British Trade Union inclined to ignore Covid-19 while promoting anti-Israel sentiment
By David E. Kaplan
What’s with the United Kingdom’s second largest trade union with 1.2 million members? What does it say about Unite that its obsession against the collective state of the Jews – Israel – is far more important than the health and wellbeing of its million-plus members or its fellow workers abroad?
Unite has been angrily accused of ignoring the global crisis for workers caused by the Coronavirus pandemic after submitting a motion condemning Israel for its proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank to be discussed at this week’s 152nd annual Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference starting this Monday.
While the once proposed “annexation” is off Israel’s political agenda and news media, clearly with the British trade union Unite, it remains a ‘present and clear danger’ warranting a resolution. No matter that the landscape has shifted and there prevails a new spirit of rapprochement towards the pursuit of peace and prosperity.
Unite’s antiquated understanding is hardly surprising when its boss, Len McCluskey, a former stalwart Corbyn supporter, once described allegations of antisemitism within Labour as “mood music”.
What will likely set the misguided “mood” at this week’s trade union conference is the proposed anti-Israel Unite – Motion 66 – condemning Israel over an issue that is no longer relevant.
What raises the spectre of anti-Semitism is that this will be the ONLY international motion to be debated at the conference. No other country in the world with the most horrendous human rights violations attracts the attention of Unite which is fixated on Israel.
It is little surprise that the proposed motion of condemnation by Len McCluskey’s union is being greeted with anger by some in the union movement.
Steve Scott of the Britain Israel Trade Union Dialogue (BITUD) told the London-based Jewish weekly, the Jewish Chronicle that
“It’s strange that in a time of unprecedented struggle for workers worldwide, including massive job losses and health consequences of Covid, that the only international motion at the TUC doesn’t offer solidarity and support to workers across the globe.”
While ignored by Unite, Scott draws attention to the “considerable cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians during the Covid-19 crisis to get people back to work, noting that the “Histadrut (Israeli TUC) at the moment have issued notice of a General Strike to defend all public sector workers who face pay cuts.”
“Isn’t this something we should be sending solidarity messages for rather than condemnation?”
Adhering to the facts on the ground, Scott continues:
“Considering that the annexation proposals have been rescinded since the recent recognition agreement between Israel and the UAE, this motion also seems to be out of date. Why aren’t we now calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”
By the time, the issue is raised for discussion at the Conference, Bahrain too will have joined the UAE in normalising relations with Israel. Yes, there will be challenges, but the trend and trajectory towards peace is set.
However, facts on the ground are not what interests Unite. One only has to look back at its past public positions over the past decade when during Israel’s conflicts with Hamas, the union consistently sided against Israel adopting the most inflammatory and one-sided language.
In 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense, a statement issued under McCluskey’s name “unreservedly condemned outrageous Israeli aggression,” accusing the Jewish State of “terrorizing an entire population.” The statement made no mention of the thousands of terrorist rockets fired on the civilian populations of Israel!
Under some pressure at the time, McCluskey budged only slightly, conceding that Unite was “wary” of Hamas – only in part – because “the terror group had expelled the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.”
Eighteen months later, during Operation Protective Edge, Unite’s statement only briefly noted the murder of three Israelis youths before railing against “Israeli-state racism and apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing”, “colonisation”, accusing Israel of committing “war crimes with complete impunity,” and suggested:
“This isn’t about rockets from Gaza. It’s about Israel fighting to maintain its control over Palestinian lives and Palestinian land.”
Clearly on McCluskey’s watch, the Unite union has shown an unremitting hostility towards Israel and Zionism.
Off the Mark to Off-line
Interestingly and no less intriguing is that Unite’s anti-Israel motion to be discussed this Monday and Tuesday afternoon will NOT be aired to members of the public or other trade union members who register to watch online coverage of the event.
Is it feared that certain ugly truths will be revealed to the public or might embarrass the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer who is set to address the conference? After all, his first act as party’s new leader, when he replaced Jeremy Corbyn in early 2020 was vowing “to tear out the poison” of antisemitism within his party “by its roots”.
With positive signs of a Middle East transforming towards rapprochement, would it not be better for this conference to read the signs of shifting sands and instead of one-sided attack resolutions against Israel to rather adhere to the words of Steve Scott:
“calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”
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