Delegates from Community, a trade union representing workers in iron and steel, clothing, textiles, footwear and betting industries, delivered a crushing blow on June 7. They opposed the union executive's attempt to force through a resolution aimed at undermining the Trade Union Congress's policy of boycotting Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements.
At the union's biennial conference in Southport, members accused the leaders of seeking a “retrospective mandate” to support Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (Tulip), which they labelled “an apologist” for Israeli war crimes.
Tulip was co-founded by Community's general secretary Michael Leahy in 2009 to challenge what he labelled “apologists for Hamas” in the labour movement.
Presenting the executive's motion on the Middle East peace process motion, Pat Donnelly said “taking sides” in the Palestine-Israel conflict would be counterproductive.
Opposing the motion, Scunthorpe delegate Simon Brears said the national executive was asking members to take the Israeli government's side.
Brears said: "Since 2009, Community has been part of Tulip without a mandate from members.
“This motion is a retrospective mandate for Tulip, which acts as an apologist for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government.
“Supporting Tulip is taking sides.”
During a panel discussion before the motion was moved, Trade Union Friends of Israel representative Eric Lee, who helped found Tulip, branded the TUC boycott an “extremist position” that sought to “isolate and demonise” Israel.
Lee claimed Britain's unions and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) did not support a two-state solution.
But PSC speaker Hugh Lanning hit back.
He stressed the need for two states based on the 1967 borders — a demand recently backed by US President Barack Obama but consistently rejected by Israel.
“At the moment there is only one state — Israel,” he said.
[Abridged from www.morningstaronline.co.uk .]