[Boycott - Israel Supporters]
Union refuses to hand over £2,000 to 'Zionist' editor
Leon Symons, Jewish Chronicle
15 June 2007
Britain’s biggest trades union has been accused of antisemitism after its executive refused to make a donation to an international Labour-movement news website because its editor was a Zionist.
Eric Lee, the 52-year-old editor of Labourstart, told the JC: “I was surprised by the Unison decision because senior figures had told me there would be no problem. Unison invites Histadrut, the Israeli Labour federation, to its conference every year, and it has had a very good record of working to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.”
New York-born Mr Lee, who now lives in North London and has lived in Israel, said the union had asked what it could do to help the website, so he asked for a donation of £2,000.
The international-affairs committee agreed and the decision to ratify this went to the national executive.
He continued: “A member of the executive [whom he believes to be a Socialist Workers’ Party member] said they had three questions for me: was it true that I was a Zionist?; does Labourstart censor Palestinian news?; and had I supported the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last year?”
Mr Lee responded: “It is no secret that I am a left-wing Zionist, as are many Israelis. Labourstart has links to Palestinian sites and they take many of our news items, and I took the same view of Lebanon as did Tony Blair and the Labour government.
“The [question of the] donation was then sent back to the first [international-affairs] committee.” The issue of the donation went back to the executive a second time, “but they decided it was too controversial so they turned it down.
“Some people told me afterwards they felt this was worse than either the NUJ or UCU boycotts, because this was an attack on a Jewish person.
“One senior figure told me the discussion about me was bigoted. He was so disgusted he gave me a lump sum and monthly donations out of his own pocket.”
The website has about 500 volunteer contributors around the world and has two functions.
It reproduces hundreds of news items about trades unions, and campaigns and supports workers in the international trades-union movement.
Unison was asked to comment but the JC was told that no-one was available.
Workers Liberty - a front for zionism
Reply to Workers Liberty
Anna Weekes, Trade Unionist, South Africa
To whom it may concern:
I read your article on LabourStart below. It is a complete misrepresentation to say that UNISON will not support projects run by Jews or that Eric Lee is being boycotted because he is Jewish. Many of the people who signed the original open letter to LabourStart in 2004, which called on Eric Lee to cover the Palestinian workers’ stories and not only Israeli stories, are Jewish themselves. Half of my family is Jewish and I am a signatory to that letter. Israelis have signed on too.
Note that Eric Lee only began to start doing this after many people signed onto the letter. He also removed his link to the IDF website after getting the petition.
I am posting the original letter below so that you can see it has nothing to do with anti-semitism. I really question your motives for calling a huge public sector union like UNISON anti-Jewish.
Petition against LabourStart website’s veto of Palestinian Worker News
Subject: [DEBATE] : Please sign this letter against LabourStart website’s veto of Palestinian Worker News
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 06:52:50 -0800 (PST)
From: anna weekes firstname.lastname@example.org
Reply-To: debate: SA discussion list email@example.com
To: Patrick Bond firstname.lastname@example.org, “debate: SA discussion list ” email@example.com
**Please sign on to this letter by emailing me. Many thanks!**
Against LabourStart’s veto of Palestinian worker news
A group of concerned labour and social movement activists from different countries have initiated this petition, against the shutdown of Palestinian worker news on the major labour news website, LabourStart (www.labourstart.org)
An Open Letter to LabourStart
The international trade union news website LabourStart systematically under-reports Palestinian labour news. Until very recently, the website unbelievably carried a link to the “Israeli Defense Forces” - the military wing of the State of Israel. This was only removed after a group of activists initiated a complaint.
LabourStart is a site that has marketed itself to trade unions all over the world, whose media officers and activists spend time gathering news from their countries to upload to LabourStart. They do this on the basis that LabourStart is the place “where trade unionists start their days on the web” - on the basis that LabourStart is supposed to be the main international source of labour news, and an important tool for international worker solidarity.
The open letter below calls on trade unionists to ask LabourStart to clarify, and in the absence of a credible explanation, to review their relationship with LabourStart.
The current news from Palestine on LabourStart amounts to 3 items for September 2004:
- A letter from the ICFTU to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan complaining of low wages and poor working conditions amongst UNRWA staff
- A letter from the IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) headlined by LabourStart as “IFJ Calls on Palestinians and Arafat to Act over Kidnapping Terror of Journalists” (though the letter itself called on all sides in the Palestinian conflict, and made clear that the CNN journalist had been kidnapped by unknown assailants).
- An article exposing the Mayor of Jericho’s failure to abide by a Palestinian Authority decision supporting the rights of municipal employees to organise in the union of their choice.
However valid each of these items may be, they omit the central fact confronting Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank: life under military Occupation.
When it comes to Israel, however, LabourStart has 148 articles for September 2004 alone.
The imbalance between Palestinian and Israeli labour coverage - and the systematic omission of material on the Occupation (as it affects workers) - amounts to bias against Palestinian labour.
Some recent Palestinian labour stories, none of which appeared on LabourStart, are reproduced in the Background to this letter.
Except for occasional, and valuable, material from the Workers Advice Centre, LabourStart readers rarely hear from Palestinians. But they do hear from Editor Eric Lee. His autobiographical notes page http://www.labourstart.org/ericlee/ currently (3 Oct. 2004) includes a link to the IDF website.
Why should a trade union news site carry a link to an army, let alone an army rampaging through territory occupied in defiance of the UN?
Indeed, trade unionists might be a lot more interested in material from Refusniks like Haggai Matar, who told a military court last December “We say a truth that most of the public does not know, and that many choose not to know, and that’s why we are being punished. They do war crimes and they expect us to keep silent. But we will not be silent. We will speak out against the occupation, even when we pay a price. ”
Those old enough to remember the 1980s should recall how another generation of trade unionists responded to another apartheid society - by sanctions against the regime and direct solidarity with workers under its heel.
We ask you to
1) write to LabourStart asking them to clarify their criteria for including or excluding Palestinian labour news. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
2) ask them to explain why a link to the IDF website is appropriate.
3) let us know what they say
4) Depending on the replies, you may wish to reconsider your organisation’s relationship with LabourStart.
Signed so far:
* PatchA, Korean Progressive Network ‘Jinbonet’
* Roland Rance - Chair, Amicus – Central London (0692); Secretary, Waltham Forest Trades Council
* Moshe’ Machover, Israeli Socialist
* Dorothy Naor, New Profile anti-militarism group, Israel
* Farid Taamallah, Palestinian Activist
* Anti-Privatisation Forum, South Africa
* Dave Parks, Exeter Socialists, England
* Frances Kelly, British trade unionist
* Walton Pantland, South African union activist
* Els Hendricks, X Minus Y Solidarity Fund, Netherlands
* Na’eem Jeenah - President, Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa and spokesperson, Palestine Solidarity Committee - South Africa
* Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee, South Africa
* Anna Weekes, South African labour and social movement activist
* Greg Dropkin, UK activist
* Jim Gladwin, New Zealand labour activist
* Dr Jeff Rudin, Researcher at South African Municipal Workers Union
* Woody Aroun, South African Trade Unionist
* Kim Jurgensen, South African activist
* Dr Dale T McKinley, South African labour and social movement activist
* Anne Candlin, One World Centre, annecandlin@hotmail. com
* Khwezi Gule, South African activist
The offending article:
Unison: boycott before the boycot
The Executive of the public services Unison has rejected a proposal from the relevant union committee to give money to the international trade-union news website Labourstart, on the grounds that one of the people involved in running Labourstart is a "Zionist".
It is a sort of "boycott before the boycott", a pre-emptive application of motion 54 to Unison conference, which proposes a boycott of all Israeli institutions.
Labourstart provides an unparalleled breadth of information on workers' struggles and workers' organisations worldwide, including in the Occupied Territories.
At the Executive no-one objected to Labourstart's coverage. The objection was to its founding editor, Eric Lee. Eric is now only one of 79 contributors world-wide to Labourstart.
But - and that was enough to damn the whole project in the eyes of the Executive - Eric is a Zionist. He has been associated with left-Zionist parties in Israel such as Mapam and Meretz.
Nobody proposed checking out the other 78 Labourstart correspondents for their views.
The basic argument is that the union cannot support projects, however worthwhile, if the people running them are Jewish. Supporters of "boycotting" Labourstart will reply that the objection is not that people like Eric Lee are Jewish, but that they are "Zionists". But to brand left Zionists like Eric as outside the range of people whom we can work with is to "boycott" almost all Jews around the world.
Also Of Interest
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