GENEVA (Jun. 30)
The annual conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) ended here last week with the adoption of a resolution condemning Israel for its settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. The vote, 249-15 with 165 abstentions, culminated weeks of debate during which the 2000 delegates representing governments, workers and employers devoted 90 percent of their time to the Arab-Israeli dispute, neglecting the legitimate concerns of the United Nations affiliated labor body.
The politicization of the conference became clear from the moment the Secretariat permitted the Arab-sponsored anti-Israel draft to be placed on the agenda without any effective opposition by the United States. The Americans failed to raise their voices in protest despite U.S. Secretary of Labor F. Ray Marshall’s promise to Israeli Labor Minister Israel Katz that the Americans would put up a fight.
Ironically, the U.S. walked out of the ILO two years ago in protest against just such politicization. It returned this year, with much fanfare, after ostensibly having been convinced that the ILO would mend its ways and no longer engage in purely political debates. When the session opened, the big question was would the Americans walk out again if the conference turned into a forum for anti-Israel polemics.
“The American eagle turned into a chicken,” one Western correspondent observed when, during the debate over the agenda, the U.S. remained silent. Some of the American delegates explained that they had wanted to speak but were told that the speakers’ list was closed for lock of time.
POLITICIZATION WORRIED OFFICIAL
Others said they did a lot of lobbying. But the fact remained that the Americans did not fight to keep the resolution off the agenda and that attitude worried the Israeli as well as the Western delegations. Francis Blanchard, director general of the ILO, acknowledged in a television interview that he was worried about the organization’s future.
“The politicization of the conference made it impossible to tackle many of the ILO’s real problems and there is a danger that the ILO will cease to be what it is meant to be and will deal only in political matters,” he said. Yet many observers claimed that Blanchard did not do as much as he might have to stop the Arab resolution from being presented.
According to the voting procedures, negative votes do not count and if the 15 had abstained, the necessary quorum would not have been attained.
Israel was supported by Latin American countries and the Western Europeans. Thanks to Histodrut and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), many worker delegates sided with Israel while their governments supported the anti-Israel move. This was the case with Sri Lanka, Niger, Mauritania and Uganda. Even workers from France, Italy and Iceland whose organizations are Communist, supported Israel. The Mexican government, which is purportedly now friendly toward Israel, spoke against it, indicating a reversion to the policies of former President Luis Echeverria.