Unions must boycott Israel

By John Passant – posted Monday, 7 June 2010

To the Australian Council of Trade Unions,

I am writing this to you in your capacity as the peak body of trade unions in Australia.

The Australian trade union movement has a proud history of opposing oppression in Australia and around the world. It joined the boycott of apartheid South Africa. It supported independence for East Timor. It supported Indonesia’s struggle to break free of the Dutch.

Here in Australia the trade union movement has been a strong supporter of the Aboriginal struggle for justice.

The Israeli massacre of 19 unarmed civilians on the freedom flotilla to Gaza brings to the fore the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its brutal treatment of the Palestinian people. The blockade means that Palestinians cannot rebuild their homes, schools, hospitals or mosques. It condemns 65 per cent of Gazan children to anaemia, and 61 per cent of Gazans to food insecurity. Seventy-five per cent are dependent on food aid to live.

The International Trade Union Confederation has condemned “the killing of as many as 19 persons in a boat convoy headed for Gaza today, and the wounding of many more, as an outrage”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) “reacted with shock at the news of the brutal attacks on civilians, including journalists, by Israeli forces in the assault on a flotilla that yesterday tried to breach the military blockade of the Gaza coastline in Palestine”.

“We join the European Union in demanding a full inquiry which must be independent in order to be credible. We condemn any attempt at the blackout and censorship of news by the Israeli authorities which is hindering journalists from giving an accurate account of what is happening,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

The International Transport Workers’ Union (ITF), representing professional seafarers worldwide, was “shocked and appalled by Israeli forces’ attack on the lead ship of a humanitarian aid convoy, the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmaris”.

The ITF denounced “Israel’s blockade of Gaza and calls on the international community to support a political solution in which a viable Palestinian state can play a full part in international trade and commerce, which would include the full restoration of transport links”.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions was “outraged at the murder by Israeli commandos of at least twenty people – and injuries to a further 60 – as a result of their armed attack on a convoy of ships carrying aid to the people of Gaza”.

COSATU played the key role in the overthrow of apartheid. It went on to say:

COSATU also calls for greater support for the international boycott, divestment and boycott campaign against Israel, which is proving again to be violent and ruthless in attacking and murdering those who stand in its way. We urge all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.

COSATU reaffirms its support of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to national sovereignty and the same human rights as any other people. We demand the immediate end to the Israeli siege and the illegal occupation of the sovereign territory which has been violently seized from the Palestinian nation.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) strongly condemned the fatal attack by the Israeli navy on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. It sent Palestinian civil society’s condolences to the families and friends of those killed by the Israeli assault and warmly salutes the principled solidarity and moral commitment of all those involved in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

The BNC called on international civil society to:

* Mobilize for an emergency Global BDS Day of Action on Saturday 5 June 2010 – the 43rd anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;

* Pressure governments to start implementing trade sanctions and arms embargoes;

* We call specifically on transport and dock workers and unions around the globe to: Refuse to load/offload Israeli ships and airplanes, following the historic example set by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) in Durban in February 2009 and endorsed by the Maritime Union of Australia (Western Australia).

Swedish dock workers are showing the way. The Swedish Port Workers Union has given notice that it will blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel handled by its members from June 15 until June 24 as a result of the unprecedented criminal attack on the peaceful ship convoy in Gaza.

In Wollongong, a major industrial centre and port south of Sydney, the South Coast Labour Council backed unions, including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, calling for a boycott of products and goods produced by Israel in illegal settlements of occupied Palestinian territories and will be urging the ACTU and all Trades and Labour Councils to follow suit.

The actions of the Israelis in killing unarmed aid workers show that this is a regime which only understands force. The only peaceful force we ordinary workers have in response is our ability to withhold our labour.

I call on the ACTU, in defence of the Palestinians against the brutal apartheid regime of Israel, to support the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel and for all affiliated unions to implement bans consistent with this objective.

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