Last month, the Scottish Trade Unions Congress became the most recent in a series of unions which has called for a boycott of Israeli products. Support for boycotting, divesting from and sanctions against the Jewish state appears to be growing by leaps and bounds. It has already won considerable support from trade unions in South Africa, Ireland, the UK and Norway. It seems unstoppable. But we intend to stop it.
TULIP – Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine – is a new global movement which believes in engaging with workers and their unions in Israel and Palestine, promoting cooperation and reconciliation. We do not believe in boycotts, divestment and sanctions. We believe in peace and in a two-state solution to the conflict.
Our new global movement seeks allies in unions and NGOs everywhere who want to work together to demand respect for all Palestinians, Israelis and guest workers living in this region. We believe we can take significant strides toward peace and reconciliation if we support those working to improve the living standards of all working people in the region.
There are outstanding examples of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian unions which need to be encouraged. For example, there’s a remarkable initiative launched by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to make life much easier for Palestinian drivers.
This has been a small but very important groundbreaking union agreement encouraging dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli national trade union centers, as well as individual unions and their members on both sides of the Green Line. This agreement will help improve the livelihoods of hard working union truckers and their families.
As we write this, the ITF is organizing to move this important project to a new, higher, level with the cooperation of the Histadrut and the Palestinian transport workers union.
This model firmly rejects those in trade unions promoting an Israel boycott movement.
This model upholds the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind – bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and conciliation. It is a trade union tradition and role that we are particularly proud to uphold.
We also applaud the role of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) which has helped broker cooperation agreements between Israel’s national trade union center, the Histadrut, and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).
It is unfortunate that in recent years, a number of national unions and trade union centers have changed course and abandoned that role. Instead, they have rallied behind those Palestinians who are opposed to the peace process. Some have gone so far as to deny Israel’s right to exist and attacked the Histadrut.
In doing so, in backing the Hamas terrorists who deny Israel’s right to exist, they have thrown their support behind Iran’s power play in the region. And the Iranian regime is no friend of the trade union movement. Iran – and its Hamas puppets – have a long record of suppressing trade unions and human rights in general.
Those who support the boycott of Israel actually do nothing to promote peace, justice and reconciliation – in actual fact they harm those who want to end the political hegemony of the extremists on both sides.
The boycott stance provides succor to the extremists in Israel and Palestine who refuse to accept the humanity of the other, who refuse to respect the rights of all workers in the region to be able to build decent lives for themselves and their families – in a peaceful, just and democratic climate.
In recent weeks and months a number of those unions have called for boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel, and only against Israel. They are attempting to demonize the Jewish state, to deny it legitimacy, and to whip up hatred against it. Sometimes that hatred even spills over into anti-Semitism.
Those unions are wrong – terribly wrong.
We believe that the time has now come for trade unionists around the world to join forces in support of genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace with justice, based on a two-state solution with secure and recognized borders.
There are already unions and associated NGOs in a number of countries which support this goal. But they are fighting this battle alone, each in their own country. It is time we united our forces.
Today we are publicly launching this new global movement – TULIP, Trade Union Link to Israel and Palestine.
At the moment, the opponents of a two-state solution are on the offensive, working hard to promote their destructive agenda of boycotts and sanctions targeting Israel.
It’s time for trade unionists in all countries to go on the offensive ourselves, to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbullah in the labor movement.
We have no illusions that this will be anything other than a long and difficult process. But we also know that we have no choice. We cannot abandon the field to those whose goal is the destruction of any chance for a real Israeli-Palestinian peace.
We welcome trade unionists from all countries to join us.
By executive members of Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP)
Paul Howes, national secretary, Australian Workers’ Union;
Michael J. Leahy, OBE, general secretary, Community Union UK;
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, representing workers in the United States and Canada.