||Issue No. 168||28 February 2003|
Interview: Agenda 2003
Peace: The Colour Purple
Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
Solidarity: Workers Against War
Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
International: Industrial Warfare
History: Unions and the Vietnam War
Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Poetry: Return To Sender
Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
The Locker Room
More Talk Needed on War
Palestinians Question ICFTU
Palestinian spokeswoman, Abla Masrujeh, told Workers Online why she and delegates from Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon felt compelled to write a letter to organisers outlining their concerns.
Two issues grated with the letter writers - the refusal of organisers to oppose war in the event of UN sanction, and their unwillingness to describe the Palestinian situation as an "occupation".
"We are opposed to war, fullstop, in these circumstances," Masrujeh explained. "If the UN gives its assent it will be because it is dominated and controlled by the United States.
"We know about weapons of mass destruction because the Israelis have already used chemical weapons against our people.
"Unfortunately, the organisers would not allow a vote on their draft resolution, despite our concerns."
Masrujeh said it was because Palestinians lived under "occupation", that Israel had had been able to stop her colleague, Anan Qadri, a Public Service International executive member, attending the Melbourne conference.
Much of the work of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, for whom she is Women's co-ordinator, reflects the reality of occupation.
From 87,000 paid-up members two years ago it is now, predominantly, an unemployed organisation.
Israeli moves to seal off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with numerous towns and settlements, meant thousands could go no longer get to work. Even when Palestinians live next to their place of employment, enterprises no longer able to trade with the outside world, had been shut down.
According to the UN, unemployment in the Palestinian Territories is 63 percent.
Unions have responded by concentrating on social, rather than workplace organising, agitating on behalf of families.
In the past two years they have won significant gains - free health services for members and their families; waved school fees for sons and daughters of the unemployed and a US$100 one-off payment for all families of more than seven people, courtesy of a deal struck with the Saudis.
The reality of trade unionism in the territories puts our brushes with Tony Abbott and Jonathan Hamberger into perspective. Three times in the past two years, PGFTU offices have been shot up by US-supplied, Israeli F16 fighter planes.
Despite her disappointment at an Iraq resolution designed to placate all, Masrujeh said the ICFTU women's conference in Melbourne had been "very useful" and there was no chance of Palestinians walking away from the organisation.
"We didn't get everything we wanted but we did get some changes," she said. "It was just disappointing that people weren't prepared to give us more say on something that affects us so vitally.
"In the event of war, Palestinians will suffer more than most."
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