TUC calls for Israel sanctions to “end apartheid”

The Trades Unions Congress held its 2020 conference online only.


The British Trades Union Congress has condemned Israel’s annexation plan, calling it “another significant step in the creation of a system of apartheid” in the West Bank.

Passed on Tuesday, the motion is thought to be the first time the British trade union umbrella body has described Israeli policies as apartheid.

The TUC motion calls for the UK to “take firm and decisive measures, including sanctions” against Israel to stop annexation, end the occupation and respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

It also called for unions around the world to join the campaign “to stop annexation and end apartheid.”

The general council also put out a statement saying it would “actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements and the occupation.”

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK, said: “We welcome this motion which reaffirms the strong support across the UK trade union movement for the rights of Palestinians.”

“There can be no normalized relations with any state practicing apartheid unless one is to become a reinforcing part of the system. We applaud the TUC for calling clearly for sanctions.”

The motion also commits the TUC to working with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The BDS National Committee, or BNC, the civil society coalition that leads Palestine’s boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, also welcomed the TUC move.

The TUC has joined the “growing consensus among progressives worldwide that Israel’s regime constitutes apartheid, military occupation and settler-colonialism,” the BNC said.

“We urge UK trade unions to take the next logical step and intensify effective and strategic BDS campaigns to end UK complicity in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Historic shift

Proposed by Britain’s second-largest union Unite, the motion was passed by the TUC’s general council. In normal circumstances, it would have been debated by delegates at the TUC’s annual conference.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant that it was held online instead, on Monday and Tuesday this week.

A TUC motion passed last year called for “stopping any arms trade with Israel used in violation of the human rights of the Palestinians.” But it did not explicitly call for sanctions.

The TUC’s accurate description of Israeli policies as apartheid this year represents a long-term historic shift away from support for Zionism.

TUC conferences in 1967 and 1976 actually passed motions in support of Israel. It was only with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 that the tide began to turn.

That year, an emergency motion put forward by the Fire Brigades’ Union condemned “the death and destruction caused by the Israeli invasion” and called for “recognition of the national rights of the Palestinians to self-determination within an independent sovereign state.”

The motion was passed by delegates’ vote.

But academic Paul Kelemen, in his book The British Left and Zionism: History of a Divorce, notes that the general council at that time had actually tried to dissuade them from doing so.

More recent TUC support for Palestinian rights is the fruit of decades of campaigning by activists.




At last someone is speaking out about this ghastly injustice.


Now let's see how the Labour Party responds. For sure, the BoD, LFI, CST, Jewish Chronicle etc will hysterically call the TUC anti-Semitic. Don't be surprised if a claim is made that the same people who turned the Labour Party into a cess-pit of evil racists eager to build gas chambers on the Yorkshire Moors are those who done the same to the TUC. The Zionists will not let this pass without engaging in their customary distortion of history and abuse of the Nazi genocide. What really matter is how Labour responds. It's ten to one the leadership will distance itself from the motion, declare its support for Israel, witter about two-States while knowing it will do nothing to bring them about, invoke the special sensitivities of the Zionists, claim the motion offends against the IHRA non-definition, and assert that no Labour government will pay attention to it. The point? We must do it for ourselves. The common folk across the world are for justice because that is what can improve their lives. When they get a chance to speak, as they do through their unions, we get this kind of rational measure. Careerist politicians are not rational. If Starmer praises this motion and commits Labour to act upon it, the sky will be full of flying pigs. The rational means to peace and equality exist, but they do not gain expression through political parties in the hands of people on the make. Grassroots organisations across the globe have to have to act as the TUC has done, and to go much further, so the cynical, self-serving politicians have no choice but to act as the common folk wish. The Zionists will be outraged at this motion and will use all their vile tactics to smear the TUC as anti-Semitic. The real racists are the thugs who keep the Palestinians under their heel, and the common people recognise it when they are told the truth: a rarity given the nature of our media. Every trade unionist should get behind this motion and push. We can crash Israeli apartheid.


For ruling elites in the UAE etc., becoming puppet-states of the U.S. is an easy choice because they only care about their own welfare and increasing their own power and wealth. The amazing Palestinian spirit against impossible odds, is a shining example of the very best in human courage, resilience, defiance, dignity, etc. Zionism - like Nazism - is a shameful example of the very worst in human depravity, inhumanity, injustice, etc.


Given the degree of commitment implied by this welcome declaration, the next step should be an active boycott, with union inspectors appointed to ensure that incoming cargo is free of Israeli goods, and that any such materials are treated as contraband. Israeli products will remain in their containers, languishing aboard ships, rejected by dockworkers. Not one item should find its way to shelf or warehouse.

No worker affiliated with the TUC ought to be called on to collaborate with Israel, and concerted efforts must be made to prevent Israeli products from entering the country. Let the Israelis know that the business of apartheid, war crimes and genocide will be shut down in Britain.


This can only be good news. What relationship is this to the demonization of Jeremy Corbyn's anti-Zionism and support for BDS?


Why does a Google search for this important story not reveal any articles from the BBC, The Independent or The Guardian?

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).