Category Archives: BDS

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism (Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP)

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Press Release from Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)

for immediate release – 29th May 2017

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Support for Palestinian professor denied entry to Israel

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation which defends the right to criticise Israel, and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which campaigns for academic and cultural boycott of Israel, today welcomed the vote by the University and College Union (UCU) to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Motion 57, submitted by UCU branches at the University of Leeds, Goldsmiths, and the University of Brighton, along with two strengthening amendments from Queen’s University Belfast and London Retired Members Branch, was carried overwhelmingly in the closing minutes of UCU’s annual Congress in Brighton.  Only one delegate spoke against the motion.

UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism

UCU had previously, in 2011, rejected the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).  The IHRA definition strongly resembles the EUMC version.  Today’s vote strengthens UCU’s existing policy.

Both these definitions are considered highly problematic because they seek to conflate criticism of Israel with genuine anti-Jewish racism: examples cited in them make explicit reference to Israel.  The UK Government has adopted the IHRA definition, and in February this year Universities Minister Jo Johnson wrote to Universities UK insisting that university activities must respect the definition.  In particular, he alleged that “anti-Semitic incidents … might take place under the banner of ‘Israel (sic) Apartheid’ events.”  Some universities have banned or curtailed campus events during Israeli Apartheid week or subsequently, and campaigners for Palestinian human rights consider that the definition is being used to censor legitimate political activity and debate which criticises the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.

In moving the motion, Mark Abel of Brighton UCU noted that an event organised by Friends of Palestine had been cancelled by the University of Central Lancashire, who cited the IHRA definition as making the event ‘unlawful’.

Reacting to this wave of censorship the new, Jewish-led organisation Free Speech on Israel, along with Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Independent Jewish Voices, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, obtained a legal Opinion from the eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC.

The Opinion is devastating: it characterises the IHRA definition as confusing, not legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of “unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion”.  A public body that bans a meeting under the IHRA definition without any evidence of genuine antisemitism could be breaching the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees freedom of expression (Article 10), and freedom of assembly (Article 11).

In concluding his speech, Mark Abel said: “This is a dangerous conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. … It is a definition intended to silence those who wish to puncture the Israeli state’s propaganda that it is a normal liberal democratic state.”

Mike Cushman, a UCU member and co-founder of FSOI, said: “Free speech on Israel welcomes UCU’s recognition that fighting antisemitism is a separate struggle from defending the rights of Palestinians, and that both these struggles are important. Putting these in opposition to each other assists both antisemites and war criminals.”

Les Levidow, a UCU member speaking for BRICUP, said: “Congratulations to UCU for defending free speech on Israel/Palestine by rejecting the government-IHRA agenda to weaponise antisemitism, conflated with anti-Zionism.”

UCU Congress also passed a motion in support of Professor Kamel Hawwash, a UCU member at the University of Birmingham, who was prevented from entering Israel on 7th April on a trip with his wife and young son to visit relatives in occupied East Jerusalem.  It seems likely that Prof. Hawwash was banned under the new Israeli boycott law, which prevents activists accused of supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) from entering Israel.  Prof. Hawwash was until recently the vice-chair of PSC.  The General Secretary of UCU will now be writing to the Israeli Embassy and the FCO to urge that the ban on Prof. Hawwash and all non-violent human rights campaigners be lifted.

ENDS

Motion 57 As amended and agreed

Composite: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism

Congress notes:

  1. UCU’s exemplary anti-racist work, eg. Holocaust Memorial Day materials
  2. policy (2011) dissociating UCU from the ‘EUMC working definition’ of anti-semitism
  3. the close similarity between the IHRA and EUMC definitions, including their conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel
  4. that government has formally adopted the IHRA definition of anti-semitism
  5. that this definition conflates anti-semitism with criticism of the state of Israel and has been used to intimidate academics who are engaged in activities that are critical of the policies of the Israeli government but that are not anti-semitic
  6. government-inspired attempts to ban Palestine solidarity events, naming Israeli Apartheid Week
  7. The legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC, obtained by PSC and other groups, characterising the IHRA definition as confusing, not legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of ‘unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion’.

Congress re-affirms:

  1. UCU’s condemnation of all forms of racial or religious hatred or discrimination
  2. UCU’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom
  3. the importance of open campus debate on Israel/Palestine.

Congress resolves that UCU dissociates itself from the IHRA definition and will make no use of it (eg. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints).

Congress instructs:

  1. NEC to contact all members in a dedicated communication urging report to NEC of all repressive uses of the IHRA definition
  2. conduct research about the implications of the use of the IHRA definition
  3. general secretary to write to VCs/principals urging staff protection from malicious accusations, and freedom of political criticism
  4. president to issue, and circulate to members, a detailed press statement on UCU’s criticism of the IHRA definition
  5. lobby government to seek a review of its endorsement of the IHRA definition and to replace it with one that will both protect free speech and combat anti-semitism.

Recalling the experience of Fraser vs UCU, we call upon the NEC to take a position against any university management that reacts to spurious accusations of anti-semitism by banning speakers who are opposed to the policies of the state of Israel but who have not in any way expressed racism against Jewish people.

Victory! We salute the striking Palestinian prisoners (Labor for Palestine)

An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine)

[Please endorse the statement below by clicking here.]

An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine)

“We urge all labor organizations and workers’ movements to express their solidarity and support for the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, for the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation and for the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS), April 28, 2017

Labor for Palestine joins workers around the world to stand with 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike since April 17 to protest conditions that Amnesty International calls “unlawful and cruel.” After more than a month, their health is failing, but their steadfastness remains unshakable.

From workers’ rights and women’s rights, to anti-racism and anti-colonialism, hunger strikes are a time-honored form of protest against injustice.

But the Israeli government — which receives $3.8 billion per year in U.S. weapons and closely coordinates with the same police agencies that systematically terrorize Black and Brown communities in the United States — threatens to force-feed the strikers, and is gunning down their supporters in the streets of Palestine. Such relentless state violence reflects the continuing Nakba, Israel’s 69-year-old ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinian people.

Undeterred, the prisoners have vowed: “Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.”

They know that, like Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa, Zionist settler colonialism will one day fall to the unstoppable tide of popular mass resistance.

Labor bodies around the world have risen to their defense, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Canadian Labour Congress, 26 European trade unions and labor organizations, World Federation of Trade Unions (representing 92 million workers in 162 countries), International Trade Union Confederation (representing 181 million workers in 163 countries), and the Trabajadores-Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores (PIT-CNT) of Uruguay.

Their outpouring is accompanied by rising international labor respect of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which demands an end to occupation and apartheid, full equality for all, and Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled.

In the U.S., BDS has been embraced by West Coast dockers refusing to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo, the United Electrical Workers, CT State AFL-CIO, UAW 2865, UAW 2322, GSOC-UAW 2110, AFT 3220, and thousands of other union members.

This parallels growing intersectional solidarity with Palestine from the Movement for Black Lives, Standing Rock, #NoBanNoWall, and other U.S. grassroots social justice movements.

Today, we affirm:
*Victory to Palestinian Political Hunger Strikers!
*From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!

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Issued May 21, 2017 by Labor for Palestine Co-Conveners:
(Affiliations below for identification only)
*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network
*Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Labor for Standing Rock
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired)

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Endorsing Organizations (list in formation)

Labor for Palestine
Labor for Standing Rock
GSOC-UAW Local 2110
Al-Awda New York, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center
Black4Palestine
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100)
CUNY4Palestine
Decolonize This Place
Existence is Resistance
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City
LA4Palestine
NYC Solidarity with Palestine
NYC Students for Justice in Palestine
Palestinian Youth Movement – USA
Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
TOLEF: Tree of Life Educational Fund
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
US Palestinian Community Network

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[When signing, please list trade union and/or other affiliation, and location, in the comment box — then amplify your voice by sharing on social media and promoting on Change.org]

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E-mail: info@laborforpalestine.net
Web: http://laborforpalestine.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaborForPalestine/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Labor4Palestine
Donate: http://laborforpalestine.net/donate-to-lfp

Defying leaders, Norway trade unionists endorse Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Defying leaders, Norway trade unionists endorse Israel boycott

Actvists carry a banner calling for recognition of Palestine and a boycott of Israel, at the annual May Day march in Oslo, Norway, 1 May. Ryan Rodrick BeilerActiveStills

Norway’s largest and most influential trade union organization has called for a full boycott of Israel.

Last Friday, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) voted to endorse a statement that embraces the entire slate of demands in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

The Palestinian BDS National Committee hailed the decision as courageous and urged LO to pressure the Norwegian government to end military ties with Israel.

At its annual congress, LO delegates voted 197 to 117 to demand an “international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel” as a means to end the blockade of Gaza, remove Israel’s wall in the West Bank, respect the right of return for Palestinian refugees and ensure “equal rights for all.”

Full boycott, full explanation

Sara Bell, leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees in the city of Bergen, was a key organizer among those putting the boycott on LO’s agenda.

Bell told The Electronic Intifada that the original language simply stated: “LO supports the international BDS movement, and will work for an international trade boycott of Israel.”

But with several other unions and local branches supporting the boycott, the final wording included clauses on the right of return as well as demanding that the Norwegian government recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 boundaries and takes steps to ensure “a democratic state solution with equal rights for all.”

The declaration states that since international political efforts and dialogue have not produced results, it is now necessary to “work for an international, economic, cultural and academic boycott to achieve these goals.”

Something of a thriller

“The voting process was something of a thriller, but the result was overwhelmingly in favor of boycott,” Bell said. “I’m still pretty euphoric about it.”

“I think the result reflects ordinary Norwegian people’s understanding and rejection of the horrible injustices the Palestinian population has been suffering for far too long,” she added.

The primary debate at the LO congress was not over whether to boycott, but how.

LO president Hans-Christian Gabrielsen had urged only a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

He warned that adopting the full boycott could prevent LO representatives from traveling to visit Palestinian trade unions, due to a new Israeli law that bars entry to BDS supporters.

Nothing to lose

However, that law does not distinguish between boycotts limited to settlements and broader boycotts of Israel.

A boycott of settlement goods had already been adopted at a previous LO congress.

And, LO’s newspaper FriFagbevegelse reported earlier in May that two LO members have already been denied entry by Israel this year because of their Palestine solidarity activism.

Gabrielsen also argued that a full boycott would hurt Palestinian workers and labor unions.

This claim was blunted by the fact that the BDS call has been endorsed by the Palestinian trade unions federation PGFTU.

Its general secretary Shaher Saad also spoke at the LO congress.

“We are a people who need help and solidarity from our friends, and we need it now,” Saad said.

Boycott not the goal

Like many LO leaders, Bell has visited Palestine, most recently traveling to the Gaza Strip in March with a union delegation. Bell told the LO congress about Abd al-Rahman Wahdan, a potato farmer from Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, Wahdan’s house was occupied by Israeli forces for three days, Bell told the congress. Some family members fled to Jabaliya refugee camp, others stayed in Beit Hanoun. Eight were killed by a bomb in Beit Hanoun and four others by airstrikes in Jabaliya.

Today, Wahdan farms potatoes close to the no-go zone enforced by the Israeli military inside Gaza near the boundary with Israel.

Bell said her union helps fund irrigation systems for Wahdan and other growers in the area where farmers are frequently shot at by Israeli forces and have their crops sprayed with poison by Israeli aircraft.

“Boycott in itself isn’t a goal for us,” Bell told The Electronic Intifada. “Our goal is to end the occupation, end the siege and blockade of Gaza, end the illegal settlements, and start working for freedom, democracy and equal rights. We hope many other trade unions will follow us and join this effort.”

Boilerplate backlash

Criticism was swift and predictable. Foreign minister Børge Brende tweeted that Norway’s current right-wing government “strongly” opposed the LO’s decision. “We need more cooperation and dialogue, not boycott,” Brende wrote.

In January, during a visit to Israel, Brende signed an agreement on scientific cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A spokesperson for Norway’s far-right Progress Party called the resolution “shameful.”

Israeli ambassador to Norway Raphael Schutz called the decision “immoral” and claimed it reflected “deeply rooted attitudes of bias, discrimination and double standard towards the Jewish state.”

He added that the measure placed the LO “shoulder to shoulder with the worst enemies of Israel.”

Growing support

But solidarity activists are welcoming the vote as a sign of change.

“Such popular resistance from the grassroots of the Norwegian labor movement shows just how out of sync with the public both Norwegian and international politicians are in allowing Israel impunity against human rights and international law violations,” Tora Systad Tyssen, chair of the Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada.

Kathrine Jensen, chair of the Palestine Committee of Norway, said the vote demonstrated that Israel had not succeeded in its “war on international solidarity.”

And on 9 May, days before the LO congress vote, the municipality of Lillehammer passed a resolution to boycott Israeli settlement goods.

This made it the third major city in Norway to call for a settlement boycott, following Trondheim and Tromsø.

Norway’s Largest Trade Union Federation Endorses Full Boycott of Israel to Advance Palestinian Human Rights (BNC)

Norway’s Largest Trade Union Federation Endorses Full Boycott of Israel to Advance Palestinian Human Rights (Credit: Ole Palmstrøm)


May 12, 2017
 – Today, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), representing close to one million workers, endorsed a full boycott of Israel to achieve Palestinian rights under international law. LO is the largest and most influential umbrella organization of labor unions in Norway.

Commenting on this significant BDS victory in Norway, Riya Hassan, the Europe Campaigns Coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, said:

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) salutes the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) for endorsing a full “international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel” as a necessary means to achieve Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right of return for the refugees and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

By courageously heeding the Palestinian BDS Call, issued by an absolute majority in Palestinian civil society in 2005, LO joins some of the world’s most important trade union federations, including South Africa’s COSATU, Brazil’s CUT, Quebec’s CSN and the Irish ICTU, in calling for meaningful BDS pressure on the corporations and institutions that have enabled decades of Israeli occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

The BNC hopes to closely coordinate with Norwegian partners within LO, particularlyFagforbundet, to translate this new policy into effective measures of accountability at the academic, cultural and economic levels to uphold human rights and international law. We also call on LO to apply pressure on the Norwegian government to end all its military ties with Israel’s regime of oppression and to divest its sovereign fund from all companies that are complicit in Israel’s occupation and illegal settlement enterprise.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Visit www.bdsmovement.net and follow @BDSmovement

UK teachers’ union now “HP free zone” due to Israel ties (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

UK teachers’ union now “HP free zone” due to Israel ties

An Israeli checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. HP services computers used by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank.

Shadi HatemAPA images

The UK’s largest union for school teachers has launched a boycott of HP over the technology giant’s role in the Israeli occupation.

More than 21,000 people in the UK have also signed a pledge to boycott the US-headquartered firm.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary with the National Union of Teachers, said “the NUT does not buy or use HP products or services as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The union has declared its offices “HP free zones,” Courtney added, arguing that the firm is “complicit in the illegal occupation of the West Bank.”

HP has an active and ongoing role supporting the Israeli military. That includes providing support services for the biometric ID system used at Israeli checkpoints all over the West Bank to enforce Israel’s dictatorial pass system on Palestinians.

Prisons, settlements, blockade

HP is also contracted to provide IT services to Israeli prisons and settlements in the West Bank.

And the firm provides services and technologies to the Israeli military, including the navy, which enforces the decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are illegal under international law, as are all Israeli settlements.

Details of HP’s role in the occupation have been cataloged and verified by the group Who Profits.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said that the boycott pledge signed by tens of thousands was a “wake up call” for HP. He said that councils, businesses and faith groups should follow the lead taken by the teachers’ union.

“Beyond repair”

“HP should sit up and take notice – being complicit in human rights violations tarnishes your brand beyond repair,” he said.

Jamal said that “technology-enabled racism and reckless profiteering from the oppression of the Palestinian people doesn’t sit well with customers.”

HP became a key target for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement last year. That followed similar – and successful – years-long campaigns against Veolia and Orange, two French corporations that had also sought to profit from the Israeli occupation.

An international campaign launched against HP in late 2016 prompted a California church to vote that all of the firm’s products should be shunned.

An earlier vote in the United Methodist Church that proposed divestment from HP was condemned by Hillary Clinton during her failed campaign to become US president. Clinton is herself a Methodist.

More recently, the student senates at two US colleges voted to divest from HP and other companies involved in the Israeli occupation.

May Day Speech NYC

May Day Speech
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325
Union Square NYC, May 1, 2017

*From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!
*Viva, Viva Palestina!

As we gather here today, more than 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners are in their 15th day of a hunger strike against conditions that Amnesty International calls “unlawful and cruel.” Their action is part of a long international tradition, including the hunger strike held last fall by prisoners in the United States.

But the Israeli government — which receives $3.8b/year in U.S. weapons, and closely coordinates with the NYPD and other police agencies that systematically target Black and Brown communities in this country — has branded the strikers “terrorists,” just as the South African apartheid regime once labeled Nelson Mandela and thousands of other political prisoners.

Despite all this, unjust and oppressive regimes — no matter how powerful they may appear — always fall: Jim Crow fell, South African apartheid fell, Zionism will fall.

That’s why, like Biblical Davids, the Palestinian prisoners have answered today’s Goliath by saying: “Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.”

I am proud to say that a growing number of workers in the United States are joining them in to stand against the apartheid regime.

Since 2014 alone, West Coast longshore workers have refused to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo; UAW 2865, 2322, and GSOC-2110; the United Electrical Workers, CT State AFL-CIO, and AFT 3220 have endorsed the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which demands an end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

These actions are in the highest tradition of solidarity, from Black Lives to Standing Rock, from New York City to Palestine.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, on April 16, 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As trade unionists have always said, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All!”

As we say today:
*Free, Free Palestine
*From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free!

May Day: Palestinian trade unions call for intensifying BDS

April 28, 2017

By Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS)

On May Day, we Palestinian trade unions are proud to stand with the trade union movement internationally as we collectively resist attacks on our working conditions, cuts to public services and job losses. We lend our voices to the mass rallies taking place internationally uniting trade unions, immigrants and refugees, social movements, and environmentalists fighting for a better future and dignified living.

We also remind the world that Palestinian workers continue to endure and resist Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid on a daily basis, including resistance to Israel’s shameful prison system. We salute our political prisoners on hunger strike to protest Israel’s grave and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights. We will continue to refuse Israel’s vision of a truncated network of Palestinian Bantustans and associated industrial zones, under which we relinquish our rights and become a pool of cheap labour for the Israeli state. That is why in July 2005, when over 170 Palestinian organizations urged the world to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in the manner of South African Apartheid, this historical call was signed by all the main Palestinian trade union federations. We believe that trade union campaigns targeting corporate and state complicity with Israeli violations of international law are a vital and effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Trade unions today are taking the lead in defending the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination, non-discrimination and equality, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. BDS principles and tactics have been formally endorsed by national trade union federations in South Africa, UK, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Basque Country, Brazil and other countries across Latin America, in addition to scores of national and local unions. This gives us great hope in the potential of working people to shut down corporate and state support for Israel’s crimes. It also reminds us of the incredibly inspiring international trade union campaigns which helped to expose and confound South Africa’s former apartheid regime. We salute all trade unions implementing effective BDS campaigns and divesting their pension funds from corporate occupation profiteers like G4S and HP, among others.

We also take this opportunity to call on trade unions yet to join the BDS movement to: implement boycotts of Israeli and international companies that are complicit with violations of Palestinian rights, divest trade union funds from companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid, and apply pressure on governments to cut military and trade relations with Israel. We reiterate our call for a boycott of Histadrut, Israel’s general trade union, for its complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and its refusal to take a clear stand in support of comprehensive human rights for Palestinians.

We look forward to working alongside trade unions around the world to develop and strengthen our struggles for human rights, social and economic justice. We stand shoulder to shoulder with working people worldwide and thank you for the solidarity you continue to show to the struggle for Palestinian workers’ rights.

General Union of Palestinian Workers

Palestinian New Union

Federation of Independent Trade Union

Postal, IT and Telecommunications Workers Union

LIVESTREAM: From PALESTINE to MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS have got to go!

LIVESTREAM: From PALESTINE to MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS have got to go!
From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from #NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, join us as we discuss a grassroots movements to recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality, and how as progressives can be the force to tear down every wall, barrier, and oppressive obstacle!
#FromPalestineToMexico

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/992280510903897/?notif_t=plan_reminder&notif_id=1490228967088533

European Trade Union Initiative for Justice in Palestine

Eddie Whyte is an elected national officer in the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees – Fagforbundet – Norway’s largest trade union and participated in the Brussels meeting.  You can read his blog on Palestine here – https://palestiniansolidarity.wordpress.com/

New Trade Union Network for Palestine

Recently over 100 trade union delegates, representing twenty nine unions and three million members from all over Europe, gathered in a historic first meeting in Brussels to challenge European governments’ complicity with Israel and establish a cross European platform in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Israel’s blatant disregard for international law is well documented. Perhaps less well known, is its co-operation agreement with the European Union providing it with access to trade and allowing more participation in EU programs and projects than any other non-European country.

The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) has recorded that whilst the Israeli government contributed €535 million to the EU’s research programs over a 6 year period, Israeli firms and institutions actually received even more funding in return –  €840 million worth. Israel is expected to benefit similarly from the new Horizon 2020 research funding program unless the repeated appeals from the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement are heeded.

eur1

The very existence of this 16 year old Agreement is all the more remarkable given that Article 2 emphasises that it is based on a “mutual respect for human rights and democratic principles”(!) Not something one immediately associates with a state which continues to illegally occupy Palestinian land in contravention of international law and in defiance of countless statements of condemnation from international governments and organizations, including many from the EU itself.

The two day long trade union gathering heard calls for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the repeal of the much criticized agreement, seen by many as a legitimization of the illegal occupation in contravention of international law and UN Conventions.

The new initiative has been taken by a cross-European group of trade union organisations intent on developing a network strengthening ties between workers organisations in Europe whilst also reaching out to all sections of the Palestinian trade union movement. Indeed the PGFTU, the Arab Workers Union band the New Unions were all active participants in the discussions.

The campaign focus is on raising awareness on their respective governments’ complicity in Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes, and the culpability of corporations that support and benefit economically from the illegal occupation.

eur2

The organising committee’s scathing criticism of the EU accuses it of failing to hold Israel accountable for its grave violations of international law, failing to address the illegality of the occupation of Palestine, failing to tackle the rampant discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and numerous human rights abuses – including the denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homelands as adopted by the UN in resolution 194, almost a full seventy years ago.

The formation of this network is a major breakthrough for solidarity work within the European trade union movement, which has been consistent in its call for a just solution for the Palestinian people.

The EU has previously had no hesitation in applying various forms of sanctions against Russia when it annexed Ukrainian territory and has acted similarly towards about forty other states at various times over recent years. The shameful double standards being applied in the Israeli case are unacceptable and are interpreted by many as tacit support for Israel’s continued violations of international law.

Under massive international pressure, the EU ruled in 2015 that products from the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, should be clearly labelled as such. This month, almost a full year later, France became the third member state, after the UK and Belgium to enforce the decision.

Ironically, the original ruling led to the Netanyahu government threatening to boycott co-operation with the EU whilst The Independent reported an Israeli minister calling the decision “disguised anti-Semitism” – the usual red herring reserved for censoring open debate on Israel’s brutal occupation policies.

The same news report refers to European diplomats admitting “in private that the strength of the Israeli response made many member states wary of issuing their own specific guidelines.” The Israeli propaganda machines concerted efforts to stamp anything and anyone critical of their government policies as antisemites is clearly bearing fruit in some circles. Indeed, one of the issues raised at the Brussels meeting was the need to effectively challenge the misleading campaign by the Israeli government to redefine antisemitism to suit its own distorted political agenda.

However, the French government has now joined the ranke og major European nations that have broken through that self-imposed barrier and the remaining European governments should immediately follow suit. The European trade union movement will be doing their utmost to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later.

The global BDS movement has been under increasing attack from the Israeli propaganda machine in the last year and yet 2016 has heralded a series of major victories for human rights in Palestine. Prominent multinational companies such as Orange, CRH and G4S have followed Veolia’s lead in withdrawing their business from projects that infringe on Palestinian rights.

Also this year, an increasing number of European municipalities or city councils in countries as diverse as Norway, Spain and Ireland have declared their opposition to the Israeli occupation whilst major churches in the US have been divesting from Israeli banks and international companies who support the occupation.

The BDS Movement is expanding and its round up for 2016 points to major successes for the right to boycott Israel in support of Palestinian rights under international law from the European Union, the governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Ireland, as well as from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Unionand the International Federation of Human Rights, as well as “hundreds of political parties, trade unions and social movements across the globe”.

Another major victory came in March of this year when the UN Human Rights Council, voted to create a database of Israeli and international corporations that are complicit in and profiting from Israel’s occupation – a development that will expose even further business interests who are complicit in Israel’s numerous and continuous violations of international law.

This latest coordinated trade union mobilisation in Brussels in support of the Palestinian people is certain to exert even more pressure on European governments to fulfil their moral and legal duty to ensure an end to Israel’s illegal occupation and the denial of Palestinian rights.

At the conference in Brussels, an appeal was issued to more trade unions to get involved – if your union is interested in affiliating to the campaign please contact the organizers here.

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The following unions are already affiliated to the network:

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Fagforbundet (Norway), Union Syndicale Solidaires (France), La Centrale Générale-FGTB (Belgium), ACV/CSC Brussels (Belgium), UNISON (UK), The Norwegian Trade Union Federation LO in Trondheim, (Norway) Unison N. Ireland Region (Ireland), Derry Trades Union Council (Ireland), Belfast&District Trades Union Council (Ireland), Workmates – trade union section of Norwegian Palestine Committee (Norway), Trade Union Friends of Palestine (Ireland), Communications Workers Union (Ireland), Confederacion Intersindical Galega (Spain), Mandate Trade Union (Ireland), ELABasque Workers Solidarity (Euskadi), IRW-CGSP (Belgium), LBC-NVK (Belgium), Palestinawerkgroep-FNV (The Netherlands), CNE (Belgium), IAC (Spain), Civil Public and Services Union – CPSU (Ireland), Intersindical Valenciana (Spain), Irish National Teachers’ Organisation – Branches: Derry City, Newry, Dungannon, Armagh, Belfast West (Ireland), The Palestine Committee of Norway, Union section (Union of railway workers), IMPACT (Ireland), CGT France – 66, The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA).