Britain’s largest union, Unite, votes to support Palestinian rights and strengthen BDS campaigning
On 1 July, Unite the Union passed policy noting that ‘the Israeli government continues to govern as an apartheid state and is guilty of the crime of apartheid. The oppression faced by ordinary Palestinians at the hands of their colonial oppressors and the way in which their plight is used as a political bargaining chip cannot be allowed to continue’. It welcomed the reports Unite delegations to Palestine, organised by PSC, which are helping to strengthen Unite’s solidarity with Palestinian workers and civil society. The policy calls for the Executive Committee to campaign for a free and independent Palestine, and to ‘develop a Unite campaigning and leverage strategy around BDS within the next 12 months.’
Unite is Britain’s largest union with 1.42 million workers.
A motion calling for ‘engaging with the Israeli Histadrut’ was overwhelmingly defeated, and a motion of support with Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp passed with an overwhelming majority.
Mohammed Taj, the President of TUC, and a member of Unite the Union, said: ‘I am very proud that my union once more took a strong position to support the Palestinian people at our policy conference. Unite the Union and the rest of the trade union movement needs to stand up in solidarity with Palestinian workers and their families living under the Israeli siege and occupation.’
Charlotte Upton, from Unite the Union North East, who spoke for the motion, said: ‘I am really proud of UNITE the Union’s commitment to work with Palestine Solidarity Campaign to continuing to further support the BDS movement and campaign against the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid.’
Jim Kelly, from Unite the Union London and Eastern Region, said: ‘The first thing UNITE needs to do, following the resolutions just passed, is to respond and condemn Netanyahu’s cynical exploitation of the deaths of the 3 teenagers to push his agenda of ethnic cleansing of Gaza and the West Bank. The trade union movement must raise its voice in opposition to these murderous military attacks on the Palestinians and the campaign of collective punishment.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chair Hugh Lanning said: ‘PSC welcomes Unite’s strong support for Palestinian rights, freedom and justice. We are seeing a tremendous surge in solidarity, which is desperately needed given the horrific situation facing Palestinians. The day after the vote at the TUC, 17-year old Mohammad Abu Khdair was abducted, and his body was found burned in Jerusalem. His murder wasn’t an isolated case. Mohammed was the latest victim of the ongoing and brutal violence of Israel’s occupation. Unite has a strong track record of principled support for international law and justice, and opposition to racism and apartheid. Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be working with Unite, and other trade unions, to build solidarity and support, and to campaign for a Free Palestine’.
Motion passed at Unite conference 2014
F. Global Solidarity & Peace (ii) Israel and Palestine
Conference notes that the Israeli government continues to govern as an apartheid state and is guilty of the crime of apartheid. The oppression faced by ordinary Palestinians at the hands of their colonial oppressors and the way in which their plight is used as a political bargaining chip cannot be allowed to continue as it has done for so many decades. Israel continues to build colonies (settlements) ignoring international law and all world opinion. The Israeli state carries out crimes of persecution against the Palestinian people on a daily basis without any fear of being held to account or punished.
The Israel military continues to arrest, detain and torture Palestinian children (aged 12 to 17 years) in contravention of international law and human rights treaties yet the world’s power brokers choose to ignore International law and basic human rights when it comes to the Palestinians, choosing instead to support of the colonisers Israel. Conference believes this is part of a deliberate policy to criminalise and intimidate the general Palestinian population.
Conference notes the continuing state sponsored policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, inside the West Bank, in Jerusalem and in Israel and the systematic undermining of any viable Palestinian state by increased expansion of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, despite widespread international condemnation.
Conference welcomes the reports from the two Unite delegations to Palestine in 2013, organised by PSC, which are helping to strengthen Unite’s solidarity with Palestinian workers and civil society. Conference notes the work done so far by Unite and its members in supporting the cause of Palestine liberation both at a regional, national and international level. The time has now come to stop the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and for Unite to take a lead in taking bolder steps like those that were taken against the South African apartheid regime.
Conference restates its commitment to existing policy on Palestine and the active involvement of the Union in ending the Israeli occupation.
Israel is continually and systematically acting in defiance of international law, with its on-going illegal occupation of Palestinian territories
The siege on Gaza, which imprisons 1.6 million Palestinians in horrific conditions, must be lifted. The Palestinian people trapped in Gaza must be able to travel and interact freely with neighbouring states.
Conference instructs the Executive Council to:
Raise awareness, build support, campaign and lobby for a free and independent Palestine;
Highlight the suffering, and support the Palestinian population in Gaza living under siege; Palestinians living in the West Bank who are seeing their land illegally seized by Israeli settlements and are forced to navigate checkpoints to go to work, school and hospital; and in Israel, where they are treated as second class citizens and subject to racist laws;
Work with other NGOs and all other supportive bodies in the UK and around the world and develop a Unite campaigning and leverage strategy around BDS within the next 12 months. Notably against complicit companies involved in the occupation, the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements (such as Veolia, G4S and Sainsbury’s) through workforce pressure, contracts and pension funds; and encourage members to call on supermarkets and retailers to stop using companies which export goods from illegal settlements;
Continue to support and offer practical help to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and encourage all branches to affiliate to PSC. Encourage branches and regions to send representatives on delegations to Palestine, to further strengthen the solidarity with Palestinian workers;
Organise and facilitate with other union bodies and campaigning groups, a national speaking tour to include lawyers and child prisoners/families in the next 12 months;
Raise the issue and table motions for support of the BDS campaign in the European and Global Federations;
Organise and facilitate national or regional delegations to be sent to Palestine at least twice a year;
Establish the issue as a standing item on the agenda of the EC and all other constitutional committee;
Deliver a full report to the 2016 policy conference on the activities of the union.