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Israeli military assisting striking sailors in 1951..

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Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
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May 22 2008 19:09
Israeli military assisting striking sailors in 1951..

I just finished reading a book about the 1951 Sailors` strike in Israel. Seems that the sailors were striking to get their Histadrut-independent union recognized, and some of their leaders were drafted in order to break the strike. Field commanders (and even quite a few high-grade officers) helped them sneak out to union committees and even public meetings, when they could. The police, of course, just did the dirty work for the Histadrut union bosses and the Haifa municipality, going to the point of lying to sailors on a striking ship that one of the police officers had been injured in order to get them to stop the blockade and lose the strike.

Yet another example of the military being more susceptible to working class interests than the police.

Incidentally, the Shoham shipping company (now Zim), who employed all of those sailors, was then owned and operated by Histadrut, which might have put them in a conflict of interests. roll eyes

Another anecdote is that Histadrut had a body called "plugot hapo'el" or "sadraney hapo'el" (Labour corps/ushers) who would just pick fights with the strikers, after which the police would only arrest members of the latter. These ushers were recruited from among workers in more disciplined factories, among other things. If anyone knows anything about them, I'd be interested to hear.

Finally, I found the following quote from the book to be very perceptive: (rough impromptu translation follows)

Nimrod Eshel wrote:
"My, you've changed your skin" I told Werner when I met him, "turning into a staunch defender of Histadrut after all these years of telling us to leave it."
"Not at all", he replied, "I am perfectly consistent. I neither love nor hate Histadrut. There are no emotions in politics, only interests. You know I've always thought that unionism was a disaster, and I still do. The Revisionists* promised to eradicate the trade union, which is why I supported them. Now I've come to realize that Mapai+ are doing it better and more thoroughly. We both know that this union of Shaul Avigur's and his organizing committee# is a farce, what they call a "yellow union" in America, and I'm all for it!"

* theoretical leaders of what became Ezel, Lehi and eventually, Herut.
+ who were in control of Histadrut at that time.
# set up by Histadrut after the strike to replace the free union.