Ireland: Union publication revives blood libel against Jews

The website of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions contains a mini-site called “Global Solidarity.” I know about it because I attended its launch meeting as the guest of honor back in 2003.

The website has a lot of material about Israel and Palestine and recently added a link to a report prepared for NIPSA (a large union headquartered in Northern Ireland). The report is a beautifully illustrated account of a Trade Union Friends of Palestine visit to the region a few months back.

Just reading the first paragraph of the report, you get the general idea:

“… posing as pilgrims, we travelled to Amsterdam, then on to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, arriving in the early hours of Saturday.”

Posing as pilgrims? Why, because that’s the only way to sneak into Israel? Complete nonsense of course, but it adds to the drama. The report continues:

“The airport is of course built literally on top of Palestinian villages cleansed in the Nakba.”

First of all, I don’t know if this is true or not. But the language is extraordinary. Why “of course”? And the term “cleansed” — introduced by Serbians during the Yugoslav civil war — is not one that Israelis use to describe the fate of Palestinians. And then “Nakba”, an Arabic word which may be unfamiliar to most Irish readers, but which refers to the catastrophe of the 1948 war.

The next sentences describe the display of Zionist posters in Ben Gurion airport adding this analysis:

“There amongst the posters was one depicting the main Zionist myth – ‘After 2,450 years – Jews Once Again Left the Captivity of the Diaspora and
Returned to Their Homeland.'”

Which part of that sentence is a myth? The notion that Jews once lived in the land they call Eretz Yisrael? I don’t think most scholars dispute that, whatever they may think of Zionism.

As it was a trade union report, you’d expect a mention of the Histadrut. There is just one. It reads:

“We learned that Palestinian workers have to pay ‘organising fees’ to the Histadrut (the Israeli Trade Union Federation) as ‘foreign workers’ within Israel. Only part of which has been duly returned to the PGFTU.”

That sounds awful - if only it were true. First of all, the only Palestinian workers being referred to here are those who work for Israeli employers, in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Those workers join the Histadrut to get some measure of union protection, such as legal advice. In an extraordinary agreement reached following the Oslo accord, the Histadrut and the Palestinian unions agreed that the Israeli unions would transfer 50% of the fees collected to the Palestinian national trade union centre PGFTU.

This is comparable to British unions deciding to pay 50% of any dues collected by Irish workers in England back to Irish unions. As far as I know there is no such agreement — in fact the Israeli-Palestinian arrangement may be unique in the world.

I won’t go through the whole document. It’s just worth pointing out that in addition to all the half-truths and outright lies which begin with the first sentence on continue on through the whole document, there is also something we don’t always find in a trade union-sponsored attack on Israel: an old-fashioned medieval Christian blood libel.

The author writes: “… we visited Jacob’s Well, a Greek Orthodox church marking the site of the Well mentioned in the New Testament, Book of John, in a village then called Sychar … I noticed it had a tomb for a martyr – Archimandrite Philoumenos Hasapis. I asked which century he had been martyred in. ‘This one’ was the short answer. He had been murdered with an axe in a ‘ritualistic’ manner on 16 November 1979 by Zionist settlers who wanted to cleanse the area of any trace of Christianity. Murdered whilst performing vespers, his eyes were plucked out and three of his fingers were cut off – the ones with which he made the sign of the Cross.

What is this kind of slander doing an a trade union website? Why did NIPSA publish it? Why is the Irish Congress of Trade Unions linking to it?

One can be — and should be — critical of the Israeli government. But this goes way beyond legitimate criticism and should be repudiated by trade unionists regardless of their views on the Israel-Palestine conflict.