Recently I have become involved in a debate on the Morning Star letters page about Israel and the Israeli trade union federation Histadrut. I thought readers would like to read some snippets.
On 17 June I took issue with a Morning Star review:
“Roger Fletcher’s review of Michael Riordon’s new book equates holocaust denial with a failure to speak out against the ‘fascistic policy and actions of the Israeli state.’
“Calling Israel fascist is lazy but also very dangerous. Fascism destroyed independent labour movements and suppressed socialist groups. Israel has free trade unions, a peace movement and a free press.
“The Israeli government’s attitude and policy towards Palestine and Palestinians is a crime, but hysterical demonisation of Israel will not help.”
The following replies were published. From Jimmy Janovich (30 June):
“Israel is not a ‘fascist state’ — quite right. Nor were tsarist Russia, imperial Japan or Petain’s France. No-one could call them democracies, however.
“Israel does have a powerful trade union movement — which only covers Jewish workers.
“Israel did once have a free and critical press. This has disappeared.”
And from Don Evans (4 July):
“In September Palestinians will make an appeal for statehood at the UN, hoping for a two-state solution. Israel will oppose this and the US will support her.
“Israel is so confident because the US and many EU states, Britain included, always fall for Israel’s skilful use of World War II history designed to establish victim-status for the country. Such appeals aim to make criticism of Israel a no-go area. We have to get beyond this.
“The basic fact is that Israel has occupied somebody else’s land. As an unwelcome presence she has to either make peace with the inhabitants, leave or face continuous war.”
Linda Clair (14 July) took up the issue of the Histadrut:
“...The aim of Israeli trade union confederation Histadrut from its inception in 1920 was never to campaign for workers’ rights or build solidarity. It was founded as an exclusively Jewish organisation to facilitate the colonisation of Palestine and worked with the Jewish Agency to promote the exclusion of Palestinian labour.
“It is an arm of the zionist state, promoting and defending policies that violate Palestinians’ basic civil, political and human rights... Histadrut condoned the slaughter in Gaza and the murders on the Mavi Marmara as well as the general ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
“In May this year the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions issued a statement calling for the boycott of Histadrut as part of the overall boycott of all Israeli Zionist institutions. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are our non-violent tool for assisting Palestine to achieve its freedom.”
Another letter from me made the following points:
“Histadrut has collaborated with the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinians. So what then should British trade unionists and socialists do?
“Primarily we should support independent unions and peace groups that seek to organise working-class people across the divide.
“However we still need to support workers in Histadrut when they are in struggle against their own bosses...
“The most progressive force in Israeli society are workers in struggle. We must do all we can to help these workers realise the end of the occupation of Palestine is in the interest of all workers in the region.”
It is good that the Morning Star is (for once) allowing debate. It has not stopped printing lies and half truths however.
I have written again, pointing out that the Histadrut is not what it was in 1920, or 1948 or even 1995 — a big employer, running health and pensions, etc, for the state. It is a trade union, albeit, like our own unions, heavily bureaucratised. It has many Arab members, and has not been Jewish-only since 1959. The Israeli press is certainly more critical of the Israeli government than the Morning Star is of China.
Also the PGFTU did not make the call to sever ties, it was the BDS campaign. The PGFTU has an agreement with Histadrut and has not abandoned that agreement.