World Bulletin / News Desk
Delegates representing Britain's 6.5 million trade union members agreed on Thursday to boycott Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestine, calling for an end to the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, Brtisih and Arab papers said.
After debates between Britain's two main union during the council in Liverpool, less stronger boycott plan by TUC was accepted.
TUC announced a boycott Israeli goods from illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory despite Fire Brigades Union called for a general boycott of Israeli goods.
The World Court has ruled all settlements illegal under international law. The United States and European Union regard them as obstacles to peace im Middle East, putting the pressure on Israel to end expansion.
A statement accepted by delegates read: "To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the removal of the separation wall and illegal settlements, we will support a boycott of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign."
The Guardian quoted Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, as saying that union delegates that they "have a part to play" in seeing an end to the occupation.
"We believe that targeted action – aimed at goods from the illegal settlements and at companies involved in the occupation and the wall – is the right way forward.
"This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services, which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers but targeted, consumer-led sanctions directed at businesses based in, and sustaining, the illegal settlements," he was quoted as saying during the council.
Call for end to arms sales to Israel
FBU found TUC decision is not enough. It also demanded an end to arms sales to Israel and the suspension of official links between British and Israeli trade unions.
"It's not just an issue of a boycott of goods produced in illegal settlements. Firstly, we think that impractical. These goods do not come with a label which says 'these goods are produced on an illegal settlement'. We feel we need to have discussions with Palestinian trade unions, discussions with the PLC [Palestinian Legislative Council], where we can put most pressure on the Israeli government and to target a consumer boycott better."
Also, The TUC wants an end to arms sales to Israel, which it claims rose to £18.8m last year, up from £7.7m the year before.
Menwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown whose party receives millions of pounds in funding each year from the trades unions, was understood to be putting pressure on TUC leaders to tone down the original motion because he feared it could produce a diplomatic "nightmare", according to union sources.
Delegates backed both the FBU's motion and a revised position agreed by the general council, which takes precedence in forming TUC policy.
Condemning Israeli war on Gaza
The TUC statement also condemned Israel's Dec.-Jan war on Gaza that have led to many war crimes committed by Israel according to U.N. report and continuing blockade of Gaza.
Israel launched on Dec. 27 a massive offensive in Gaza, killing more than 1434 Palestinians, a third of them children, and wounded at least 5300.
Recent investigation by a U.N. Commissioner showed many war crimes committed by Israel during its offensive that destroys hospitals, schools, mosques and government buildings and destroyed infrastructure system in Gaza, lefting Palestinians without electricity, gas and power.
Mick Shaw, the FBU president, said the general council statement did not go far enough.
"We will now try to identify goods and products where the most pressure can be put on the Israeli government to persuade them to change their policies."
But the the Israeli Embassy in London rounded on the "reckless" commitment to a boycott passed at the TUC congress and it claimed such boycott would harm Israeli workers as well as Palestinian.
The British move follows policies adopted by other European trades union movements in the wake of the Gaza invasion.
In May, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, whose members constitute more than a third of the nation's workers, called for an international boycott of Israel if it did not reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Irish trade unionists have also said that they plan to launch a boycott of Israeli goods later this year, while the Scottish TUC is adopting a "rights-based approach, supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel and encouraging investment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories".