Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boycotts, and not actually boycotts

Amicus, the manufacturing union, has recently merged with the T&G, the transport workers union, to form the largest union in Britain, named "Unite the Union" (a crap name, in my humble).

At Amicus' final conference, it seems to have passed a motion condemning the "Apartheid Wall". The text of the motion is at Mark Elf's JsF site. The motion is not a boycott motion. The closest it comes to this is this bit: 3b "Actively campaign against the Wall by... Investigating how industries organised by our union may be involved in constructing the Wall." Whatever your position on the wall, I think you have to accept that this particular proposal is rather different from the empty and counter-productive gesture politics of a cultural boycott. Instead, it is about practically and concretely addressing a perceived injustice, on the terrain of industry, i.e. in a union's best battle-ground.

Anti-Zionist Roland Rance reports that the motion was passed unanimously, adding:
"Of course, as in Unison, the union's bureaucracy and leadership will do little to carry this out. But it creates space for Amicus members (and there must be many on this list) to raise the issues at their branches, and to work to put some reality onto these verbal statements."

The T&G, on the other hand, are about to debate an actual boycott motion, according to the JC:
The TGWU’s boycott motion has been proposed by car-industry workers at its Birmingham branch. It “deplores the actions” of Israel towards the Palestinians and accuses it of failing to recognise the “legitimate aspiration of a Palestinian state”.

The motion specifically calls upon the conference to “support a boycott of Israeli products and goods” and calls on the government to take a “stronger stance in support of the Palestinian people”.

Members of the Trade Union Friends of Israel said they were hoping to persuade the union to drop its boycott move, and would be seeking talks not only with TGWU leaders but also with the proposers of the motion.

However, Eric McDonald, the union’s Birmingham branch secretary — who said he had never been to Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas — pledged that there would be no backtracking. “Boycotting worked against South Africa and the motion was approved unanimously by the 30 members of the district committee,” representing 16,000 members.

“Israel is very intolerant and sometimes its behaviour is not dissimilar to that of the Nazis,” he told the JC. “Israel, like any other fundamentalist religious state, abuses groups that are different.” This also applied to Hamas, he accepted.
Note the union hack's insidious comparison of Israel to Nazis and its nonsensical depiction as a "fundamentalist relious state".

The JC article also reports on the anti-boycott backlash within the unions:
More than 250 members of the National Union of Journalists signed a petition calling on their union to drop its boycott resolution. Among them were a large group of BBC broadcasters including foreign correspondents Hugh Sykes and James Reynolds and political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti. Other signatories included The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent Ian Black, The Independent’s Israel correspondent Donald MacIntyre and ITN’s father of chapel (shop steward) Dan Wright.

In a letter to The Guardian, 32 members of Unison, including national executive member Alison Brown, said that as “democrats, socialists and supporters of an independent Palestinian state we oppose a boycott against Israel”. Such a move, they said, would “strengthen the sense of being under siege in a world of enemies which is a strong element in the power of the Israeli right”.
Hat tip Arieh.

Previous boycott round-up here.

No comments: