At this year’s Trades Union Congress (12-14 September in London), an amendment on the Israel/Palestine conflict from the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) called for TUC affiliates to “review their bilateral relations with all Israeli organisations”.
Alex Gordon, president of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT), spoke against the amendment, arguing that British unions should strengthen, not weaken, their relations with workers’ organisations in Israel. Gordon said:
“My union has welcomed the Workers’ Advice Centre (Ma’an) to our conference in previous years. We’ve supported class struggle that is going on now by workers in Israel, and we fully intend to continue to support struggles by Israeli workers, by Palestinian workers and by Arab-Israeli workers who are fighting for peace and workers’ rights. We are concerned about the implication of a review of bilateral relations with all Israeli organisations. Our view is that we should be supporting the Israeli peace movement, and we should be supporting the Israeli trade union movement where it stands up for Palestinian national rights. That is the best route to peace in the Middle East.”
The PCS’s motion is part of a growing trend in the British labour movement that sees all Israelis and Israeli organisations, including the mainstream Israeli unions, as irredeemably implicated in the crimes of the Israeli state. While it is true that the main Israeli union federation, the Histadrut, has traditionally been supportive of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and, until the 1950s, promoted Jewish-only labour practices, it remains an organisation which mobilises workers against their bosses. And besides, it is not the only labour-movement body in Israel.
Moves by British unions to break links with the Histadrut mean dismissing the 650,000 Israeli workers within its ranks rather than trying to help them, through a framework of solidarity, to develop internationalist politics and fight for national independence for the Palestinians.
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