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Histadrut: Israel’s racist “trade union”

histadrut_buylocal_1Tony Greenstein, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2009

The role of the Histadrut, Israel’s General Federation of Labour, in the development of Zionism and of Israel as a Jewish state is chronicled in this essay by Tony Greenstein. Its rise and decline is chartered as is its relationship to Arab workers in Israel and to the occupation.

Some extracts:

Politically, Histadrut operated as an arm of Israeli and US foreign policy…

As its economic importance has declined, Histadrut’s political role has increased in importance. Histadrut is recognized by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions as the representative of all Israeli workers. It is seen as being on the left of Israeli society, in favor of reconciliation and peace and its delegations abroad always include at least one pliant Arab member. It therefore came as a shock to people that Histadrut supported the attack on Gaza: “Israel had no choice but to respond to the repeated attacks and aggression as an act of justifiable self-defense.”…

As unemployment grew in the Zionist economy in Palestine in the 1920s, Histadrut launched a campaign to promote Jewish labor (Avodat Ivrit) and Jewish produce (Totzeret Haaretz), which was essentially a boycott of Arab labor and produce…

Full article

Greenstein ends his essay by stating:

‘In the last decade, new workers’ organizations have arisen in Israel, such as Kav La’Oved (Worker’s Hotline), Commitment, the Center for Aid to Foreign Workers, Sawt el-Amel and Workers Advice Center. It is this sector which can serve as the basis for a new union, accessible to all and not connected with the Zionist establishment.’

Indeed, in May 2004, Dani Ben Simhon of the Workers Advice Center (WAC) produced a study of the Histadrut, unfortunately not currently available online. But extracts from it are available in the November/December 2004 isssue of Challenge magazine in The Unmaking of the Histadrut.

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