Wednesday, 17 June 2009

German trade union head against anti-Israel boycotts

"Reacting to the hostile language of the anti-Israeli trade union resolutions, Sommer said at that time, "The slogans of the anti-Israeli boycott measures are an embarrassing reminder of the Nazi rallying cry, 'Don't buy at Jewish stores.'"

Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) President Michael Sommer announced his support Thursday for a new labor-based group, TULIP, that aims to stop trade union-sponsored efforts to boycott Israel.

Speaking at a joint Histadrut and DGB event in Berlin entitled "A reliable partnership," Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini said it "is a bad phenomenon" when labor unions declare a boycott against Israel because it "damages the workers organizations" among Palestinians and Israelis.

He added that "TULIP is very important for us" and asked his counterpart Sommer for support at the event, which was sponsored by the German-Israeli friendship society of Berlin-Potsdam.
TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) was launched in April and is led by union officials from three continents - Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (US/Canada); and Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community, a British trade union.

Sommer, who is considered a staunch ally of Israel and its trade union movement, told The Jerusalem Post that he supports the TULIP initiative and will propose an affiliation with the group at next week's DGB executive board meeting.

Ulrike Sommer, wife of DGB president Sommer, is an active member in the Berlin-Potsdam chapter of the German-Israeli friendship society. Jochen Feilcke, a former Christian Democratic Union party MP and president of the local Berlin-Potsdam DIG, moderated the panel with Eini and Sommer. Sommer's declaration to reject anti-Israel boycott resolutions comes as no surprise to trade unionists because he has a solid track record in combating international and domestic calls to isolate Israel. [...]

Sommer said he is a proponent of the German-Israel "special relationship" and rejects the calls for a "return to normal relations."

"We have a latent form of anti-Semitism in this society." said Sommer, adding that the German union movement views itself as "fighter of anti-Semitism." He cited the oft-heard statement that, "We are not against the Jews, but Israel" as an area where the public needs to be sensitized in overcoming prejudice.

Rising anti-Zionism and anti-Israel boycott measures among such trade union leaders within the Irish Congress of Trade Union, the University College Union (the largest academic union in England), and the Scottish Trades Union Congress helped fuel TULIP's founding statement of criticism which said: "A number of those unions have called for boycotts and sanctions directed against Israel, and only against Israel. They are attempting to demonize the Jewish state, to deny it legitimacy, and to whip up hatred against it. Sometimes that hatred even spills over into anti-Semitism. Those unions are wrong - terribly wrong.'"

Source: article by Benjamin Weinthal in in TJP

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