Trade unions urged to support activists acting within BDS policy

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

#stuc2017 Congress agreed to remit Aberdeen Trade Union Council’s two motions on Palestine in favour of a robust General Council statement reinforcing the STUC’s support for the Palestinian people and for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)

The statement pledged to encourage affiliates with BDS policies to support members through financial, legal and other means, who undertake activities within these policies but who are subjected to unfounded accusation. The STUC will also update its BDS campaign pack in association with Scottish Palestine Solidarity organisations to reflect key boycott strategies amidst a worsening situation in Palestine.

Supporting the motion and the remit UNISON’s Kate Ramsden told delegates that many of the affiliated unions in this hall will have a policy of support for the BDS movement which works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

“My own union, UNISON has had such a policy for some years and this was re-confirmed at last year’s National Conference.

“That is very welcome. However this motion asks affiliated unions to go beyond this,” said Kate.

She said that more and more we are seeing BDS activists targeted by organisations supporting Israel, often in the form of allegations that by supporting BDS and the Palestinian cause they are anti-Semitic.

“This is a tactic we must resist,” warned Kate. “We must not allow our legitimate opposition to the Israeli state’s terrible treatment of the Palestinian people; our support for BDS to become conflated with anti-Semitism.”

She spoke of activists’ experiences campaigning for BDS in Aberdeen where, “those of us taking action to support BDS have direct experience of being targeted with spurious allegations of anti-Semitism. Rarely a week goes past without the Police fetching up on the back of an “anonymous” call.

“Of course they can take no action because there is no anti-Semitism. It’s exhausting though and it leaves activists feeling vulnerable and exposed, which is no doubt its intent.”

She told delegates that in these situations activists need the support of their trade unions, mostly moral but sometimes financial and legal support.

“Trade unions need to be brave and stand up for their activists taking action to implement their union’s policy in a lawful way.

“And activists need to know they can count on that support.

“Because we can only conclude that slowly but surely, BDS is having an effect.”

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