An Israeli expert on conflict resolution, Moty Cristal, was due to speak at a conference organised by the NHS on behalf of health trust managers and union officials.
Cristal has worked in the past with Palestinian groups and human-rights organizations, and has lectured on his field on numerous occasions in Britain, including a lecture to the Muslim Council of Britain. Despite this, he received an e-mail on Friday from the company that organized the event, that Cristal’s expertise was no longer required, following pressure by members of UNISON, Britain’s largest trade union, which represents 1.3 million public service workers. The message said the class was being canceled “on the grounds that it is [the union’s] policy and also that of the Trades Union Council to support the Palestinian people.”
Cristal responded to the cancelation by writing to Manchester Mental Trust chief executive Jackie Daniel, “In terms of your future bargaining position with UNISON, I believe that the last minute cancelation is perceived more of an appeasement toward UNISON, rather than a leadership call. Values-wise, unlike you, I am confident that the only way to resolve conflicts, let alone the Israeli-Palestinian one, is through effective communication and constructive dialogue, rather than violence or boycotts.”
The Israeli Embassy in London said in response that “the cancelation of a private expert simply due to his citizenship or ethnic identity is a racist policy in every way. What is even more shameful is the fact this was supposed to be an NHS-sponsored workshop dealing, ironically, with negotiating and conflict resolution. It seems that those who canceled it are in urgent need of such training.
There’s more about this in the Guardian. I think even some supporters of various kinds of Israel boycott would not condone this step.
Lucy Lips adds:
The Guardian article does not name the Unison official who publicly defended the actions of his union. Haaretz does. It is Kevan Nelson:
In response, Kevan Nelson, the regional secretary of UNISON North West Region confirmed that “UNISON’s local representatives at the Manchester Mental Health & Social Care Trust did request that the decision to invite Mr Moti Cristal to facilitate a Partnership Workshop on 8th May 2012 be reversed.”
Explaining the decision, Nelson said, “It was considered that the decision to invite a prominent Israeli negotiator would be unacceptable given UNISON and TUC policy on the Middle East conflict, the irrelevance of the speaker to working relationships within a local NHS Trust and the inappropriateness of funding an international speaker at times of such austerity, when front line staff in the trust are at risk of redundancy.”
This article explains that Kevan Nelson is a member of the Stalinist political party, the Communist Party of Britain. As a “Straight Left” person, he would have been a comrade of The Guardian’s Seumas Milne:
Kevan Nelson, Straight Left’s top person on Merseyside, is in the CPB but seems to be lost without trace in Unison politics, where he is employed as Dave Prentis’s trot-finder general, hunting down SWP activists.
This is what you get if you allow members of the most extreme and vicious political parties to operate, unchallenged, on the Left.
Hat tip: PetertheHungarian in the comments