The spread of boycott initiatives against the Jewish state by international labor unions prompted the youth organization of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) to reinforce its opposition to BDS with a June resolution.
“Boycott the boycotts,” wrote the DGB youth organization in its 2017 pro-Israel resolution, adding it “explicitly spoke against the anti-Israel campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and For One State and Return in Palestine.”
“We see it as therefore necessary to again reinforce our position from 2017” the labor unionists said in June. “We view, with worry at this time, the efforts from these campaigns and their demands to be implemented in international trade unions and committees.”
The DGB consists of eight unions and its total membership is nearly six million members. The DGB youth organization is for members until the age of 27 and has a membership of over 500,000. The confederation has vigorously opposed past boycotts of Israel.
In an August 8 interview on the website of the DGB youth organization about the anti-BDS resolution, Josef Holnburger from the DGB youth committee, said if the BDS demands were implemented, it would mean “the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state would be abolished.” He added that is the goal of the BDS coordinator Omar Barghouti.
“Campaigns of this form are, for us, antisemitic and not compatible with trade union understanding,” said Holnburger.
The young trade unionist said that it “continuously comes to antisemitic attacks in the context of this movement [BDS]. Violence is not decisively rejected, rather in parts glorified or relativized.”
Holnburger, who is also a member of the executive board of the European Trade Union Federation’s youth organization, said because BDS organizations “call for a cultural, political, scientific and economic boycott of Israel, they place Israel’s existence in question.” He sees their strategy as “destructive.”
He said the DGB youth organization cooperates with Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade union.
The legendary former head of the DGB, Michael Sommer, was a vehement opponent of BDS. As early as 2007, he equated boycott calls against Israel with the antisemitism of the Hitler movement.
“The boycott calls remind me in many formulations on the Nazi slogan: Don’t buy from Jews,” said Sommer. “We have a latent form of antisemitism in this society.” He added the German union movement views itself as a “fighter” of antisemitism.
In 2016, the 1,200-member local Education and Science Workers’ Union for teachers in the city of Oldenburg sparked an antisemitism row, with the publication of an article calling for a complete boycott of the Jewish state in its monthly magazine.
The national level of the teachers’ union, which is a member of the DGB, rejected BDS but members of the local branch in Oldenburg, including on its executive board, have continued to defend BDS.
GEW Oldenburg member and teacher Christoph Glanz, who authored the pro-BDS article, was accused of being a “racist and antisemite,” from the Social Democratic Party politician Michaela Engelmeier.