Israel’s Law Center threatens General Electric, Palestine Legal responds
Shurat Hadin, Israel’s Law Center (ILC), sent a letter to the President of General Electric (GE) Jeffrey R. Immelt, which demanded the company breach its labor deal with United Electrical (UE), and Radio and Machine Workers of America after the union endorsed the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Palestine Legal issued the following statement in response to the letter:
Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center’s claim that General Electric could be subject to ‘severe criminal and civil liability’ because the UE – with which the company has a union contract – endorsed BDS is based on unsupported allegations and fantastical legal theories that ignore a host of state and federal laws as well as the First Amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution. A company is not responsible for the political speech of a union that represents its employees in bargaining. Shurat HaDin’s recycled threats are part of a crude intimidation strategy attempting to silence academic associations, cooperatives, small business owners and now unions from trying to hold Israel accountable for its human rights violations.
A new labor agreement between the union and GE was ratified in June. UE represents approximately 3,500 GE employees.
The resolution to endorse BDS was passed in August at UE’s national convention in Baltimore. It calls on Congress to end military aid to Israel, and to “pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza” and negotiate a peace agreement that includes the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The resolution further endorses the BDS movement and urges the union “at all levels” to become engaged in BDS.
BDS is a global movement that aims to increase pressure on Israel both economically and politically to fulfill the goals of the movement. These goals include putting an end to the occupation and colonization of Palestinians, equal rights for Arab-Palestinian citizens that reside in Israel, and the ability for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. This campaign began in 2005 by Palestinian organizations and the civil society.
The letter from Shurat HaDin warns General Electric, headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, that “implementing BDS policies could result in severe criminal and civil liability for the company and its officers” and asks the company to confirm in a written statement that they have read and agreed with all the outlined terms in the letter.
The letter concludes with a warning that if the company fails to comply, Shurat HaDin will take lawful actions to make sure that GE does not involve itself with “instituting, promoting or inciting boycotts of the State of Israel, Israeli manufacturers, or companies or their products or services, including without limitation filing legal action without further notice”.
Shurat HaDin’s threats are part of a strategy that wants to silence associations that hold Israel responsible for violating Palestinian human rights.