The TUC and Israel: dual standards and despair

September 19, 2009 at 3:12 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, Congress, israel, Middle East, stalinism, unions, workers)

“I regard it as a kind of psychological displacement activity” a leading TUC left-winger told me: “It’s unions and delegates saying, in effect, ‘we can’t take on the government, we’re pretty crap at defending our members, but we can take a really hard line on Israel’.”

What is certainly true is that if this year’s  TUC is remembered for anything at all, it will be for  just two debates: high heel shoes at work and the call to boycott Israel.

What was finally passed on Israel/Palestine was a typical TUC fudge: the FBU motion, supported by Unison and Unite, calling for a total boycott of Israeli goods and questioning the TUC’s links with the Israeli union organisation Histadrut was overruled by a General Council statement, arrived at after much wrangling behind the scenes, that read: “To increase the pressure for for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories and the removal of the seperation wall and illegal settlements we will support a boycott of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign.”

Whilst the statement is less objectionable and dangerous than the FBU’s anti-all things Israeli position, two immediate problems present themselves. Firstly, as the FBU president Mick Shaw fairly pointed out, “these goods do not come with a label which says, ‘These goods are produced on an illegal settlement’.” So, EITHER this will be an impractical, ineffectual gesture…OR it will be turned in practice into an all-out boycott campaign of all Israeli products and links with Israel. The latter is quite clearly what people like the Palestine Solidarity Committee and other professional anti-semites and Israel-haters hope for. As the (Stalinist) Communist Party of Britain’s John Haylett writes approvingly in today’s Morning Star: “…it is important that the popular understanding will be that the TUC is in favour of a boycott of Israel…”

The second point to note is that the statement (like the FBU motion) talks explicitly about a “consumer-led boycott campaign.” In other words the leadership of Britain’s trade union movement is calling upon the general public to do something, but not especially upon trade unionists. If the TUC  and its affiliates (especially Unite) were serious about a boycott, they’d be calling upon workers not to handle, transport, load, unload or sell these goods. Instead, they call for a what will, at best, be an empty gesture devoid of trade union principle, international solidarity or any suggestion of working class unity. I say “at best” because at worst – if it were to take off – the “boycott” call would, inevitably, become an anti-Jewish campaign, directed against all those linked to, and in any way sympathetc to, Israel: ie predominantly Jews. That may not be the intention of most of those calling for a boycott, but it would certainly be the end result of a successful campaign.

Much better a positive labour movement campaign of solidarity with the Palestinans, with the Israeli peace movement, and with workers on both sides. The “boycott” call militates against that sort of working class campaign. It’s actually a council of despair as far as working class politics goes.

But, of course, some of those promoting the boycott are actively opposed to working class unity in the context of Israel/Palestine. How else to explain the calls for a “review” (ie: breaking) of links with Histadrut? ‘Ah, but the Histadrut supported the attack on Gaza’, comes the reply. To which we can only reply in turn that if the TUC broke off links with all unions and union federations that supported their own governments – including over imperialist wars and invasions – then it would have precious few international links at all. ‘Ah but the Histadrut is not really a proper trade union at all, but what Comrade Haylett correctly describes as a “cross between a trade union and an employers’ federation”‘ reply the Israel-haters. Two points to make on that: Histadrut is far from being the only trade union organisation in the world to have class-collaborationist links with employers (and – of course – people like Comrade Haylett always rather approved of Eastern European and other Stalinist unions that were -and in the case of Cuba and China, still are – part of their respective states); secondly, whatever its faults the Histadrut is the collective, representative body of the Israeli labour movement. To write off Histadrut is to write off the Israeli working class. But then, that’s what most of the supporters of the boycott have done already, isn’t it?


  1. Jonathan Hoffman said,

    “Displacement” is spot-on. Here is the ZF’s reponse:

    Despite representations from Zionist Federation (ZF) members, trade unionists and others, the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) today approved this statement on Israel.

    The statement contains numerous factual inaccuracies and distortions.

    It refers to “Israeli military aggression and the continuing blockade of Gaza”. The ZF believes that Israel has the right to defend itself and indeed the British government and opposition leaders all accept this. The TUC did not dispute the obligation of the British government to defend its citizens from the IRA. There is no “blockade of Gaza” – the reason there are restrictions on imports into Gaza is for security, so that materials which can be used by Hamas terrorists cannot enter.

    The TUC calls on the British government to end arms sales to Israel. The ZF is astonished to need to point out to the TUC that if Israel has the right to defend itself, then an arms embargo cannot be right.

    The TUC calls on the British Government to seek EU agreement to impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal settlements and to support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement. The ZF reminds the TUC that there is no legal decision on the status of the settlements so they cannot be termed ‘illegal’. The US government for one does not hold that they are illegal.

    The TUC statement calls for a selective goods boycott: “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 ….. 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”.

    The ZF reminds the TUC that successive Israeli governments have shown that they are prepared to return land taken in the defensive War of 1967 but only in exchange for recognition of Israel and a commitment to peace. Even though neither Hamas nor Fatah has agreed to this, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Sinai before that. The separation fence has saved lives because it has prevented suicide bombers entering israel – would the TUC prefer to have seen more maimed and dead victims? The ZF deplores the TUC’s call for this selective boycott, which will be taken by opponents of Israel as a green light for a general boycott. The ZF calls on consumers throughout the UK to step up their purchases of Israeli goods in protest at the TUC’s action and points out that goods boycott will be economically damaging for many Palestinians as well as many Israelis.

    The TUC “reiterate(s) our encouragement to unions to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to raise greater awareness of the issues.” The ZF points out that the PSC is a discriminatory organisation.

    The ZF deplores today’s TUC General Council Statement on Israel; calls on trade union members to protest to their union executives; and calls for increased cooperation between the TUC and the Histadrut, for the benefit of peace in the interests of both Palestinian and Israeli workers.

    The ZF welcomes the JLC/BoD statement which can be read here.

  2. resistor said,

    Hoffman writes,

    ‘The ZF reminds the TUC that successive Israeli governments have shown that they are prepared to return land taken in the defensive War of 1967 but only in exchange for recognition of Israel and a commitment to peace.’

    This is, of course, a lie.

    Champagne Charlie wrote,

    ‘Firstly, as the FBU president Mick Shaw fairly pointed out, “these goods do not come with a label which says, ‘These goods are produced on an illegal settlement.” So, EITHER this will be an impractical, ineffectual gesture…OR it will be turned in practice into an all-out boycott campaign of all Israeli products and links with Israel.’

    In which case Israel will have itself to blame for not labelling its products honestly.

    I used to support an all-out boycott campaign of all South African products and links with South Africa under Apartheid – so what’s your problem when Israel copies South Africa’s Apartheid policies?

  3. charliethechulo said,

  4. maxdunbar said,

    Wiki has some good stuff on this.

    In an essay comparing their experience as black South Africans whose families fought against apartheid with the current situation in Israel, Rhoda Kadalie and Julia Bertelsmann wrote:

    “Israel is not an apartheid state … Arab citizens of Israel can vote and serve in the Knesset; black South Africans could not vote until 1994. There are no laws in Israel that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews. … South Africa had a job reservation policy for white people; Israel has adopted pro-Arab affirmative action measures in some sectors. Israeli schools, universities and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and Arabs. An Arab citizen who brings a case before an Israeli court will have that case decided on the basis of merit, not ethnicity. This was never the case for blacks under apartheid.”

    Benjamin Pogrund, author and member of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations World Conference against Racism, has argued that the petty apartheid which characterized apartheid-era South Africa does not exist within Israel:

    “The difference between the current Israeli situation and apartheid South Africa is emphasized at a very human level: Jewish and Arab babies are born in the same delivery room, with the same facilities, attended by the same doctors and nurses, with the mothers recovering in adjoining beds in a ward. Two years ago I had major surgery in a Jerusalem hospital: the surgeon was Jewish, the anaesthetist was Arab, the doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. Jews and Arabs share meals in restaurants and travel on the same trains, buses and taxis, and visit each other’s homes. Could any of this possibly have happened under apartheid? Of course not.”

  5. Andrew Coates said,

    There’s lot of problems about this resolution.

    The central one that strikes me is that this call for a Boycott (desirable, say, in terms of equipment for the IDF) is now focusing on what is effectively a consumer campaign to not buy Israeli.

    Maybe also firms that invest in Israel too. And what kind of firms tend to do, and what kind of ethnic group they come from? Pretty obvious.

    What in effect distinguishes it from the long-standing boycott Israel campaign led by countries like Saudi Arabia?

    Okay, let’s leave that.

    A consumer boycott. Did it come from years of grass roots campaigning? I am an active UNITE member, but I cannot recall any campaign inside the union to get this idea through. It has not been mentioned at the grassroots activist level, let alone amongst the ordinary members. Ditto for our Trades Council – where there would be opposition, from, amongst others, Socialist Party members (though I don’t yet know their opinions on the compromise TUC resolution).

    There are many possibilities for confusion here. I will just give one.

    As some brought up in a political environment where boycotting goods from SA was a rule, indeed knowing ANC exiled families, can I just add one thing. There was a joke going round that in Wood Green some campaigners had a stall once preaching Don’t buy South African – Cape – fruit. Too right, comes the reply, I don’t want my oranges to have been touched by those niggers!

    Apply the same logic to this call…..

  6. resistor said,

    Dunbar ignores the millions of Palestinians expelled and excluded from the territory of Israel and who thus cannot vote. (South Africa tried something similar with the Bantustan policy) He also ignores the Apartheid rule on the occupied West Bank.

    Don’t take my word, take the word of an expert, Ronnie Kasrils.

    By Ronnie Kasrils

    ‘The West Bank, once 22% of historic Palestine, has shrunk to perhaps 10% to 12% of living space for its inhabitants, and is split into several fragments, including the fertile Jordan Valley, which is a security preserve for Jewish settlers and the Israeli Defence Force. Like the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is effectively a hermetically sealed prison. It is shocking to discover that certain roads are barred to Palestinians and reserved for Jewish settlers. I try in vain to recall anything quite as obscene in apartheid South Africa.’

    Ronald Kasrils (commonly known as Ronnie Kasrils) (born November 15, 1938) is a South African politician. He was Minister for Intelligence Services from 27 April 2004 to 25 September 2008. He was a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1987 to 2007 as well as a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP) from December 1986 to 2007. Kasrils’ grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Lithuania who fled from Czarist pogroms at the end of the 19th century. He is the son of Rene (born Cohen) and Isidore Kasrils.

  7. sackcloth and ashes said,

    Ronnie Kasrils is an ‘expert’ on Israel-Palestine according to ‘resistor’. That’s a laugh.

    Let’s move away from la-la land and have some common sense on this subject, shall we?:

  8. maxdunbar said,

    ‘Kasrils is similarly hypocritical on the question of human rights. In his book and speeches, he frequently glorifies Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union-one of the most repressive and murderous regimes in human history. As Intelligence Minister, he signed an agreement to cooperate with Zimbabwe on defense and security matters and crudely scolded a journalist who raised questions about Zimbabwe’s record on human rights under the regime of Robert Mugabe.

    You can see why Onanistor admires him, though

  9. resistor said,

    Kasrils is an expert on Apartheid.

    ps linking to racist Zionist Hasbara sites isn’t very clever. Even for a member of Alliance With Likud/Lieberman,

  10. maxdunbar said,

    ‘Kasrils is an expert on Apartheid.

    Repeating it constantly doesn’t make it any more true.

    Evidence for the accusation about Z-Word?

  11. johng said,

    So whats your explanation for this astonishing turn of events? A bunch lying liars and the liars who tell them? (or as was comically suggested on Harry’s Place the infiltration of union offices by members of Palestine Solidarity). On the other hand, given the fact that the argument about Israels treatment of the Palestinians is clearly shifting in the wider trade union movement (despite, in other fields, disturbing levels of anti-Muslim hysteria in our society), perhaps those who spent all their time denouncing those who wanted a solidarity campaign as neo-nazis in drag should reconsider their position?

  12. vildechaye said,

    1-Don’t know about the “in drag” part.

    2-Nothing is shifting… just another activist takeover that’s temporarily successful. if the TUC rank and file ever get to have their say, this new policy will be revoked faster than you can say zionism is racism.

    3- Using a high-ranking Communist as your source — instead of refuting the points clearly outlining why israel is NOT an apartheid state — does not exactly strengthen your arguments.

    Pathetic, as always.

  13. johng said,

    Well I suspect that those people who think of themselves as socialists don’t have this contempt for “activists” or believe (partly from bitter experiance) that TUC congresses are quite that easy to manipulate. This marks quite a significant shift in the movement and demonstrates that solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is no longer a fringe matter. And that very large numbers of people find the aparthied analogy persuasive not because of what some errent individual says, or because they are stupid, or because they are ill-informed (people are probably far better informed now then they’ve ever been on the subject) but because the analogy is…persuasive. It has to be said that those who were attempting to fight against this analogy have had their work cut out for them given what the actually existing Israeli State as opposed to the imaginary one has actually been doing over the last few years. Which is probably why those of you arguing against supporting BDS have lost the argument.

  14. martin ohr said,


    I agree with you that largely we have lost the argument on BDS, but that does not mean we are wrong, or that we are somehow racists ourselves.

    There are many strands to the argument, but let’s for a moment assume that everything that the majority left says about Israel/Palestine is factually true. The argument only boils down then to whether BDS will be sucessful or not. We’ve argued (with sucess for example at RMT conference) that BDS is the wrong way and that solidarity and links are the best way to bring about change in this case, that the British trades union movement should instead act as a conduit to solidarity between palestinian and israeli workers. (The majority-left tacitly rejects this because it logically means supporting palestinian workers against Hamas in many cases, and this seems to be too hot to handle)

    But humour me for a little here, imagine I’m new to the debate, tell me why BDS will be the most effective tactic for british trades unionists to help palestinians. Tell me some practical BDS activities that unions will be involved in. Tell me some companies that unions will target.

    (I’ve been asking the same thing for 10 years -it’s enough to get you physically ejected from a PSC meeting if you’re persistent enough:) )

    I don’t agree with very much that Harry’s places says about anything, but as always there is an element of truth when they report the quality of debate as poor. It was really embarassing at NUT conference to hear an SWP delegate start the opening speech on the International debate with “every pound you spend in Marks and Spencers is a bullet in the head of a palestinian” That’s the level of debate that supposed marxists use when playing to a sympathetic audience.

  15. johng said,

    Well as with the campaign against Aparthied I think the effect will be largely symbolic. But symbolism is important. One thing that the sanctions campaign against South Africa did was to make it harder and harder for mainstream politicians and in some cases governments, not to be seen to be taking a stand on the issue. There has been some talk on sites dedicated to opposing BDS (which have increasingly moved from left to right in arguments used, sometimes one suspects to the embarressment of those who host them) of how ineffective sanctions against Aparthied were. I noticed this tendency a few years back and thought then that by the time you are forced into this kind of an argument you’ve already lost it. Given the refusal of the current Israeli government to budge on the settlements issue (not to mention the rather surreal and totally inadequate demand by the Americans that the settlements simply cease being expanded) I think its fairly clear that unless concerted pressure is exerted from outside we’ll still be in exactly the same situation in twenty years time, with Israel’s representatives explaining that as there is no-one to negotiate with there can be no negotiations.

  16. Zzzzzzzzzzz ........ said,

    Yawn …. Has johng gone away yet? Wake me when he does. Boring boring bastard.

  17. martin ohr said,

    johng: “Well as with the campaign against Aparthied I think the effect will be largely symbolic”

    I had wrongly put you down as some sort of marxist, clearly you are just a complete f.cking idiot who understands neither politics nor history. I suppose one good thing is that we have it from you clearly that you think passing a BDS motion is purely symbolic will not do anything to help palestinians.

    Do you agree with your comrades in the NUT that “every pound you spend in Marks and Spencers is a bullet in the head of a palestinian” Or would you like to take this opportunity to disown such stupidity

  18. Aguirre said,

    Hey resistor, good to have you back!

    Last I heard you were in a coma caused by sexual exhaustion after viewing C4’s documentary on the Mumbai attacks. Bet you were devastated there was no CCTV footage from the synagogue though. Just as well probably, that might have finished you off.

  19. johng said,

    So you oppose demonstrations then Martin? Demonstrations are largely symbolic in their function as well. Presumably when people attend a demonstration you rant in foamflecked manner about their lack of materialism. Its perhaps a mark of how bizarre your politics have become that you can respond in this manner. As to the quote you have decided to use to try and discredit the whole argument (your still at it I see: as opposed to addressing the central question of why the TUC has swung behind BDS), I think it sounds a bit silly. And yes, attempts at real political discussion as opposed to witch-hunting, right wing hysteria, and vicious sectarianism are somewhat boring. For some people.

  20. martin ohr said,

    Johng, I think demonstrations are very important, and they’re not just limited to symbolism, but anyway the analogy doesn’t hold. The TUC passed a motion which commits them to supporting BDS, yet there is no practical action they can take in this regard. I’d certainly support the TUC calling a demo or conference of trades unionists who like myself support palestine.

    I don’t denounce anything in a foamflecked manner, I’m not sure who you think I am. I’m a softly spoken middle-aged working class bloke from yorkshire with 25 years time served as a socialist activist; I’m way past ranting about anything. If you engage your brain a little more before typing, you might see that what you write re South Africa is contradictory, and inevitably factually incorrect.

    I think the reason for the TUC supporting the BDS motion is multi-fold and more subtle that your reasoning; a not-insignificant part of that is that the motion commits the TUC to doing f’all -as you readily admit. I’ve found that this is a very good way to get any motion passed in the TU movement, long on words, short on action.

    That quote is an illustration of the quality of debate on this subject in our trades unions. I never got round to telling you what happened when AWL spoke against the motion, with a counter set of arguments and proposals for positive action.

    I used the quote not to discredit the whole argument- I’d like to hear the rationale argument from marxists as to why BDS is of any help to our project- but to show the sort of thing that your comrades say. The stuff coming from the PSC is even more shoddy, and some of your partners in the campaigns are much much worse than that- they are open anti-semites.

    Anyway, explain to me why SWP argue for BDS and against solidarity work with Palestinian trades unions?

  21. johng said,

    We don’t argue against solidarity work with Palestinian trade unions. A number of them support the BDS campaign. Its you who are opposing solidarity with Palestinian trade unions by opposing them. And a note of clarification. Symbolic does not equate with unreal. It does’ nt mean token. You asked about the IMPACT of BDS which I took to mean the impact of a campaign of sanctions. I don’t believe the Israeli State would be forced directly into negotiations by such a campaign. I do believe however that as the campaign gains momentum (and it is gaining momentum) and as trade unionists extend the campaign, a greater lever will be created for putting pressure on governments to take a stand. This was essentially the function of the boycott movement against South Africa. It publicised the injustices of the system and made it far harder for governments to back the regime. The disgraceful way in which this Labour government played a supporting role to the attack on Gaza with its navy patrols would be one example. In other words BDS will involve activists in trade unions pushing for whatever boycotts they can pull togeather with wider solidarity work and activism including demonstrations and the like to stop our government providing support, military, economic or political for the Israeli occupation of the occupied territories. Incidently I’m well aware of who you are which is why I was surprised by your completely bonkers response. On symbolism and demonstrations I just found this wonderful old piece by John Berger:

  22. Zzzzzzzzzzz ........ said,

    johng to Martin: ‘Its perhaps a mark of how bizarre your politics have become …’

    What a truly fucked-up creep you are John. You support world-wide attacks on Jews and yet whine on to Martin about his politics. You and your subhuman chum resistor are just perfect for each other.

  23. johng said,

    I support “world wide attacks on Jews”? Really? Are you a fantasist of some kind? This is precisely what I mean. You need to raise your game a little. Arguments like that have no purchase. For the simple reason that they are entirely false.

  24. Harry Tuttle said,

    JohnG wrote:

    I support “world wide attacks on Jews”? Really?

    Are you not a supporter of Hamas and Hizb’Allah? And are you not a member of a party which has in the past played a part in the banning of Sunderland Poly’s Jewish Society? Did the SWP not invite a notorious antisemitic crank to its yearly gatherings (more than once I might add)? And isn’t your party currently involved in attempts to boycott the only Jewish nation on earth? A bit fishy, eh?

    Yet, I don’t think for one second you would support attacks on Jews or that you’re an antisemite. I’ve never seen you write anything to suggest otherwise, but the examples above, even placed in context, are still troubling.

  25. johng said,

    The SWP has never supported no-platforming Jewish societies in Universities Zionist or otherwise. A vote was put in Sunderland University by a local Palestinian society. Some SWSS members may have voted for it. The SWP at the time (I can remember because I was then briefly on the student commitee) opposed it. We did however campaign against the exclusion of Sunderland from the NUS as i recall. I support the right of the Palestinian people to self determination and the right of Lebanese people to self defence against aerial bombardment and invasion. You may find this troubling but it has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-semitism, and as stated, its proven to be a failed strategy amongst those who wanted to oppose the boycott. As for Gilad Atzmon the Israeli saxophonist and ex-IDF member, the SWP attempted to win him away from his developing anti-semitic politics. Unfortunately this did not work, and its quite possible that it should have been realised it wouldn’t work earlier. But this has in any case nothing to do with the argument about BDS, the need for solidarity with the Palestinians against the continuing illegal Israeli military occupation etc, etc. And its now been demonstrated that attempting to change the subject in this way will not work. Its really up to you. Develop a coherent argument on BDS which does’nt involve trying to smear people as anti-semites or continue to lose the argument in the trade union movement and the wider society. On the other hand you could reconsider your opposition to BDS which seems to me by far the better option, as I don’t think anyone is likely to win any arguments on this issue which don’t rely on such smears. Which is of course why many are reluctant to give them up despite their evident failure.

  26. skidmarx said,

    Not wanting to diss Sundeland, but is your next expose of SWP crimes going to be that someone who was once a member mentioned that someone at Neasden Tech was from Israel?
    So that johng can fully denounce himself, here’s the AWL view on the thing:
    Student Jewish society banned at Sunderland Polytechnic because it will not disavow Zionism. (Many similar bans, or attempted bans, will follow in the next years). If pushed to say yes or no, the SWP says it is not for banning Jewish societies.
    This only goes back to 1985, so congratulations to Comrade Tuttle for being almost bang up to date.
    I’ve also never seen johng write anything to suggest that he’s not a fan of Genghis Khan, Caligula,Harold Shipman or Take That. Troubling.

  27. Harry Tuttle said,

    skidmarx wrote:

    This only goes back to 1985, so congratulations to Comrade Tuttle for being almost bang up to date.

    I think you and JohnG completely misread my response. If you remove the context from the points I mentioned, it could be construed, wrongly I might add, that JohnG is a member of an antisemitic party. He’s not, nor is the SWP antisemitic. There are moments in its history which can be misconstrued as such, and this could lead to some mistakenly inferring that it is something which it is not.

  28. johng said,

    Evidently though, such misconstruels, energetically put about by those who want to discredit those who argued for BDS, are not very widely shared. Which brings me back to my initial point (largely directed at those who still see themselves as socialists) are you going to learn some lessons from any of this?

  29. Jim Denham said,

    John: the lessons I draw from “any of this”, are:

    1/ To step up the arguments within the trade union movement for positive workers’ unity with Israeli and Palestinian unions and peace-supporters;

    2/ To confront and defeat, in particular, the false, ignorant politically disorientating notion that Israel is some sort of “apartheid state” comparable with apartheid South Africa;

    3/ Not to “out-source” solidarity to the general public via futile consumer boycotts;

    4/ To insist that union delegates to the TUC and other bodies vote in line with their unions’ policies (unlike SWP members of the Unite delegation to the TUC);

    5/ To encourage rank-and-file debate of the issues at branch and committee level within the unions (where opponents of the boycott almost always win);

    6/ To ensure that the TUC’s very precise and limited policy is not misrepresented (as John Haylett proposes doing – see the Morning Star link above) as a call for an all-out “boycott of Israel”;

    7/ To continue to denounce and call by their right name, all those who attempt to demonize and apply double standards to Israel and its people;

    8/ To step up the campaign within the trade union movement and beyond, for the only policy with any hope of bringing peace and justice to the Palestinians – two states. Happily, that’s a policy that the TUC, even with its present very limited “boycott” deviation, clearly and explicitly supports.

  30. johng said,

    Right so your main tactic is to call all those who supported the boycott ignorent and stupid, repeat endlessly that its a false analogy put about by anti-semites who have bamboozled the TUC etc. I put it to you that this is unlikely to be very successful. You have to face the fact that most people understand that pressure has to be put on Israel from outside to force it to the negotiating table, and to force it to end the occupation. You need to address that somehow.

  31. Zzzzzzzzzzz ........ said,

    John you twisty little fucker, you support the Hamas charter so you therefore support the murder of Jews. Also, every post you make concerns Israel, on many different websites/blogs. How many have there been in the last few years? 500? 1000?

    You are a sick obsessive, too pathetic and cowardly to get your hands dirty, but happy to spend your days at a keyboard whipping up hatred against one small section of the world’s population. Like I said … sick.

  32. johng said,

    I supported the Hamas charter? I support murder of Jews? Every post I make is about Israel? I whip up hatred? As I said you have to raise your game a little. No-one believes this crap. You have to learn to argue in a rational manner and perhaps, in the process, discover what your own position in respect to these questions actually is. I strongly suspect that one reason why the descent into rabid nonsense of this kind is so rapid when confronted with any argument is the reality of enourmous ideological confusion around how to deal with the reality of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Rational argument simply reveals divisions amongst those who take the Israeli side in the conflict. So violent rhetoric and smear campaigns provide the only basis for moving ahead. But you are not moving ahead.

  33. resistor said,

    Jim Denham does not want justice for the Palestinians as he denies their right to return to their homes. It is he who applies double standards to Israel.

  34. martin ohr said,

    johng, unfortunately over lunch I looked at the BIG website, it’s a pretty poor, I nearly choked on my bulgar wheat at the things it proposes boycotting; but let me give you a trivial example of the why this is different to the boycott of south africa:…

    All the kosher brands that my local tesco sells are on the list to boycott- about 80% of what the only kosher deli in Leeds sells is there too, I guess this is similar in other parts of the country. My conclusion; one aim/side-effect of the boycott would be to try to stop people buying kosher food. I don’t remember anything remotely similar during the apparthied campaign

  35. skidmarx said,

    martin ohr – that’s a brilliant piece of reasoning. Israel produces a large amount of kosher products, so any call for a boycott of Israeli goods is aimed at preventing Jews from practising their religion.Ingenious (or maybe ingenuous).
    Maybe you should stop making with the diversion, and get back to claiming that Israel is oh so differnent from South Africa that a boycott is inappropriate. If the lack of kosher supplies is your major concern: I’m not an expert, but I understand that the rules of kosher and halal are very similar, so could you get your local rabbi to bless the latter?

    • Conley said,

      I understand that the rules of kosher and halal are very similar

      Spotlight on Skid Marx now — yeah yeah!

      Very revealing

  36. martin ohr said,

    skidmarx -I did say it was a trivial example; but the disdain you show is somewhat illuminating.

    I’m an atheist so I don’t have a rabbi (or a vicar, priest etc) and for me I couldn’t give a toss whether something is approved by the beth din or not, it still tastes the same -has the same ‘symbolism’. So for me personally a lack of kosher supplies is neither here nor their. But it is important for some people, and one of the effects of the boycott would be to try to prevent more or less the only mainstream kosher products being stocked. As far as I’m aware there is no halal equivalent of ceremonial wine.

    You can call it a diversion, but my point is this, if you are designing a campaign from scratch and trying to make it clear you are not anti-semites, you’d maybe think twice about targetting kosher products.

    Back to the meat of it though. I never took part in a boycott of SA myself, I had no way of doing so, like most people in 70’s and 80’s we didn’t have the money to make consumer choices about fruit, wine or anything else, or take part in a cultural/sporting boycott. I’m perhaps not quite old enough to remember the details, but the sporting actions were specifically against teams which were white only as I recall. But that strikes at the heart of the difference between Israel and SA- there is no Israeli team where palestinians are barred- they are two countries with separate teams and a desperate struggle about competing claims for the same land; South Africa was a country where the white minority kept the black majority in crushing servitude and denied even the most basic of rights.

    If the boycott of South Africa had any effect it was a very slow one- taking more than 30 years. Again from memory, the most militant boycotters were often labour-right-wingers or left liberal people; usually socially quite conservative. Our comrades in the AWL at the time were rather more active in building and supporting a fledging workers movement. We did more than the large numbers of mouthy tossers who refused to bank with barclays or by Del Monte orange juice.

    I think a workers boycott would be appropriate- about a million TU members in britain work for companies which supply the Israeli military. My boycott would be one where workers don’t help Israel continue occupy past the 1967 border, by our unions preventing us from working on those contracts which supply the IDF. I’ve proposed along the lines of the following a number of times in my union branch and tried to get support at PCS meetings- “members of this union will not assist in the occupation of palestine or other similar acts by oppressive regimes; our members will not handle goods or services delivered directly or indirectly to the Israeli army. We apply the same logic to other oppressive regimes.”

    Of course such an action would be against current tu law, but strangely that objection never comes up; there is some weird thing where applying our might as workers is not allowed to apply when it comes to palestine- perhaps you can explain that to me, or tell me why the SWP,SP PCS oppose such motions as mine above?

  37. Zzzzzzzzzzz ........ said,

    Johng: If you support Hamas, you support the Charter and you certainly support the murder of Jews. ‘Raise my game’? Don’t make me fucking laugh.

    And are you *actually* denying 90% of your posts concern Israel? If you are denying that then you are simply a liar. But don’t worry John, you’ll never be quite as grotesque as resistor, in the same way rat shit isn’t quite as grotesque as dog shit.

  38. resistor said,

    ‘Our comrades in the AWL at the time were rather more active in building and supporting a fledging workers movement. We did more than the large numbers of mouthy tossers who refused to bank with barclays or by Del Monte orange juice.’

    The Barclays boycott drove Barclays out of South Afiica and was extremely effective.

    From 1984 onwards, according to Knight[4], because of the disinvestment campaign and the repayment of foreign loans, South Africa experienced considerable capital flight. The net capital movement out of South Africa was:

    * “R9.2 billion in 1985”
    * “R6.1 billion in 1986”
    * “R3.1 billion in 1987”
    * “R5.5 billion in 1988.”

    The AWL seems to have supported constructive engagement, which chimes in with their support for imperialism in the middle-east.

  39. skidmarx said,

    Well all this spotlight and illumination is great, though I’m still to see what it’s showing.
    The Palestinian national football team has found it next to impossible to operate due to Israeli oppression.
    and that doesn’t even mention the bombing of football pitches in Gaza.

    they are two countries with separate teams and a desperate struggle about competing claims for the same land; South Africa was a country where the white minority kept the black majority in crushing servitude and denied even the most basic of rights.
    And Israel uses its massive military advantage to deny the Palestinians the most basic of rights. I still can’t spot the difference.

    In Oxford in about 1987, someone wrote “Whites Only” and “Blacks Only” above the Barclays’ cashpoints on the main shopping street. Not a particularly significant action in itself, but maybe it added to Barclays’ decision to change its mode of operation. Actually while we’re on the subject I turned down a school debating prize because the money came from Barclays’.

    I can’t answer your TU motion question with any authority, I might speculate that they are seen by the groups you mention as an attempt to divert from more robust action.

  40. johng said,

    Martin I think its certainly true that any boycott campaign of Israel is different to a boycott campaign of South Africa. That does’nt make it wrong and its not an argument against the campaign. The claim that the AWL’s campaign was more effective solidarity then that of the global anti-Aparthied Boycott campaign is so ludicrous that it seems unneccessary to respond to it. I mean who even knew about it? That socialists developed their own networks and had their own campaigns and political perspectives (I can remember helping get motions passed in support of Moses Myekeso) does not mean that this precluded involvement with campaigns led by the ANC, even and despite criticisms. And to the sleepy Zzzzzzzz who seems to believe that supporting self determination is equivilant to supporting the program and perspectives of movements of self determination movements (of whatever kind) the short answer is “no it does’nt”.

  41. johng said,

    And of course its utterly untrue that 90 per cent of my posts are about Israel. A clear case of projection if I ever saw one.

  42. Jim Denham said,

    A “cultural” boycott is what the anti-Israel fanatics and “absolute” anti-Zionists are clearly aiming for. A million miles from what the TUC policy (mistaken as it is) endorses – despite John Haylett (of the Morning Star)’s suggestion that anti-Israel campaigners simply lie about the TUC’s position.

    Anyway, I never liked Leonard Cohen much, ’till I read this:

    The PACBI sound like utter scum. Must find out more about ‘Parents Circle – Families Forum, who sound very good.

  43. Jim Denham said,

    I’ve just seen this from my comrades in the AWL; the best statement yet of working class internationalism against the boycott:

  44. skidmarx said,

    What I see in the link is praise for the TUC in watering down an FBU boycott motion, Tony Greenstein pointing this out and then MikeyMikey repeating Zionist lies that there was no expulsion of Palestinians on the founding of the state of Israel.
    The article continues the line of argument that if the boycott grows it would bound to be anti-semitic. Hard to sustain when boycotts are a choice.
    Ceremonial wine – well global warming has made England an increasingly attractive place for vine growing. Maybe you should get on to some anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews to see how a boycott of Israel could least affect the Jewish community, rather than continue in the camp of those who wish no action to be taken against Israel.

  45. johng said,

    What is so incredible about the AWL statement (despite appearing anodyne I think it explores new lows) is the way in which solidarity with any organisations in the occupied territories is eschewed and instead solidarity with organisations inside Israel is held as a neccessary replacement, presumably because Palestinians in the occupied territories, occupied, just in case its forgotten by Israel, because those Palestinians are “fanatically anti-Israel”. Here we have a situation of a brutal military occupation which has blighted and destroyed the lives of millions of people who we want to show solidarity with. Apparently we must not listen to any of those people. Instead in the name of ‘solidarity’ we should save them from themselves by refusing to listen to them: trade unions, activists, university staff etc, all must be silenced. Instead we should work with NGO’s carrying out peace work and eschew any solidarity with those struggling against the occupation and asking for our help in Palestine. This is a left wing position?

  46. Jim Denham said,

    John G asks: “This is a left wing position?”
    Answer: “Yes”

    Skidders: “The article continues the line of argument that if the boycott grows it would bound to be anti-semitic. Hard to sustain when boycotts are a choice.” You speak in riddles, Skidders: explain, please.

  47. resistor said,

    The AWL have published a rambling piece of idiocy by that senile git Matgamna

    In this Matgamna/Magoo tries to whitewash Zionist collaboration with the Nazis, not mentioning the Stern Gang (NMO) offer

    The NMO, which is well-acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:

    1. Common interests could exist between the establishment of a New Order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO.
    2. Cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed volkish-national Hebrium would be possible and
    3. The establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.

    Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in Palestine, under the condition the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement are recognised on the side of the German Reich, offers to actively take part in the war on Germany’s side.

    This offer by the NMO … would be connected to the military training and organising of Jewish manpower in Europe, under the leadership and command of the NMO. These military units would take part in the fight to conquer Palestine, should such a front be decided upon.

    The indirect participation of the Israeli freedom movement in the New Order in Europe, already in the preparatory stage, would be linked with a positive-radical solution of the European Jewish problem in conformity with the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Jewish people. This would extraordinarily strengthen the moral basis of the New Order in the eyes of all humanity.

    The Sternists again emphasised: “The NMO is closely related to the totalitarian movements of Europe in its ideology and structure.” [7]

    Lubentschik told von Hentig that if the Nazis were politically unwilling to set up an immediate Zionist state in Palestine, the Sternists would be willing to work temporarily along the lines of the Madagascar Plan. The idea of Jewish colonies on the island had been one of the more exotic notions of the European anti-Semites before the war, and with France’s defeat in 1940 the Germans revived the idea as part of their vision of a German empire in Africa. Stern and his movement had debated the Nazi Madagascar scheme and concluded that it should be supported, just as Herzl had initially backed the British offer, in 1903, of a temporary Jewish colony in the Kenya Highlands. [8]

    There was no German follow-up on these incredible propositions, but the Sternists did not lose hope. In December 1941, after the British had taken Lebanon, Stern sent Nathan Yalin-Mor to try to contact the Nazis in neutral Turkey, but he was arrested en route. There were no further attempts to contact the Nazis.

  48. skidmarx said,

    Consumer boycotts are an individual choice.

  49. johng said,

    So Jim denies the right of self determination to the Palestinian people. Interesting.

  50. resistor said,

    Denham’s position is that the Palestinian people have no rights – not ownership of property, return to their homes – or self determination. We all know what that is – racism.

  51. Jim Denham said,

    resistor: i really shouldn’t dignify your anti-semitic rantings with a response, but I’ll just say this: Two peoples, two states.

    If that’s “racism”, I plead guilty.

  52. martin ohr said,

    skidmarx said,
    September 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    “Consumer boycotts are an individual choice”

    but trades union boycotts are not an individual choice clearly.

    The one good thing to all this is that it clarifys motivation; johng concedes that the motivation for TUC boycott motion is merely symbolic-that trades unions do not intend to do anything about palestine other than pass motions and make statements. Meanwhile those of us active trying to get our unions involved in meaningful internation solidarity can carry on

    -we’ll still argue to clarify the muddle and for TUs to have a consistent and logical position. The SWP and their anti-semite mates in the PSC and FOSIS can carry on passing statements and doing stunts

  53. resistor said,

    Denham writes, ‘Two peoples, two states. If that’s “racism”, I plead guilty.’

    i.e. Separate development – or Apartheid to use the Afrikaner term. Thanks for the guilty plea Jim, but you hadn’t a chance in court.

  54. Harry Tuttle said,

    resistor wrote:

    i.e. Separate development – or Apartheid to use the Afrikaner term. Thanks for the guilty plea Jim, but you hadn’t a chance in court.

    Neither side shows much interest in living side by side in a single state, but don’t let that stop you from deciding what is best for both sides.

    How’d Yugoslavia turn out again?

  55. charliethechulo said,

    resister: I notice that you haven’t got round to answering this pretty devastating destruction of the “Israel equals Apartheid” myth:

  56. Jim Denham said,

    resister: I note that your last attempt to brand me as a reactionary (astonishingly,over my use of the term “nonner” with regard to onon-union members like SWP”er “Lenny” Seymour), has ended in ignominious failure on your part. I challenged you to agree to the matter going to adjudication by veteran trades unionists: we heard no more from you or the likes of “Skidmarx” and “John G”. You have merely exposed yourself as the ignorant person that you are, lacking even an elementary knowledge of the labour and trade union movement and its terminology.
    I await your apology for your foul calumny of myself over the “nonner” business.
    Having said that, I don’t really want an apology from an anti-semite.

  57. resistor said,

    I’m not sure where Denham has heard or used the term ‘nonner’, but I have never heard it before, and nor has anyone I have been able to ask. Perhaps Denham could point us to a written source, as a search of the internet, Google books etc. provides us with only one source, Denham himself.

    Apologise? To a self-proclaimed racist? (Comment 51)

    Perhas this is where Denham picked it up,

    ‘Ha ha ha, you’re a nonner! That would be what us flightline personnel call people who have cushy office jobs.’

  58. skidmarx said,

    Mr. Kitty Fiddler – it was obvious from your “nonner” post what you meant by the term, so it didn’t seem worth responding to your quiz when you’d already given out the answer.
    Do you often make accusations of anti-semitism against those who think you aren’t particuarly hot on Palestinian rights?

  59. Harry Tuttle said,

    skidmarx wrote:

    Do you often make accusations of anti-semitism against those who think you aren’t particuarly hot on Palestinian rights?

    No, he applies it to those who’ve called for the murder of Israeli Jews, malign Jews, blame Jews for their own mistreatment, post fake quotes attributed to Jews culled from neo-Nazi sites, link to hate sites like VDare and NeoCon Europe, use sock puppets to challenge the definition of antisemitism, offer unconditional support to those who call for genocide against the Jewish people… need I go on?

    He’s been trolling blogs for years with this garbage.

  60. The Lives Of Others « Shiraz Socialist said,

    […] wondering if the same people so keen about boycotting goods made in democratic countries will invest the same amount of time and energy into campaigning for the boycott of a corporation […]

  61. The Lives Of Others « Max Dunbar said,

    […] wondering if the same people so keen about boycotting goods made in democratic countries will invest the same amount of time and energy into campaigning for the boycott of a corporation […]

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