The Histadrut: Israel’s Colonial Building Block
Three motions are being put forward to the Norwegian LO (TUC) Congress to sever relations with Israel’s labour organisation, the Histadrut. The claim is backed by LO in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Tromso and Mo i Rana; plus the Norwegian Electrician and IT Workers' Union (EL&IT Forbundet), several locals of the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet) and other federations. It is time for the LO Congress to support the demand, and for the leadership of LO to critically examine their grounds for rejecting it. The argument is built on false premises; the facts on the ground do not match reality (sic) by a long shot.
Histadrut is an occupier, a building block in the colonisation of the West Bank and the annexed East Jerusalem. The Histadrut was active in the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem from de facto (interim) prime minister and minister of labour Yigal Allon presented the first plan for colonising the West Bank in July 1967, one month after the Six-Day War.
The plan was to annex the greater parts of the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc, while the rest of the populous ridge of the West Bank and a corridor into Jericho was offered to Jordan, but King Hussain declined.
Since then, the Histadrut has been a major entrepreneur in the expansion of the colonies, notwithstanding changes in the ruling government in Israel. Israel’s “Father of the Nation” David Ben Gurion, also the first General Secretary of Histadrut, proclaimed that “I doubt if we would have had a state, were it not for the Histadrut”. The content of this quote transfers very well to the present day and age: If not for the Histadrut, the colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem would not have been as comprehensive as it is today. And it continues with enforced strength, all the while with Histadrut on board. LO’s partner makes big money from the colonisation.
It has proven a difficult task to make the present (Norwegian) government, at any given time, change its policy and start confronting Israel, instead of repeated incantations (?) about negotiations, which continuously favour Israel and which an increasing number of Palestinians, including high levels of the PLO and Fatah, experience as twenty years of fraud. The case is thus that Israel is pretty well pleased that no negotiations occur by rejecting the Palestinians’ simple demand of a complete halt in construction in the colonies that are contrary to international law, which is a central point in the Oslo Accords of 1993.
The reason is that no-one is putting pressure on Israel. New construction permits lead to concerned statements of regret, no salient condemnations or sanctions. The announced action from US Secretary of State John Kerry is “to stimulate employment on the West Bank” by assistance of USAid and Ex-Im Bank. This is entirely in accordance with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s idea of ”peace negotiations”.
Where the government does not dare or intend to, others must act, because it is urgent, it is critical. The settler population is now nearly three times the size (it was before the Oslo Accords). The situation in East Jerusalem is more urgent than most people believe. Israel has plans to develop E1, the area between East Jerusalem and Jericho which for all practical purposes splits the West Bank in two. Several Western countries are realising that the curtain is almost down for the “two state solution”. Severing ties with the Histadrut means a clear alert to the severity of the situation.
On 14 February, 2012, Ms Gerd Kristiansen, LO’s own candidate for president (and now elected president of LO Norway), stated to Klassekampen that she considers the demand for a break to be “an all time low” and raises the question: ”Should LO stop raising the issue of the discrimination against Palestinians in the Israeli labour market with Histadrut?”
The answer is decidedly yes, where her answer is, ”a definite no”. The Histadrut has heard and know the objections to the unfair treatment of Palestinian workers, which is contrary to the ideals of a free and democratic, solidarity labour organisation upheld by the LO. Whenever LO and other European labour organisations, among them British TUC, protest the occupation, the representatives of Histadrut will stand up and walk out in protest.
In other words, it is clear they have not only got the message, but have just as clearly demonstrated that they are not receptive, but continue to play an active part in the repression of Palestine, with colonies, concrete walls and military roadblocks. An escalation is therefore necessary from the LO, a demonstration of action to back up its point of view, just like COSATU of South Africa - thanking Norway and LO for its effort against apartheid - and the Scottish Congress of Trade Unions have done.
The argument that maintaining contact with an Israeli labour movement and having a listening post, comes to its conclusion in the call for LO to formalise its relations with the organisation WAC-Ma’an, which organises Israeli and Palestinian workers and works in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.
National LO must spearhead a Norwegian boycott of international conferences in Israel and actively support the international Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for the BDS Campaign (Boycott - Divestment - Sanctions). The coalition was established May 2011 with all Palestinian labour organisations, including the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), with which LO maintains relations.
LO must support that the (Norwegian) National Defence does not engage in purchase or sales of arms and equipment with Israel, and actively prevent the G4S and other companies that take part in the occupation and colonisation, from obtaining contracts in Norway. LO must announce that it will support a third Intifada, should it break out as a part of the “Arab Spring”, and stop hiding behind the fact that the leadership of the PGFTU does not actively ask LO to sever all ties. The decision lies with the LO, not the PGFTU, which is already working under enough strain as it is. Passing the resolution does not demand that the PGFTU severs ties with the Histadrut, as Ms Kristiansen implicates to Klassekampen.
Solidarity against oppression should be the trademark of LO Norway.