BDS boycotters (file)
BDS boycotters (file) Reuters

Britain's largest trade union has voted to boycott Israeli companies in a unanimous vote last Wednesday.

The UNITE union adopted the anti-Israel motion at its first policy conference, calling "to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies." The motion added that such a boycott would be "similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid" - representing an adoption of the rhetoric of the virulently anti-Israel BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which seeks to portray Israel as similar to apartheid South Africa.

It further called for a “campaigning and leverage strategy around BDS within the next 12 months against complicit companies involved in the occupation, the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements."

Unsurprisingly, a pro-Israel motion entitled "Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation", and which called to support peace talks and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian trade unions 

But according to The Jewish Chronicle it wasn't all bad, as UNITE delegates voted to maintain "solidarity links" with Israel's Histadrut trade union.

Stephen Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel, told the Chronicle that the decision hints at a possible split within the pro-boycott movement, some of whom are wary that calling to totally severe ties with Israel - to include fellow trade unionists - was "very dangerous stuff."

"It would be huge for another trade union movement to expel them even when they are a democratic organisation and pass all the criteria of being a member of the international trade unions," he said of the Histadrut.

But he said that the vote was still serious, particularly given the fact that the motion passed unanimously.

"All round, you now have a major player supporting the boycott and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and there is no resistance."