed in the history of the TUC's relationship with the Jewish state. More than that, it marks the passing of an era in terms of the attitude of the British left towards Jews and Jewish national self-determination. Steve Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel, has put a brave face on the importance of the resolution, declaring that there had been no significant change in the TUC's position. I beg to differ.

Let's look at the terms of the resolution that was passed.

In the first place, the resolution is grotesquely one-sided. It naturally embodies a sweeping condemnation of Israel's recent military operations in Gaza, without mentioning even once (let alone daring to condemn) the rocket and mortar attacks launched from Gaza against Israel, to which these operations were a response.

"Congress (the resolution continues) particularly deplores attacks on UN facilities, including the attacks on seven UNWRA schools between 21 July and 3 August which killed more than 50 people and injured over 300."

On the matter of the now universally accepted fact that UNWRA permitted three of its schools to be used as rocket warehouses, the resolution is silent.

The resolution is silent on UNWRA permitting rockets to be stored in its schools

The resolution does contain a nebulous paragraph reminding us all that international law forbids the deliberate targeting of civilians, but while alleging that Israel has subjected Gazan residents to a "collective punishment", it makes no mention of the use of civilians by Hamas as human shields.

It welcomes the formation by Fatah and Hamas of a so-called unity government (which is now falling apart, as the TUC must know) but makes not even a passing reference to the summary executions of Fatah members by Hamas militias, or the comprehensive persecution of Palestinian trade-unionists in the Gaza enclave.

Then we come to the guts of the TUC's declaration, namely its demand that the UK government "end immediately arms trading with Israel including all military-industrial collaboration. The TUC should, working with the relevant unions, press those companies involved in supporting Israel's military to cease to do so." No mention (you will note) of an arms embargo on Hamas.

Instead, there is a rousing call for "the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement until the rights of the Palestinians are established", and a paragraph of encouragement for British trade unions to affiliate with and (presumably, therefore) support the aims of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

What the "rights of the Palestinians" are or might be the resolution does not spell out. But the sympathetic reference to the PSC gives us a clue. For the undisguised ambition of the PSC is to enforce "the right of return" and so bring about the demise of the Jewish state.

But, whereas the PSC is entirely open about this aim and objective, the TUC resolution leaves us to read between the lines. However, the meaning is surely unmistakable. The reference within the resolution to the TUC's past support for "a two-state solution" is therefore utterly disingenuous, as is the odd stand-alone sentence deploring "attacks on synagogues."

As others have pointed out, the logo of the PSC infamously depicts "Palestine" as a single state incorporating the whole of Israel within the Green Line. And it is to this grim vision that the TUC has now publicly committed itself.

Not to put too fine a point on it, an age has now passed. This age saw broad support for the Jewish state from the ranks of the British trade-union movement, warm fraternal relations between the TUC and the Histadrut (its Israeli equivalent) and an ambition and a willingness to assist in forging positive links between the Histadrut and Palestinian trade unions.

Behind these aspirations there was a much broader sympathy for Jewish national self-determination from within the ranks of the British left.

This past is well and truly dead. Is there any point in resurrecting it?

As a lifelong trade-unionist myself (believe it or not I once held high office in the Association of University Teachers) my heart says that there is. But my head tells me not to waste my time.

The fact of the matter is that British Jewry now has little in common with the trade-union movement to which it was once so close. The best advice I can offer Steve Scott is to formally disband Trade Union Friends of Israel - a shock tactic that might, just might, bring the TUC to its senses.

September 18, 2014 13:01

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