Scottish Trade Union Congress votes to support boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel

By the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

April 22, 2009 -- The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), representing every Scottish trade union, voted overwhelmingly to commit to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This is the third example of a national trade union federation [including Ireland and South Africa] committing to boycotts, divestment and sanctions and is a clear indication that, while Israel can kill Palestinians with impunity and Western support, it has lost the battle for world public opinion. It is now seen to be a state born out of ethnic cleansing and still expanding through the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Speaker after speaker expressed intense anger at Israel's butchery of 1300 Palestinians in Gaza over New Year, as well as the much longer history of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The vote followed a visit to Israel/Palestine by an STUC delegation in March which heard from a wide range of trade union and other bodies and returned with a unanimous recommendation that the parent body adopt boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Read the delegation's report at

The STUC move to a position of boycotts, divestment and sanctions followed debate on the delegation's report with affiliated unions, as well as consultations across Scotland. There were written and oral submissions from Zionist as well as human rights bodies.

The commitment to boycotts, divestment and sanctions was made despite aggressive lobbying by Zionist groups, including an absurd warning that a commitment to active support for Palestinians' human rights would lead to attacks on Scottish Jews, and the parachuting into Scotland of the Histadrut’s head of communications from Israel.

The STUC's new position is a dramatic breakthrough which has the potential to greatly accelerate the boycott campaign already underway in Scotland against, for example, Israeli companies and sporting or cultural visits. The Scottish government earlier in the year yielded to public concerns and cancelled a trade delegation to Israel.

It will also make easier the task of building a mass boycott campaign across the land surface of Scotland, in every town and small community, in every supermarket and every sporting and cultural event.

Israel's New Year mountain of corpses in Gaza, together with its frequent murder of unarmed civilians across Palestine was only the latest in a long series of Israeli massacres. We may be unable to stop the next one, but our job of building the sort of mass boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign that can confront Israel's violence with a countervailing force has just become easier. An aroused world opinion is increasingly ready to ensure that all don't die in vain.

We can only offer hope to the hard-pressed Palestinians that their freedom is coming, however long Israel and its allies work to delay it.

Speaking prior to the debate, STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: “The STUC General Council is recommending support for boycott and calls for sanctions against Israel because of its attacks on the human rights of Palestinian people and its breaches of international laws.

Mr Smith continued: “On our recent visit to Israel and Palestine we witnessed the human rights violations experienced by ordinary Palestinians on a daily basis. We saw how restrictions on movement and checkpoints prevent people from going to work, to school and to visit their families – even when they are sick and dying.”

“We heard powerful arguments from the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, Al-Haq, outlining how Israel is in breach of the Geneva Conventions, and the need for other signatories to international laws to hold Israel to account.”

“Our delegation also met with the leadership of Israeli trade union centre, Histadrut, and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions. The STUC has carefully considered the complex issues involved, and we believe that we have a moral obligation to show solidarity to Palestinian people.” -- Read the full STUC press release at

View the STUC General Council recommendation passed at the STUC congress on April 22 in Perth, Scotland, at The significant paragraphs are:

6.1 The General Council is recommending that Congress should take a position of:

  • supporting boycotts and disinvestments against lsrael,
  • calling for sanctions against lsrael,
  • encouraging positive investments in the occupied territories...

6.6 The STUC acknowledges its relationship with both PGFTU and Histadrut and supports the development of a constructive dialogue between them. The STUC will explain its position on BDS to Histadrut, and will, over the next 12 months, raise with them Histadrut positions in relation to Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The STUC will review its relationship with Histadrut in this context.

[Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, c/o Peace & Justice Centre, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 4BJ. Email secretary [at], visit SPSC is affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK),] 


It is time that people recognize the existence of the Palestinians and their struggles. Golda Meir once in 1966 said that the Palestinians do not exist. Well, here we are today still, asking, pleading and fighting for our rights. This is a great and courageous step (given the hostilities any one expects to face if they dare criticize Israel) forward and we hope many unions and states will follow suit. Today we are all Scottish, we are all one.