Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), which aims to “promote Israeli-Palestinian trade union co-operation and strengthen the links between the Israeli, Palestinian and British trade union movements”, has been banned from attending the upcoming annual conference of UNISON, the giant public sector union.
For three years running TUFI, like many similar groups, had a stall at each year’s UNISON conference, as well as at the conferences of other major trade unions. (This year two major British unions — the GMB and CWU — have specifically invited TUFI to attend.)
But last year, UNISON told TUFI it was not welcome to have a stall at its conference. Initially, UNISON claimed that TUFI had requested the stall too late, but later changed the line to say that TUFI was not welcome because of the “security threat”. Apparently there were some concerns for the safety of Jewish members of the union following the Gaza conflict.
After the conference — at which TUFI held a very successful fringe meeting — UNISON promised that it was all a great misunderstanding and everything would be fine this year.
In fact the union’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, told a room full of trade union and Jewish leaders exactly that last fall.
So TUFI submitted its request for a stall in early December 2009 expecting to be able to attend — and was shocked to hear from UNISON’s Sonnet on 4 May 2010 that the union is “unable to offer you a stall/stand in June” because “we have no ongoing work with the Trade Union Friends of Israel nor are we affiliated to the organisation“.
UNISON, he wrote, has decided this year to only offer stalls to organisations UNISON is affiliated to, or campaigns with.
This is an outrageous attempt by the pro-Tehran wing of the labour movement to kick out advocates of a two-state solution in the Middle East — which remains the solution advocated by UNISON and the TUC. It is a part of the campaign to sever relations between British and Israeli unions, which is part of a broader campaign to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.
This is not a trade union agenda. This is the agenda promoted by the murderous regime in Iran.
Sonnet is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The PSC advocates the Iranian regime’s line of a one-state solution — a Palestinian state ruled by Hamas, with Israel wiped off the map.
If you read what TUFI actually stands for and what it actually does, it is obvious that the only people who would deny it the right to participate in union events are those who want the elimination of the Jewish state, who support the solution advocated by Tehran and its terrorist clients, Hamas and Hizbollah.
Such a view has no place in the trade union movement. The Iranian regime is hostile to everything we believe in; it imprisons and executes trade union activists. Last week it hanged Farzad Kamangar, a teacher trade union activist.
The Iranian regime spreads terror throughout the region and now through its proxies in the PSC it’s reaching into the labour movement to persuade unions to exclude anyone who disagrees with their line.
Trade unionists everywhere — and not only in Britain — must call on UNISON to reverse its decision, to welcome those who advocate peace and a two-state solution, and to reject Tehran’s line.