By our Industrial Affairs correspondent
Some New Labour supporters are backing a new international pressure group called Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (Tulip), that claims to support peace in the Middle East by opposing the boycott of Israeli goods and aiming “to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement”.
Tulip was launched last week and it is supported by the leaders of three unions – Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union; Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (US/Canada); and Michael Leahy, General Secretary of Community, a small British trade union whose major claim to fame is that Gordon Brown is one of its members.
Tulip makes remarkably dovish claims about past Israeli governments and equates the growing boycott Israel campaign with anti-semitism. It was welcomed by Jeremy Newmark of the Stop the Boycott campaign, who said: “Tulip is a practical initiative which shows that trade unions use their power in good ways, bringing Israelis and Palestinians together and improving lives — a contrast with those unions that have adopted divisive boycotts.” But though it has attracted a number of long-standing campaigners for Israel it has yet to gain any meaningful support from any Palestinian organisations.
Comrades from the South East London Link with Beit Furik are convinced this organisation is doing exactly what the Israeli government would want to counter the very effective campaigning that has been going on in Britain by supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, especially in regard to the boycott. It cannot possibly deliver a just peace for the Palestinians and can only prolong the illegal occupation.
Claiming to support peace and to be left wing, this organisation could spread confusion among naïve trade unionists.
One campaigner told the New Worker: “I’m sure this is because we are being so successful. This time last year none of the big supermarket chains would even reply to our letters. Now they are agreeing to meetings.
“We have been pointing out that selling goods produced in illegally occupied land is contrary to international law.
“Now the supermarkets are saying they are willing to stock goods from Palestine, properly labelled with the money going back to the Palestinian farmers.
“And since the attack on Gaza at the beginning of this year they are getting a lot of customer pressure to boycott Israeli goods.”
“I’m not worried about this new organisation. I don’t think many will be taken in by it. It is just a measure of how successful we are being.”