Brendan Barber: No to a boycott of Israeli goods, but yes to targeted sanctions

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Earlier this year, the TUC condemned the Israeli offensive in Gaza. And we reiterate that condemnation today. The rocket attacks on Israeli citizens have also been condemned.

Both were unacceptable, and both have led to the UN investigation concluding that war crimes may have been committed. The blockade of Gaza, which continues to this day, is intolerable collective punishment.

We have for the last year been trying to persuade the Histadrut – the Israeli TUC – to be more vocal in criticising the Israeli Government. We think that the statement issued by the Histadrut in January, which failed to recognise the appalling loss of life and the suffering caused by the Gaza offensive, should be condemned. We will continue to press them over the crucial issues of the occupation, the separation wall, the roadblocks, and the illegal settlements.

But both Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions know that there is no prospect for peace for working people in the region if the union movements do not work together, and the General Council remains committed to helping them to do that. Through our longstanding relationship with both Histadrut and the PGFTU we have actively encouraged joint working and the agreement reached a year ago on the remittance of membership subscription income from Histadrut to the PGFTU.

Finally, the General Council has considered what can be done by us to apply pressure to the Israeli government to make the end of the occupation, the dismantling of the separation wall, and the removal of the illegal settlements more likely. We believe that targeted action – aimed at goods from the illegal settlements and at companies involved in the occupation and the wall – is the right way forward. This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers, but targeted, consumer-led sanctions directed at businesses based in, and sustaining, the illegal settlements.

Congress, the situation in the Middle East is grim. Our brothers and sisters need all our support in creating a just and lasting peace. President Obama is now trying to move things forward. But we, too, have a part to play.

Taken from a speech by the general secretary of the TUC at its annual Congress yesterday

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