A vehemently anti-Israel resolution submitted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions never made it to the floor.
And in a stunning blow to pro-Hamas activists in some unions, the Israeli national trade union center Histadrut was honored by the global trade union movement.
Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC’s 25-member Executive Board as well as its General Council. Eini was also elected as one of the organization’s Vice Presidents.
The ITUC has 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers.
Eini’s election followed calls by major unions in the UK and elsewhere for the Histadrut to be boycotted. Instead, the international trade union movement has embraced the Israeli unions, understanding them — correctly — to be important partners in building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a resolution adopted by the ITUC congress, the positive role of the Histadrut was made explicit:
“Congress welcomes the landmark agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers, which was finalised with the assistance of the ITUC in August 2008, and initiatives by Global Union Federations in their sectors to support cooperation in defence of workers’ rights. This agreement, and other actions to promote decent work and end discrimination, are crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development.”
For the future, the ITUC resolution declared:
“Congress commits the ITUC to continue to support the strengthening of cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union movements and calls upon the international community to support Palestinian economic reconstruction and development, including through the ILO Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.”
In addition, the world’s trade unions
- Called for a two-state solution — and “universal recognition of Israel’s right to exist, next to an independent viable Palestinian state”
- Rejected “the extremist policies of Hamas“
- Condemned the Egyptian “decision to impose heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza”
- Acknowledged that Israeli’s December 2008 attack on Gaza came “in response to rocket attacks”
- Supported the 2002 “Road Map” for peace proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union
The resolution adopted was highly critical of many Israeli policies, calling for an end to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, rejecting the blockade of Gaza and the building of a security fence, and so on.
But what stands out clearly is the commitment by the vast majority of the world’s trade unions to a two-state solution and to strengthening Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation.
This is fantastic, fantastic news. Nobody has any objection to the trade union movement criticizing unhelpful and unproductive Israeli actions, so long as it clearly comes within the context of a just, negotiated settlement to the conflict, rather than naked attempts to delegitimize Israel. The decision by the ITUC is a resounding triumph for the forces of justice in the trade union movement, and a testament to the ability of the trade union movement to change things for the better.