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U.K. Ousts Israeli Expert from Conflict Resolution Workshop

A workshop on conflict resolution was cancelled due to protests of trade union members, who objected to an Israeli expert leading the class.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/1/2012, 7:08 PM

Boycott supporters
Boycott supporters
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The British National Health Service cancelled a workshop on conflict resolution that was scheduled to be led by an Israeli lecturer, following protests of trade union members who objected to Israeli involvement.

Professor Moty Cristal, an Israeli expert on negotiating skills and crisis management, had been invited to lead a workshop in Manchester next week entitled, ‘The Role of Negotiation in Dealing With Conflict.’

On Firday, however, he received an email informing him that the workshop had been cancelled due to pressure exerted by the trade union Unison.

The e-mail claimed that the session was cancelled "on the grounds that it is Unison's policy and also that of the Trades Union Congress to support the Palestinian people".

"I'm furious from a professional point of view and deeply disappointed from a national point of view," Cristal told the Guardian. "I have always been perceived first and foremost as an expert, rather than an Israeli. But here people didn't have the wisdom to look behind the Israeli flag to my professional contribution."

Cristal, who has worked with Arab and human-rights organizations, said that the decision to cancel the workshop is ironic because his lectures emphasize the "importance of having dialogue between people with different ideas.”

A spokeswoman for Unison confirmed that its members had requested that Cristal's invitation be withdrawn and said that the union seeks to impose "a direct boycott of all Israeli people."

She continued to state that the union is  "supportive of people in Palestine. The trade union movement has a long history of international solidarity.”

“Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel," she added.

The Israeli Embassy in London said that, "the cancelation of a private expert simply due to his citizenship or ethnic identity is a racist policy in every way.”

The move follows a decision by the UK's fifth biggest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, to end trade with Israeli companies. The food retailer announced it would no longer be "engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements." That decision affects Palestinian Arabs who work for Israelis, as they may lose jobs as a result.