March 11, 2009

Greenstein on histadrut

Tony Greenstein has a great and useful indictment of the Histadrut, the Israeli "trade union" federation, on Electronic Intifada.

Histadrut was formed in 1920 as the General Confederation of Hebrew Labor by the two main labor Zionist parties, Hapoel Hatzair (Young Workers) and Achdut Ha'Avodah (Union of Labor). From its inception it excluded Arab labor and thus rejected worker solidarity in favor of national exclusivism.

Histadrut's primary role was not the defense of its members' wages and conditions but the colonization of Palestine. In the absence of a Jewish bourgeoisie, it had to become that bourgeoisie. As the late William Frankel, editor of The Jewish Chronicle (London), described it, Histadrut was a capitalist union. [12]

Its enterprises included Tnuva (dairy products), Solel Boneh (building and construction), Koor (manufacturing), Hamashbir (food co-operative) and Bank Hapoalim. It established a holding company, Hevrat Ovdim, to manage these enterprises and even after 1966, it remained 100 percent Jewish-controlled.

s unemployment grew in the Zionist economy in Palestine in the 1920s, Histadrut launched a campaign to promote Jewish labor (Avodat Ivrit) and Jewish produce (Totzeret Haaretz), which was essentially a boycott of Arab labor and produce. David HaCohen, former managing director of Solel Boneh, described what this meant:
"I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my trade union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there ... to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they had bought ... to buy dozens of dunums [of land] from an Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is prohibited; to take Rothschild the incarnation of capitalism as a socialist and to name him the 'benefactor' -- to do all that was not easy." [13]
Class struggle was always anathema to Histadrut, before and after Israel was formed. In the seamen's strike of 1951, strikers were drafted into the army with Histadrut support. Like their predecessors in the Gdud Avodah workers brigades in the 1920s, some of the most militant workers did break from Zionism. Gdud Avodah were starved into submission by Ben-Gurion in the 1920s. [33] But this was the exception, not the rule. The seamens' strike was the most violent strike of its kind in Israel, with ships being commandeered and used against the forces of the state.

In the 1969 Ashdod port workers' strike, the Histadrut accused the Jewish strikers of being equivalent to agents of Fatah, the main faction in the PLO, i.e. "terrorists" and "saboteurs." But the trial of the militants in a Histadrut tribunal backfired and it was terminated without reaching a verdict.

In February 1976, thousands of Arab citizens of the Galilee demonstrated for their rights to the land and against confiscations. In March 1976, the Arab leadership called for a general strike. In response, Histadrut's Labor Council in Haifa actively opposed the strike. Six Palestinians were shot and killed by the police and army, an event marked each 30 March by Palestinians as Land Day. (EI, March 10, 2009)

Read the whole thing, and send to your unionized friends.


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