OPINION: On Israel, the TUC bark is worse than its bite

OPINION: On Israel, the TUC bark is worse than its bite

Director of TUFI
Director of TUFI

Stephen Scott is the Director of Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), who have a twitter page HERE.

Director of TUFI
Director of TUFI

There has been a bit of confusion and anger over the past few days about the criticism of Israel by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) at its annual conference.

The overall picture does look poor at first glance, but when you look at the final policy, and understand how trade unions work, the final bark seems much worse than its bite.

We at Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) are fully aware of delegates’ anger over the Israeli actions during the summer, but we send a message that the TUC supports trade-union solidarity and the worker-to-worker struggle across the divide that will foster peace and, hopefully, an end of conflict.

The main confusion has arisen over how much the General Council statement changes the current TUC stance.

Looking at the details juxtaposed to existing TUC policy, the position hasn’t changed that much. Of course delegates wanted to vent their genuine anger over Israel’s military action in Gaza.

It was a way for them to make themselves feel better without consequence; like shouting into a pillow.

The fact that the statement omits any mention of Hamas and other belligerent organisations in Gaza attacking Israeli civilians, let alone condemning them, is probably the price to pay for the moderate language, but does rather make the TUC look somewhat foolish.

The fact that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is so cock-a-hoop about the statement, and that it pretends Hamas doesn’t even exist, seems demonstrate what many have suspected all along – that the campaign doesn’t care about helping Palestinian workers, only about null and void motions whose sole aim is to ostracise Israel.

So what are all the ‘terrible’ things the TUC plans to do against Israel? The statement says Congress calls on the UK Government to end immediately arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

These are calls for the government, not the TUC, to act in a certain way. The calls have been accomplished in the statement, so no further action is required. Now for the main point of contention.

The statement says the TUC commits itself to putting pressure on corporations complicit in arms trading, occupation and the wall. There is no doubt this is a call for targeted action; however, the statement looks essentially to reviewing current TUC policy and reporting back in 2015.

While we are not saying that policies could change and that there is pressure to do more, it is up to TUFI and others to develop an alternative route to support, rightly, Palestinian statehood and lasting security for Israel.

So, instead of concentrating on what won’t happen, we should be paying attention to the positive things in the statement, such as the support for strengthening the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and its presence in Gaza.

The TUC has committed itself to go to Gaza as a guest of the PGFTU but will also use the offices of the Histadrut as a conduit to facilitate this visit.

It must also be noted that the PGFTU and the Histadrut have a functioning working agreement that has difficulties but survives and needs supporting.

TUFI has committed itself to supporting the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and prosperity.

Our vision is for a day when Gazans can travel to Israel to work and visit and, perhaps, for Israelis to be able to visit Gaza, develop trade and commerce and end decades of violence and distrust.

Our vision was eloquently expressed by Kath Dyson, an executive member of the Musicians Union (MU) and a recent delegate on a TUFI mission, who spoke passionately about the importance of cultural exchanges at the grassroots level that would help to build trust and confidence between young Israelis and young Palestinians.

The MU is very supportive of this positive action, which is aimed at developing trust rather than division. Other unions in the TUC are also committed to this ideal and, as the statement says, the TUC has a long-standing policy of support for a two-state solution based on security for both Israel and Palestine.

It is clear we should all be working to achieve this goal.

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