Labor for Palestine Founding Statement
Initiated by New York City Labor Against the War and Al-Awda NY
December 4, 2004
Dear Fellow Trade Unionists and Workers:
International solidarity, the right of national self-determination, and social justice are among the most basic trade union principles. These principles have been reflected in labor opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s, in labor’s demand for divestment from South African apartheid and opposition to U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s, and to U.S. war and occupation in Iraq today.
Trade unionists who have taken these positions have often faced intense criticism. In response, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his support for the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace, by pointing out that, “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. . . . Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”[i]
In that spirit, we ask you to join us in Labor For Palestine.
The establishment of Israel in 1948 inflicted on the Palestinian people a continuing campaign of displacement, discrimination, exploitation and brutality that has continued to this day. This includes:
* Displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians and the continuing refusal to allow over 5 million refugees to return home
* Deprivation of Palestinian human and civil rights, including discriminatory laws, home demolitions, and water and other resource theft;
* Apartheid-like checkpoints and roadblocks that restrict freedom of movement;
* Denial of education and basic public services to Palestinian villages and to Palestinians within Israel (“Israeli Arabs”);
* Palestinians are denied access, lease or ownership to 91% of the lands occupied in 1948;
* Construction of illegal colonial settlements on land stolen and occupied by armed and violent settlers;
* Ongoing and brutal military occupation of Palestine, in which US-made helicopters, fighter planes and weaponry are used daily to carry out murder and collective punishment;
* Harsh travel restrictions on Palestinians leading to massive unemployment and poverty;
* Construction of an apartheid wall (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice), that confiscates even more Palestinian land, and encircles Palestinian towns in a giant, 24-foot-high prison studded with armed watchtowers;
* Ongoing incarceration of over 7,000 political prisoners, including children and political leaders, often in horrendous conditions, and the ongoing practice of administrative detention, in which Palestinians may be held without trial for six months or more.
These conditions have taken a particular toll on Palestinian workers. Last April, fourteen trade unionists from seven European countries found that:
“The majority of workers in Israel’s construction branch, including Palestinians, migrants and Israeli citizens (mostly Arabs), are still today subject to extreme forms of exploitation. The Israeli authorities lag behind legislation elsewhere in several ways: they refrain from ratifying recent labor conventions; they do not enforce their own labor laws; they exploit the excuse of ’security considerations’ in a disproportional manner; they apply the law selectively; and they close their eyes to the criminality of the contractors and the personnel companies.”
Like any oppressed people, the Palestinian people have courageously resisted. For example, Palestinian workers have organized unions and labor organizations throughout Palestinian society, some of which have been devastated by the massive unemployment caused by closure and economic entrapment. Palestinian workers have consistently used the general strike as a tool of protest and struggle against occupation and oppression; in fact, the longest general strike in the world was that organized by Palestinian workers in 1936 against British colonialism.
For decades, this wholesale denial of Palestinian rights has been condemned by trade unionists around the world. Seeing the close parallels between Israeli and South African apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), has called upon the trade union movement internationally to mobilize its support behind the people of Palestine.[ii]
In Britain, trade unionists have joined with Palestinian labor leaders and the Trade Unionists for Palestine to support Palestinian rights.[iii] Additionally, Irish trade union leaders, including those of SIPTU, a service and professional workers’ union, have condemned the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of Palestinians.[iv]
Lastly, the World Federation of Trade Unionsv, an international body representing hundreds of millions of workers, has called for “immediate action to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate right to return and to self-determination and to establish their national and independent state with Jerusalem as capital.”
In the U.S., however, government and private institutions – including many labor bodies – have actively contributed to this oppression:
* The U.S. government provides more aid to Israel than to any other nation in the world. This amounts to more than $5 billion annually, or a daily average of $15,139,178. * This aid provides Israel with massive quantities of U.S.-made Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets and assault rifles – all of which is used to devastate Palestinian communities.
* Unlike the aid given to other nations, this aid is unrestricted by human rights conditions, and is paid in lump-sum format annually.
* In addition, many individual U.S. states invest workers’ pension funds in the occupation of Palestine, an example of which is New Jersey’s recent purchase of $20 million in Israel Bonds.
* And shockingly, AFL-CIO affiliate pension funds have over $300 million invested in Israeli bonds.[vi]
It is clearer now than ever that Israel’s war on the Palestinian people reflects imperial domination throughout the Middle East. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between scenes of occupation and resistance in Jenin, Falluja and Baghdad.
We, therefore, have a profound moral obligation to recognize and end the complicity of U.S. government and labor with Israeli apartheid.
For these reasons, the April 2004 convention of Al-Awda NY (the Palestine right to return coalition) unanimously adopted a proposal by New York City Labor Against the War to ask all labor bodies to:
1. Fully support Palestinian national, democratic and labor rights throughout historic Palestine, including the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land.
2. Demand an end to U.S. military and economic support for Israeli Apartheid.
3. Divest all labor investments in Israeli Apartheid.
4. Affiliate with Labor For Palestine.
The undersigned (list in formation):
Labor Organizational Endorsers
1. New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
2. Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice (LC4PJ), San Francisco, California
3. CSC – Batiment et Industrie, Brussels, Belgium
4. ESK -Basque Trade Union, Bilbao, Basque Country
5. Filipino Workers’ Association, Fremont, California
6. Out Front Labor Coalition, Pride At Work, AFL-CIO, Seattle, Washington
7. Solidariteit-A Critical Magazine for Union Members, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Individual, Office-holding Labor Endorsers*
1. Emmi de Jesus, Secretary General of GABRIELA: Alliance of Women’s Organizations in the Philippines
2. Jerry Fillingim, Legislative Political Director for the SEIU Local 535, Oakland, California
3. H. Steven Quester, Chapter leader of the United Federation of Teachers, New York, NY
4. Claire Decoteau, Steward of the Graduate Employees Organization, AFT/MFT & SRP Local 3550, AFL-CIO, at the University of Michigan
5. Wendy Thompson, President of Local 235 of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), Detroit, Michigan
6. Jeff Klein, Retired president of the SEIU-NAGE Local Rl-168, Boston, Massachusetts
Other Labor Individual Endorsers*
1. William Bateman, Member, LIUNA Local 271
2. Andy Clarno, Member of the Graduate Employees Organization, AFT/MFT & SRP Local 3550, AFL-CIO, at the University of Michigan
3. Joseph Catron, Member of the Virginia Public Service Workers Union, UE Local 160
4. Samuel Goldberger, Member of the Political Action Committee for SEIU Local 535 – Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges
5. Michael Gordy, Former president of the Tucson Education Association, Tucson, Arizona
6. Alex Gould, Member of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 328
7. Ed Hunt, SEIU 925 delegate to King Co. Labor Council SEIU Local 925, Seattle, Washington
8. Richard McKnight, Member of the Transport Workers Union, New York, NY
9. Amos Paamon, Member of the Graduate Employee Organization UAW Local 2322
10. Francesca Rosa, Member; former steward for The Arc SF chapter of the SEIU Local 535, Oakland, California
11. Polly Sylvia, Member of the PSC CUNY Labor Union, New York, NY
12. Katie Unger, (Staff/Member of UNITE HERE and Federation of Union Representatives, New York, NY
13. Zachary Wales, Member of the National Writers Union, New York
14. Louis R Godena, Member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners, Local 94, Warwick, Rhode Island
15. Mike Eilenfeldt, Cooper Union staff and workers local of AFT/NYSUT, New York, NY
16. Wayne D. Price, General member of the United Federation of Teachers (AFT), New York, NY
17. Gabriel Camacho, Member of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement Massachusetts Chapter
18. Howard B. Lenow, Union Side Labor Lawyer with Lenow & McCarthy Wayland, Massachusetts
* Union and organizations in this section are listed for informational purposes only; this does not denote an organizational endorsement.
In addition to the individuals and organizations representing the labor movement who have endorsed the Labor for Palestine campaign, the following organizations and individuals have also expressed their support:
1. Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
2. Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa
3. Northern California International Solidarity Movement
4. Working Class Queer People
5. New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine
6. Palestine Community Centre, Vancouver, Canada
7. Ever Reviled Records
8. Free Palestine Alliance – USA
9. International Action Center, New York, NY
10. New York Committee to Defend Palestine, New York, NY
11. Justice in Palestine Coalition, San Francisco, California
1. Arab Awni Abdel-Hadi, Coordinator of the Multi Lingual Translation and Interpretation center, Cairo, Egypt
2. Shehira Mehrez, President of Mehrez & Partners, Dokki, Egypt
3. Lora Gordon, Volunteer with the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee
4. Ahlam Muhtaseb, Assisstant Professor with California State University, San Bemardino
5. Jeffrey Blankfort, Former Editor, Middle East Labor Bulletin
6. Jordan Flaherty, Organizer with the Prewiit Organizing Fund, New Orleans, Louisiana
7. Zahi Damuni, Coordinator of Al-Awda San Diego, California
8. Steven Beikirch, Member of Freedom-For-Palestine
9. Joseph Backus, Member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, Kingston, Ontario
10. Dr. Jess Ghannam, Justice in Palestine Coalition, San Francisco, California
11. Caroline Schulz, Individual worker, Otisville, New York
12. Rima I. Anabtawi, M.A., Chair, Refugee Support Committee of Al-Awda, PRRC; ROR Congress, National Council of Arab Americans
13. Caroline Schulz, Member of Orange County Peace & Justice, Otisville, New York
14. Chanda Asani, Student and member of the Indian Association of Women Studies, and Centre for Rural Development at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India
15. Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, aActivist with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, London, UK
16. Suzanne Adely, Lead Organizer of Al-Awda Chicago / Arab American Action Network, Chicago, Illinois
17. Scott Campbell, Member of the International Solidarity Movement, Northern California Support Group
3. http ://www.palestinecampaign.org/trade_unions.asp
6. For all of the above, see:
http ://www. sonomacounty freepress. com/palestine/union.html; http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stats/cost_o f_israel.html; and http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stats/usaid.html