Jew-haters try to destroy LabourStart conference

November 24, 2011 at 9:28 pm (anti-semitism, internationalism, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, solidarity, unions, workers)

By Eric Lee (via Workers Liberty website and Solidarity newspaper)

Last week’s LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in Istanbul was meant to be an extraordinary event. Activists from the newly-independent unions of the “Arab Spring” countries were due to meet with colleagues from established unions from both developed and developing countries.

As Canadian union activist Derek Blackadder put it, “100 unions, 30 countries, one class”.

And there were high points, such as the visit by conference delegates to a picket line outside a factory owned by the German company GEA. The Turkish workers, locked out for weeks, were clearly moved by the presence of so many people from so many different countries.

But there was also an attempt by anti-Israel activists to break up the conference and undermine the solidarity being built.

It was decided to hold the conference in Istanbul despite the risks of this sort of thing happening. All the major Turkish unions were supportive and formed a broad-based organising committee. The oil workers union Petrol-Is donated their facilities, in part to thank LabourStart for the online campaigns it has waged over the years in support of the union’s struggles.

The conference agenda was packed with workshops and plenaries on subjects like precarious work, the role of women in the trade union movement, organising migrant workers, and global campaigning.

The first indication that things might go terribly wrong came when several North African delegates walked out during the opening plenary when I mentioned Israel (among many other countries) in my keynote address.

My remarks were followed by a video address from Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, who spoke directly about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, reaffirming the ITUC’s commitment to a two-state solution.

The conference broke up into workshops the first of which was entitled “what is LabourStart?” The first intervention from the floor came from a Palestinian trade unionist who wanted to discuss a 2006 article of mine supporting Israel’s right to self-defence when attacked by Iran through its proxy, Hizbollah. Others rose to repeat similar “charges” — that LabourStart was somehow a “Zionist” project, and was tainted by this.

At the end of the session, at my suggestion, an emergency meeting was held between myself and the North African delegates in an attempt to clear the air. I told them it was essential that we be open and transparent, and that I would honestly answer any questions. It was an initially tense but ultimately productive meeting as one by one I dealt with idiotic rumors that had been spreading for years — such as that LabourStart suppresses Palestinian labour news. (Something easily disproved by simply looking at the LabourStart website.)

Meanwhile, the local anti-Israel activists, led by an English expat (and member of the pro-Hamas Socialist Workers Party), were gearing up for a full assault on the conference. They began circulating a “resolution” opposing the presence of representatives of the “racist Zionist” Histadrut at the conference.

Their campaign was an odd one for at least two reasons. There were five Israeli citizens (one a Palestinian Arab woman) but none of them came to represent the Histadrut.

Second, LabourStart conferences are not decision-making bodies, so no resolutions are ever debated or adopted.

Around this time, rumours began flying that someone had uncovered photos of myself, in military uniform, participating in the occupation of the West Bank.

While this was going on, the conference continued peacefully with very productive sessions. One featured Palestinian trade unionists from two rival organisations at which neither one mentioned the campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions — BDS — targetting the Jewish state.

Another very interesting workshop featured two Israelis (one Arab, one Jewish) from the Workers’ Advice Center, a left-wing alternative union.

The Israelis were mingling with people they would never have been allowed to talk to before — including delegates who came from the illegal independent unions in Iran.

One of the most interesting workshops was entitled “Echoes of the Arab Spring” and featured speakers from the USA, Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan to discuss uprisings that have taken place outside the Arab world, but which were inspired by Tunisia and Egypt.

The little room was packed with delegates from more than a dozen countries, including several from Arab countries. But as soon as the session began, a handful of Turkish pro-BDS campaigners demanded to know if the Israeli speaker was a member of the Histadrut. I moderated the session, and intervened to prevent the disruption — I told them that I had been a member of Histadrut when I lived in Israel, and that Histadrut members were certainly welcome here.

The disruptors shouted abuse, and eventually stormed out, slamming the door behind them. Not a single Arab left the room and a very fruitful discussion was held.

While we discussed the Occupy Wall Street movement, the social protests in Israel and the 62-day long uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Israel-haters were busily posting hand-written signs all over the building saying that the “racist Zionist Histadrut” was not welcome — and specifically naming not only the Israeli activists, but myself. There was a tense moment as one of the handful of Jewish participants tried to take down one of the signs, but violence was averted.

During the final plenary session, there was an attempted disruption as a pro-Hamas activist rushed the stage claiming to be representing the conference organising committee. Following a long rant about Zionism, one of the North African delegates demanded the floor — and spoke out against the anti-Israel disruptors.

On the day after the conference closed, the Arab delegates from Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain and North Africa stayed behind for a very fruitful session with LabourStart and the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center.

In the end, the conference was a success. A real contribution was being made to the creation of a new global  solidarity network for trade unionists.

The anti-Israel activists couldn’t have cared less. Their only goal was to get out their message of hatred — that Israelis were not welcome there.

But in the end, they failed in their effort to destroy this historic attempt to bring together trade unionists from many countries. Their attempt to do so showed up the BDS campaigners as people with no interest in social justice or global solidarity, but simply as Jew-haters.


  1. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    none of this is suprising

  2. SteveH said,

    I don’t understand the Jew hater bit of this article. We know you lot like to fling mud around in the hope that it sticks. The network will be pleased!

    However, it is good to see this kind of thing going on as it could help facilitate the one state solution, and make it more popular. I for one hope so.

  3. charliethechulo said,

    “I don’t understand the Jew hater bit of this article”: well you wouldn’t, would you?

  4. Pinkie said,

    “but in the end, they failed in their effort to destroy this historic attempt to bring together trade unionists from many countries. Their attempt to do so showed up the BDS campaigners as people with no interest in social justice or global solidarity, but simply as Jew-haters.”

    Is that so? Is it the case that BDS campaigners are simply ‘Jew -haters’? (Perhaps some are, but all?)

    This is sheer poison on behalf of the AWL. I do not understand how you get away with such insults. Perhaps is because you are regarded as rather nutty people who are best left alone.

    As I understand it, the AWL participated in a recent LRC event, along with many other ‘leftist’ groups, all of whom they have described as anti-Semitic at some time or other. Did the AWL confront them as ‘anti-Semites’ at the event? Of course they didn’t, but why not? Because, maybe, of:

    Cowardice – it is easy to malign others in print, less so face-to-face.

    Disingenuity – the AWL doesn’t really believe that BDS campaigners are truly anti-Semitic, but they think that they will advance their small group to re-define anti-Semitism in their own way, picking up the odd pro Israel leftist along the way.

    Desperation – despite their desire to mark themselves out as representing true revolutionary politics, they know they can only survive as an appendage of an appendage to the Labour Party.

    (As an afterthought, I wonder how the AWL can work with racist at all, if that is what they truly believe about the anti-Semitic left, ie not them.)

  5. Matt said,

    The AWL does not regard all those who advocate a boycott of Israel as “Jew haters”, although clearly some of them are. This is Sean Matgamna writing in an open letter to prominent proponents of the policy:

    “The position that Israel is illegitimate contains in embryo
    (even if its proponents do not understand it or wish it) a fullscale
    anti-semitism. You don’t share that position — but you
    ally with and help those who will use a boycott campaign
    precisely to popularise and reiterate the idea that Israel is illegitimate,

    This is not, self-evidently, racist anti-semitism. Nor oldstyle
    Christian or Islamic anti-semitism. Yet it does involve a
    pretty comprehensive hostility not just to Israel but to all most
    Jews alive, those who will not see “anti-imperialist” and “antiracist”

  6. charliethechulo said,

    Good(ish) article on when anti -“Zionism” isn’t really anti-“Zionism” at all:

  7. holy joe said,

    “The AWL does not regard all those who advocate a boycott of Israel as “Jew haters””
    The characterisation of BDS campaigners “simply as Jew-haters” sounds pretty unambiguous to me.
    “supporting Israel’s right to self-defence when attacked by Iran through its proxy, Hizbollah.”
    Are we to take it that this represents a legitimate and unobjectionable characterisation of Israel’s 2006 assault on Lebanon in the view of the AWL?

  8. Clive said,

    Holy Joe. Your second quote is from Eric Lee, not the AWL, which opposed Israel’s war on Lebanon (and publicly debated Lee about it, as I recall).

    On the first quote – the context is a report on a trade union conference in which the presence of Israelis was, shall we say, challenged. Suppose a conference was challenged in the same way because there were, say, Americans at it. I would think that was pretty bad, and that’s without adding into the mix the history of anti-semitism.

  9. holy joe said,

    “Your second quote is from Eric Lee, not the AWL, which opposed Israel’s war on Lebanon (and publicly debated Lee about it, as I recall).”
    So you regard support for Israel’s assault on Lebanon as a reasonable position which socialists might amicably debate, then, rather than as support for a brutal agression waged by war criminals? And you have no problem printing a (frankly somewhat deranged) apologia for this in your paper, without any “health warning”, to use Jim’s phrase?
    On the first quote, yadda yadda. I suppose you will soon be linking to an open letter by Sean Matgamna to explain it all. Simple question – are BDS supporters Jew-haters or not?

  10. Matt said,

    simple reply Joe: some are and some aren’t.

  11. holy joe said,

    “some are and some aren’t.”
    Very profound. Presumably one could say the same of cider drinkers, or football players.

  12. charliethechulo said,

    Holy One:


  13. Clive said,

    Joe – no, it’s much better *not* to debate with people.

  14. charliethechulo said,

    Holy Joe is a Christian, anti-semitic nutcase and woman-hater.

  15. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    “are BDS supporters Jew-haters or not?”

    the vast majority are indeed racist jew hating scum.

    • Lisa Hadley said,

      But not all of them Jell. There are some really nice people amongst them. All the ones I’ve met anyway. Truly haven’t really met a bad one yet to be honest.

      • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

        and hitler wasn’t a vegetarian.

  16. holy joe said,

    Holy Joe is a Christian, anti-semitic nutcase and woman-hater.

    touché, Jim. I wonder why more people beyond Clive and Mr Jelly don’t post here.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      idiot. comment not post. utter frutloop and pissstain

  17. holy joe said,

    I stand corrected, my Tourette’s-afflicted friend. The truth is that I don’t know much blogging jargon since I don’t spend much time on the internet, whereas you, for obvious reasons, do.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      the fuckking irony.


  18. holy joe said,

    gosh, you swore at me! but you didn’t threaten to kill me, or remind me how working class you are. Always something fresh in Mr Jelly’s litany, and every day is a new surprise.

  19. holy joe said,

    Incidentally, I read in the Guardian that “The charity Mind is rewarding sensitive media treatment of mental illness in a bid to challenge the stigma faced by so many”. I would certainly suggest this blog might be in the running for a reward.

  20. charliethechulo said,

    So, Holy Joe, you think being mentaly ill is grounds for not being responsible for your words and/or actions?


  21. holy joe said,

    No I believe that real or alleged mental health issues are not a suitable subject for scorn, levity or derision, and that your habit of attributing mental health problems to people you disagree with politically is vile and reactionary (you even have a special tag for this purpose). I would have thought some of your younger comrades should be able to explain this to you.

  22. charliethechulo said,

    So mad people should not be called mad?

  23. holy joe said,

    “Mad” would certainly be considered an offensive term to apply to somebody with mental health issues . Fyi, “mong” and “retard” are generally frowned upon as well. Just trying to be helpful.

  24. charliethechulo said,

    What about nutters, Joe?

  25. SteveH said,

    Charlie often calls me a retard, I guess it makes him feel better about himself and raises his own self worth. Charlie, oh so sensitive to anti semitism, seems oblivious to the offence caused by his casual remarks on mental health. Remember the ‘mad’ were also victims of the Nazi’s.

    Actually ChuChuTrain does have characteristics of the more Aristocratic Nazi’s. He certainly looks down on people, not a good trait for a socialist. Maybe this explains his lack of compassion for the Palestinains and his support for the sadistic Israeli regime?

  26. holy joe said,

    “What about nutters, Joe?”
    I realise that you seem to have some difficulty in grasping this, but the term “nutters” is also frowned upon by those campaiging against the stigmatisation of people with mental health issues.

  27. Jim Denham said,

    Believe it or not, Joe, I have no wish to mock or stigmatise people who are mentally ill.

    But I insist upon calling people with seriously wrong views and ideas, “mad”, “nutters”, etc. Otherwise there can be no serious discourse with the likes of the SWP, PSC, Atzmon, Workers Power, etc, etc.

  28. holy joe said,

    “But I insist upon calling people with seriously wrong views and ideas, “mad”, “nutteres”, etc. Otherwise there can be no serious discourse with the likes of the SWP, PSC, Atzmon, Workers Power, etc, etc.”
    Couldn’t you call them fags, or wusses, or cunts, or ladyboys?

  29. Jim Denham said,

    I wouldn’t use such sexist terms.

  30. holy joe said,

    no, but apparently you feel that hate speech directed against those with mental health issues is entirely permissible. Look, I don’t know what kind of world you live in, but I have many friends, relatives and acquaintances who have experienced mental health difficulties over the past couple of decades through experience of poverty, unemployment, marital breakdown, and of course alcohol and drug abuse. Many such people are now experiencing this government’s vile offensive agaiinst those on disability benefit, and the full force of the tabloid press. I think they would be astounded to know that a socialist blog (not that many of them would be familiar with either of those terms to be frank) was employing the same kind of terminology that is used to hound and stigmatise them.

  31. Jim Denham said,

    No, Joe: it’s not “hate speech” to tell people that their ideas are …er…crazy… that they deserve to be branded as “mad” or “nutty.” Otherwise we simply live in a relativist, value-free and completely subjective world, where there is no object “truth” or “falsehood.”

    Like this, for instance:

    I’m all in favour of “hounding” and “stigmatising” people who spread crazy conspiracy theories, or who think that (to take one example) Gilad Atzmon is a respectable figure, and that the holocaust is a legitimate subject for “debate”, or that “Hitler may yet be proved right.” I’m not in a position to judge whether such people are mentally ill (as I suspect that Atzmon is) or just evil. And, to be honest, I don’t much care.

  32. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    “no, but apparently you feel that hate speech directed against those with mental health issues is entirely permissible.”

    that from a person who calls another person ‘tourettes’ as a form of mockery and insult.

    koodn’t myake it up

  33. SteveH said,


    you really are taking the piss here, put the shovel away. You ask should mad people not be called mad, apply that to should ‘mongs’ not be called ‘mongs’ or should ‘faggots’ not be called ‘faggots’ and the problem with your reasoning becomes clear.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if you lot were not such sticklers for language in other areas. I don’t think I have to spell those areas out. Live by the sword and die by it.

  34. holy joe said,

    32/ Tourette’s syndrome is not a form of mental illness, it is manifested physically, which is why my reference to it in relation to your literary style was obviously post modern, playful and ironic. It is not comparable to using a term employed to insult mentally ill people to abuse political opponents. But I welcome Jim;s admission that he spends most of hist time debating with people he believes to be insane, athough it does seem a rather odd way to spend ones’ spare time.

    • Harry Tuttle said,

      No, Monsuer Jelly had it right the first time.

      Tourette’s syndrome is classified as a mental disorder; treatment often involves anti-psychotics, tricyclics and SSRIs, and even CBT, all of which are commonly used to treat mental disorders. To make matters worse, Tourette sufferers often develop other mental disorders, including OCD and depression.

      I’m also not sure why you mention the physical aspects, as all mental illnesses are physical in nature, being disorders of the brain, and often express themselves through extreme behaviour such as self-harm, panic attacks, nervous tics, and so on.

      That you’d refer to Monsuer Jelly as “Tourette’s-afflicted” suggests your understanding of the disease is based on the sort of stereotypes often played for laughs in movies and television. If I’m wrong, would care to explain how you came by the idea that you can make such a diagnoses based on one’s writing? Vocal tics being, you know, vocal.

  35. holy joe said,

    No, it’s a neurological disorder which is not to be conflated with mental illness. And of course in the vast majority of cases it does not take the extreme form beloved of TV comedians, and of course it does not manifest itself in one’s writing style. Which is why my reference to Monsieur Jelly’s literary tics was ironic and ludic and precisely premised on the stereotype which is far from the reality. A puckish spoof, if you will, on contemporary mores.

    • Harry Tuttle said,

      Oy vey.

      Most mental illnesses are neuropsychological disorders. Tourette’s syndrome is a neuropsychological disorder, and is treated as a mental illness. There’s a reason TS is listed in the DSM, and its not by accident.

      The rest of your comment is simply a justification for behaviour you rightly chastised earlier. I’m sure your vocabulary is far more extensive than mine, and yet I can think of many ways to insult someone without bringing mental illness into it. Try being more creative next time.

  36. martin ohr said,

    “A puckish spoof, if you will, on contemporary mores.” Ah, the Top Gear defence! Very popular this week.

  37. holy joe said,

    Ah, the Top Gear defence! Very popular this week.
    well very popular always with this this blog. Can I ask you Martin, as a somewhat more mainstream AWL person, whether you endorse the approach pioneered by Jim her towards a terminology of “mental health”? Do you think it is possible to enter disagreements with fellow socialists without characterising them as “mad” or “nutters”?

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