Grave concerns about the international situation were heightened at the STUC as continuing reports of the attacks on Palestine came through first hand from trade unionists. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/siu/siumay02.html#5
A few weeks ago, John McFadden, Scottish NEC member, and union President Veronica Dunn, were on a UNISON delegation to the Middle East where they met both Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists.
"We were in Gaza and Ramallah during the worst two days (then) of the Israeli invasion of Palestine... Little did we know what would follow!", John told delegates.
"Ramallah looks like a ghost town. People are battered and terrified and see only a dark future for their children", added Veronica, moving the Palestine motion.
They heard first hand of attacks on ambulances, the deaths of journalists and saw the humiliation of people in long queues at checkpoints. John spoke of the factors creating the international crisis. "A lot has been said about what happened on September 11 last year, and rightly so. The attacks that day were appaling and unacceptable. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives.
"Over and above the loss of life, many thousands more have since been affected by disability, lay-offs and redundancies.
"This action has done nothing to further the cause of freedom anywhere. On the contrary it was a contributing factor to Israel's ability to carry out its terror attacks on the Palestinians without any restraint by the international community and it was the catalyst for the threats against Iraq, not to mention the further disasters suffered by the people of Afghanistan", explained John.
"Individual acts of terror, whether September 11 or suicide bombings in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, must be condemned. "The murder of innocent civilians can only prolong the agony.
"But the actions of any nation that responds in the way Israel has and the US plans to do in Iraq, must also be condemned".
Like veteran South African campaigner Denis Goldberg, John found it difficult to be even handed about the current violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
"On the one side you have a lightly armed, oppressed people whose land was taken by terror campaigns in 1948 to establish the state of Israel.
"This is why we remember Deir Yassin and the 400 other villages the Palestinian people fled from, causing the massive refugee problem still dogging the peace process.
"On the other you have the might of a nation founded by its own brand of terrorism, supported financially and militarily by the most powerful nation on earth, and which has one of the best-equipped and most sophisticated military machines anywhere".
John said the US and UK governments were "quite right to pursue the perpetrators of September 11 and to state that a political solution based on UN resolutions is needed in the Middle East."
However, they had to show clear evidence to justify their actions in Afghanistan and they had to show their intention that all sides must abide by UN resolutions. "They have to stop using language which links all black people to acts of terror", said John.
"They also have to show that all perpetrators of terrorism will be brought to justice.
"By standards applied in Kosovo and Serbia, Ariel Sharon should have been brought to trial for war crimes long ago.
"We must make our government listen to the views of less developed parts of the world, particularly Asia and Africa, and listen to us when we try to tell them of the madness of their approach.
"We have tried three times to meet a government minister since we came back and each time we've been ignored. So much for their open door approach. This cannot go on!", said John.
Veronica Dunn made a passionate call for the world to act. "We call on the Israeli government to end the invasion and implement the UN resolutions. We call on the USA to use its influence and we call on the EU to engage themselves.
"We are all now part of a world community. We must call on the world to act now and end this conflict and create a Palestinian state", said Veronica.
John stressed the need to work with the established trade union movement and in particular to ask "our American counterparts to put pressure on their government".
He wrote in an article during Congress week, "One of the more positive signs we encountered was the attitude of the Israeli trade union centre, Histadrut, in opposing Sharon, although they and Israeli peace campaigners are treated similarly to Palestinians when they try to speak up".
"We can also put pressure on Israel. A boycott of Israeli produce has been called for. Every one of us can raise this in our own organisations and with our employers and other organisations, to get them also to refuse to purchase Israeli goods."
John summed up with the chilling warning that all that is being created is more hate, more disaffection and more extremism. "What is needed is to deal with the issues of oppression and poverty. Removing the breeding grounds for terror will be more effective in 'rooting out terrorism' than all the tanks and bombs", he said.
See John's full speech online at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/international/palestine3.html