In an article published last week on the Left Foot Forward website, Alex Bjarnason, organiser and communications Officer for Trade Union Friends of Israel, attempts to explain why many British trade unions have supported the campaign to boycott the Jewish state.
“I’m often asked what motivates these activists, beyond the reaction to genuine injustice that angers us all. Many belong to far-left fringe groups and view the State of Israel as a colonial experiment supported by American imperial ambitions, based on occupying stolen Palestinian land, a case study of everything wrong with the modern world that must be resisted.
“More cynically, they recognise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides an irresistible opportunity to recruit for political groups that are dying because the next generation have lost interest in Marxist revolutionary politics.”
He adds that “Such views have become worryingly common in the British trade union movement, with many trade unions voting to support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”
Bjarnason concludes by saying that “we need to work on building stronger links between moderates in the UK and progressives in Israel and Palestine who recognise the urgency of supporting the peace process and realise a better-future will be based on friendship, tolerance and co-existence.”
In the comments section following the article, Owen Tudor, the head of international affairs for the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) clarifies the organization’s stand:
“In the context of the statement about ‘many trade unions voting to support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign’ it is worth noting that the TUC Congress policy is to boycott goods from illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, a policy supported by the vast majority of UK unions. It is not helpful or sensible to blur the distinction between boycotting Israel (which is explicitly not the policy of the TUC) and boycotting illegal settlement goods, which is indeed in line with other international boycotts - most recently of the regime in Burma.”