When Unite pulls the strings

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Alderman

LAST YEAR, THE for­mer Liver­pool dock worker “Red Len” McCluskey was re-elected as gen­eral sec­re­tary of Unite, one of Bri­tain’s big­gest trade unions. Whether any of Brother McCluskey’s pro­nounce­ments on any­thing can be said to re­flect the views of Unite’s mem­ber­ship must, how­ever, be open to doubt. At his re-elec­tion, the turnout was just un­der 16 per cent, which means that he can claim the sup­port of less than 10 per cent of the to­tal mem­ber­ship.

But that has cer­tainly not damp­ened his en­thu­si­asm for mak­ing pub­lic pro­nounce­ments on a wide range of is­sues, some of which strike me as hav­ing noth­ing what­ever to do with the well-be­ing of the mem­ber­ship at large but ev­ery­thing to do with McCluskey’s per­sonal po­lit­i­cal creed — namely, a mil­i­tant so­cial­ism that har­bours among its defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics a vis­ceral anti-Zion­ism.

In Jan­uary 2013, McCluskey made a se­ries of out­ra­geous al­le­ga­tions against Is­rael, which he ac­cused of “ter­ror­is­ing” the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Gaza dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pil­lar of De­fence.

As the JC re­ported at the time, he claimed that the con­flict in Gaza had been trig­gered by “the il­le­gal as­sas­si­na­tion of Pales­tinian lead­ers.” But he made ab­so­lutely no men­tion of the thou­sands of rock­ets launched from Gaza against Is­raeli civil­ians. Then McCluskey at­tempted to back-track, claim­ing that Unite was no friend of Ha­mas, and draw­ing at­ten­tion (quite rightly) to its per­se­cu­tion of Pales­tinian trade unions. But he added, for good mea­sure, that “the strength of opin­ion among Bri­tish trade union­ists is such that they will not stand idly by when the com­bined weight of IDF weaponry rains down on a largely de­fence­less and un­de­fended peo­ple in Gaza.”

There the mat­ter rested un­til July 11 last, when Unite is­sued a “state­ment of sol­i­dar­ity with the Pales­tinian peo­ple,” which, al­though it did not carry McCluskey’s per­sonal sig­na­ture (un­like the Jan­uary 2013 state­ment) can only have been made with his im­pri­matur. “Unite un­re­servedly con­demns the con­tin­u­ing Is­raeli ag­gres­sion against the Pales­tinian peo­ple and calls … on the UK govern­ment to de­mand the Is­raeli govern­ment halt its mil­i­tary ac­tion and to make it clear that should it fail to do so then a move for in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions will be launched within the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the Euro­pean Union.”

The state­ment con­demned the mur­der of three Is­raeli youths, but im­plied, wrongly, that Is­rael’s of­fen­sive against Gaza was by way of re­tal­i­a­tion for these killings, rather than a re­ac­tion to Ha­mas rock­ets.

Labour is not be­holden to Jews, but to the unions, for money

It is worth re­mind­ing our­selves that two days be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of the Unite state­ment, the launch­ing of rock­ets against civil­ian tar­gets in Is­rael was con­demned as “a crime against hu­man­ity” by no less an authority than Ibrahim Khreisheh, the Pales­tinian rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil. But Unite was hav­ing none of it. There was, it is true, one ref­er­ence in Unite’s state­ment to mis­siles from Gaza; but this lethal ord­nance was men­tioned merely to dis­miss it as un­im­por­tant. What was con­demned was “Is­raeli-state racism and apartheid … eth­nic cleans­ing [and] … Is­rael’s sys­tem­atic vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law and Pales­tinian hu­man rights.” The state­ment ended with a call for a boy­cott against the Jewish state.

In the great scheme of things, these views of Unite and its loud-mouth, anti-Zion­ist gen­eral sec­re­tary are of lit­tle im­por­tance. But McCluskey and his union played a ma­jor part in the elec­tion of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party four years ago. Unite’s money is im­por­tant to Labour as it hones its strat­egy for the gen­eral elec­tion next year. Never mind about the so-called Jewish in­flu­ences on Miliband. At the end of the day, Miliband is be­holden to Labour’s pay­mas­ters, among which Unite is very prom­i­nent. Lit­tle won­der, there­fore, that in a re­cent email Miliband’s of­fice should have echoed Unite’s view of the causes of the present con­flict in Gaza. Yes, the fir­ing of rock­ets into Is­rael must cease. But “the loss of life … of Pales­tinian chil­dren and civil­ians … can­not be jus­ti­fied.”

On the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Ha­mas for these deaths the email — is­sued from Miliband’s of­fice — was to­tally silent.

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