I had a most inspiring experience this morning when I addressed the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Brighton. The Largest teachers’ Union in the UK allocated an hour for an international session and specifically to hear a report back from its delegation to Palestine last October.
The diverse, eleven member delegation,organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was a truly high level team including the then President and President Elect and Senior Vice President. The report was entitled “A matter of Justice” and was in every delegate’s pack. There were some 1000 delegates.
The week’s trip to Palestine was packed with meetings and visits and the report concludes that the picture they saw was “bleak”. However, the delegates were moved by the resilience and generosity of the Palestinian people.
The one hour session started with an introduction by then NUT President Beth Davies who was clearly moved by her experience. She included a slide show with images summarising what they had seen. You could see conference attendees shake heads as they watched attentively. Beth’s talk concluded with video clip of a poem written by a young girl from Nabi Saleh. It drove dome attendees to tears.
Next up was a Skype link with a representative of the Palestinian General Teachers Union. He was bit able to join the conference in person because of visa problems. He thanked the NUT for its solidarity and wished it “a long life”.
Next I was invited to address Conference. This was a great honour and I focussed on real life stories rather than on the politics. They are of course interlinked, particularly the lives if Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The main motion was then lived and seconded and members of the delegation added their own stories from the visit. An amendment on pink washing by Israel was then moved and seconded. This was very well received and passed with an overwhelming vote.
The main motion was put to the vote and was adopted with hardly any votes against.
This was a remarkable day. Who would have thought, even ten years ago that a major trade union in the UK would send such a high level delegation to Palestine, produce a report and dedicate an hour to the subject at its Conference?
By putting Palestine centre stage and for the motion to be adopted almost without opposition is remarkable. Politicians, including party leaders have a lot to learn about Palestine and those wonderful trade unionists could teach them a tremendous, unbiased amount from their own experience.
Israel feels it has impunity, that it can operate above the Law because Western politicians support it. However, a tsunami of anger at its policies and oppression of the Palestinian people is brewing amongst ordinary citizens. Its Hasbara cannot combat this and the BDS campaign is at a tipping point.
Israel can choose to make peace with the Palestinians or face increased isolation. In Brighton, the NUT has trail blazed and other unions could follow suit.
It is time the major parties, particularly the Labour Party, joined the push for genuine justice for Palestinians. It is time for Ed Miliband to make Palestine a central plank of an ethical Foreign policy.
Read Ben White’s article for the Middle East Monitor here