Largest UK Union may join boycott of Israel

The largest union in the United Kingdom, UNISON, will vote on a proposal to boycott Israeli products at their annual meeting in June.  The union, with 1.4 million members, represents public servants in the United Kingdom.If the union adopts the proposal to boycott Israeli goods and services, it will be the largest union in the world to have adopted the boycott.

The proposal follows a vote on Wednesday by the UK’s largest union of academics to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The boycott movement is an attempt by organizations around the world to pressure Israel to end its 40-year old occupation of the Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Since the military occupation of Palestinian land began in 1967, over 500,000 Israeli civilians have been transferred onto the occupied land, in contravention of international law and United Nations resolutions.

Boycott campaigns were highly successful in the 1980s in the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.  Organizations, unions, municipalities and national governments boycotted the South African regime to pressure the government to end its policy of apartheid, in which white, black and mixed-race citizens were segregated into separate schools, regions, hospitals and legal systems.

Those organizations engaged in the current boycott campaign, against Israel, have compared the Israeli regime to the South African government under apartheid.  Like South Africa, Israel has implemented a full separation between Israelis and the Palestinians living in the occupied territories, which includes the current construction of the Annexation Wall.

The current proposal, up for a vote at the UNISON conference in June, states, in part:

“Conference notes that, during 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon and Gaza, withheld tax revenues form the Palestine Authority and refused dialogue with the elected Authority following the democratic elections of January 2006, re-sealed the borders of Gaza, expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank, and continued the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall.  Israeli policy represents a calculated defiance of international law and the United Nations (UN), with the collusion of the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) which cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority. “Conference repudiates the Blair government's consistent stand in support of the Israeli government throughout the shameful events of 2006, even joining the US in failing to call for a ceasefire amidst worldwide condemnation of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. “UNISON believes the appropriate response is to support the growing international moves towards a union-based campaign of boycott and sanctions against Israeli institutions, in line with the call from over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations including the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and individual unions and labour collectives.”

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Saed Bannoura

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