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About Labor for Palestine

cropped-cropped-Update-5.jpgLabor for Palestine was launched in April 2004 by New York City Labor Against the War and Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition to reclaim the legacy of working class solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle in the United States, as reflected in groundbreaking statements by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1969, and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973.

LFP endorses the 2005 Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which demands an end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

This includes support for calls from Palestinian trade unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and other trade unionists around the world to refuse to handle Israeli cargo, and calling on labor bodies to divest from Israel Bonds and cut ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation.

Toward these ends, LFP has:


To get more information, invite a speaker, or start a chapter, please contact us here.

Donate to Labor for Palestine here.

Labor for Palestine Co-Conveners

Suzanne Adely, U.S.-MENA Global Labor Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW

Michael Letwin, former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired)

Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union Local 100, NYC (retired)

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LFP Bulletin: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution

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Screenshot 2016-05-28 11.05.17View in PDF format: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution

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Contents:

May 27, 2016
Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution
— and more, from Labor for Palestine
Please forward widely!

Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865,GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification
Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals.
Click here to read full statement
Like UAW 2865 BDS on Facebook
Like GEO-UAW 2322 BDS on Facebook
Like GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS on Facebook

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)
“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”
Click here to read full article

Click below to like and share this online poster:

Like TAA/AFT Local 3220 on Facebook

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”
Click here to read full article

Resource: Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly)
Notable challenges to this dominant Labor Zionism began in the late 1960s. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1969 and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. Since September 11, 2001, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), Labor for Palestine, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and others. Increasingly, such efforts have made common cause with racial justice and other movements, and—at the margins—have begun to crack Labor Zionism’s seemingly impregnable hold in the United States.
Click here to read full article
Like Labor for Palestine on Facebook
Visit Labor for Palestine Online
Get information, invite speaker, start a chapter
Donate to Labor for Palestine

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Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

Screenshot 2016-05-27 09.03.37For Immediate Release
May 26, 2016

Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine:
Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

UAW 2865 BDS Caucus Press Contact: uaw2865bds@gmail.com
GEO-UAW 2322 Palestine Solidarity Caucus Contact: anna.waltman@gmail.com
GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS Caucus Contact: gsocmembersforbds@gmail.com

Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals. The UAW’s Public Relations Board (PRB) is the latest body to attempt to quell labor solidarity with Palestinians by affirming the UAW International Executive Board’s (IEB) nullification of Local 2865’s majority member vote to support BDS.

UAW Local 2865, which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, voted in December 2014 to support BDS with 65% of voting members in favor. The vote saw unusually high turnout, greater than that of a recent contract ratification vote. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International Executive Board struck down the BDS resolution, despite affirming the democratic integrity of the vote. This week, the UAW PRB, a body charged with reviewing decisions of the Executive Board on appeal, affirmed the nullification.

The PRB’s decision to uphold nullification of the BDS vote is based solely on a thread of antidemocratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts. They posit that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate within the IEB, let alone the membership – the International Union now holds a position against BDS and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position. The PRB ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW IEB to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses. Because the original BDS vote thereby recognized the authority of the IEB, the PRB decision represents an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW.

Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam, a rank and file member, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. The PRB’s decision tells us that the President of UAW in 2007 had a different view. Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International Union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS, but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

A growing number of graduate student worker organizations have endorsed BDS. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing over 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel. Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, voted overwhelmingly in favor (81%) of adopting a BDS resolution.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession, and apartheid. Despite the attempts of top-down International Union officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank-and-file support is against them. We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom, and equality.” – Joe Keady, GEO/UAW2322 rank & file member

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Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS

randi_weingarten

Union bosses, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, are increasingly finding their pro-Israel positions challenged by the rank and file. (AFGE)

Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month became the latest unionized workers in the US to vote in favor of a resolution supporting the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Meanwhile a United Auto Workers review board upheld a decision by the union’s national executive to nullify a democratic vote backing BDS by rank and file members in California.

In the Wisconsin ballot, 81 percent of voting members in the 9,000-strong Teaching Assistants’ Association backed a resolution calling for divestment from Israeli state institutions and international firms complicit in Israeli military occupation and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.

The resolution passed by members of TAA/AFT Local 3220 calls on the University of Wisconsin, its parent union the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO national labor federation to divest.

The TAA Palestine Solidarity Caucus notes in a press release that deteriorating working conditions for educators in the US “are directly related to the rise of spending on militarism and the consequential disinvestment from public universities and the public sector as a whole.”

The union also takes aim at widespread efforts to demonize and criminalize BDS activism, including within the trade union movement where support for Palestinian rights is growing.

Challenge

TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States.

Its vote represents a challenge to the leadership of its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), whose executives have strongly opposed BDS.

As The Electronic Intifada reported last year, AFT President Randi Weingarten has tried to smear BDS by association with violence and terrorism.

Weingarten and other top union officials have used their positions to promote Zionism, albeit in its liberal form, the Israeli state ideology that denies Palestinians their basic rights.

They have also helped Israel whitewash its 2014 assault on Gaza that killed approximately 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children.

AFT leaders have endorsed Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election despite the presumed Democratic nominee’s hawkish support for Israel and justifications of its killings of Palestinians.

Yet the TAA vote is another marker of a shift among rank and file union members.

Last month, graduate student workers at New York University voted to back BDS by a large margin.

Their local union, GSOC-UAW 2110, held a vote despite efforts by executives from the parent union to block a referendum and cancel an election.

A week earlier, the Graduate Employee Organization of UAW Local 2322 (GEO-UAW 2322) adopted a BDS resolution with 95 percent of the votes.

That union represents more than 2,000 graduate student workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Overturning democracy

In 2014, UAW Local 2865, which currently represents 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, became the first US union to join the BDS movement in a landslide vote.

But executives at the parent union, the United Auto Workers, nullified the vote last December.

In a decision issued on 16 May, the UAW’s Public Review Board (PRB) rejected an appeal against the nullification.

The 27-page ruling “to uphold nullification of the BDS vote … is based solely on a thread of anti-democratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts,” the solidarity caucuses of UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322 and GSOC-UAW 2110 said in a joint statement.

According to the statement, “[the review board posits] that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate among the [International Executive Board], let alone the membership – the international union now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position.”

“The [Public Review Board] ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW [International Executive Board] to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses,” the solidarity caucuses state.

The nullification of the vote represents “an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW,” they add.

A leading Israel lobby group has welcomed the UAW’s decision to overturn a democratic vote.

“We applaud the Public Review Board for declaring that UAW Local 2865 had no authority to subvert the UAW International’s position opposing the BDS movement,” Dean Schramm, the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles regional president, said.

Schramm accused union members of promoting “polarizing political propaganda and misinformation promoted by the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

In contrast to its opposition to the struggle for Palestinian rights, the UAW strongly supported divestment from apartheid South Africa. In 1978, the union withdrew all its money from banks that made loans there.

It also pulled pension fund investments from firms complicit in human rights abuses in South Africa.

Sea change

The decision to nullify the vote came after UCLA graduate student Stephen Brumbaugh and other members of a small anti-BDS group called Informed Grads filed a complaint.

Informed Grads were represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an elite law firm with a long record of defending corporate clients, including such union-busting and environment-polluting firms as Chevron and Walmart.

Liz Jackson, an attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS; but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top.”

“This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion,” Jackson added.

That sea change is already happening. As a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found, the base of the Democratic Party is increasingly sympathetic to Palestinian rights, opening up an ever wider gap with establishment leaders like Hillary Clinton.

The support for Palestinian rights is growing most rapidly among Millennials – people born after 1980.

Similar cracks are now starting to show in the trade union movement as well.

“This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers,” Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam said, adding that thousands of union members disagree with the position on BDS stated by the UAW president almost a decade ago.

Union leaders “cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS,” Mogannam added.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession and apartheid,” said Joe Keady, a rank and file member of GEO-UAW 2322.

“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”

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Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)

Update1Huffington Post

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be?

05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET

On May 25 the New York Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman with the incendiary title, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine,” which attempts to show just how far the Israeli Prime Minister has gone to destroy any notion of a two-state solution. That Friedman would have only now caught on to the demise of such a possibility should indicate just how far out of touch he is.

Friedman spends his space talking about Netanyahu’s purging of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, and his naming of “far-right Avigdor Lieberman” as his Yaalon’s replacement. But he begins his piece with this entrée: “Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the ‘boycott, divestment, sanctions’ (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.”

Friedman seems to take always alluding in some way or another to BDS as an obligation. Not only does he do so with remarkable consistency, he also always gets it wrong. More than two years ago, Mondoweiss succinctly captured Friedman’s modus operanti: “Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions.”

Yes, Friedman persistently misattributes the origins of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, (BDS) which in 2005 emanated not from U.S. college campuses as he suggests, but rather from Palestinian civil society, with over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements joining together to fight for Palestinian rights. Talk about obfuscation.

Besides purposefully erasing the origins of BDS, Friedman constantly ignores its reach. Well beyond the borders of U.S. college campuses, churches, unions, artists, writers, musicians and others, from around the world, have either explicitly endorsed BDS or taken on one or another of its tactics. And they are doing so in increasing numbers.

In April the Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; in May the United Methodist Church passed three measures criticizing Israel and advocating for Palestinian rights; in January that same church put five Israeli banks on a blacklist, declaring that the church would do no business with banks involved in the Occupation; previously in 2014 the United Presbyterian Church voted to divest from companies doing business on the West Bank.

In terms of labor unions, Vijay Prashad notes,

a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UE—decided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.”

Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”

Artists and musicians such as Junot Diaz, Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Chuck D, Boots Riley, and others have come out in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in Augist 2015 over a thousand Black artists and activists signed on. As I reported then:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

Commenting on Friedman’s latest, Mondoweiss again has it just right:

Friedman’s smear is obviously the establishment litmus test these days. Hillary Clinton says BDS is bad. So does President Obama, so does the French prime minister. But that will soon change. As Israel sinks further into its existential identity crisis, the few remaining liberals among the Jewish elites there will turn desperately to the world to pressure Israel, as Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner have already done. That pressure means boycott, divestment and sanctions. And if it also means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that prospect will by then no longer be tragic to realistic Americans, including Friedman, who have glimpsed the paranoid Sparta that the Jewish democracy has produced.

One can only wonder how long Thomas Friedman can staunchly keep on with his delusional lies about BDS.

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National Wave of Labor Support for Justice for Palestinians as Unions Vote to Divest from Israeli Apartheid: GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment (GSOC-UAW 2110, GEO-UAW 2322, UAW 2865)

Screenshot 2016-04-26 18.30.03Issued by the BDS Caucuses of UAW 2110 (NYU), UAW 2322 (UMass), and UAW 2865 (UC)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2016

Media contacts
NYU – gsocmembersforbds@gmail.com
UMass Amherst – Anna Waltman: anna.waltman@gmail.com UCs – uaw2865bds@gmail.com | Jennifer Mogannam: jennifer.mogannam@gmail.com

National Wave of Labor Support for Justice for Palestinians as Unions Vote to Divest from Israeli Apartheid

GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment

This past week the NYU Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), both representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

On April 22, GSOC-UAW 2110 endorsed a resolution calling for BDS against Israel with a 66.5 % member vote in favor. This endorsement came on the heels of the landslide vote of GEO-UAW 2322 member vote with 95% of voters in support. The resolutions calls on their respective employers–NYU and UMass–and their parent union, UAW International, to divest pension funds and other investments from Israeli institutions complicit in human rights violations of Palestinians. GSOC members also called on NYU to close its campus at Tel Aviv University, and 57% pledged to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel until they respect Palestinian rights.

These resolutions by aspiring educators of future generations significantly contribute to the already evolving discourse on justice for Palestinians. Growing momentum in U.S. labor movements adds to over eight academic associations which have endorsed BDS with resounding majorities. Last year, the Connecticut AFL-CIO (200,000 members) and the United Electrical Workers (35,000 members) also endorsed BDS.

“We are seeing growing momentum among grassroots labor in support for justice and equality for Palestinians. This wave of successive victories for BDS among labor groups representing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country is empowering and in line with the rich histories labor unions have in supporting justice movements.”–Beezer De Martelly, UAW 2865 member

As the movement for Palestinian freedom and equality continues to grow across the U.S., so too have concerted efforts to silence those critical of Israeli policies. In December 2014, the 14,000 student-worker union at the University of California (UAW Local 2865) system passed a similar resolution supporting BDS with 65% in favor. While admitting the vote was democratic, UAW International went on to “nullify” the results on dubious grounds, a decision that is currently under appeal. The decision clearly did not deter other locals from putting BDS to vote, a testament that movements for and by the people will persist despite undemocratic mechanisms of sanctioning political speech and grassroots commitments to local and global social justice.

“This surge of BDS campaigns by rank-and-file union members is an example of how workers are engaging in union democracy to reclaim the labor movement as a platform to take a stand on important social struggles of our time. Despite attempts by the UAW International Executive Board to quell BDS activism in the ranks, the fact that workers from coast to coast have democratically expressed solidarity with Palestinians shows that movements for justice cannot be silenced.” Anna Waltman, GEO-UAW 2322 member

Numerous unions, labor groups, and human rights organizations supported the integrity of UAW 2865’s BDS stand. A statement by the Autoworker Caravan, a coalition of industrial workers within the UAW committed to social justice unionism, commended Local 2865 on continuing UAW’s tradition of anti-South African apartheid and civil rights activism. These resolutions reflect the will of rank and file members and have engaged wide segments of workers in vigorous debate and conversation. Members have learned that Palestinian labor unions are not recognized by Israel, creating especially dire conditions for the 92,000 Palestinian workers who cross into Israel and its settlements. Historically, the labor movement has exerted real pressure on employers through strikes and workplace actions, and BDS campaigns have played a major role in the democratic awakening among labor unions in the U.S. These new votes of U.S. labor union endorsements for Palestinian freedom and equality adds additional weight to the voices who have already spoken out against Israeli human rights violations, and in support of BDS. U.S labor unions have a rich history of standing in solidarity with struggles for justice, and members will continue to mobilize so that all workers matter, not just some.

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America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)

Alternet

America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine

The Israeli government and its American allies have spent millions of dollars to destroy the credibility of the BDS advocates. It does not seem to have succeeded.
JWJ

On March 28th, a “Stop the Boycott” conference was held in Jerusalem. Afraid of the support for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the participants lashed out against its advocates. Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz called upon his government to conduct “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders. Such an alarming statement is not unusual. Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information said that BDS activists must “pay the price” for their advocacy (he later said that he did not mean to provoke “physical harm”). Israel’s Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri has threatened to revoke the permanent residency of BDS leader Omar Barghouti–who says that he now fears for his life.

Such is the Israeli reaction to the peaceful BDS movement.

The United States Congress sometimes seems like a subsidiary of the Israeli Knesset. Senators Mark Kirk (Republican of Illinois) and Joe Manchin (Democrat of West Virginia) as well as Representatives Robert Dold (Republican of Illinois) and Juan Vargas (Democrat of California) tabled the ‘Combating BDS Act of 2016’ in both houses. This bill asks state and local governments to divest from any group that “engages in commerce or investment-related boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel.” Republican donor and gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson held a secret anti-BDS gathering in Las Vegas, where mega-donors pledged to go after BDS activists – mainly the college campus activities of BDS activists and the Students for Justice in Palestine. Last year, Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton wrote to Democratic donor Haim Saban to pledge her support against BDS. “I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she wrote. Clinton linked the BDS campaign, which targets Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, to anti-Semitism. It is the clichéd way to rebuke BDS campaigns and campaigners.

The Israeli government and its American allies have spent millions of dollars to destroy the credibility of the BDS advocates. It does not seem to have succeeded.

As if undaunted, a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UEdecided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.” There is no immediate sense that the national—which represents twelve and a half million workers – would follow suit.

A few years ago, the AFL-CIO—whose membership dwindled in the United States—turned to college campuses to organize adjunct professors and other campus teachers. This strategy has borne fruit, as many unions, especially the United Auto Workers (UAW)—found receptive campus workers (teachers, adjuncts, and graduate students) to fight for and form locals. A number of these campus unions have begun to push for BDS resolutions in their student and faculty organizations. Two affiliates of the UAW took the lead on this road – UAW Local 2865, the University of California’s graduate student union that represents thirteen thousand workers, and Graduate Employees Organization-UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) that represents over two thousand workers.

It is little wonder that the labor movement for Palestine has a strong foundation on college campuses. Many scholarly bodies voted in favor of BDS—American Studies Association being the most prominent, while the American Anthropological Association is currently getting ready to vote on a resolution. Anti-BDS advocates are correct to point to the colleges as a hotbed of BDS activity, with bold Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP) units sprouting up across the country. Pressure to rein in the SJP groups runs up against moderate faculty support for these student initiatives, either on the grounds of free speech or of solidarity with Palestine.

Social movements across the United States—whether Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ struggles—have stretched out their arms towards Palestine. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization cleverly linked its struggle to that of the Vietnamese and the Algerians, building on global solidarity movements already in motion. This current solidarity is an echo of that era of “Palestine is Another Vietnam.” The 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine and the many tours of Black Lives Matter activists to Palestine as well as the solidarity statements from Palestine to Ferguson provide the template for the new connections. The most powerful symbol of this was the visit to Palestine by activists from Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders and Ferguson/Hands Up United. Standing in Nazareth, the young men and women sang a powerful song of solidarity, drawing a line between Ferguson and Palestine. This is the culture that moved the CUNY Doctoral Students Council to endorse BDS. “The repression of CUNY students,” said fourth year History student Jeremy Randall, “is connected to the same systems of power that uphold the Israeli state’s violation of Palestinian rights.” Comparisons and connections between the security state in the West Bank and in the United States embolden the solidarity.

In 2004, activists in al-Awda New York and New York City Labor Against the War formed Labor for Palestine. They did so, as Michael Letwin told me, “to honor the BDS picket line and fight for full inclusion of the Palestinian liberation struggle in the post-9/11 antiwar movement.” Letwin, who comes from a radical family and has been involved in most radical struggles in New York since the 1960s, understands that there has been a strand in the labor movement committed to Palestine. “There is a hidden tradition of US trade union solidarity with Palestine,” he told me. In 1969, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers took a position against Zionism, and in 1973 Black and Arab workers in the UAW “held wildcat strikes against the UAW.”

Labor for Palestine prods the US labor movement for good reason. Suzanne Adely, another leader in Labor for Palestine, tells me that the US labor unions have to disinvest from the Israel Bonds, which provide capital towards the occupation. Adely understands that the movement, however, has a history of complicity not only with the Israeli labor federation but also with the Israeli state. “Labor solidarity against apartheid and racism,” she says, “has always come from below.” The leadership has to be pushed by the union locals and by campaigns such as Labor for Palestine.

Western Massachusetts’ Labor for Palestine is one of these local chapters. It comes out of both the GEO-UAW Local 2322 struggle and the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine; the labor movement and the Palestine solidarity movement, in other words. The members of this chapter come out of union work, but also from Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ liberation groups. “We wanted to remain active in the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine,” says Ruth Jennison, an English professor at UMASS, “but we also wanted an organization that drew on the constant and permanent nature of union activism.” The chapter hosted a panel discussion last weekend at a Jobs with Justice conference in Springfield, MA, which was attended by representatives from Labor for Palestine and the Connecticut AFL-CIO. The Connecticut unionists – Carol Lambiase (UE) and Bill Shortell (Machinists union) – reported on a union trip to Palestine in 2015. In Palestine, Lambiase delivered a copy of the UE resolution for BDS to Shaher Sa’ed, the General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. The panel in Springfield was well attended. Jennison told me, “Many union members and some leadership are excited about our organization, and want to help us build.”

Pressure against BDS will continue. Attempts to make it illegal remain on the table. The UAW leadership continues to attempt to nullify the resolutions of some of its locals. The fight inside the unions has now turned from the question of BDS to that of union democracy. These are conjoined issues. “Ultimately,” Adely says to me, “building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter(AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South(Verso, 2013) and the forthcoming The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.

Featured

New Labor for Palestine Pamphlet

LFP

19-page color, in PDF format: LFP Pamphlet

Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.

Contents:

  • Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (December 2015)
  • Labor for Palestine Founding Statement (December 4, 2004)
  • Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)
  • Stop the War on Gaza: No Arms for Apartheid Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions! (July 28, 2014)
  • Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS): Statement of Principles & Call for International Trade Union Support for BDS (May 4, 2011)
  • Briefing: The Jewish Labor Committee and Apartheid Israel (April 13, 2010)
  • The Histadrut: Its History and Role in Occupation, Colonisation and Apartheid (October 11, 2012)
  • Briefing: Labor Zionism and the Histadrut (September 1, 2011)
  • Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA (Maan, March 11, 2016)
  • UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine (March 14, 2016)
Featured

Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly)

Download full text PDF: Labor for Palestine — Challenging US Labor Zionism

Screenshot 2015-12-23 19.45.28

Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Recent years have seen rapidly growing momentum behind the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), particularly in the wake of repeated Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008–9 that have left thousands dead, maimed, and homeless. In February 2007, as part of this campaign, Palestinian trade union bodies appealed directly for support, including a request for international labor to cut ties with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation. Although these calls have received wide-ranging support from trade unionists in South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Norway, and elsewhere, Labor Zionism remains ubiquitous in the United States. This first dates to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and establishment of the Histadrut in 1920. Such US Labor Zionism grew rapidly in the 1940s, as a combined result of the Nazi Holocaust, the Cold War, neocolonialism, and the USSR’s pivotal support for establishment of the Israel state. Even then, however, it has never had significant working-class roots. Since the Nakba of 1947–49, Labor Zionism in the United States has been promoted by the Histadrut’s US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC). Through such efforts, closely coordinated with Israeli officials, the JLC has organized trade union leaders’ support for Zionism.

Notable challenges to this dominant Labor Zionism began in the late 1960s. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1967 and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. Since September 11, 2001, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), Labor for Palestine, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and others. Increasingly, such efforts have made common cause with racial justice and other movements, and—at the margins—have begun to crack Labor Zionism’s seemingly impregnable hold in the United States. These recent developments run parallel to, and draw inspiration from, the American Studies Association’s own endorsement of BDS on December 13, 2013.

Zionist Roots in US Labor

Through the 1930s Jewish workers in the United States were adamantly anti-Zionist. Jewish Bundists viewed Zionism as a “sinister deviation from the true path … a mirage, compounded of religious romanticism and chauvinism,” and after the Nazis took power in 1933, “many Jews within American labor vehemently opposed Zionist efforts.” For example, the JLC, founded in 1934 to oppose the rise of Nazism, noted that

the great bulk of Jewish labor in the United States are … of the opinion that the Jewish question must be solved in the countries in which Jews live and therefore must be solved as part of the more general question of re-adjusting the economic, political, social and cultural life of our country to the needs of a new day.

In the 1940s, however, US labor leaders enlisted in the Histadrut’s well-orchestrated campaign for a Jewish state in Palestine, and finally won support of the previously anti-Zionist JLC. These efforts helped enable the impending Nakba (Catastrophe). Labor leaders established the National Trade Union Emergency Conference on Labor Palestine, which won over Jewish Bundists; silenced anti-Zionist holdouts; exploited rank-and-file workers’ sympathy for Holocaust victims; and helped convince Truman to support partition and lift the US arms embargo against the Zionist militias.

The Zionism of these labor officials was closely linked to their support for US imperialism, anticommunism, and racism against workers of color in the United States. This was consistent with Israel’s self-proclaimed role as “watchdog” for US imperial interests. Meanwhile, nearly all of the US labor Left mirrored the USSR’s indispensable support for establishment of the Israeli state.

In the subsequent decades, US trade union leaders across the political spectrum supported Israeli wars, charged “anti-Semitism” against those who criticized Israel’s close alliance with apartheid South Africa,” and bought huge quantities of State of Israel Bonds, which paralleled overall US government economic and military support for the Israeli state.

21 Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

21 Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons

Journalists

Palestinian journalists hold signs demanding freedom for detained colleague Samah Dweik, at a protest calling on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, in Gaza City, on 5 June.

Mohammed AsadAPA images

The number of Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons has risen to 21. This includes eight media workers arrested since the start of this year, prisoners rights group Addameer said on Monday.

Among them are Addameer’s own media coordinator Hassan Safadi and Omar Nazzal, a member of the general secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate.

Safadi was detained in May as he returned from an international conference in Tunisia, while Nazzal was detained in April as he was en route to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists.

Both are among more than 700 persons in administrative detention, Israel’s British-colonial-era practice of imprisoning Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial.

Addameer says journalists “are being targeted due to their efforts to document Israeli violations, including its practices of land confiscation, house demolitions and movement restrictions on the Palestinian population.”

According to Addameer, the detained journalists are from a range of backgrounds and outlets. They also include Al-Quds University media studies students Amir Abu Hleil and Muhammad Atta, and Birzeit University lecturer Nasser Khaseb.

Among them too are Samah Dweik, who was one of the few journalists closely following the case of Palestinian schoolgirl Marah Bakir, imprisoned for allegedly stabbing an Israeli soldier.

Dweik, held in a prison where Israel has traditionally kept female political prisoners, is accused of “incitement,” a charge Israel frequently levels against Palestinian journalists and social media users.

In addition to Addameer’s own media coordinator, Israel has also jailed, since 2011, Salah Addin Awwad, the director of media for the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Ongoing crackdown

In March, Israeli occupation forces launched a harsher crackdown on Palestinian journalists, after the government blamed media for inciting the upsurge in confrontations between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinians that began last October.

Israeli forces have physically assaulted and pepper sprayed journalists documenting their actions, abuses that have sometimes been captured on video.

An Israeli raid that shut down the Palestine Today TV station in Ramallah in March prompted sharp condemnation from the International Federation of Journalists.

“We cannot tolerate these continuous attacks from Israeli authorities to muzzle Palestinian press,” the group’s president Jim Boumelha said.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate appealed to the Newseum not to host Avital Leibovich, the Israeli military officer and spokesperson involved in the intentional killings of Palestinian journalists.

But the Washington, DC, institution that purports to uphold media freedoms rejected that call for solidarity, prompting protests and interruptions during Leibovich’s presentation.

UK academic union of over 100,000 members urges freedom for Imad Barghouthi, defense of Palestinians under attack (Samidoun)

Samidoun

UK academic union of over 100,000 members urges freedom for Imad Barghouthi, defense of Palestinians under attack

UCU

The UK’s University and College Union (UCU), representing over 100,000 members as the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK, affirmed its support for the rights of Palestinian academics under attack in an emergency motion passed at itsCongress on 1-3 June.

The motion, which was passed with no opposition, notes the arrest, detention, and now charges against renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, as well as the repression and threats against BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti; it instructs the union’s General Secretary to raise the matter with British officials and the Israeli embassy. The motion also commits UCU to distributing Samidoun’s call to action for Imad Barghouthi and fellow Palestinian prisoners, urging members to write to British and Israeli officials to call for his release.

The motion text:

Late motion for UCU Congress: Defend Palestinian academics

 Congress notes with dismay that:

  • Renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Professor Imad al-Barghouthi has been arrested and put in administrative detention for the second time; his release has been cancelled and he now faces trial.
  • Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement and graduate of Tel Aviv University, has had an effective travel ban placed on him, widely seen as a step towards revoking his residency rights, as Israeli ministers recently threatened.

Congress condemns these fundamental breaches of human rights, instructs the General Secretary to raise these matters urgently with the FCO and the Israeli Embassy, and agrees to circulate the call by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network* to all members, asking them to write to MPs and the Israeli embassy calling for Prof.Al-Barghouthi to be released immediately.

Congress further instructs the General Secretary to call on the Israeli authorities to end the use of administrative detention.

http://samidoun.net/2016/04/prominent-palestinian-astrophysicist-imad-barghouthi-detained-by-israeli-occupation-forces/

Barghouthi, 54, a professor at Al-Quds University and former employee of NASA in the United States, was arrested on 24 April at an Israeli military checkpoint as he traveled from Nabi Saleh to his home in Beit Rima. He was shortly ordered to three months’ administrative detention. Following an outcry by internationally prominent scientists, mathematicians and academics, his administrative detention without charge or trial was reduced to two months, and then his release ordered after one month. However, the Israeli military prosecution refused to release him and has now charged him in the military court system – where Palestinians are convicted at a rate greater than 99 percent – for posting on Facebook, labeling his posts “incitement.”

“My father isn’t the only scientist who has been persecuted by the Israeli occupation. There is a war on Palestinian education. I hope to see Israel held accountable for its cruel actions on an international level,” said Imad’s daughter, Duha Barghouthi, a new high school graduate whose graduation day came with her father imprisoned.

International organizations, scientists and academics have continued to call for Barghouthi’s immediate release, alongside other Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has faced threats and attacks on his residency by high-ranking Israeli officials, both in public speeches and in practice, alongside attempts to criminalize BDS internationally being forwarded by the Israeli government.

The UCU has a long history of international solidarity and important motions in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and the BDS movement. It has supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. It has also expressed solidarity with imprisoned Palestinians, including writer and academic Ahmad Qatamesh. The UCU has come under attack by right-wing pro-occupation forces for its consistent positions, and was victorious in 2013 in a legal challenge brought by a pro-Zionist union member which was soundly rejected by a British employment tribunal.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network thanks the University and College Union for once again, and consistently, standing with the Palestinian people and their rights and struggle for justice and liberation. We welcome the UCU’s resolution on Palestinian academics under attack and look forward to working together to secure freedom and justice for Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people.

Union officials suppress member support for BDS (Palestine Legal)

Palestine Legal

Union officials suppress member support for BDS

May 25, 2016
UAW
CREDIT: CLYDE ROBINSON

As a growing number of local unions endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) Public Review Board last week affirmed a decision to nullify the BDS resolution adopted by members of Local 2865.

UAW Local 2865 – which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California (UC) – voted by an overwhelming majority in December, 2014 to demand that their union and their employer, the UC, divest from companies complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International UAW, which oversees Local 2865, nullified the vote – despite its own finding that the local conducted a fair and democratic election. The local union appealed, and last week, the union’s Public Review Board affirmed the nullification.

The new decision reasons that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007, UAW now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate membership groups cannot assert a different position. But this reasoning ignores the fact that the 2007 statement was signed without any record of discussion among the Executive Board, much less any debate among the UAW’s membership.

Rank and file member of Local 2865, Jennifer Mogannam, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. … Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal staff attorney, commented, “The nullification reflects the national trend of suppression. People are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS. But when higher officials disagree – like state legislators, university administrators, and presidential candidates – they resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but attempts to suppress speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

Popular support for BDS is growing as three more graduate student worker organizations adopted resolutions this spring. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel.

Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, also voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a BDS resolution.

UW-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board Defends Union’s Democratic Process (TAA/AFT Local 3220)

TAA LogoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:
TAA – Executive Board
taa@taa-madison.org

UW-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board Defends Union’s Democratic Process

Madison, WI (May 25, 2016): In the wake of recent reactions to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association’s (TAA) vote in favor of a resolution to endorse the Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the TAA Executive board wishes to respond in utmost defense of the democratic, open voting process by which our union came to its decision.

From September 2015 to May 2016, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus (PSC), an independent caucus of members formed within the parameters of the TAA constitution, had presented information at General Membership Meetings, hosted discussion forums, and sought feedback from other members on the endorsement of BDS. Information about BDS and the PSC’s proposed resolution were shared widely via membership emails and on social media. In April, attendees at a General Membership Meeting voted unanimously to place the resolution on an electronic ballot as part of annual TAA officer elections, so as to ensure the largest possible participation of membership. (In contrast, most decisions about endorsements and sponsorships are made directly by members in attendance at the General Membership Meetings, which historically have lower turnout than the number who participate in officer elections.) Prior to this final vote, the PSC held two separate town hall meetings for members to discuss and voice any concerns over the resolutions. In addition, the PSC independently organized office visits to TAA members to make sure they were aware of the vote. In the final tally, 81% of voting members supported the BDS resolution.

We encourage all interested parties to read the specific text of the resolution. The resolution calls specifically for the AFL-CIO (our parent union to which we pay fees) and University of Wisconsin System to divest from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights. Above all, we wish to make clear that we are first and foremost accountable to our membership. It is our responsibility to make sure our members feel heard and supported within our union. It is also incumbent upon us to uphold the constitution and follow our procedures that ensure a democratic process. It is neither our right nor our responsibility, however, to interfere with the wishes and activities of our membership. The union speaks through the actions of the membership, actions that we are constitutionally bound to uphold and defend.

As leaders of the TAA we will not tolerate any forms of intimidation or retaliation against any of our members. We also recognize that our Jewish members may be feeling the most acute pressures at this time, regardless of where they stand on this issue. It is therefore our priority that the climate of our union and on our campus is one of respect, healthy debate, and care for each other. We will continue to hold spaces for discussion around this issue in which all members are invited and encouraged to participate.

The TAA has a long history of acting in solidarity with other movements beyond the labor issues of UW campus. It is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States and advocates for a university that is fair to all—including students, workers, and their families. Graduate student workers perform nearly half of all the instruction that takes place at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, while also taking classes and conducting research. The university works because we do.

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Poster: Salute to the UW-Madison graduate student workers of TAA/AFT Local 3220 for respecting the BDS picket line for Palestinian Rights!