[Boycott - Economic - Europe]
Irish Congress of Trade Unions to seek ways to support sanctions against Israel
Mary Fitzgerald, The Irish Times
17 April 2010
The executive council of Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) is to consider ways in which it can translate into action its support for Palestinian calls for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The time for silence is gone, action is required
Mandate Trade Union
Attendees at an Ictu conference on the Middle East held in Dublin yesterday discussed possible ways of implementing such a campaign in Ireland.
Since 2007, Ictu has passed several conference motions in support of calls from Palestinian civil society groups urging an international BDS campaign against Israel.
Addressing yesterday’s gathering at Dublin Castle, Ictu president Jack O’Connor said he would be very concerned if Ictu’s stance was interpreted as being motivated by “hostility to the people of Israel”.
Instead, he argued, it was motivated by “a sense of obligation given our history and our experience . . . an obligation to try to do something when the prospects of justice seem so remote given the imbalance of forces” in the conflict.
Mr O’Connor rejected calls from some attendees for Ictu to sever links with Histadrut, the Israeli labour federation, which is opposed to the BDS campaign. Avital Shapira-Shabirow, director of Histadrut’s international department, prompted a lively exchange of views when she explained her organisation’s position during a panel discussion.
She argued that it was easy to outline “simplistic solutions” to complex situations from afar.
Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the global BDS campaign established in 2005, told the gathering that the boycott as a “moral obligation and political imperative”.
He noted that the campaign was gaining momentum internationally and he praised Ictu’s efforts.
“By holding onto its position and spreading the BDS message, and starting now to think how to apply it practically, Ictu is now applying a lot of pressure on the [Irish] Government and we hope that in time this will bring results.”
Mr Barghouti was one of several speakers to call for Ireland to exercise its veto to block Israel from joining the OECD.
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin told the conference that the Government does not agree with or support any form of boycott of Israel as such an approach would be counterproductive to efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We all know that ultimately it is the politics of persuasion which is best placed to win the day and which must be the path that we pursue,” Mr Martin said.
The Minister did, however, note that he has consistently argued against any move to upgrade EU-Israel relations “until such time as the level of political progress on the ground warrants it”.
In a statement, the Israeli embassy said it welcomed the Government’s position on the BDS campaign.
“As Minister Martin says, [it] is completely inimical to the frank and honest dialogue Ireland and Israel have always pursued with each other,” it said. But the embassy said it regretted Mr Martin’s remarks on the upgrading of EU relations with Israel.
During one panel discussion at the conference, John Douglas, general secretary of the Mandate trade union, recalled the involvement of Irish retail workers in the boycott against apartheid-era South Africa and said his union would support a consumer-led boycott campaign against Israel followed by a worker-led effort.
“The time for silence is gone, action is required,” he told the gathering.
Several speakers scheduled to participate in the conference, including Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa and Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen, were unable to attend due to the disruption of air travel in and out of Ireland as a result of the plume of volcanic ash which has blown from Iceland in recent days.
Israel makes no secret of upset at Ictu stance on Palestinians
Mary Fitzgerald, The Irish Times
15 April 2010
The Israeli embassy says the Ictu forum features a long list of ‘one-sided critics of Israel’, writes Mary Fitzgerald Foreign Affairs Correspondent
ICTU Mid East Delegation, Nov 2007
When it comes to meetings between Israeli officials and their Irish counterparts, there is one issue that is never far from the agenda – that of Ictu’s support for calls from Palestinian civil society groups urging a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
The campaign, known by the acronym BDS, has its genesis in a 2005 decision by more than 170 Palestinian civil society actors, taking inspiration from similar approaches to apartheid-era South Africa, to call for an international push to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until it complies with international law.
In 2007, an Irish trade union delegation visited Israel and the Palestinian territories following the passing of two motions on the subject at that year’s biennial delegate conference. Two years later, delegates at the conference voted in favour of a motion which, in addition to condemning the Israeli military offensive in Gaza that January, also expressed support for Palestinian calls for the BDS campaign.
“The assault on Gaza confirmed that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people can be likened to the oppression of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid,” the motion reads, before admonishing European governments and the EU itself for failing to take “effective action” to sanction Israel.
“In the absence of UN or Governmental intervention, the most effective action which is open to us to take in support of the Palestinian people is to assist in the mobilisation of civil society behind the campaign for boycott and divestment,” it says.
That strategy will be the focus of an Ictu conference to be held at Dublin Castle tomorrow. Ictu says the gathering, which will bring together Israeli and Palestinian civil society activists as well as union leaders, aims to build support for its policy and learn from union movements elsewhere which have undertaken similar campaigns.
Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the BDS campaign, is among the speakers. Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen and Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa, who chairs the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, are scheduled to participate in one of several panel discussions.
Conference organisers, who expect about 150 people to attend, hope the event will help to strengthen Ictu’s relationship with the labour movement in the Middle East and encourage debate about “how international trade union solidarity can contribute to a peaceful solution that respects both the UN resolutions and human and trade union rights”.
Israel has made no secret of its displeasure over Ictu’s stance. Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, who will address Friday’s conference, says the matter is often raised when he meets Israeli officials.
“The Government is somehow blamed or there is a view that the Government should influence Ictu,” he told The Irish Times last month.
A number of meetings have taken place between Israeli diplomats and Ictu officials, including one between Israeli ambassador Zion Evrony and Ictu general secretary David Begg.
In a statement, the Israeli embassy argued that this week’s conference features “a long list of the most one-sided critics of Israel, who will be ‘balanced’ by a lone representative of Histadrut” – the Israeli labour federation.
The embassy also criticised Ictu’s involvement with the BDS initiative, calling it a “discredited and extremist campaign which cares nothing for the interests of Irish or Palestinian workers and offers nothing for peace”.
In response, an Ictu representative said: “In terms of policy and specifically in relation to the organisation of this conference, congress is answerable only to its 850,000 members on the island of Ireland as it is they, through their representative structures, who formulate and decide on that policy.”
ICTU Briefings on Palestine
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ICTU Delegation Visit Nov 2007
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The Way forward for Trade Union Solidarity
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