The solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is clear – and has been accepted in principle by both sides. Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side, within secure and recognised borders, is the only workable solution to a conflict that has dragged on for decades.
Israel has already taken a number of steps towards this goal, most notably by agreeing to the Oslo Accords in 1993 and later by the unilateral withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon and Gaza. Palestinian moderates lead by Mahmoud Abbas support this process.
People of goodwill everywhere want a process to succeed delivering peace, justice and reconciliation. Trade unions can play a positive role here, and often do.
The International Transport Workers Federation, for example, has done much to bridge the gap between transport workers unions in Israel and Palestine and to reach ground-breaking agreements. The International Trade Union Confederation has encouraged dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian national trade union centres. And individual unions in a number of countries have invited Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists to their conferences, helping to promote discussion and agreement.
This is the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind – bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and reconciliation. It is a role we can be proud of.
And yet in recent years, a number of national unions and trade union centres have changed course and abandoned that role. Instead, they have rallied behind those Palestinians who are opposed to the peace process. Some have gone so far as to deny Israel’s right to exist.
A number of those unions have called for boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel, and only against Israel. They are attempting to demonise the Jewish state, to deny it legitimacy, and to whip up hatred against it. Sometimes that hatred even spills over into anti-Semitism.
Those unions are wrong – terribly wrong.
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