Wednesday, June 16, 2010

South African Trade Unions Call for Boycott of Israeli Apartheid

By Joyce Chediac
Published Jun 16, 2010 4:34 PM

Israel and its apologists bristle when Israel is called an apartheid state. Most loudly shouting, “Israeli apartheid,” however, are those who know the best — the workers of South Africa, who suffered the most under South African apartheid. South African trade unions have denounced the siege of Gaza and the apartheid wall on the West Bank, and have urged forward the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS).

Adding their voices to the call to boycott goods from Israel are UNITE, the biggest trade union in Britain, and the Swedish Portworkers’ Union, which called a boycott of all Israeli ships and cargo from June 15 through June 24.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, which refuses to handle Israeli goods at South African ports, called the Swedish boycott “the kind of powerful workers’ action that was used during the fight against the South African apartheid regime and helped bring it down. It must be used again today against this criminal apartheid regime in Israel.”

The South African Municipal Workers Union announced June 4 that it would “engage every single municipality to ensure that there are no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime. ... Every SAMWU branch will immediately approach municipal and water authorities to become part of the BDS campaign, and to publicly declare their solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions expressed outrage at the May 31 killing of activists by Israeli commandos, and in a statement urged “all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.” This umbrella group of unions supports “the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to national sovereignty” and demands “the immediate end to the Israeli siege and the illegal occupation of the sovereign territory which has been violently seized from the Palestinian nation.”

Biggest Britain union joins boycott

UNITE, Britain’s biggest trade union, just voted for a complete boycott of Israeli goods and services at its annual conference in Manchester. The 2-million-member union called Israel a “terror” state, with “a policy of ethnic cleansing.” UNITE said it would “actively and vigorously” promote a boycott of Israeli goods and services “similar to the boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era,” and also pursue a policy of divestment from Israeli companies.

Other labor groups protesting the May 31 Israeli commando raid on the Freedom Flotilla are the International Dockworkers Council, the International Transport Workers Federation, the International Trade Union Confederation, the South African National Union of Mineworkers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the British Trade Union Congress. The British University and College Union broke ties with the Histradrut, a Zionist so-called labor organization. UCU spokesperson Tom Hickey said the Histradrut “supported the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza” and “did not deserve the name of a trade union.”

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