Statement made to Conference by NATFHE President Gerald Kelly on Trade Union Friends of Israel stall and presence at Conference
25th May 2003
Concerns have been expressed to me about the presence of a Trade Union Friends of Israel stall in the Exhibition Hall, and at some of the literature on that stall. I understand that the TUFI asked for a presence at our Conference, as other trade union linked bodies do, and this was agreed through the normal processes. I also understand that, when some delegates drew the attention of those staffing the TUFI stall to the fact that several items on display on the stall were found to be offensive, these were immediately removed. It does seem that some of these have been reinstated, and I have asked Steering Committee to address the issue.
NATFHE's position on Palestine and Israel is clear. We support the rights of the Palestinian people to education, democracy and other civil rights, and believe that these can best be achieved through the establishment of a democratic, viable state within its own borders. We have condemned the violence which is taking place within both Israel and Palestine, but we are clear that Israel is the oppressor, and is occupying Palestinian territory in breach of international law. However, NATFHE policy has been to work with both Palestinian and Israeli trade unions to achieve its goals, and at the 2 May meeting, the NEC agreed to seek to carry this policy forward and seek contacts with both Palestinian and Israeli unions under the auspices of Education International.
NATFHE's position has been determined by the democratic process, and can be moved on by the democratic process. Exhibitors are not subject to the same constraints, and we have no mechanism for closely monitoring what is put on individual stalls, except that where something is clearly offensive, we will ask for its removal.
As President, I am guardian of NATFHE's democracy, and that in this context is primarily concerned with the business on the floor of the Conference. I wish to ensure that the remaining business on Monday's agenda is dealt with in an orderly and business-like way, and would ask delegates to assist me in this process.