Labour Friends of Israel: Unions should oppose TUC decision to ally with pro-Hamas PSC

The following is the text of a powerful briefing produced today by Labour Friends of Israel. It effectively challenges the decision by Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) to ally itself closely with an organization - the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) - which does not share the labour movement’s commitment to negotiated, two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

LFI briefing

Opposing the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its alliance with the TUC 16 November 2010

Those who support a two state solution to the Middle East conflict, with Israel, recognised and safe within its borders, living peacefully alongside a democratic and viable Palestinian state, should oppose the TUC’s decision to ally itself with the PSC.

• The Trade Union Congress’ (TUC) decision to work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) should be opposed. The PSC does not campaign for a two-state formula and, separately from the TUC, calls for a boycott of all Israeli goods. These positions are not conducive to achieving peace.
• Instead of undermining Israel’s right to exist and those trying to achieve a two state solution, people should be focused, like the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), on supporting the joint working of the Histadrut (Israeli TUC) and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). Such joint-working, which is opposed by the PSC, would be to the benefit of Israeli and Palestinian workers alike.
• Britain’s proper role is to support the direct peace negotiations, which began in September, rather than to condemn the actions of either side via boycotts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that he supports a two state solution and wants to make an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the establishment of a Palestinian state.
• The PA agreed to take part in the direct peace negotiations in September as a result of the Israeli government instigating the first West Bank settlement construction freeze in the country’s history. With Israel poised to renew its freeze, it is vital that MPs support the work of the US and the Quartet, of which Britain is a part, in persuading both sides to come together. In addition, to achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the threat to successful peace negotiations posed by militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah also needs to be challenged.
Background to the TUC/PSC alliance
• The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which does not campaign in favour of a two state solution to the Middle East conflict, have recently stepped up their call for a boycott of goods originating from Israel’s West Bank settlements. As a part of this campaign, union members are being sent postcards asking their Members of Parliament to back the boycott. The PSC supports a full boycott of all Israeli goods.
• The TUC voted on 14 September to continue its boycott of Israeli goods from West Bank settlements, agreed at last year’s TUC, and to strengthen its links with the PSC. The PSC failed to encourage the TUC to support a full boycott of Israel, but continues to campaign for this.
• To achieve a two state solution, the future of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank needs to be discussed in the context of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel has a long history of removing settlers in the aim of achieving peace, most recently in 2005 when it withdrew all of its settlers from the Gaza Strip. However, Hamas conducted a violent coup in 2007, ousting the PA from power. Hamas has since used the territory to launch thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel. It is therefore vital that any Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank occur as part of a full peace agreement and once the PA is able to maintain security there.
• Writing in Progress online, Trade Union Friends of Israel Director Steve Scott called for the TUC to back the growing cooperation between the Histadrut and PGFTU (Palestinian TUC) rather than boycotts, which damage efforts to achieve peace. Please follow this link to Trade Union Friends of Israel Director Steve Scott’s analysis of the boycott campaign
Background to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
• As opposed to supporting a two state solution, which would achieve the right of self-determination for both the Jewish and Palestinian people, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), established in 1982, only and exclusively supports the national rights of the Palestinians. Whilst the PSC keeps its official position on final status solutions ambiguous, the views of its leadership, literature and their logo point to the PSC supporting a one-state solution and the end of the State of Israel (please see the PSC logo below).
• The PSC makes no distinction between the land Israel was established on in 1948 and the land it took control of in the 1967 war, describing it all as “occupied territories”. A two state solution relies on accepting that the land Israel was established on in 1948 is Israel proper and is not disputed or occupied territory (please see the PSC logo below).
• In addition, the PSC website states that the organisation is “in opposition to [the] Zionist nature of the Israeli state”. This further indicates that the PSC opposes the two states for two peoples formula since Zionism is the campaign for, and defence of, the right of self-determination of the Jewish people in their own sovereign homeland.
• Unlike the PSC, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is recognised as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” by over 100 states, has accepted a two state solution since 1988. In addition, the PSC, unlike the PLO, campaigns unequivocally for the Palestinians to have the “right of return” to their homes, or their ancestors’ homes, abandoned on Israel’s creation in 1948. Since realising the full right of return to Israel proper would challenge Israel’s Jewish majority, it is understood on both sides that a compromise will have to be found on this issue as part of a final agreement on a two state solution. It is therefore unhelpful for the PSC to call for a position that pre-judges Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
• The PSC condemns Israel for “aggression against neighbouring states” and does not acknowledge any aggression towards Israel from its regional neighbours. The PSC therefore does not acknowledge that in 1948 (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), 1967 (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) and 1973 (Egypt and Syria), Israel’s neighbours attempted to destroy the state. In addition, the PSC does not acknowledge that Hezbollah attacked northern Israel in 2006, initiating the Second Lebanon War or that the Iranian regime, which has an illegal uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programme, repeatedly threatens to “wipe Israel off the map”.
• Furthermore, PSC works closely with, and promotes, groups whose output is more overtly extreme and objectionable than their own, including the use of Holocaust rhetoric and imagery. Examples include the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which recently utilised the winning entry from Iran’s notorious Holocaust cartoon competition of 2006 on its website (without describing it as such); Friends of Al Aqsa, which has referred to the “so-called Holocaust”; and the British Muslim Initiative, which campaigns to “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” (and is run by Mohammed Sawalha, a former Hamas commander in the West Bank).
• Those in favour of peace in the region should support those willing to make the necessary compromises to achieve a two state solution rather than emboldening the PSC or other unrepresentative groups.