News from dysfunctional trade unions

TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) reported the other day that Unite, Britain’s largest union voted to boycott Israel. I confess I was surprised – I’d assumed they already were. We can be fairly confident that Unite isn’t boycotting any other state (maybe I’m wrong about that too – won’t bother checking, happy to be corrected). Stephen Scott of Trade Union Friends of Israel is quoted as saying “All round, you now have a major player supporting the boycott and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and there is no resistance.”

Unite has scruples about severing ties with the Israeli equivalent of the TUC, Histadrut, an organisation which passes the criteria to be part of the international labour movement. Histadrut wants the Gaza blockade lifted. University and College Union turned our back on it.

Given the ridiculously two dimensional state of the boycott campaign, it was good to read this piece of analysis by Yossi Alpher (co-editor along with Ghassan Khatib of the valuable Israeli and Palestinian periodical viewpoints site Bitter Lemons) in Lebanon’s Daily Star on why it is important that Palestinians seek to persuade Israelis of the legitimacy of the Palestinian campaign to boycott the settlements. It ends:

“Any Israeli or supporter of Israel who hopes to begin resolving this conflict should support the general idea of Fayyad’s state-building enterprise. But because at the end of the day the Palestinian prime minister needs Israel’s support, too, Fayyad should pay close attention to criticism of his policy where it appears exaggerated, unfocused or downright counterproductive.”

Yossi Alpher understands that democracies entail engaging with an electorate. Palestinian leaders also recognise this when they take out advertisements in newspapers to connect directly with the Israeli public over the heads of Israeli leaders. More of this is needed.

In contrast, British boycotters go round and round like abandoned crisp packets in a backwater eddy.

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