Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Histadrut attempts to reduce international isolation with the adoption of a resolution on "peace" and "cooperation"

Lisbeth Latham

Israel’s main union centre, Histadrut, issued a new resolution on peace and co-operation with Palestine on September 12. The statement comes at a time when both Histadrut and the state of Israel are facing increasing isolation in the international community. The statement reaffirms Histadrut’s previously stated support for a two state solution at the same continuing the union’s ongoing support for the Israeli states occupation and domination of Palestine.

The Histadrut statement addresses four issues:
• Histadrut and the peace process
• Working with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
• Working for Palestinian Rights
• Opposition to Boycott Campaigns

In addition to supporting a two-state solution the Histadrut statement calls for negotiations to be restarted. The statement however fails to address why the negotiations have broken down, while the Histadrut statement calls for the closure of illegal outposts – it makes no reference to Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements or the need to close the existing settlements which continues to be a major obstacle to peace. The Histadrut statement also makes reference to the need for “the PA to show true willingness to negotiate, encourage peace and do its utmost to fight terrorism”. No mention is made of the Israeli war on Gaza earlier this year, which Histadrut supported, or the need engage with Hamas.

The Histadrut statement goes into considerable length to discuss its engagement with Palestinian trade unions, primarily through cooperation with the PGFTU. This relates primarily to the agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU to split the union fees that Palestinian workers employed inside Israel have been compulsory levied since 1979. This agreement was first signed in 1993 following the Oslo Accords however Histadrut had not made any payments following the start of the second intifada in late 2000, Histadrut and the PGFTU and only began to make payments again following the signing of a new agreement in June 2008. Other collaboration includes join training programs for drivers and carpenters being conducted under the auspices of international union federations.

The statement points to examples Histadrut has acted in the interests of Palestinian workers, such its lobbying the Israeli government to not levy Palestinian workers working inside Israel with a $330 tax and arrangements that Histadrut has secured to provide Palestinian truck drivers with a telephone “hotline” with which facilitate communicate between Isreali military checkpoints within the West Bank, truck drivers and the PGFTU.

Boycott Campaign
The Histadrut statement finally takes aim at the global boycott campaign arguing that the conflict will be resolved by negotiations and dialogue rather than a boycott. The statement argues that the effect of a boycott would be felt first by Palestinian workers and the “West Bank economy”, you might ask, “but what about the impact of a boycott on Gaza?” Well the answer is that it would have zero effect as Gaza has been suffering under a massive sanctions regime since 2007. This is the ultimate irony of Histadrut’s position, it opposes hypothetical sanctions campaigns due to the “possible impact on Palestinian workers” and more importantly on the Israeli economy, but is silent on the very real sanctions implemented by the Isreali state on the people of Gaza.

International Union Responses to Histadrut and its statement
Histadrut’s statement does not signal a shift in its actions within the state of Israel and will not bring any pressure to bare on the Israeli state, but this was never its intented target. The statement is aimed at the global labour movement where growing horror at the actions of the Israeli state against Palestinians has this year alone seen the peak union organisations in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Scotland and South Africa passing motions supporting boycotts and sanctions at some level as well as a growing number of individual unions. In this context Histadrut and its allies in the labour movement has sort to undermine this growing support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and to help provide ammunition to pro-Zionist section of the labour movement in arguing against the Palestinian solidarity movement. This is the intent of the resolution, immediately after its release it welcomed by the International Trade Union Confederation, and noted positively in the resolution adopted by the British Trade Union Congress in support of sanctions and boycotts against Israel. Histadrut’s need to find more appropriate clothes for its working in protecting the Israeli state from condemnation from union internationally, demonstrates the effectiveness of the BDS campaign as a tactic and that with increased pressure Histadrut may be forced to begin taking action to place pressure on Israeli state to the end the occupation, laying the basis for ongoing unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers to defend their collective interests.


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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