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U.N. Labor Panel Scores Israel for Treatment of Palestinians

Israel’s treatment of Palestinian workers in the administered territories came under bitter attack during this year’s International Labor Organization conference here.

The attack, led by Arab countries with dubious records concerning their own trade unions and workers’ rights, occurred during a special session dealing with a report on workers in the administered territories.

Still, monitors of the conference said the attack was less heated than in years past, and they noted that Arab countries did not try to push through any resolutions censuring Israel.

But the special session itself was disturbing to many supporters of Israel, who believe Israel is being singled out for political reason. The ILO conference was held from June 4 through June 27.

Rabbi Menachem Porush, the Israeli deputy minister of labor and social affairs, asked why Israel alone was the subject of discussion and said, “Are there no problems, no problems at all in other countries? “

The delegate from the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation, said the organization was trying to educate Palestinians in the administered territories about their rights and was willing to give them whatever help or information they needed.

“Instead of fighting the mosquitoes, let us dry up the marshes,” the delegate, Yousfi Kara, said, quoting a proverb.” Let us drain the swamp of hostility and hatred,” he added.

But most Arab delegates refused to address the topic of Palestinian worker’s rights and instead chose to use the session as a way to argue against U.S. and Israeli policy in the region.

‘ISRAEL HAS BEEN SINGLED OUT’

“We clearly see that peace cannot possibly be achieved in Palestine, the land of peace, as long as Israel continues to pursue its aggressions policy and as long as the United States does not bear pressure on Israel,” said Farouk Kaddoumi of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“The extent to which the Israeli occupation authorities flout international conventions and agreements is obvious,” charged the Syrian delegate, whose country is considered one of the worst violators of human rights.

Since 1978, the report on the administered territories has been a regular addition to the ILO’s annual study of trade union and workers’ rights around the world.

In New York, Michael Perry, assistant director of the Jewish Labor Committee, said he was “greatly disturbed that Israel has been singled out for special criticism.”

Perry, whose organization recently issued a report on trade union rights in Arab League Countries, pointed out the virtual absence of such rights in the Arab world.

But despite the usual charges leveled against Israel, it emerged relatively unscathed this year.

“On the positive side, nothing official was passed and no resolution against Israel come out of the conference,” said Petty, whose organization monitored the meeting.

In the past, important ILO business has been held up by Arab countess’s insistence that the organization take up anti-Israel resolutions.

(JTA correspondent Aliza Marcus at the United Nations contributed to this report.)

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