The Histadrut: The General Confederation of Labour in the Land of Israel
Written by Richard Irivine for Trade Union Friends of Palestine Campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinian People:
The Histadrut was founded in December 1920 in British Mandate Palestine. From its inception its aims were neither to build workers‟ solidarity nor represent or campaign for workers‟ rights; instead it was founded as an exclusively Jewish organisation to facilitate the colonisation of Palestine. As such it worked in tandem with the Jewish Agency to promote the exclusion of Palestinian labour and produce and was at the forefront of the movement to turn Palestine from an Arab country into a Zionist one. Today it continues to work hand in hand with the Israeli government and promotes and defends policies that violate the basic civil, political and human rights of Palestinians.
In 2009 the Director General of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia stated:
In the face of economic and social hardship, Palestinians nurture noble aspirations, as my representatives have again found. The large majority want to get on, in peace, with plans for their own future, their children and their statehood. These aspirations are constantly challenged by today‟s grim prospects, which leave little room for hope. Yet hope is vital to counter extreme alternatives that hold no future .
The issue then for trade unionists is whether continued engagement with the Histadrut can be considered as a positive dialogue that contributes to the achievement of legitimate Palestinian aspirations, or whether in actual fact such a dialogue merely reinforces Israel‟s colonial occupation.
One answer was perhaps suggested by UNISON Scottish Regional Delegate, Mike Kirby, who in 2009 reluctantly felt the need to call for a review of his union‟s relationship with the Histadrut:
Conference, I believe in dialogue with all parties. History in Northern Ireland illustrates the necessity. The potential for capacity building and joint vocational training with PGFTU and Histadrut is inspiring. However, when Histadrut condones the excess of ‘Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza, when Histradut is accused of organising in the illegal settlements, we must review our relations and contracts.
Given the history of Histadrut‟s collusion in and profit from the occupation of Palestinian territory, including its support for racial discrimination and colonization, its refusal to defend the rights of Palestinian workers and to oppose the ongoing daily repression of the Palestinian people, it is not surprising that sections of the international trade union movement, including the British TUC and the Scottish TUC, are either severing or reviewing their relationship with this organisation. In the words of a 2007 Palestinian Labour Coalition:
Since its inception, the Histadrut has supported the occupation and enacted racist policies against our workers, denying them their rights. It has kept silent in front of Israel‟s crimes against our people throughout the decades of occupation. We are thus asking the international trade unions to boycott the Histadrut to pressure it to guarantee rights for our workers and to pressure the government to end the occupation and to recognise the full rights of the Palestinian people.”
I highly recommend reading the whole 20 pages papers to learn how Labor zionism was at the forefront of Israel’s Apartheid policies (incuding the “Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS ” in annex):