Gaza trade unions urge boycott of Israeli labor federation

Palestinian workers wait to cross the Shaar Efraim checkpoint near the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm in order to reach jobs in present-day Israel, 22 December 2014.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Fifteen trade unions in Gaza have jointly renewed their support for the boycott of Israel and its labor institutions that are complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the boycott movement, the member unions of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) - Gaza Strip, are reaffirming their “unwavering commitment to the call of Palestinian civil society for … boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS).”

“We salute and appreciate the many trade unions and federations in the world who heed the call of BDS and would like to reiterate our call on all comrades and activists for freedom and justice in unions and federations all over the world to boycott Israel because of its racist, settler-colonial regime,” the Palestinian trade unions say.

In particular, the trade unions “underline the importance of boycotting the Histadrut because of its blatant complicity in Israel’s policies including occupation, settlement building, apartheid and hijacking of Palestinian workers’ rights.”

The PGFTU statement, circulated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), also reiterates the unions’ “opposition to all forms of normalization with Israel and its institutions.”

Colonialist union

As Tony Greenstein detailed for The Electronic Intifada in 2009, Histadrut is the Israeli labor federation with deep historic ties to Zionism’s colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Among Histadrut’s roles in Zionist colonization was enforcing the segregation of Arab and Jewish workers.

In 2010, it was revealed that Histadrut was complicit in the theft of $2 billion worth of wages from Palestinian workers. The money was taken by various Israeli institutions including Histadrut in the form of “deductions” for benefits Palestinians were never able to receive.

Pro-Israel American trade unions, for instance the American Federation of Teachers, have sponsored joint projects between Israeli and Palestinian union members that violate the call against normalization.

The PGFTU statement will serve as a reminder to international trade unionists of the importance of real solidarity that avoids such pitfalls.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee said it “warmly welcomes the statement made by PGFTU and other unions in Gaza, considering it an important step towards escalating BDS campaigns within the trade union movement internationally against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”

Full PGFTU statement

This is the full text of the PGFTU statement:

A statement issued by the General Federation of Palestine’s Trades Unions - Gaza Provinces

9 July, 2015: Given the right of our people to practice all forms of national struggle against the Israeli occupation, we, the undersigned, assert our unwavering commitment to the call of Palestinian civil society for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS), issued in 2005, until it complies with its obligations under international law and recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.

  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We also reiterate our opposition to all forms of normalization with Israel and its institutions according to the definition of normalization approved by the vast majority of the Palestinian Civil Society in the first BDS National Conference in 2007, taking the lead from the criteria set by the BDS National Committee (BNC) which constitutes the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society sectors.

We, in the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions and Workers Unions, underline the importance of boycotting the Histadrut because of its blatant complicity in Israel’s policies including occupation, settlement building, apartheid, and hijacking of Palestinian workers’ rights. We also commit to boycott any other Israeli institution that does not recognize our inalienable rights under international law.

We salute and appreciate the many trade unions and federations in the world who heed the call of BDS and would like to reiterate our call on all comrades and activists for freedom and justice in unions and federations all over the world to boycott Israel because of its racist, settler-colonial regime.

We believe that boycotting Israeli occupation and its institutions is the most effective act of solidarity with our people’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality, and for holding Israel accountable for its repeated crimes. Israel’s last onslaught on the Gaza strip in the summer of 2014, has led to the brutal death of 2,140 Palestinians [Editor’s note: The recent independent UN inquiry puts this number at 2,251], and the injury of more than 12,000. This is in addition to the vast destruction of houses, factories and farms, and the continuing impediments on the reconstruction of Gaza, and the ongoing seven-year unjust siege on our people.

Signatories:

  • Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions - Gaza Strip
  • General Union of Trade and Services Workers
  • General Union of Educational Service Workers
  • General Union of Textile and Garment Workers
  • General Union of Transportation Workers
  • General Union of Public Employees
  • General Union of Health Service Workers
  • General Union of Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Industries Workers
  • General Union of Municipality and Village Councils Workers
  • General Union of Tourism Services Workers
  • General Union of Construction and Wood Workers
  • General Union of Agricultural Workers
  • General Union of Graphic and Media Workers
  • General Union of Food industries workers
  • General Union of Workers in Banks, Insurance and Financial Works.

Tags

Comments

picture

I believe the common, if not exclusively correct, translation is "Gaza governorates"? I've never heard them called "provinces."

picture

If you're asking, should a racist, corrupt, colonialist trade union be supported internationally by workers of other lands, the answer is no.

picture

This is a theoretical question since I am not aware of Histadrut unions requesting solidarity. So enmeshed are they in the national consensus that solidarity action, which would inevitably mean blocking or boycotting particular Israeli scab products would be inimical to them.

Not that there is anything, in itself, progressive about union militancy in a settler colonial setting. The white miners unions of South Africa were also militant at one time.

However strikes which might pose a threat to the Israeli state have usually seen Histadrut act as a wing of the state. In 1951 the Seaman's strikers were denounced as terrorists and drafted into the army and much the same happened to the Ashdod Port Workers Strike in the 1950's. The reaction of Histadrut to Arab workers' strikes over issues such as land confiscation has been uniformily hostile and consistent with the attitude of the Israeli state itself.

So to answer the question, it would depend on the circumstances but support should not be automatic.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.