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Split in Australian union over ad

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An anti-Israel ad branded anti-Semitic has sparked a bitter split in one of Australia’s most powerful trade unions.

Paddy Crumlin, the national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, this week condemned the advertisement – which accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” – even though it was supported by his union’s Sydney branch.

Crumlin blasted the ad, published in The Australian newspaper March 12 – the day Australia’s parliament passed a bipartisan motion congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary – as “an appalling choice of words.”

The union’s Sydney branch and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union were slammed last month by U.S. Jewish Labor leader Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Jewish Labor Committee and of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Appelbaum accused the unions in the Forward newspaper of “anti-Semitism cloaked under the veil of anti-Zionism.”

But Crumlin distanced himself this week from his Sydney branch.

“I would be the last person to equate the establishment of Israel with racism and ethnic cleansing,” he told The Australian newspaper. “That was an appalling choice of words.”

Another union leader, Paul Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union who had blasted the two unions for “lining up” with Hamas, this week declared his pride at his union’s close links with Israel’s Histadrut labor union. Howes also lamented that the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has often been “the play thing of Palestinian factional politics.”

But the construction union blasted back, accusing Howes of “assumption and slander” in his attack on fellow unionists.

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