More on the TUC General conference resolution
It is followed by the text of the Introductory speech by TUC General Secretary moving the General Council statement on the Middle East.
Note The Times (18 Sept) reports the discussion under the heading TUC backs off from Israel consumer boycott to emphasise that this was a compromise and a defeat for those who wanted a general boycott (as well as for those who wanted to soften the motion out of existence).
See also our earlier report TUC backs a boycott of Israeli goods that targets the occupation
TUC Congress, Thursday 17 September 2009
The TUC reiterates its belief that only when a sovereign, independent, democratic contiguous and viable Palestinian state is created, living side by side with a secure Israel will there be a chance for peace and stability in the Middle East. We remain committed to a two-state solution to the crisis in the Middle East and support for the Road Map. We recognize the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people, and we call upon the British Government to make appropriate representations to the international community to secure lasting peace through a negotiated settlement based on mutual respect and self-determination, on justice for the Palestinians and on security for Israel.
The TUC reiterates its condemnation of the Government of Israel’s offensive in Gaza which resulted in 1,450 Palestinian deaths and 5,000 injured, as well as the massive, systematic destruction of infrastructure. We also reiterate our condemnation of the rocket attacks from inside Gaza against Israeli civilians. We welcome the findings of the UN investigation which highlighted possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict. The TUC remains concerned about the situation in Gaza and reiterates its opposition to the Israeli blockade, which is in contravention of international law and prevents vital supplies from reaching the people of Gaza. We welcome the contributions unions made earlier this year to the TUC Aid appeal for Gaza.
As a result of the Gaza offensive, the TUC calls on the British Government to:
(a) condemn the Israeli military aggression and the continuing blockade of Gaza;
(b) end arms sales to Israel which reached a value of £18.8 million in 2008, up from £7.7 million in 2007;
(c) seek EU agreement to impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal settlements; and
(d) support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement which provides preferential trade facilities to Israel.
The TUC reiterates our pledge to work in solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and urges unions to support financially the TUC/PGFTU projects funded through TUC Aid as well as the joint Histadrut-PGFTU projects being developed in several sectors under the auspices of Global Union Federations. We welcome the resolution last year of the longstanding dispute over the remittance of membership subscriptions from the Histadrut to the PGFTU, which was brokered by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and support any stronger relations between the Histadrut and the PGFTU that they wish to develop.
The TUC condemns the Histadrut statement of 13 January 2009 which backed the attacks on Gaza and showed insufficient concern for the level of civilian casualties. At the same time, we recognize the recent Histadrut resolution on peace and co-operation, welcomed by the ITUC, which calls on the Israeli government ‘to make concessions and take courageous and concrete steps towards attaining peace.’ We will continue to press Histadrut to take a firmer line on these issues. The General Council will raise Congress’ concerns with the Histadrut and report back to Congress on future relationships.
To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the removal of the separation wall and the illegal settlements, we will support a boycott (where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with such products) of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements – through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall. In undertaking these actions each affiliate will operate within its own aims and objectives and within the law.
We reiterate our encouragement to unions to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to raise greater awareness of the issues.
Minutes and agendas (700 words) issued 17 Sep 2009
Introductory speech by TUC General Secretary moving General Council statement on the Middle East
Congress, the Middle East is perhaps the most intractable dispute in the world.
The General Council has worked hard to come up with a statement which the Congress can unite around. That has involved compromise on all sides, and I am grateful to all the colleagues who have contributed.
What you have before you sets out principles we can all share, conclusions I hope we can all agree on and actions we can all take.
I don’t want to take you through the whole statement, but I want to highlight some of the key points.
First, the General Council thought that it was important to set out up front our vision of the future for the Middle East that we want to reach.
A two-state solution. The Road Map. Justice for the Palestinians. Security for Israel.
The international community – including our own government but also, critically, the US Presidency – has a key role.
Earlier this year, the TUC condemned the Israeli offensive in Gaza. And we reiterate that condemnation in the statement today. It led to many, many deaths and intolerable suffering.
The rocket attacks on Israeli citizens have also been condemned.
Both were unacceptable, and both have led to the UN investigation concluding that war crimes may have been committed.
The blockade of Gaza, which continues to this day, is intolerable collective punishment.
Turning to the unions in the region, we have for the last year been trying to persuade the Histadrut – the Israeli TUC – to be more vocal in criticising the Israeli Government.
We think that the statement issued by the Histadrut in January, which failed to recognize the appalling loss of life and the suffering caused by the Gaza offensive, should be condemned.
We will continue to press them over the crucial issues of the occupation, the separation wall, the roadblocks, and the illegal settlements.
But both Histadrut and the PGFTU know that there is no prospect for peace for working people in the region if the union movements do not work together, and the General Council remains committed to helping them to do that.
Through our longstanding relationship with both Histadrut and the PGFTU we have actively encouraged joint working and the agreement reached a year ago on the remittance of membership subscription income from Histadrut to the PGFTU.
Finally, the General Council has considered what can be done by us to apply pressure to the Israeli government to make the end of the occupation, the dismantling of the separation wall, and the removal of the illegal settlements more likely.
We believe that targeted action – aimed at goods from the illegal settlements and at companies involved in the occupation and the wall – is the right way forward.
This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers, but targeted, consumer-led sanctions directed at businesses based in, and sustaining, the illegal settlements.
Congress, the situation in the Middle East is grim. Our brothers and sisters every day face terrible terrible problems. They need all our support in creating a just and lasting peace.
President Obama is now trying to move things forward, and we all wish him every success.
But we, too, have a part to play, and the General Council statement sets it out.
I commend it to Congress.
Minutes and agendas (600 words) issued 17 Sep 2009