Boycott Critics Wedded to an Old Obfuscation

The unanimous decision by Britain's trade unions at the recent TUC Congress to tighten up economic sanctions against Israel's illegal West Bank settlements has not received universal backing.

It has come under fire in the Jerusalem Post from zionist apologist Eric Lee, who bats for Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi) and Trade Unionists Linking Israel and Palestine (Tulip). Lee's condemnation can be read on the Tulip website (www.tuliponline.org).

He also runs the LabourStart website, which provides information on global trade union struggles, encouraging the perception of him as one of ours.

But while Britain's trade unionists have begun to take a more critical approach to events in the Middle East, recognising that Israel will continue its expansionism unless checked, Lee remains wedded to the old obfuscation that assists Tel Aviv's colonial project.

He describes the successful TUC motion (www.congressvoices.org/2010/69-palestine) as a "one-sided attack on the Jewish state with no acknowledgement that another side might also be involved in this decades-old conflict."

If anything is one-sided, it's Lee's attempt to equate an occupied nation and its occupiers as though they share responsibility for the ongoing conflict.

Similarly, he defends what he calls Israel's "security fence" - better known as its apartheid wall - claiming that it has ended suicide bombings in Israel.

But he ignores the fact that it is built on Palestinian territory to maximise Israel's ongoing land grab rather than, if its role really was defensive, on the green line differentiating Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories after the 1967 war.

Lee also plays the old victimhood card, complaining that the TUC resolution "doesn't contain a word about Israel's right to exist."

The implication is that Israel, backed only by the most fearsome military machine in the region, 200 nuclear weapons and unrestrained support from the US and its European Union allies, is at risk of being destroyed by the Palestinians and their Arab and Iranian allies.

Why would the TUC make itself look stupid by giving credence to such a non-existent threat?

Lee often has a tendency to begin his commentaries in a reasonable-sounding tone before losing it completely and sounding as though he needs professional help. This is no exception.

Apart from declaring the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) (www.palestinecampaign.org) "pro-Hamas," Lee goes out of his way to make friends at the TUC by declaring its self-proclaimed role in facilitating discussions between the Israeli Histadrut trade union federation and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions as "non-existent."

He then loses it altogether by stating that the TUC resolution's reference to a "free Palestine" is a "use of Hamas terminology" and alleges that "the views of the PGFTU clearly do not matter to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its supporters in British unions.

"To them, the Palestinian trade unionists are traitors to the cause, as they collaborate with Israeli unions all the time."

Alas for Lee's conspiracy theory, just days later, PGFTU representative Fathi Nasser wrote to "pro-Hamas" PSC trade union officer Bernard Regan as follows:

"Dear Brother Bernard, I am sorry for my delay to reply because I have been at the hospital for six days due to some troubles in my leg.

"TUC motion is highly appreciated not only by unions but also by civil organisations. It is considered brave decision to enhance solidarity with Palestinian people.

With my best regards, Fathi Nasser."

Lee's attempts to dragoon the PGFTU into zionist efforts to polish the image of the Histadrut are doomed to failure. Like him, it pays lip service to a two-state solution but supports Israel's military assaults on its neighbours, West Bank colonisation and the apartheid wall, which combine to frustrate that possibility.

The PGFTU operates under occupation. Its funding through members' subscriptions depends on co-operation with the Israeli state, including the Histadrut.

Yet it still commends boycott, disinvestment and sanctions decisions by overseas trade union bodies.

International working-class solidarity remains key to raising support for the Palestinian cause and putting pressure on Israel to end its creeping annexation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and to respect Palestinian national rights.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is currently involved in US-sponsored unequal negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but Netanyahu shows no sign of treating Abbas or the Palestinians as equals.

He demands that Abbas accept Israel's self-definition as a Jewish state, which would undermine the Palestinians' factual position that Israel was founded on their land, casting their people as interlopers on someone else's land.

It would be disastrous for Palestinian refugees who insist on their right of return to the land from which they were driven from 1947 onwards.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wants to accelerate ethnic cleansing of Arabs, telling a government committee last Sunday that the land-for-peace negotiating stance should be amended to one based on an exchange of land and populations.

His Yisrael Beiteinu party is still pressing for Palestinian-Israelis to swear an oath of allegiance to Israel, failing which they would be expelled to Gaza or the West Bank.

Justice demands an end to efforts to muddy the waters and a more united and concerted campaign to take direct action to support a free Palestine.

September 24, 2010

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