Archive for the ‘Trade Unions’ Category.

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel – Press Release, 3 June 2013

A leading trade union in Northern Ireland has been obliged to withdraw a motion calling for the boycott of certain Israeli goods because the resolution had no basis in fact

NIPSA is the largest trade union head-quartered in Northern Ireland and represents public sector workers. It has a long history of hostile activity towards Israel.

The motion, put forward at the trade union’s annual conference in Enniskillen last week, noted with dismay “the passing of legislation in Israel that effectively creates segregation on buses,” and called for the Union’s general council to lobby to ban settlement goods in response.

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel co chair, Steven Jaffe, said: “We welcome the withdrawal of the motion and hope it leads to  reflection by Union leaders against unfair hostility to Israel. We very much look forward to engaging with Union members who want to make a positive contribution towards peace in the Middle East. Northern Ireland trade unions have much to offer given their experience of fostering cross-community dialogue, and both Israelis and Palestinians could learn much from their example”.

NIFI was approached by a couple of concerned members of the Union. Steven says: “We were able to confirm to them that the allegation had no basis in fact – of course no such law exists. I am proud that they then made representations to their Union to ensure this motion did not go unchallenged”.

“We are grateful for assistance from Trade Union Friends of Israel and  Trade Union Links with Israel and Palestine who we approached for help”.

Steven is a consultant to the Board of Deputies on communal engagement with Israel and his work is part-funded by the Jewish Leadership Council.




Letter writing campaign to General Secretary of Unite trade union

This is a cross post from We Believe in Israel by Luke Akehurst

You may remember that at the start of December we encouraged people to write to Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite trade union, about the very one-sided statement he issued about Operation Pillar of Defence.

Mr McCluskey replied by email on 2 January to everyone who had contacted him. We seem to have generated a large number amount of correspondence as he complains “I have received a number of e-mails, some remarkably similar in content, from members of the public (few, if any, appear to be members of Unite) taking me to task”.

Whilst the bulk of his response consists of further criticism of Israel, almost all of it unrelated to the situation in Gaza, he does at least attempt to distance himself from Hamas, stating: “No political or other support has been offered by Unite to Hamas and we remain wary of it, not least because of the banishment of the PGFTU from Gaza when Hamas assumed the government there.” (PGFTU is the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions).

I have replied in a personal capacity as I happen to be a Unite member, addressing a number of the points he makes. If you want to read Mr McCluskey’s email and my response, they are online here:

If you want to send your own response to Mr McCluskey’s email he can be contacted at

It is important that we have written in sufficient numbers that Mr McCluskey finds it necessary to respond and is held in some way accountable when he makes one-sided anti-Israel interventions.

Posted by Luke Akehurst 09:47 BST

UK academic union faces claims of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’

This is a cross post from The Times of Israel by Miriam Shaviv

Severe anti-Israel bias ‘makes Jews feel uncomfortable and unwelcome,’ lecturer charges in landmark tribunal

The UK’s trade union for academics, the University and College Union, is “institutionally anti-Semitic,” a London employment tribunal heard Monday.

The claim was made on the opening day of a potentially landmark case, which partially revolves around UCU’s resolutions concerning an academic boycott of Israel.

The claimant, freelance mathematics lecturer Ronnie Fraser, is alleging that the union harassed him by creating a hostile environment for him as a Jew, which “derives from a culture and attitude which is informed by contemporary anti-Zionism. Complaints about anti-Semitism are met with either bald denials or accusations that the complainant is attempting to stifle legitimate debate. As a result of the role which the State of Israel plays in contemporary Jewish identity, the hostile environment necessarily has an adverse impact on Jewish members of the union, making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.”

He says that this contravenes the 2010 Equality Act, which prevents discrimination on grounds of race or religion.

Unusually for an employment tribunal, the case will take four weeks to be heard. Over 30 witnesses for the claimant include the Booker Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson — who has submitted a witness statement but will not be cross-examined — as well as Jewish community officials and numerous academics, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The seven witnesses for the respondent are all UCU officials.

Two of the three witnesses who testified during the opening session Monday discussed UCU’s decision to allow the international relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Bongani Masuku, to speak at a UK conference promoting boycott and divestment of Israel in December 2009. Just two days earlier, the South African Human Rights Commission had publicized its finding that Masuku was guilty of hate speech against the Jewish community of South Africa. The statements, which were made at a student rally at the University of Witwatersrand the previous March, included threats to South African families with children in the IDF, as well as a promise to make the lives of Zionists in South Africa “hell.”

Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, a representative body, argued that UCU leaders were informed of the ruling the day after it was made public (and the day before the conference) and had ample time to ensure Masuku did not have a platform in the UK. She rejected the suggestion by UCU’s lawyer, Antony White QC, that since Masuku had announced his intention to make further representations to the SAHRC, there was at the time “the possibility of a range of views about what Masuku had done”.

“That range of views was brought to the Human Rights Commission, they had a finding that was communicated to the Union and to the people who had invited over Masuku,” she said.

She was repeatedly questioned about when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism and whether comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa were anti-Semitic.

“Whether Israel is or is not an apartheid state is academic discourse; it’s often discussed in the South African media,” she said. “When comments are made, ‘I came to the conclusion that Jews are arrogant’ or ‘Jews control the US’ — these comments are unacceptable, that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission. When Jews are talked about as having blood dripping from their hands, that they should leave the country — that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission.”

Political debate is “valid, to be admired,” Kahn later added. However, she said, “I have a problem with using the Israeli situation as an excuse for hate speech and making comments on fellow South Africans. Some of the comments drew on classic and modern anti-Semitic discourse.”

A second witness, retired University of Oxford biochemistry professor Michael Yudkin, had helped draft a motion in his local UCU branch disassociating members from “Masuku’s repugnant views,” which was passed 14:1. In May 2010, he proposed the motion at the UCU Annual Congress, but lost by “an overwhelming majority”. Yudkin subsequently resigned his UCU membership.

By the time Masuku was invited to the London conference, Yudkin  stated, “it was a matter of public record that he had made remarks at a public meeting several months earlier that were, to put it no more strongly, prima facie anti-Semitic. The most cursory search of Google in October or November 2009 would have revealed both that such remarks had been made by Masuku, and also that there had been official complaints about them. The fact that UCU nonetheless invited Masuku to the conference in London suggests either that the union was reckless in failing to scrutinise the background of its invitees or that it knew of Masuku’s anti-Semitic remarks and didn’t consider them a reason for rescinding the invitation.”

His motion, Yudkin said, “centered on the expression of anti-Semitic views by someone who had been invited by the union to the UK. It recited incontrovertible facts and it invited the union to dissociate itself from remarks that had been found by an authoritative body (the South African Human Rights Commission) to amount to hate speech. That the union was unwilling to do so indicates, in my opinion, that it regards the expression of anti-Semitic views as acceptable.”

When White suggested that some UCU members felt it was inappropriate to support the motion as COSATU had said it was going to make further representations on Masuku’s behalf and legal proceedings were still ongoing, Yudkin responded, “I’m struck by the overwhelming opposition to the motion, 10:1 [against]. I don’t think these niceties about whether COSATU supported the appeal can be used as an excuse for that degree of opposition — all the motion asked [members] to do was to disassociate themselves from Masuku’s racist remarks, and that they refused to do. The context was the last several years of anti-Israel resolutions. All added together made it clear that the union was run by those committed to disregarding the feelings of its Jewish members and thinking that the kind of behaviour in which it was indulging did not need an explanation. It was institutional antisemitism.”

Told that several of the speakers opposing the motion were Jewish, Yudkin responded, “The fact that they are Jews by birth or upbringing is not a sufficient reason to think people may not be guilty of disregarding what is important to the majority of Jews.”

The panel of three judges, led by AM Snelson, will spend Tuesday listening to audio recordings of the UCU debates on an Israel boycott and the claimant, Ronnie Fraser, will take the stand on Wednesday



Fair Play Statement on TUC Vote

Yesterday, on the 11 September 2012, trade union delegates at the TUC’s Congress voted in favour of a motion calling for TUC to organise a
delegation to Gaza in conjunction with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign ‘to determine how the TUC may most effectively contribute to the end of the blockade.’ The motion can be found here.

The TUC’s decision to singularly focus on Gaza again is bizarre. There is no motion on Syria, at a time when hundreds are dying every week, or on anywhere else in the Middle East, still reeling from the aftershocks of the Arab Spring.

A visit to only Gaza, ignoring the West Bank, Israel and the Sinai, is a distorted snapshot of a complex situation; it would be the sort of trip which
conceals as much as it reveals.

More concerning, though, is the TUC’s decision to visit Gaza with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. PSC trips are necessarily biased and one-sided, meeting only those parts of Palestinian society that support their views. In particular, PSC trips to Gaza usually include meetings with terrorist leaders from Hamas. The PSC makes no secret of its agenda.

We believe that the trip should not go ahead as envisaged in the motion. However, if it does, we call upon the TUC to take the opportunity and have a more balanced visit to the wider region, organised by neutral and fair organisations, and to guarantee that they will not meet with the terrorist leaders of Hamas.


A Call to Arms: Pre-emptive work is needed to stop our enemies.

This is a cross post from Adam Langleben’s thoughts on Barnet, Europe and the Jewish World by Adam Langleben. 

Much has been written over the past several weeks about the co-op’s decision to boycott products produced from the West Bank and Unison’s decision to un-invite Moty Cristal from speaking at a conference in Manchester. I will not dwell too much on it or repeat it, as you can find information and comment elsewhere.

Why has this happened? And why do these (mostly irrational and ill-thought through) boycott motions continually happen, over and over again?

Answer: Because we (the Jewish community) broadly speaking do not engage with those bodies. Of course, Trades Union Friends of Israel, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, as well as others engage on a senior level, but this often lacks the necessary punch in organisations such as trades unions or co-operatives. These organisations are democratic bodies, and communication at the top will only get you so far.

What we need are teaching staff, civil servants, local government workers and others to actually join their trades unions and engage in these bodies.

Ruthlessly attacking bodies such as these after a vote has been cast simply forces them to take a defensive line, as they need to defend the decision made via the mandate that they have, regardless of turnout, as these are the rules.

I joined the Labour Party when I was 20, back then I did not realise that by being a Jewish member of this party, a party with a great tradition that I am proud of, I would be on the frontline in the fight against Delegitimisation of the State of Israel. However, this responsibility has been thrust upon myself and all other Jewish and Zionist members of the Labour Party, it is not a task we asked for, and often we may fail at influencing our peers, but we have a voice at the table because we have a great many Jewish members and make ourselves heard.

As a member of the GMB I have written to my branch secretary asking for clarification on their interpretation of the TUC stance on Israel. I am also awaiting a reply from my local Cooperative representative about the boycott on West Bank produce.

Public sector workers, especially Jewish ones are also on the front line. They have an opportunity to influence their representative trades unions to ensure that they are not hijacked and turned into vehicles which promote values opposite to that of the mainstream.

I would like to see a Trades Unions/Cooperative/local political parties (of any mainstream persuasion) membership drive within the community to ensure that we are part of the discussion, inside the tent rather than peeking through a hole on the outside shouting, kicking and screaming.

So find one and join! Never know, you might actually enjoy it!