John Haylett accuses me of being part of a “hysterical zionist campaign” in his Morning Star article of 25 June (“Trade unionists smeared over Gaza stance”).
Indeed, he goes further and says that Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), which I helped to found, is “the latest zionist ploy to pull the wool over trade unionists’ eyes”. He calls myself and those who agree with me “Tel Aviv mouthpieces”.
I’ll leave it up to readers of the Morning Star to decide who is being hysterical and who is being smeared.
Let’s first of all correct a few facts:
Haylett calls us “supporters of Israel’s efforts to colonise east Jerusalem and other occupied Palestinian territory”.
We are no such thing.
Haylett says that “annexation of east Jerusalem and expansion of the illegal colonies on the West Bank aren’t, according to these Tel Aviv mouthpieces, major obstacles to a peace settlement based on a two-state arrangement.”
Really? Where did we say that? Or have we not said the exact opposite, repeatedly?
For example, speaking in Belfast in March and representing TULIP, I opened my talk saying that we oppose settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, have supported every Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories so far, and support a two-state solution based on withdrawal from those territories.
TULIP’s founding statement speaks of “Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side, within secure and recognised borders” — which is identical to the viewpoint of the TUC and British unions in general.
I have devoted years of my life, both in Israel and abroad, supporting a two-state solution including Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories.
To say otherwise is a libel.
Haylett says we criticized “trade union leaders who have grown tired of excusing Israel’s crimes against human rights.”
This is not true.
I don’t actually know trade union leaders who have excused “Israeli crimes” and have now grown tired of doing this, but would be happy for Haylett to tell us who they are.
What we did criticize is those trade unionists who have forgotten what we have always stood for (a two-state solution), and have instead embraced the view of the reactionary Iranian regime (a one-state solution).
Haylett quotes me as saying that “only a fraction of union members actually care about Palestine” — but doesn’t challenge this.
If there is any evidence that rank-and-file union members in their millions (or even their thousands) are engaged with these issues, produce it. It doesn’t matter what side of the issues you fall on. The fact is that only a tiny minority of trade union members in the U.K. care about Israel and Palestine.
Haylett writes that “Lee, TUFI and Tulip claim to be in favour of a two-state solution, but they are uncritical of every act by the zionist state that makes that goal less credible”.
Really? Every act?
TULIP has played a key role in getting across to the world the Israeli Histadrut’s call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
TULIP and TUFI have both consistently called for an independent Palestinian state, even when the right-wing government in Israel does not do so.
And I personally have long played an opposition role within Israeli politics which is well documented and goes back nearly thirty years.
Haylett seems unaware of these bare facts, so I have only one word of advice for him: Google.
Furthermore, he is convinced that there is no nuclear threat from Iran.
The fact that the entire international community — including Russia and China — have agreed to impose even more severe sanctions on Iran carries no weight.
He writes with authority that “the idea that Israel, the most militarily powerful state in the region with its nuclear arsenal, fears annihilation at the hands of Iran and its paramilitary allies is strictly for the birds.”
So there is no Iranian nuclear program? The Iranian regime is not committed to the extermination of Israel? Its proxies in the region — Hamas and Hizbollah — have not repeatedly expressed their commitment to destroying the Jewish state?
Israel has nothing to worry about, according to Haylett. Some of us might beg to differ.
Haylett is so convinced that he is right, and is so poorly informed, that he chose to tell Morning Star readers that “at its annual congress in Vancouver this week, South African centre Cosatu put down an amendment urging support for boycott, disinvestment, sanctions (BDS) against Israel.”
Ignoring the fact that the international trade union congress is not an annual event, Haylett’s article appeared after the world’s unions rejected the COSATU amendment.
Instead of calling for a boycott of Israel and isolation of its trade union movement, the world’s unions voted last week to support a two-state solution, rejected Hamas extremism, reinforced their commitment to Israel’s right to exist and so on.
Instead of throwing the Histadrut out, it elevated Histadrut leader Ofer Eini to the post of vice president of the International Trade Union Confederation and made him a member of the organization’s highest bodies, including its 25-member Executive Board.
Haylett quotes favorably from COSATU international relations secretary Bongani Masuku, who speaks of an “unstoppable” tide of support for the Israel boycott — a tide that apparently was stopped in Vancouver last week.
He neglects to tell Morning Star readers that Masuku was convicted last year by the South African Human Rights Commission of hate speech directed against the country’s Jewish community. Masuku is anti-Semite and racist, but Haylett quotes him favourably.
Haylett says that we are “hysterical Tel Aviv mouthpieces” who exist to “pull the wool over the eyes” of honest trade unionists, that we uncritically support everything the Israeli government does including the settlements in the occupied territories.
Haylett says that we have “smeared and misrepresented” the views of others.
There is not a grain of truth in what he writes.
Shame on the Morning Star for running such a dishonest and libelous article.