News In a first, UK trade unions adopt anti-apartheid motion...

In a first, UK trade unions adopt anti-apartheid motion against Israel

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the United Kingdom, a body representing nearly 6 million members, has adopted a landmark motion condemning the “occupation and expansionist” policies of the Israeli government, while reaffirming its solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for the right to self-determination.

The resolution expressed “outright opposition to the annexationist ambitions of the Netanyahu government, backed by the United States Administration” and called for an end to “British government complicity.”

Demanding a cessation of the decade’s-long blockade of Gaza and support for “the right of Palestinian refugees to return,” the motion committed the TUC to “communicate its position to all other national trade union centres in the International and European Trade Union Confederations and urge them to join the international campaign to stop annexation and end apartheid.”

“For too long, the international community has stood idly by as the Israeli state has been allowed to carry out its crimes and this cannot be tolerated or accepted any longer…Decisive action is now urgently needed in relation to Israel’s illegal actions against the Palestinians.”

Israeli ‘illegal annexation’ plans further apartheid

The TUC motion came a week after a statement was released by over 20 charities, trade unions, religious groups, and civil society organisations urgently calling on public bodies to “uphold their ethical and legal responsibilities to ensure human rights and international law are respected” as a direct response to Israel’s annexation plans.

“Congress stands united in its full opposition to the Israeli government’s declared intention to annex great swathes of the West Bank,” said the TUC motion describing the move as “illegal under international law” which “makes clear there is no intent on the part of the Israeli government to end the occupation and recognise the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.”

Such a move, said the TUC, “will be another significant step in the creation of a system of apartheid.”

What is distinct about the resolution is that, in calling for an end to “apartheid,” it identifies the Israeli state’s practices towards the Palestinian people as “institutionally discriminatory,” thereby challenging the normalisation of relations currently adopted for example by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain and promoted by the White House.

Internationalism has a long tradition in the British trade union movement. In the ’60s, trade unionists were amongst the first to respond to the African National Congress (ANC) call for a boycott of apartheid South Africa.

It is this tradition that is echoed in the solidarity being expressed for the Palestinian people.   

Significant development

The motion, moved by the Fire Brigades Union affirmed support for:

  • the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination;
  • the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland;
  • the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories; and
  • the removal of the illegally constructed ‘apartheid wall’.

The TUC decision could make a significant contribution to the building of the international solidarity movement and encouraging unions worldwide to play a major role in the campaign as they did in the campaign against Apartheid in South Africa, wrote Bernard Ragan on Mondoweiss.

Additionally, he says, the unions are significant because some are affiliated to the Labour Party and they can therefore make a vital contribution to ensuring that the voice of the Palestinians and their supporters is not “silenced” by pro-Netanyahu apologists within the Party itself.

Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ben Jamal, said they are heartened by the move.

“We welcome this motion which reaffirms the strong support across the UK trade union movement for the rights of Palestinians. By rightfully identifying that Israel is practicing a system of apartheid the consequences become clear: There can be no normalised relations with any state practicing apartheid unless one is to become a reinforcing part of the system. We applaud the TUC for calling clearly for sanctions.”

The TUC said it has always encouraged its trade unions to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), and there have been innumerable meetings of union branches which have heard Palestinian speakers and returning British delegations discussing the situation of the Palestinian people.

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