British Union Calls for Israel Boycott

Britain's Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) yesterday called upon its 800,000 members to boycott Israeli-made products because of what they call Israel's "criminal policies in Palestinian territories."

The decision to call for a boycott, reached at a union conference in Brighton, is declarative and does not include concrete steps to implement the boycott.

The TGWU is the second British union to call for such a boycott of Israel this year. Last month the British public services union, UNISON, also urged its members to refrain from purchasing Israeli products, basing the call on Israel's "criminal behavior in the territories" and its responsibility for the Second Lebanon War.

In addition, Britain's University and College Union called upon its members earlier this year to consider an academic boycott of Israel, which would include withholding funding for research projects run by Israeli professors and preventing Israeli lecturers from participating in seminars.

In the last six months, the public services union in Ontario, Candada also proposed a similar anti-Israel boycott, as did several professional unions in South Africa.

Histadrut International's activities director Avital Shapira said yesterday that the Israeli labor federation views the TGWU's boycott call with severity. According to Shapira, the Histadrut has decided not to cooperate with these unions. "They expect us to help them with everything surrounding joint activities with Palestinian unions, but in light of their behavior toward us, we will carry on with these activities without them."

The British embassy in Israel issued a response yesterday, saying: "The British government opposes boycotts of any kind."

"The boycott declared by the Transport and General Workers' Union will not harm the growing commercial relations between the two countries," the statement said.

Parliamentarians from 56 countries have rejected the union boycott and the British academic boycott, in particular.

An announcement made yesterday at the conference of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Kiev stated that the gathering "expresses its concern at all attempts to target Israeli institutions and individuals for boycotts, divestments and sanctions."

MK Collette Avital of Labor, who was attending the conference as an observer, said that she was surprised by the large majority which supported that motion.