Union defeats pro BDS motion

October 10, 2011 by  
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A motion presented to the annual conference of the  National Tertiary Education Union endorsing a call for boycotts against Israel was defeated.

The three day conference in Melbourne heard the motion on Friday making it difficult for Jewish delegates to participate with Yom Kippur starting on the same day.

J-Wire understands that the union, which represents academics throughout Australia, was presented with a motion endorsing “The Australian Unionists Supporting Palestine” statement calling for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Michael Evans, the National Organiser of the union said: “The annual NTEU National Conference is the primary decision-making body of the union.”

Grahame McCulloch, the general secretary of the union told J-Wire that those voting were academics and professors from around the country and said that although they were the teachers the defeat of the motion would not guarantee that factions would still continue to rail against Israel on campus.

The  vote to support BDS went 37.5 for, 49.5 against with 10 abstentions.

A further resolution calling for charges against 19 protesters who had been arrested in a pro-BDS demonstration at a Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne was also defeated.

The full resolution:


National Council recognises that other Australian trade unions have endorsed the Australian Unionist Supporting Palestine Statement. Council encourages Branches and Divisions to have meetings to discuss and consider the Australian Unionists Supporting Palestine Statement, and that NTEU National Council 2012 consider endorsing the Statement.

Supporting Statement

This amended motion H2a1v2 allows NTEU Members to consider joining with other Australian Trade Union and Unionists in endorsing the Australian Unionists Supporting Palestine Statement (AUSPS). Unions with motions on Palestine include:

AMWU Queensland-NT Branch, ASU Victorian Private Sector Branch, Australian Education Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Australian  Services Union NSW/ACT Branch, Australian Services Union Queensland C&A Branch, CEPU Communications Division Postal and Telecommunications Victorian Branch, CFMEU C&G Division Queensland Branch, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union National Office, Electrical Trades Union National Office, Electrical Trades Union Queensland Branch, Finance Sector Union Queensland Branch, Geelong Trades Hall Council, Health & Community Services Union Victoria, LHMU Queensland Branch, Maritime Union of Australia Western Australia, Maritime Union of Australia Victoria, New South Wales Teachers Federation, Newcastle Trades & Labour Council, Queensland Council of Unions, Queensland Teachers’ Union, Rail, Tram & Bus Union Queensland Branch, South Coast Labour Council, UnionsACT, Victorian Trades Hall Council.

We further note that the Australian Education Union resolution on this includes the following statement:

That the AEU supports in principle an international boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign targeting products made in the illegal settlements in occupied Palestine as well as companies which assist in, or profit from, the occupation of Palestinian territories and will work towards building national and international support for such a boycott.


The objectives of AUSPS are:

“Australian Unionists Supporting Palestine Statement

As trade unionists in Australia we believe in peace.

A central fissure in global conflict is in the division and occupation of Palestine. Until this issue is peacefully solved, indigenous peoples around the world, Arabs, Muslims and all those suffering under imperialism will identify with the Palestinians’ struggle. Israel and its USA backers thus provoke conflicts across the globe and within the Australian community.

As trade unionists in Australia we believe in justice.

Peace is unsustainable without justice. We stand firmly with the people and workers of Palestine in our support for justice for all the refugees, based on United Nations Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and in our recognition of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as guaranteed under United Nations Resolution 194 (1948). The refugees’ right of return to their homes has to be recognised as taking precedence over the right of Australian, European or American Jews to migrate to Israel.

As trade unionists in Australia we believe in equality.

We believe that Palestinian lives are as valuable as Australian or Israeli lives. We believe Palestinians are as entitled as Israelis to rights to:


•life, peace and security

•education, housing, health and social protection

•employment and livelihoods

•economy, trade, land, resources, airspace, communications, water and access to the sea

•freedom of movement, travel, migration and family reunion

•language, religion, identity, history and culture

•national freedom and self-determination

•democracy and human rights

We express our strong solidarity with our colleagues in the Palestinian trade union movement in their struggle to end the illegal Israeli military occupation and its discriminatory policies. We stand with the Palestinian workers who are citizens of Israel and who daily face systematic legal and social discrimination. We stand firmly with Palestinian workers of fighting against discriminatory policies and practices on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexuality, age, race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnic or religious background.

As trade unionists in Australia we believe in solidarity.

We stand firmly with the people and workers of Palestine, continuing in the best traditions of the Australian trade unions in supporting struggles for peace, justice and independence in Indonesia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Timor-Leste. We offer our warm solidarity to working people in Israel fighting against militarism, occupation and inequality. We stand firmly with the people and workers of Palestine in recognising the rights of indigenous peoples, acknowledging the wrongs of the past and supporting indigenous people’s struggles for self-determination and sovereignty.


As trade unionists in Australia we believe in action and organising.

We join the growing number of trade unions worldwide campaigning for peace with justice in Palestine, and here in Australia we express our unequivocal endorsement for the Palestinian trade union and Palestinian civil society calls for global Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as a non-violent strategy of resisting an illegal military occupation, war crimes and apartheid policies.

As members of the Australian trade union movement, we urge the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as our representative peak body, to enact policies that respect the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, a viable and independent state, and an end to the illegal Israeli military occupation in accordance with United Nations resolutions and international law.

We will continue to support community mobilisations for peace in Palestine, and will educate union members and working people in Australia against racism against Arabs, Muslims, Jews and people of Middle Eastern background.

As members of the Australian trade union movement, we urge the Australian Government to heed its obligations under international law, and heed Australian public opinion, and end its partisan one-sided support for Israel. We call on the Australian government to cancel all contracts with Israeli firms to purchase or sell military equipment, and to clearly label all imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories of Golan Heights, West Bank, and East Jerusalem. “

The words of Slavoj Zizek set out good reasons for NTEU to support AUSP:

“When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations.

While condemning the violent excesses of “illegal” settlements, the state of Israel promotes new “legal” building on the West Bank, and continues to strangle the Palestinian economy. A look at the changing map of East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians are gradually encircled and their living area sliced, tells it all. The condemnation of anti-Palestinian violence not carried out by the state blurs the true problem of state violence; the condemnation of illegal settlements blurs the illegality of the legal ones.

Therein resides the two-facedness of the much-praised non-biased “honesty” of the Israeli supreme court: by occasionally passing judgment in favour of the dispossessed Palestinians, proclaiming their eviction illegal, it guarantees the legality of the remaining majority of cases.”

In addition, there are a number of prominent figures who are quoted as characterising the Israeli occupation of Palestine as similar to the structure of the former apartheid regime in South Africa:

“Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith — even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighbouring states.”

Former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils from a speech at Israel Apartheid Week 2009.

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.” Nelson Mandela to Thomas L. Friedman (columnist New York Times) 2009

Jimmy Carter 2002 Nobel Peace Prize

“When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

MOVED: Melanie Lazarow, University of Melbourne Branch

SECONDED: Liam Ward, RMIT Branch





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