Palestinian unions and the BDS campaign: TUFI responds

From the website of Trade Union Friends of Israel:

At the beginning of November 2009, TUFI took a delegation of senior trade unionists to Israel and Palestine.  As part of this trip the delegation spent a day in the West Bank city of Nablus and met with Shaher Saed, the General Secretary of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

TUFI regularly organises trade union delegations to Israel and Palestine, helping trade unionists gain a better understanding of trade unionism in the region as well as the issues affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On returning to the UK, the Jewish Chronicle (JC) was briefed about the week-long delegation and the paper published an article on 12 November 2009.

Although the headline and tone of reporting may have been misleading and unhelpful, the article did report what Shaher Saed had said.  Mr Saed told the delegation that his organisation had no official policy on a general boycott of Israel, but did however support a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank even though there were concerns that such a boycott would harm the 30,000 Palestinians employed in these communities.  He said it was up to organisations to decide for themselves whether they should support a boycott.

This has been the long-standing position of the PGFTU and was also documented as such by the recent trade union delegation organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in February 2009.

It appears that the JC article was brought to the attention of pro-boycott groups in the West Bank and, whether through misrepresentation or confusion, has caused tension and a great deal of undue pressure on Shaher Saed.  On 14 November 2009, Mr Saed released a statement to clarify the PGFTU’s position, which he laid out in the same terms as reported in the JC article:

“The PGFTU adopts and supports the national Palestinian policy to boycott all products from the Israeli colonies/settlements, although this boycott may harm also the Palestinian workers”.

We would like to make clear that we fully respect the PGFTU’s position.  Our accurate reporting of the meeting with the PGFTU has unfortunately led to unnecessary pressure being put on Shaher Saed and the PGFTU.  This was never our intention and we are saddened by what has happened.  We have written directly to the PGFTU to convey this message.

TUFI supports Israeli-Palestinian trade union co-operation and we sincerely hope that the unprecedented co-operation over the last few years between the Histadrut (Israeli TUC) and the PGFTU will continue unabated.