Page last updated at 18:37 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 19:37 UK

Acrimony over TUC Israeli debate

Smoke from Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on 9 January 2009
The FBU condemns Israel for its offensive in Gaza in January

UK union leaders have been forced to suspend a debate on calls for a boycott of Israeli goods after heated exchanges between senior officials.

The issue has divided the movement and led to acrimonious scenes at the annual TUC congress in Liverpool.

Delegates were due to vote on the proposed boycott motion, put forward by the Fire Brigades Union, on Thursday.

The GMB has called the move "divisive" but the motion has the support of the powerful Unite and Unison unions.


The BBC's employment correspondent Martin Shankleman said the issue had led to an angry confrontation between TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and Unite leader Derek Simpson.

As well as a boycott, the motion calls for a ban on imported goods from "illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories", an end to arms sales to Israel and the suspension of official links between British and Israeli trade unions.

Senior GMB official Paul Kenny said the proposal was "incredibly divisive", describing it as "way beyond the logic of where we should be".

But the Fire Brigade Union's Mick Shaw said there was strong support for the move among Palestinian people and it would put pressure on Israel over its military offensive in Gaza in January.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans were killed during the three-week operation. Israel puts the figure at 1,166.

Israel's deputy ambassador in London said such a move would not help prospects of peace in the region.

"It will only harm workers in our area," Talya Lador-Fresher told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It will harm both Palestinian workers, 50,000 of which are working in Israel and the West Bank, and it will also harm Israeli workers. It may even backfire and harm British workers in this country because boycotts have a tendency to work both ways."

The TUC General Council decided to support the motion on Tuesday and put it to a vote of delegates.

However, our correspondent said the controversy around the subject may mean that Thursday's vote will be fudged.

Print Sponsor

We'll make cuts, Brown tells TUC
15 Sep 09 |  UK Politics
TUC rejects claims of UK recovery
14 Sep 09 |  UK Politics
Israelis 'followed law in Gaza'
22 Apr 09 |  Middle East
UN condemns 'war crimes' in Gaza
16 Sep 09 |  Middle East
Unions take 'stand' on stilettos
15 Sep 09 |  UK Politics
Q&A: The TUC
15 Sep 09 |  UK
Dons to consider Israeli boycott
30 May 07 |  Education


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific