Another day: another Harriet Sherwood report on another British boycott.

The Guardian’s ‘World News’ Israel page carries a report by Harriet Sherwood on yet another British boycott – this time of an Israeli simply because he is…Israeli. 

The story goes briefly like this. Professor Moty Cristal – an expert in conflict resolution and founder & CEO of Nest Consulting – had been invited to address a seminar on conflict resolution to be held by the NHS Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust on May 8th

Last Friday he was informed by e-mail from the company organising the seminar that the invitation had been withdrawn at the demand of the trade union UNISON – Britain’s largest union of public sector employees with some 1.3 million members. 

According to Sherwood’s article:

“The session was cancelled, said the email, “on the grounds that it is Unison’s policy and also that of the Trades Union Congress to support the Palestinian people”.

“A spokeswoman for Unison confirmed that its members had requested that Cristal’s invitation be withdrawn. The union’s policy was to support a boycott of goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank rather than “a direct boycott of all Israeli people”, she said.”

“But, she added, “we are supportive of people in Palestine. The trade union movement has a long history of international solidarity. Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel.” “

According to UNISON’s regional secretary Kevin Nelson:

“UNISON’s local representatives at the Manchester Mental Health & Social Care Trust did request that the decision to invite Mr Moti Cristal to facilitate a Partnership Workshop on 8th May 2012 be reversed.”

“Explaining the decision, Mr Nelson said: “It was considered that the decision to invite a prominent Israeli negotiator would be unacceptable given UNISON and TUC policy on the Middle East conflict, the irrelevance of the speaker to working relationships within a local NHS Trust and the inappropriateness of funding an international speaker at times of such austerity, when front line staff in the trust are at risk of redundancy.”

According to a report in Ha’aretz: 

“Senior UNISON officials who were contacted by Haaretz were unaware of the decision, indicating that it was most likely reached following pressure by local officials in Manchester. At last year’s UNISON conference, the Manchester Hospitals branch of the union demanded a boycott, with branch secretary Frances Kelly saying that “it is time all world organizations decided to boycott all Israeli institutions implicated in the occupation and its practices.” “

Mr Cristal’s reaction to his dis-invitation was very much to the point:

“Values-wise, unlike you, I am confident that the only way to resolve conflicts, let alone the Israeli-Palestinian one, is through effective communication and constructive dialogue, rather than violence or boycotts.”

In fact the UNISON members of Manchester NHS seem to have deprived themselves and others of hearing a very interesting speaker. 

In September 2009 the Trades Union Congress (TUC) adopted a motion to boycott Israeli goods produced over the ‘green line’. The original motion, proposed by the Fire Brigades Union and supported by UNISON and UNITE, had called for a total boycott of Israeli goods. 

Notably, the final resolution adopted by the TUC included the following statement: 

“To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the removal of the separation wall and the illegal settlements, we will support a boycott (where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with such products) of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements – through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall.”

“We reiterate our encouragement to unions to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to raise greater awareness of the issues.”

The references to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are significant. UNISON’s former leader, Rodney Bickerstaffe (now president of War on Want) is a patron of the PSC, as are Bob Crowe of the RMT union and Keith Sonnet – Deputy General Secretary of UNISON. The PSC’s chairman, Hugh Lanning, is also Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), with his bio on its website stating that:

 “Hugh is also Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and was instrumental in the landmark decision taken by the TUC to support the boycott campaign of settlement goods.”

As is unfortunately the case with many other British unions, the symbiotic relationship between UNISON and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is illustrated by this call on the UNISON website for its members to pressure MEPs to oppose trade agreements with Israel as part of a PSC campaign. In 2010 UNISON sent a delegation to the Middle East – its report can be read here

So what has all this to do with the unions’ traditional role in protecting and enhancing workers’ rights? Absolutely nothing. As one blogger put it in 2009: 

“Is not the TUC supposed to be a union of unions to co-ordinate the efforts of skilled workers to gain recognition from employers and to ensure rights to workers?

What does this have to do with condemning sovereign nations? Why should they have a Middle East policy at all? Do they have an Africa policy? An Asia policy? A North American policy? An Antarctica policy?

Ah, no. 

As is the case with the Co-operative Group’s new boycott, this is yet another example of a small number of extremist activists exploiting the structure of existing institutions in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda. There are now some 17 different unions affiliated to the PSC. 

The boycotting of Moty Cristal cannot even be claimed to be based on anything to do with the ‘green line’ –  it is purely a reaction to his nationality and therefore racism proper. 

One would expect that a Left-leaning liberal newspaper such as the Guardian claims to be would have something of consequence to say both about that and trade unionists who appear to have little interest in the people they are really supposed to represent. 

35 replies »

  1. As a follow on to the previous article, here is a list of the top relevant articles on the CiF Middle East Page showing the disaster trhat is the Islamic Middle East in all its glory and gore:

    Do Arab men hate women? It’s not that simple

    Arab Christians must fight for recognition in new regimes

    How to stop Syria’s warring factions tearing the country apart

    Should Saif Gaddafi be tried in Libya?

    To fight al-Qaida, Yemen needs aid not more military action

    And this is the one for Israel:

    Most Israeli citizens don’t want a war with Iran

    So which country should be boycotted?

    • AKUS: Don’t confuse these people with facts and logic–like most bigots they’re really not interested in those distractions but look for any way to advance their hateful agenda, the truth be damned.

      Isn’t Harriet Sherwood tired of a whole career of slanted lies by now?
      She’s simply pathetic excuse for a “journalist”.

  2. The Sherwood article has the headline “Israeli negotiation expert has NHS workshop cancelled”.

    But it wasn’t Cristal who had the workshop cancelled, was it?

  3. These people are simply anti-semites in all but name and who use the pretext of supporting the Palestinians as a very thin veil behind which to hide their anti-semitism.

  4. So the trade unions support the Palestinian people? How, exactly do they do that?
    Don’t they support the Israeli people? I don’t believe they do, nor does it seem they even think of Israelis as people.
    “Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel.” Really? Anyone from Israel? I’d bet my paycheck that they mean ‘Jew’, and they should be called out on it.
    Who would they feel comfortable being lectured by, Mahmoud Abbas? Yassir Arafat? Dr. A’jad? Dr. Assad? Hamas? George Galloway?
    I’d also like to know how many in their membership actually and fully support their stand.
    What a joke these people are.

  5. “So what has all this to do with the unions’ traditional role in protecting and enhancing workers’ rights?”

    The British trade unions have always had a political role as well as one supporting their members’ employment rights. They were co-founders of the Labour Party after all. The unions took a leading role in opposing South African apartheid. What more natural than that they should take action against the Israeli version?

    • Yawn. Here we go. Israeli “apartheid” wind-up merchant alert. Do we seriously have to go over this tired, worn out ground again and point out that in apartheid South Africa, blacks did not have the vote (as Arab and other non-Jewish Israeli citizens do in Israel) that there were no black people in government or black judges in South Africa (as there are Arabs and non-Jewish MKs and judges) etc, etc, etc…

      Fort the 10 billionth time, by all means say that there is unacceptable discrimination in Israel (as I believe there is – and I belive there is in France, Germany and the USA not to mention Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran etc) but to call it an “apartheid” state is simply insulting to the black South Africans who suffered under that regime.

      (Cue the trotting out of Desmon Tutu quotes…)

      • Having said all that, sencar does have a point, which is that the Union movement is, by tradition and by essence, an international one, and it is absolutely normal for the workers of the world to support each other in times of distress.

        What this doesn’t explain, however, is why UNISON and others choose to support Palestinian workers over and above workers in – let’s say – any of the Gulf states, where de facto slavery is the absolute norm. It is sheer, rank hypocrisy.

      • GoonerEll, to revert to a previous life as a FTO of a Trade Union, I would agree with your post with a small but justifiable amendment.
        In your sentence “Israeli “apartheid” wind-up merchant alert.” delete the words ‘wind-up’ and insert the words ‘hand-job’ so the sentence now reads “Israeli ‘apartheid’ hand-job merchant alert.”
        Very apposite when it comes to sencar and his ilk.

    • Ah the good old Israeli apartheid crap from a bad old Jew-hater.
      You should take up this subject with the Israeli Arab judge who gave seven years in prison to the Jewish ex-president. The morons barking this apartheid mantra should take a look at the Labour candidate for the London mayoral race Ken Livingstone who wants to change London a “beacon of Islam” and a certified antisemite before ranting about the actions of the trade-unions.

    • According to the revised version of Godwin’s Law the first person to mention South Africa or “apartheid” while discussing Israel automatically loses the argument.

    • a) Israel is not an apartheid state.
      b) What if Cristal were an Arab Israeli?

    • When will they be taking action against the PA version, the Hamas version, or the versions of most any Arab state? You know, real cases of apartheid.

  6. Sherwood’s story should be under UK news.

    The caption to her story is also ridiculous.
    And there is no hint in her story that these unionists are full of shit.

  7. Well-written piece and astute in its observations about how the racists on th extreme Left ( in conjunction with their good friends the Islamists) have hijacked ostensibly respectable groups to drive their hateful and dishonest agenda.
    I’m sure that most members of this union have little idea about what their leadership is doing “on their behalf”, as only a moron would support this kind of blatant lyijng bigotry. Fascinating that we don’t see this or any other of the “boycott” types talking about boycotting Syria, Iran, etc., etc. or any of the other real terrorist murderers in the Mideast.

    Pathetic racists these people–my only suggestion is widely publicizing their bigoted agenda so that many of their dues-paying union members can see the type of hatred their dues are going to support.

    • Islamists and their lunatic fellow travellers are very good at entryism. They and their supporters, as was the case in the Green Party some time ago, then accuse any of their opposition who are Zionists and/or against antisemitism of being entryists and attempt to get them booted out of the party.

      The Green Party, incidentally, still hasn’t formulated a policy about how to define antisemitism, much less act against it, which is why it is wide open to being hijacked by such lunatics who conflate Zionism and Judaism, leaving the Greens sucking their thumbs.

      See and particularly

      “… Deborah Fink is essentially a full time activist. She knows how to work party systems. And this is what she did:

      …. this individual then launched a formal complaint against a Jewish party member who has been prominent in condemning the toleration of anti-semitism in the party, accusing them of entryism – even though in the accuser´s own emails it has become clear that this is what they themselves are guilty of, since they talk of how before joining the party they had been told by people how the “Zionist lobby” was “infiltrating” the party; that is, their joining the party appears to be a clear decision to enter it to fight what they perceive as wrong….”

      I, too, know the Green Party member who was brought before the Green Party tribunal and accused of Zionist entryism . The tribunal found the complaint to be without merit and it was subsequently thrown out.

      (People will remember also how Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party was a character witness for the self-confessed perpetrators of malicious damage to a factory in Hove which they argued made armaments and parts for the IDF together with one Judge Bathurst-Norman, who shamelessly directed the jury and the accused were freed in spite of having admitted their guilt.)

    • The days of the Israeli economy are numbered because some hundred assholes living on social securirty won’t buy mobile phones, PCs, modern industrial equipment, flowers and will die happily of treateble illnesses because they don’t want to dirtying themselves with Jewish products. Certainly the Co-Op boycott caused the fall of the TASE.

      • You wait for one boycott and three come along at once!

        As well as the Co-op and the Methodists we have….

        “Early day motion 2717


        Session: 2010-12
        Date tabled: 08.02.2012
        Primary sponsor: Corbyn, Jeremy
        Bottomley, Peter
        Burden, Richard
        Kaufman, Gerald
        Lucas, Caroline
        Williams, Mark

        That this House welcomes the December 2011 Report by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, especially the proposal for appropriate EU legislation to prevent and discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity; notes the UN Human Rights Council declaration that the Jerusalem Light Rail extension into East Jerusalem is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations Resolutions (Resolution 13/7 of 14 April 2010); and calls on the Government to facilitate and support effective EU legislation to ensure the cessation of EU finance for illegal Israeli settlements and that economic operators aiding and abetting the building, maintenance or servicing of illegal Israeli settlements be excluded from public contracts in the EU.”


        Israel’s not flavor of the month at the mo.

        • Maybe the reason of the need of austerity measures in the UK is that Lucas, Kaufmann and their ilk of antisemites have any word in British politics. Certainly they know that boycotting Jewish trade is a well known tradition in Europe so why not try it again after the huge success of the previous experiments?
          These boycotts have the relevance of a papillon’s fart in a hurricane economically and a huge effect on the Israeli public opinion showing the true racist nature of the so called “pro-Palestinian” activism.

          • BTW Kaufmann’s OCD condition what caused his theft of tens of thousands pounds from the British taxpayers has a very effective Israeli made treatment?

          • boycotting Jewish trade is a well known tradition in Europe

            When was the last boycott of Jewish trade in Britain?

            What “well known tradition”??

            • What “well known tradition”??

              pretzel maybe you should
     and read a history book
              the call for boycott and actual boycott of Jewish trade and people was a widespread phenomenon in Europe until WWII
              2. open and read a newspaper
              the call for boycott and actual boycott of Jewish trade and people is widespread in Europe again. (Ahava, Starbucks, Jewfree taxi etc. etc.)

              When was the last boycott of Jewish trade in Britain?
              Last week. Ask Alex.

              • maybe you should and read a history book

                Maybe YOU should.

                There is no boycott of Jewish firms.

                So stop smearing Europe.

                • pretzel you are seriously saying that no boycott of Jews existed before WWII? (regarding your knowledge of history)

                  And you naturally never ever heard of the boycott of the Ahava shop in London, the Jew-free cars in Budapest, the call for boycotting Starbucks, about boycotting Jewish artists and scholars in London etc??
                  There is no need to smear Europe anymore it is full of shit already, just read the posts of Alex…
                  And btw Hungary is not in Europe anymore? The neo-Nazxi Party (Jobbik) has 17% of the votes… Greece has been transferred to Oceania perhaps?

        • Alex if you had any knowledge of the way politics in the U.K. works you would know that an EDM (Early Day Motion) carries as much weight as a strongly worded letter to a newspaper.

          Do Mummy and Daddy know you are using the computer again?
          Better hurry along in case they find out you are exposing your ignorance and boring the adults again.