UNI Global Union – a global union representing 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide – have passed a motion supporting Palestinian human rights at its world conference in South Africa.
They have voted to “support actions which impede the expansion of illegal settlements, and restrict their access to financial support for growth and construction, such as divestment from companies which finance the construction and development of the illegal settlements”. It has also called for employers to refrain from providing services to, or doing business with, the illegal settlements and for consumers to boycott goods produced in the settlements.
The motion follows below.
Peace between Israel and Palestine
Nelson Mandela said: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’
- UNI Global Union and its affiliates will work to support peace between Israel and Palestine to end this long standing conflict, which for too long has forced both populations to live in conditions of fear and many to despair at the unacceptable status quo. We welcome the 2014 UNI global Union mission to Palestine and Israel and request that their engagement continue in the next Congress period.
- The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nearly a century old, and the just resolution of this conflict must be central to our understanding of the situation that exists now. The current stalemate is based on decades of wars, violence, rejection and mistrust. Overcoming all of these will be required to resolve this conflict, with justice, security and legitimacy for all sides.
- Israeli has illegally occupied Palestinian lands since 1967 and the expansion of Israel’s settlement activity in illegally occupied Palestinian lands shows no sign of reversing. Tensions have been aggravated by the Israeli policy to build homes and businesses on occupied land at an alarming pace, creating “facts on the ground” which operate to put a viable two-state solution beyond reach. According to the UN (OCHA) over 600,000 Israelis now live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, (including East Jerusalem), in “settlements” which deprive the Palestinians of their land, and divide Palestinian communities. Israeli settlements control 40% of the West Bank, and another 18% of the land is closed for Israeli military purposes. Palestinians are allowed to live in defined areas which are largely divided from one another. As this annexation of Palestinian land continues, there are fewer and fewer options for a contiguous Palestinian state. The settlements and the businesses established in them are illegal under international law.
- Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and declared it part of Israel, an illegal act according to the UN. Almost 300,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are considered “residents” without the rights of Israeli citizens, allowed only to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections. They face insurmountable obstacles to buy or build homes and open businesses there and face daily pressure to move to the West Bank with the consequences that the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem continues to expand.
- Every country has the right to defend recognized borders and the lives and well-being of its population and, to this end, the Israeli government initially constructed a barrier – in some places a wall, in other places, a fence – to defend its citizens against acts of terror. The wall now often acts as a mechanism to extend the Israeli border into the Occupied Territories. Travel and contact is extremely difficult between Palestinian communities owing to the walls and check points, where Palestinians often wait for hours to cross borders between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. East Jerusalem itself is divided by the wall, which has torn apart families and communities.
- As described in detail in a recent ILO report 1, Palestinians are now mired in an economic and social crisis of stagnant growth and high unemployment with poverty and feed dependency rife. It is, according to the ILO, increasingly obvious that the restrictions arising out of the continuing occupation and expanding settlement activity are effectively blocking the Palestinian economy from progress. The destruction of Palestinian homes and the annexation of land have produced a generation of young Palestinians without work and no hope for better prospects in the immediate future.
- Gaza and Israel have been at war four times during the past 8 years, with Palestinians bearing the overwhelming cost in lives and property. The recent war between Gaza and Israel caused hardships for the civilian populations on both sides of the border and a horrific loss of life in Gaza: 1500 civilians killed, including 500 children and 250 women.
The Palestinians believe that the large number of civilian deaths reflects a collective punishment of the Gaza population. Twenty thousand (20,000) housing units were destroyed during the war, adding to a pre-existing shortage of 71,000. There is a humanitarian crisis there of enormous proportions.
- While Israeli defences were able to almost entirely prevent Israeli civilian deaths in the recent war with Gaza, the thousands of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel created an intolerable level of insecurity. The construction of tunnels deep into Israel for purposes of violence has also produced tremendous fear within the Israeli population.
- Reconstruction and relief for Gaza must be an international priority and responsibility. The underlying causes of the conflict must be resolved, which includes the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
- Decades of violence and conflict have produced deep mutual distrust at every level of both populations. Against this backdrop, there is evidence of humanity, friendship, professional respect and collegiality where contacts are permitted to exist.
- It must become a political imperative for the international community to become engaged and support a peace process to bring about an end to the occupation, to safeguard the human rights of the Palestinians and Israelis, while allowing for a secure border for Israel free from acts of terror.
- The settlements have been a focus of these calls for action, because they are an obstacle to peace. In this regard, 17 EU countries have issued warnings to businesses against doing business or investing in the settlements. Leading pension funds, such as, the Norwegian NBIM and Dutch PGGM have divested from companies providing assistance to the settlements on grounds that they violate the human rights of the Palestinians. In 2010, UNI called upon “its affiliates to urge employers to stop doing business with companies who profits from the settlements, that are all illegal.”
- UNI is committed to building free and independent trade unions across the MENA Region and to that end all sectors have supported organizing activity across the region in recent years, in particular following the Arab Spring. We welcomed the recent launch of the Arab Trade Union Confederation.
Therefore, UNI agrees as follows:
- The UNI World Congress reiterates its commitment to the establishment of a fair, lasting and complete peace between Israel and Palestine consistent with UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
- Congress believes that the «two states solution» is essential to achieving a lasting, peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine. Congress calls for universal recognition of Israel’s right to exist, in conditions of security, next to an independent, and viable Palestinian state within internationally recognised and agreed upon borders.
- In this context, UNI endorses the statement adopted by the ITUC Berlin Congress, which states:
“We denounce the occupation of Palestine by Israel, and will mobilise for a just and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine, in accordance with the legitimacy of international law and in particular Resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN Security Council.
We call for:
An end to the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and removal of existing settlements; Israel’s withdrawal from all Palestinian lands, in line with the 4th of June 1967 borders; and the dismantling of the illegal separation wall. These demands will support equity, justice and the achievement of a comprehensive peace confirming the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
- Further, UNI and its affiliates commit to support actions which impede the expansion of illegal settlements, and restrict their access to financial support for growth and construction, such as divestment from companies which finance the construction and development of the illegal settlements. We also call upon all employers to refrain from providing services to, or doing business with, the illegal settlements and for consumers to boycott goods produced in the settlements.
- UNI and its affiliates call for both the Israeli and Palestinian governments to show responsible and brave leadership and commit to a peace process immediately and for as long as it takes. It is critical that a meaningful, timetabled, continuous peace process begins now. We specifically call upon Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to heed the call for peace and abandon plans to expand the settlements and annex more Palestinian land. We ask that all elements of the political communities of both Palestine and Israel commit publicly to the peace process and to avoid any actions which could precipitate a return to armed conflict.
- As part of its program of work across the MENA Region, UNI will convene meetings of its affiliates within both Histadrut and PGFTU in order to foster increased dialogue, cooperation and trust.