Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, has slammed Israel as “guilty of the crime of apartheid” and committed itself to BDS campaigning.
The Labour party’s biggest union backer considered three motions related to Palestine at its annual policy conference in Liverpool this week, of which two were carried.
The main ‘Israel and Palestine’ motion condemned Israeli violations of international law such as settlement construction, “crimes of persecution against the Palestinian people”, and the Israeli military’s detention and “torture” of Palestinian children. As well as the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Unite also highlighted the “racist laws” affecting Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The motion commits Unite to taking “bolder steps like those that were taken against the South African apartheid regime” as part of the fight against “the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people”. The union will work with others to develop a “campaigning and leverage strategy around BDS within the next 12 months”, notably “against complicit companies involved in the occupation, the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements (such as Veolia, G4S and Sainsbury’s)”.
Unite also passed a motion on the “inhuman conditions of siege” in Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, where Palestinians have been killed in military attacks and died from malnutrition. The conference urged “all parties to withdraw and allow humanitarian aid to reach [camp residents] without further delay.” As part of the Yarmouk resolution, Unite also reaffirmed “its commitment to Resolution 194 which asserts the rights of Palestinians [expelled by Israel] to return to their land”.
The motion expressed support for the stricken U.S.-led peace talks and encouraged engagement with both Palestinian and Israeli trade unions, including the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut. Palestinian activists and Unite members have criticised the Histadrut over its historic role in the colonisation of Palestine and its ongoing support for Israeli attacks on Gaza and illegal Israeli settlements.