âWhy are all the things done to apartheid South Africa not being done to Israel?â demanded top South African trade unionist Willy Madisha as he addressed the national gathering of trade unions in London last week.
Speaking at the Palestine Solidarity Campaignâs trade union conference, held on March 11 in London, Madisha â the president of South Africaâs COSATU union â condemned Apartheid Israel and urged greater international action including a worldwide boycott of Israeli goods similar to the movements that helped topple the racist regime of South Africa.
The conference entitled âPalestinian workers challenging the Occupationâ has been the most significant trade union event on Palestine held in the last years in the UK. Some 230 trade unionists and activists attended the day-long event that brought together dozens of activists to discuss the role that trade unionists can play in helping Palestinians to achieve justice. The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was central to the speeches of many panelists. Palestinian speakers informed the large crowd of how the Occupation is destroying Palestinian lives, including through Apartheid Israelâs control of borders and all Palestinian movement that effectively ghettoize the population. Shaher Saâed, general secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, detailed the devastating impact of the Occupation on the Palestinian economy and expressed support for a boycott campaign to counter âthe real issue: the silence of the world.â
âApartheid was characterized by killings, hangings, disappearances, arrests, exile, confiscations, inferior education and the creation of Bantustans,â said Madisha. âAll this was a Sunday picnic compared to what is happening to the Palestinians,â he continued. âI say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state.â
But Madisha further noted that the global response to Apartheid Israel from trade unions has so far been inadequate. âThe trade union movement must move beyond resolutions, otherwise history will look back on us and spit on our graves,â he said.
The call for a global boycott of Apartheid Israel by activists and trade unionists from around the world.
16 British trade unions proclaimed support for the PSC event and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes urged activists and trade unions to join the campaign for justice for Palestine, and FBU president Ruth Walters condemned what she described as the Occupationâs âextreme oppression.â
Trade unions played an integral role in the global fight against apartheid in South Africa and many activists and trade unionists are hopeful that such calls for economic boycott of Apartheid Israel will galvanize the unions into further action in the worldwide struggle for justice in Palestine.