Resolution 54 to Unison’s national delegate conference (June 19-22) calls for the union to support a campaign to boycott (undefined) Israeli institutions. Workers’ Liberty supporters are working with others in Unison to oppose this resolution on the basis of positive solidarity with the Palestinians.
If you would like to support this statement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, branch and position (all signatories will be listed in a personal capacity unless specifically requested).
AS democrats, socialists, critics of the policies and actions of the Israeli government, advocates of Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, and supporters of the right of both the Palestinian and the Israeli Jewish peoples to an independent state, we, the undersigned members of Unison, reject Resolution 54 to the union's National Delegate Conference, which calls for a “a union-based campaign of boycott and sanctions against Israeli institutions”.
At first glance the idea of a boycott answers the need we all feel to “do something” in response to the seemingly endless carnage. But in fact a boycott would do more harm than good.
A boycott of Israel would at best exert only the most marginal pressure on the Israeli state. The movement to boycott South Africa continued for more than three decades, with only the most marginal effects on South Africa. Apartheid did not begin to crumble until the new black-majority workers' movement and the population of the townships rose up.
Moreover, boycotts of whole nations and their institutions are the crudest political weapons. They hit opponents of the government being boycotted, those who share the viewpoint of the boycotters as well as supporters of what the boycotters object to.
This objection had far less weight for South Africa because everyone saw it as pressure towards majority rule rather than aimed at crushing the whole country.
Apartheid was the exploitation by a small white oligarchy of a black majority deprived of rights. The Israeli-Jewish state in its pre-1967 borders did not depend on the exploitation of Arabs, and does not now depend for its existence on exploitation of the Occupied Territories.
A boycott would contribute to strengthening the sense of being under siege in a world of enemies which is a strong element in the power of the Israeli right, and weaken those in Israel who want a just settlement with the Palestinians.
The boycott brands all Israeli Jews (or all who do not pass some prescribed political test) as beyond talking to.
In Britain, a boycott-Israel movement would, inexorably, become an anti-Jewish movement, directed against those closely linked to Israelis, i.e. Jews.
Resolution 54 calls for a “boycott against Israeli institutions”. Does that include such “Israeli institutions” as the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut? Or Israeli anti-occupation groups?
We understand and strongly sympathise with the desperation which has driven the Palestinian trade unions and some other civil society organisations to call for a boycott, but we do not believe it will help.
Much better, a positive labour movement campaign of solidarity with the Palestinians, with the Israeli peace movement, and with workers on both sides.
• For more information see