U.S. Labor Tribunal Rejects Anti-boycott Case by Israeli NGO

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A New York protester calling for a boycott of Israel.
A New York protester calling for a boycott of Israel.Credit: AP

An Israeli legal center that describes itself as being "at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide," has lost a case it brought against a United States trade union for joining the boycott against Israel.

The case was brought by Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center against the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), after the union endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at its national convention in August 2015.

Representing some 35,000 workers in manufacturing, public sector and private non-profit sector jobs, the UE was the first national US union to endorse BDS, which proposes boycotts as a means of getting Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

According to a report on the UE website the unfair labor practice charge brought by Shurat HaDin was dismissed by the National Labor Relations Board on January 12. The board is an independent agency of the U.S. government.

Shurat HaDin filed the charge on October 13, arguing that UE’s resolution violated the prohibition in U.S. labor law against "secondary boycotts." The union countered that the charge was "an attempt to interfere with the First Amendment rights of the union and its members to express opinions on political and international issues.”

Responding to its ruling, UE National President Peter Knowlton said that the union had "withstood attempts by the U.S. government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.”

Knowlton added that the board's decision was a "victory for the growing BDS movement across the U.S., which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government. As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.”

The UE article described Shurat Hadin as "an Israeli organization that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights and critics of Israel, a strategy known as lawfare."

The union said that Shurat HaDin's campaign began in September, when it wrote a letter to the CEO of the General Electric Company, UE’s largest employer, “warning” GE to 'rescind its recently concluded labor agreement' with UE because Shurat HaDin didn’t like the union’s resolution on Israel and Palestine."

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