The movement for Australian union action against Israel is gaining strength after the apartheid state’s latest murderous attack on the unarmed aid flotilla to Gaza.
The South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) and the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory branches of the Australian Services Union have joined the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union in committing to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the aggressive Israeli state.
Australian unions and peak bodies have also called on members to attend the many protest actions.
The union campaign demanding an active boycott of Israel began in this country with the January 2009 ban on Israel cargo imposed by the Western Australian branch of the Maritime Union of Australia. The ban came after the Durban branch of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union refused to unload cargo from Israel.
SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris said: “A boycott of Israeli goods produced in the illegal settlements is a good way for the international community to send a strong message to the Israeli leadership that humanity will not turn a blind eye to the injustice … inflicted on the Palestinian people."
We must now make the BDS campaign the policy of the entire union movement, just as in the days of the anti-apartheid bans against South Africa.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and state trades and labour councils have so far avoided taking meaningful action against Israeli interests, restricting themselves to calls for restraint.
To make a difference, the Australian union movement should follow the lead recently set by the British University and College Union.
Its 2010 congress last week voted overwhelmingly to "sever all relations with [the Israeli trade union federation] Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise”.
It also proposed to: “Seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union-sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law.
This is the only sort of action the Israeli government understands.
Other Australian unions can make a difference for Palestine by supporting the BDS campaign and demanding that the ACTU do the same.