British Trade Unions Against Israel

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Ronnie Fraser, Director of the Academic Friends of Israel.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

OpEds Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

“London is one of Europe’s centers for Israel's delegitimization. At its heart is the collaboration between UK-based Islamists and British radical left activists, whose common goal is Israel's demonization and delegitimization. The result has been that the anti-Israel international Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement has probably found more support in Britain than in any other Western democratic society.

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), the largest Palestinian advocacy organisation in Britain, has built links with Britain's trade unions over the last 10 years. This has been possible because of the Far Left's political and historical connection with the labor movement, which has enabled anti-Zionist groups such as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to flourish. The structure and procedures of trade unions also lend themselves to small numbers of activists setting the agenda for anti-Israel policies. By working with Britain's trade union movement, the PSC, once a marginal advocacy organization, has been able to make a significant impact. The resulting credibility has allowed it to work with NGO's such as War on Want and Amnesty International.”  

Ronnie Fraser is the Director of the Academic Friends of Israel -- a voluntary position -- which campaigns against the academic boycott of Israel and anti-Semitism on campus. His doctoral thesis focuses on the attitude of British Trade Union Movement (TUC) toward Israel over the years 1945-1982.

Fraser adds: “The anti-Israeli trade union activists wield tremendous power within the Labour party. My doctorate shows it is false to assume that because the Labour Party has been very supportive of Israel in the past, this also held true for their partners in the Labor movement, the TUC and the individual unions. Since 1945 the TUC has never been publically very supportive of the Jewish state or the Israeli general trade union, the Histadrut, apart from a brief period after the Six Day War.

“Britain's trade union movement finally turned away from Israel at the time of the first Lebanon war in 1982. The TUC Congress that year adopted a resolution which condemned Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and recognized ‘the national rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination within an independent sovereign state.’

“From then on, the TUC and its member unions have regularly adopted resolutions containing anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rhetoric, with only limited disapproval of Palestinian terrorist activities. These resolutions have sometimes crossed the line into anti-Semitism. A generation of British left-wing trade union activists has been raised on a diet of conference motions whose only mention of Israel is in connection with its ‘brutality’ and ‘oppression’ of the Palestinian people.


Two of the education unions are probably the most anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian unions in Britain today.
“In 2001 the NGO Forum at the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa adopted an eight point plan based on the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1980s. This program has since formed the basis of the BDS campaign. The following year, at the time of Israel's Jenin intervention, British academics called for an academic boycott of Israel. Since then Great Britain has been at the forefront of calls for academic, trade union, media, medical, architectural, and cultural boycotts of Israel.

“The TUC is the largest organization supporting the PSC. It represents almost six million workers within its 52 affiliated unions. Nineteen of Britain’s largest unions are affiliated to and fund the PSC. These include the two largest unions, Unite and Unison as well as the GMB, the RMT, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the University lecturers union (UCU). These unions together represent workers in most areas of employment in the UK. The NUT is just one of several British unions using their considerable influence in the global labor movement to persuade unions in Europe and around the world to adopt BDS. However a few of the smaller unions still support Israel such as the Prison Officers Union and USDAW, the Shopworkers union.

“The TUC held back from backing PSC policy until 2010 when it launched a joint campaign with the PSC headlined: ‘Would you buy stolen goods?’ The campaign leads with the accusation that produce from the Israeli settlements, which are built on ‘stolen Palestinian land’, are illegal under international law. At the beginning of the 2014 Gaza war, the TUC issued a statement that could have been written by the PSC or any group which supports Hamas.

“Two of the education unions are probably the most anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian unions in Britain today. The promotion by the (UCU) of an academic boycott of Israel over the last ten years has been widely documented. The NUT actively promotes all PSC's campaigns. In August 2015 however it was forced to withdraw teaching materials and a film in which a photograph surfaced of a Palestinian child dressed in fatigues and holding a gun.”

Fraser summarizes: “Unite, Unison and all the other unions blindly follow the edicts of the PSC and the BDS movement. They call for boycotts even if they know that this will result in increased economic hardship for the Palestinians. These unions have spent tens of thousands of pounds on these campaigns yet probably have done nothing to help improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians.”  




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