An Israeli non-government organization has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against UE, a US labor union that represents 30,000 workers.
The complaint by Shurat HaDin, the Israeli Law Center, accuses UE of an illegal secondary boycott because the union at its national convention in August passed a resolution supporting the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement that seeks to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
According to Shurat HaDin, the UE resolution encourages its members to “boycott Israeli enterprises and institutions during the course of their work, similar to the BDS Movement’s public encouragement of dock workers to refuse to unload ships arriving from Israel and academics to refrain from participating in joint projects with Israeli institutions.”
UE passed its resolution 10 years after Palestinian trade unions and human rights organizations called for a global movement to protest Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its establishment of new settlements in Palestinian territories, and its discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel.
The call urged groups around the world to join in a boycott of Israeli products, to divest holdings in Israeli companies, and to support sanctions against Israel. The movement was based on a similar campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa.
UE was spurred to adopt its resolution by Israel’s bombing of Gaza during its 50-day war with Hamas in 2014. The bombings and other military action killed 1,462 civilians, 495 of whom were children.
UE’s resolution urges the US government to end military aid to Israel and to pressure Israel to negotiate a peace agreement “on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self determination and the right of return for refugees.”
The resolution also endorses the BDS movement and urges other unions “to become engaged in BDS and the movement for peace, justice and equality between the Palestinians and Israelis.”
Shurat HaDin is seeking an injunction that forces UE to withdraw its resolution.
Shurat HaDin also sent a letter to GE CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt urging him to “rescind its recently concluded labor agreement with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE).” The letter also warns GE that it could face “severe criminal and civil liability” if UE continues to support the BDS movement.
UE and GE are not the only two organizations that have been challenged by Shurat HaDin.
In 2014, it accused Oxfam, the worldwide anti-hunger non-governmental organization, of funding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization identified by the US as a terrorist organization.
According to Shurat HaDin, Oxfam is a donor to the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committees (UHWC) and the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), both of which Shura HaDin says are front organizations of the PFLP.
The NGO Monitor reports that UAWC is an organization of “volunteers and agronomists” whose aim is to make Palestine a food secure country that is free and governed democratically. It is also wants to enable “farmers both male and female to contribute effectively in all aspects of life.”
In addition to receiving funds from Oxfam, UAWC receives funding from the European Union, Catholic Relief Charities, Orthodox Christian Charities, Action Against Hunger, and others.
The Union of Health Workers Committees provides primary and secondary health care services to people in Palestine especially the poor and marginalized.
According to UHWC, UHWC and Oxfam have had a very strong relationship and partnership since 2006 where both parties have implemented programs and projects to provide essential and emergency health services to the needy Palestinians.”
The Electronic Intifada reports that Shurat HaDin is linked to Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.
One of its purposes is to engage in “lawfare,” “the use of international law with the intention of damaging an opponent.”
UE appears to be undeterred by the challenge to its resolution supporting the BDS movement.
“There is a long tradition of nonviolent protest against human rights abuses that includes boycotts,” said Leah Fried UE’s director of international strategies to The Electronic Intifada. “This attempt to end that peaceful protest with a charge filed at the National Labor Relations Board is not founded in law and will surely be dismissed.”