The solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is clear – and has been accepted in principle by both sides. Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side, within secure and recognised borders, is the only workable solution to a conflict that has dragged on for decades.
Israel has already taken a number of steps towards this goal, most notably by agreeing to the Oslo Accords in 1993 and later by the unilateral withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon and Gaza. Palestinian moderates lead by Mahmoud Abbas support this process.
People of goodwill everywhere want a process to succeed delivering peace, justice and reconciliation. Trade unions can play a positive role here, and often do.
The International Transport Workers Federation, for example, has done much to bridge the gap between transport workers unions in Israel and Palestine and to reach ground-breaking agreements. The International Trade Union Confederation has encouraged dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian national trade union centres. And individual unions in a number of countries have invited Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists to their conferences, helping to promote discussion and agreement.
This is the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind – bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and reconciliation. It is a role we can be proud of.
And yet in recent years, a number of national unions and trade union centres have changed course and abandoned that role. Instead, they have rallied behind those Palestinians who are opposed to the peace process. Some have gone so far as to deny Israel’s right to exist.
A number of those unions have called for boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel, and only against Israel. They are attempting to demonise the Jewish state, to deny it legitimacy, and to whip up hatred against it. Sometimes that hatred even spills over into anti-Semitism.
Those unions are wrong – terribly wrong.
We believe that the time has come for trade unionists around the world to join forces in support of genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace with justice, based on a two-state solution with secure and recognised borders.
There are already unions and associated NGOs in a number of countries which support this goal. But they are fighting this battle alone, each in their own country. It is time we united our forces.
We are calling for the formation of a new global movement – TULIP, Trade Union Linking Israel and Palestine.
TULIP aims to do the following:
1. Unite those groups – unions and NGOs – which are already fighting within the labour movement against the boycott of Israel and for genuine peace, justice and reconciliation.
2. Produce a multilingual global website, print publications, and provide information and opportunities to begin the process of turning back the tide and encouraging unions to play a constructive role in the peace process.
3. Work together with Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists and associated NGOs to find ways to provide practical on-the-ground assistance — rather than empty slogans.
At the moment, the opponents of a two-state solution are on the offensive, working hard to promote their destructive agenda of boycotts and sanctions targetting Israel.
It’s time for trade unionists in all countries to go on the offensive ourselves, to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement.
We have no illusions that this will be anything other than a long and difficult process. But we also know that we have no choice. We cannot abandon the field to those whose goal is the destruction of any chance for a real Israeli-Palestinian peace.
We welcome trade unionists from all countries to join us.