Disappointing to report that the NEC has deferred to its next meeting (14/15 May) a report from the Policy Committee and a further subsequent and positive report from the Committee‘s chair, the President and the General Secretary, that we should circulate material from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) supporting action against goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.

The proposal is in line with policy agreed at our last conference, and is supported by the TUC. In a news release dated 10 December 2009, they stated that: ‘…Profiting from goods produced in the illegal settlements is contrary to international law and they should be banned from sale in the European Union, as they are in Palestine. Trade in such goods undermines the viability of a sovereign Palestinian state and holds back the peace process….’

Towards the end of last month, the European high court ruled that the Palestinian West Bank was not part of Israel and Israeli goods made there are subject to EU import duties, which will make them less competitive.

The move to defer the report was made on the basis of the NEC standing orders which say that wherever possible, all minutes and briefing papers should be circulated at least 7 days before each meeting. The Policy Committee meeting was on 4 February. Of course not all papers are circulated within this time frame, and having now argued that this should be the case in this instance, I wonder if others will use such a manoeuvre to avoid deciding on important policy issues in the future (especially if they don‘t happen to agree with them!).

Meantime the decision to defer was carried by a few votes, but nobody, including me, thought to ask for a recorded vote! Meantime those who don’t agree with union policy on this issue will do doubt look to a rerun of what happened in 2007 when ADM passed a motion calling for ‘a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa…’ There followed a protest by some members and branches, but the policy has never been successfully challenged at subsequent ADMs.

So, it’s down to members and branches to let us know in time for the May NEC, whether they support existing policy. I for on most certainly do support existing policy and the PCS campaign and hope you do as well.