TUC and Israel: When you need a cause, why let the facts get in the way?

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman
Benny Weinthal and Eric Lee have an excellent article on CiF today about last week’s UK TUC (British trade union federation) decision to endorse a selective boycott of Israeli goods and a selective divestment from Israeli (and other) companies. They argue that the TUC should have acted against Iran, not Israel.
The one problem with this argument is that it leaves Weinthal and Lee open to the argument that the TUC should have acted against both Iran and Israel.
The truth is that the TUC’s action against Israel should never have happened, since Israel has done nothing to deserve it. It was taken on false premises.
To appreciate this, just look at the one-sidedness of the statement which announced the TUC’s action. There is no reference to the reason why Israel went into Gaza in January – namely, eight years of rocket attacks on its civilian population. I don’t remember the TUC ever objecting when Britain bombed German cities during World War Two in order to defeat the Nazis. What’s the difference?
Au contraire, the TUC refers to “Israeli military aggression and the continuing blockade of Gaza”.  How can acting to defend your citizens be “aggression”?
And if you look at the casualty figures in Gaza, they also put the lie to the charge of “aggression”. While males over age 15 make up approximately 25 percent of the Gaza population, they made up over 74 percent of the fatalities.
And there is no blockade of Gaza. The reason Israel maintains checks on the movement of goods into Gaza is for security, so that materials which can be used by Hamas for terror cannot enter.
Then the TUC calls on the British government to end arms sales to Israel. But if Israel has the right to defend itself, how can an arms embargo be justified?
The TUC calls on the British Government to seek EU agreement to impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the ‘illegal’ settlements and to support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement.  But there is simply no legal decision on the status of the settlements – so they cannot be termed ‘illegal’. The US government for one does not hold that they are illegal.
And so the TUC’s ignorant rhetoric continues……

To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the removal of the separation wall and the illegal settlements, we will support a boycott  ….. of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements – through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall.

No recognition by the TUC that successive Israeli governments have shown willingness to trade land (taken in a defensive war) for peace. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Sinai in 1982. No recognition as to why the separation fence was built and how it has saved lives, because it has prevented suicide bombers entering Israel – would the TUC prefer to have seen more maimed and dead victims?
The truth is that trade union members of Unite, Unison, the Fire Brigade Union and the GMB – some of the unions whose executives were pushing for action against Israel – were never consulted about the matter. The one occasion when a union was forced to consult its members  resulted in overwhelming opposition to a boycott (the Association of University Teachers in 2005, voting on an academic boycott).
In the matter of Israel, the UK trade unions have been hijacked by the hard Left. Since the collapse of communism, the hard Left has been bereft of a cause. In addition it is facing the prospect of a long period of Labour in opposition. Israel – more precisely the false analogy of Israel with apartheid South Africa – gives it a cause.
PS: My comment welcoming the article and pointing out that no union has balloted its members was deleted without trace. But this comment remains – with 62 recommends, so far:


23 Sep 09, 2:12pm
 I support whatever action British trade unions can take to oppose the racist, apartheid policies of this disgraceful Israeli government


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