Sep 16, 2010

#BDS: TUC: UNISON & Palestine

Full text of speech by UNISON delegate Mike Kirby in TUC 2010 Congress Palestine debate

Trade unionists across the world are at the centre of progressive alliances and movements. And in December 2008 as the world watched aghast at the Operation Cast Lead incursion into Gaza and we condemned the actions of Israel, HISTADRUT the Israeli trade union centre, did not join the international chorus of condemnation.

While we respect rights of self determination in solidarity movements across the world sometimes we have a duty to say when they get things wrong.

2009 saw a major shift in both trade union and public opinion on Palestine.

The cause was Gaza and the unprecedented and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli state.

Those events led to an historic vote by Congress, committing the TUC to support a major campaign calling for a ban on goods from illegal Israeli settlements.

And as another round of peace talks continues, the prospects for a real deal will be tested later this month, when Israel reviews its policies on settlements, which continue to colonise the Palestinian Territories, and another generation grows up under occupation.

Can there be a peace, a lasting peace

Without a right of return, Without East Jerusalem

Without an end to Occupation and Colonisation?

The Palestinian people have been suffering for too long at the hands of occupation.

While we hope for a successful outcome to current peace talks, our values as trade unionists and our commitment to solidarity, mean that we cannot stand idly by, while the people of Nablus, Hebron, Jerusalem and Gaza suffer on a daily basis, without homes, without jobs, without basic freedoms, and increasingly without hope.

It is our duty as trade unionists, to offer whatever support we can to end that suffering.

UNISON at all levels, along with others in PSC, is actively involved in developing the campaign to boycott goods from illegal settlements, and to pursue companies involved in the wall and illegal construction.

We strongly support this composite, and welcome the attitude of the General council, which sees this campaign as an ongoing process, that we need to step up.

Shimon Peres, master of the one-liner, put it this way.

He said, “The good news is there is light at the end of the tunnel; the bad news is there is no tunnel.”

We can help concentrate governments’ minds, in building that tunnel towards the light.

On BDS and the possible negative impact upon Palestinians, I was part of an STUC delegation last year, we were told by the PA Minister, “The boycott may affect 20% of those Palestinians in employment in construction and service industries.

They don't work in export industries. For the sake of the political issue of our land, we can afford the economic sacrifice.”

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