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NYC Council Members: Don’t Tour Apartheid Israel
Labor for Palestine, February 22, 2015
We condemn the participation of fifteen NYC council members* in an all-expense-paid junket to Israel this month, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. As a coalition of grassroots organizations have pointed out, “this trip is the equivalent of crossing an international picket line,” thereby betraying both the labor and racial justice movements that City Council members claim to support.
Fatin Jarara of Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition explains: “On this trip they would no doubt be shielded from the checkpoints, the settlements, the separation wall, the refugee camps, the destroyed homes and schools, and all of the other elements that make up the apartheid, colonial state that continues to occupy Palestine.”
The Dream Defenders’ 2014 delegation to Palestine says: “We believe this City Council trip would be a dangerous symbolic gesture of normalizing Israeli’s apartheid state. . . . We know Israeli training forces have a long mentoring relationship with NYPD, and if you stand with oppressed people and against police brutality here at home, you must stand with oppressed people and against state violence abroad.”
Indeed, Israel’s systematic violation of human rights parallels, on even larger scale, police brutality against communities of color in this country that claims the lives of one African American every twenty-eight hours.
Thus, while police murdered Eric Garner in Staten Island and Mike Brown in Ferguson last summer, Israel massacred at least 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza (including more than 500 children), while killing many other Palestinians in the West Bank and 1948 Palestine. Since 2000 alone, Israel has killed more than 8,896 Palestinians; at least 1,895 have been children.
Just as police violence in the U.S. reflects the ongoing system of racial injustice upon this country was founded, Israel’s crimes are rooted in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, including Israel’s very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba (Catastrophe).
For all these reasons and more, veteran South African freedom fighters report that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is “worse than apartheid.”
That is why Palestinian trade unions and civil society echo earlier civil rights and anti-apartheid movements by calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law by:
1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
That is why BDS is championed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions and numerous other trade unionists around the world, including West Coast dockworkers who refuse to handle Israeli Zim line cargo, and UAW 2865 at the University of California.
That is why City Council members must end their complicity with all forms of racist violence and get on the right side of history, from New York City to Palestine. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Initial NYC-Based Signers (Affiliations for identification only || *Labor for Palestine Co-Convener)
Larry Adams, Former President, NPMHU L. 300; Co-founder, NYC Labor Against the War; People’s Organization for Progress
*Suzanne Adely, U.S.-MENA Global Labor Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW
Marty Goodman, Former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union L. 100 (retired)
*Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; Co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, NYC Labor Against the War
Chuck Mohan, President, Guyanese American Workers United
Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-founder, NYC Labor Against the War; NE Regional Co-Organizer, Million Worker March Movement
*Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union L. 100 (retired)
*Participating in the apartheid tour are City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Members Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer.