22 April 2009 — On Wednesday, Scotland joined Ireland and South Africa when the Scottish Trade Union Congress, representing every Scottish trade union, voted overwhelmingly to commit to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This is the third example of a national trade union federation committing to BDS and is a clear indication that, while Israel can kill Palestinians with impunity and Western support, it has lost the battle for world public opinion. It is now seen to be a state born out of ethnic cleansing and still expanding through the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people.
Speaker after speaker expressed intense anger at Israel’s butchery of 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza over the New Year, as well as the much longer history of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The vote followed a visit to Israel/Palestine by an STUC Delegation in March which heard from a wide range of trade union and other bodies and returned with a unanimous recommendation that the parent body adopt BDS.
The STUC move to a position of BDS followed debate on the Delegation report with affiliated unions as well as consultations across Scotland. There were written and oral submissions from Zionist as well as human rights bodies.
The commitment to BDS was made despite aggressive lobbying by Zionist groups, including an absurd warning that a commitment to active support for Palestinian human rights would lead to attacks on Scottish Jews, and the parachuting into Scotland of the Histadrut‘s Head of Communications from Israel.
The STUC’s new position is a dramatic breakthrough which has the potential to greatly accelerate the boycott campaign already underway in Scotland against, for example, Israeli companies and sporting or cultural visits. The Scottish Government earlier in the year yielded to public concerns and cancelled a trade delegation to Israel.
It will also make easier the task of building a mass boycott campaign across the land surface of Scotland, in every town and small community, in every supermarket and every sporting and cultural event.
Israel’s New Year mountain of corpses in Gaza, together with its frequent murder of unarmed civilians across Palestine, was only the latest in a long series of Israeli massacres. We may be unable to stop the next one, but our job of building the sort of mass BDS campaign that can confront Israeli violence with a countervailing force has just become easier. An aroused world opinion is increasingly ready to ensure that all don’t die in vain.
We can only offer hope to the hard-pressed Palestinians that their freedom is coming, however long Israel and its allies work to delay it.
Speaking prior to the debate, STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: “The STUC General Council is recommending support for boycott and calls for sanctions against Israel because of its attacks on the human rights of Palestinian people and its breaches of international laws.
Mr Smith continued: “On our recent visit to Israel and Palestine we witnessed the human rights violations experienced by ordinary Palestinians on a daily basis. We saw how restrictions on movement and checkpoints prevent people from going to work, to school and to visit their families — even when they are sick and dying.”
“We heard powerful arguments from the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, Al-Haq, outlining how Israel is in breach of the Geneva Conventions, and the need for other signatories to international laws to hold Israel to account.”
“Our delegation also met with the leadership of Israeli trade union centre, Histadrut, and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions. The STUC has carefully considered the complex issues involved, and we believe that we have a moral obligation to show solidarity to Palestinian people.”
View the STUC General Council Recommendation on BDS passed at Congress today in Perth. The significant paragraphs are:
6.1 The General Council is recommending that Congress should take a position of:
- supporting boycotts and disinvestments against lsrael,
- calling for sanctions against lsrael,
- encouraging positive investments in the occupied territories.
6.6 The STUC acknowledges its relationship with both PGFTU and Histadrut and supports the development of a constructive dialogue between them. The STUC will explain its position on BDS to Histadrut, and will, over the next 12 months, raise with them Histadrut positions in relation to Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The STUC will review its relationship with Histadrut in this context.
The Web site of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is at <spsc.scottishpsc.org.uk/>.