Category Archives: BDS

Why the Democratic Socialists of America Vote for BDS Is a Turning Point in American Left Politics (Alternet)

America’s largest socialist organization votes to stand in solidarity with Palestine.

DSA members vote almost unanimously to support BDS at their 2017 convention in Chicago (photo by Annie Shields via Twitter)

For a few veteran members of the Democratic Socialists of America like Eric Lee, this year’s annual convention in Chicago was a rude awakening. The DSA’s ranks suddenly swelled with thousands of new members, mostly younger activists mobilized by the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders and inspired by the success of socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. Lee shared their excitement about Sanders, and about the prospects of socialism gaining traction among middle-class voters worn down by decades of neoliberal austerity. What he could not stomach, however, was the new DSA generation’s enthusiastic support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Forged out of a consensus of Palestinian civil society organizations, BDS is a movement sweeping grassroots activism in the West that calls for the right of return of Palestinian refugees, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and an end to the occupation. On August 5, DSA members voted almost unanimously in support of a resolution to back BDS.

Immediately after the measure passed, spontaneous cheering erupted along with chants of “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as someone waved a giant Palestinian flag.

The vote to endorse BDS passes! 

The vote sent Lee into a rage, and ultimately out of an organization he had been affiliated with for decades. “I cannot in good conscience be a member of an organization which promotes a boycott of the Jewish state,” he wrote in a post on his personal blog. “I consider the BDS campaign to be antisemitic and racist. I oppose it as a socialist and as a Jew. I am appalled that DSA would take such a position.” (In a previous blog entry, Lee boasted of his service in the Israeli military and defended its occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.)

Though the old DSA had its share of anti-Zionists, it has typically avoided contentious votes that might have rankled the sensibilities of left Zionists like Lee. But at the DSA’s convention this year, its members voted to end the party’s 35-year relationship with the Socialist International, a constellation of center-left parties that include the corruption laden Mexican PRI, the increasingly neoliberal Socialist Party of France and Germany’s SPD—all parties that supported the special relationship with Israel in one form or another. The vote set the stage for approving the resolution in support of BDS.

Formed in 1982, DSA grew out of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the New American Movement. Membership has more than tripled in the last two years to over 25,000, owing largely to the momentous energy behind Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, anger with Trump and widespread disillusionment with the Democratic Party. The new members have brought fresh life and vital new perspectives to the group, allowing it to shake off whatever vestiges of Zionism remained among members, particularly that handful who still believed in the ethnically exclusive “socialism” of the kibbutzim. For the new generation of DSA members, supporting the Palestinian civil society boycott of Israel made more sense than seeking common ground with liberal-left Israeli parties like Meretz or Labor whose leadership had thrown their weight behind Israel’s past three wars on the Gaza Strip.

The question of how to respond to Israel has long been an issue that divided DSA members. The breakdown among the ranks went something like this: certain members (usually older), tried to reconcile socialism with Zionism by condemning the Israeli right while ignoring the many human rights abuses carried out by so-called leftists in the name of engineering a demographic majority for Jews in Palestine. Other members (usually younger), supported BDS unequivocally, recognizing it as the latest manifestation of a time-tested means of nonviolent protest and the most powerful force to combat Israeli apartheid in the 21st century. These contradictory stances led to some interorganizational disputes, but without a vote on the official stance, determining how many people believed what, and what they thought DSA should do about it, remained a challenge.

Support from France’s Mélenchon and a direct challenge to Democrats

Chip Gibbons joined DSA earlier this year after being involved in BDS activism since 2007. An architect of the BDS resolution, he sees Palestine solidarity as an essential component of the socialist tradition of internationalism.

Gibbons told me that a representative of La France Insoumise, the party of French leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, commended the delegates after they passed the measure.

The text’s other main author, Delé Balogun from DSA’s North Chicago chapter, saw Israel’s occupation up close when he joined the African Heritage Delegation to Palestine, a special trip to Israel-Palestine aimed at fostering Black solidarity for the Palestinian struggle. At this past weekend’s convention, Balogun was elected to the 16-person National Political Committee, DSA’s primary governing body.

DSA’s resolution arrives at a crucial moment for the BDS movement. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland recently introduced a bill called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would make boycotting Israel a felony punishable by up to a $1 million fine or 20 years in prison. After a major public backlash, Cardin amended the bill so it would not apply to individuals and would not apply criminal penalties to violators, but the language remains disturbingly vague.

The DSA resolution took direct aim at Cardin, declaring that “DSA strongly opposes the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would make it a felony to advocate or support boycotts targeting Israel, as well as all similar legislation at the state and local levels.” With this statement, DSA has recorded its formal objection to the reactionary brand of hate speech laws that have already led to the arrests and convictions of BDS activists in France.

Rising anti-imperialism in DSA’sranks

Though DSA has come under fire from some quarters for its perceived indifference to imperialism, the organization’s critics may surprised to learn that over 90% of the delegates voted for the BDS resolution on Saturday morning. The 700 delegates’ votes, representing 42 local and statewide chapters, were so close to unanimous than an official tally wasn’t necessary.

“Those who struggle against oppression and for equality will always have our support,” said DSA Deputy National Director David Duhalde in an official statement. “Just as we answered the call to boycott South Africa during apartheid, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.” Rawan Tayoon, a Palestinian activist with DSA’s youth wing (known as Young Democratic Socialists, or YDS), added, “Democratic socialists aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and demand what’s right. We stand against imperialism, we stand against racism, and so we must stand against Israeli apartheid and occupation.”

An informal group within DSA calling itself Democratic Socialists for Justice in Palestine workshopped and revised the text multiple times in order to maximize the impact of the statement and ensure that it represented the spirit of democratic socialism. Olivia Katbi Smith, a Portland delegate and member of the group, felt a sense of urgency in drafting the document: “As an Arab woman and a democratic socialist, it was incredibly important to me that the BDS resolution passed, especially in the face of the disgusting anti-BDS legislation that’s currently being pushed nationally.” She saw the vote as a chance for DSA members to participate in campaigns with concrete goals and demonstrated successes—an opportunity to go beyond moral symbolism and performative politics.

“Frankly this organization should have endorsed BDS a decade ago,” says Smith, reflecting the mood of many longtime DSA members. “As socialists we have a responsibility to side with the oppressed and commit to their unconditional liberation, and it’s about time that DSA takes a public stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”

Rob Bryan is a journalist who has written for Jacobin and Mondoweiss among other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @rbryan86

DSA BDS Resolution

DSA BDS Resolution

The Resolution of the Democratic Socialists for Justice in Palestine to the 2017 DSA National Convention

Whereas, on July 9, 2005 all major Palestinian civil society groups, including all major trade unions, issued an open letter calling for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights (BDS Call);

Whereas, July 9, 2005 marked the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice finding that  Israel’s construction of a wall annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank to be illegal;

Whereas, the BDS Call noted one year later, Israel continued “construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision;”

Whereas, according to the BDS Call “all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine;”

Whereas, in light of this failure, Palestinian civil society has asked for global civil society and people of conscience to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it recognized the basic human rights of the Palestinian people by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and; respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194;

Whereas, Palestinian trade unions are unanimous in their support of BDS and all three major Palestinian trade union federations are part of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC);

Whereas, DSA would be joining other US-based groups and unions in supporting BDS, including the United Electrical Workers, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, UAW Locals 2865, 2110, 2322, AFT Local 3220, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, Jewish Voice for Peace, among others;

Whereas, since 1948 Israel has denied the right of return to Palestinian refugees;

Whereas, today there are five million refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees;

Whereas, since 1967 Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights;

Whereas, Israel has engaged in a program of rapacious colonization (“settlements”) of the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

Whereas, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are given the rights of Israeli citizenship, subject to civilian law, and are permitted to drive on roads barred to Palestinians;

Whereas, Palestinians in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, are subjected to military law, including being tried in military courts with a 99% conviction rate, are forced to drive on different roads, go through military checkpoints, are subjected to collective punishment, such as house demolitions, and have their land annexed and colonized to build settlements in which they are forbidden to live;

Whereas, there are today at least 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship;

Whereas, all of the aforementioned constitutes apartheid;

Whereas, since 2007 Israel has maintained a ruthless siege of Gaza, home of 1.9 million Palestinians, including 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, limiting access to food, electricity, and other basic materials, restricting movement, and transforming Gaza into an open air prison;

Whereas, Israel has since the blockage engaged in three wars against Gaza, which included sustained aerial bombing and the use of white phosphorous;

Whereas, since Gaza, is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth any widespread bombing is by its very nature a war against civilians;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has condemned Israeli settlements and its bombings of Gaza;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America already supports “partial BDS” (boycotts of settlement goods);

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has endorsed the Movement For Black Lives Platform, which includes support for BDS;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America and Young Democratic Socialists played an important role in the historic international movement against South African Apartheid, upon which the BDS call is based;

Whereas, BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia;

Whereas, Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, making the US complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights;

Whereas, socialists have a responsibility to side with the oppressed and are committed to their unconditional liberation:

 

BE IT RESOLVED:

  1. Democratic Socialists of America declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights, and self-determination.
  2. Democratic Socialists of America responds to Palestinian Civil Society’s call by fully supporting BDS.
  3. Democratic Socialists of America affirms that any political solution to the ongoing crisis must be premised on the realization of basic human rights, including all rights outlined in the BDS call.
  4. Within 30 days after passing, a copy of this resolution shall be sent to the BNC.

Will Labor Stand for More Limits to Boycott Rights? | Stanley Heller

first published at  www.peacenews.org

Will Labor Stand for More Limits to Boycott Rights? | Stanley Heller

 

About The Author

Stanley Heller Administrator of and writer for Promoting Enduring Peace and hosts “The Struggle” TV News, at www.TheStruggle.org. He can be reached at stanley.heller@pepeace.org.

After the Wagner Act was passed in 1935 trade unions had tremendous freedom in organizing, striking and encouraging act of solidarity. A key tactic was the boycott, where union members asked the public not to buy products made by replacement “scab” labor during strikes, or when a union picket line would confront workers from suppliers and insist they not deliver supplies across a picket line. Sometimes a union would picket the supplier itself or call on the public to boycott the products of the supplier.

In 1947 Congress took up the Taft-Hartley Act. One part of it banned unions from calling for “secondary boycotts” from picketing companies supplying a company that was using scab workers or otherwise causing a worker. Trade unions called the bill the “slave labor” law. They spent a million dollars (roughly $11,000,000 in today’s money) in ads to try to defeat it. It didn’t work. President Truman did veto the bill, but Congress overrode the veto and it became the law.

For years getting rid of Taft-Hartley was a major goal of labor, but after a while trade union leadership just tried to get along with it. Over the decades there were many boycotts called like the grape boycott, Hormel, Farah pants, the boycott of Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, etc. Some helped to win strikes. Other solidarity actions were limited and weak because of Taft-Hartley.

Now a new bill going through Congress is a further threat to boycott rights. On the face of it, the bill doesn’t have anything to do with unions. It would ban people for calling for support of the U.N. or the European Union or any international governmental organization boycott of Israel. The penalties are incredible. The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the bill, says there is a possible penalty of a $250,000 civil fine, a criminal fine up to a million dollars and jail time of up to 20 years in prison!

Why should Congress have any power to limit our free speech right to call for a boycott, whether it’s a cruel government of a foreign country or a rotten company in the U.S. mistreating workers? This limit on boycott rights is outrageous and the penalties are grotesque. You could rob a bank and get less punishment.

Now while you won’t find the words “union” or “labor” in the bill there is a possible direct connection. The International Labour Organization is a U.N. and hence governmental organization. If it called for a boycott of Israel (and many unions around the world have done so), calling for support of the ILO boycott could get you in jail.

Even if there’s no immediate connection with labor, there’s the matter of “precedent,” an event or action that can be used as an example for further action. The right wing assault on unions is picking up. At the start of the year a major anti-worker rights law passed in Kentucky. It is all too believable that if this anti-boycott law concerning Israel passes, one day it will be used as a precedent for a law to ban calling for a boycott of some dear little billionaire whose workers have the gall to walk out for decent pay and working conditions.

So far the big trade unions are ignoring the issue. It’s up to us to educated them. You can contact the “Change to Win” federation at info@changetowin.org. The AFLCIO contact page is here: https://aflcio.org/contact-us. The Teamsters contact page is https://teamster.org/about/contact-teamsters. You can always tweet @aflcio @teamsters @change2win.

There is one trade union that should be sympathetic because it’s already boycotting Israel. The union is the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. One of its activists spoke at a rally for Palestine in Hartford on July 25. Here’s their contact page: https://www.ueunion.org/ueform.html. Best email might be uewashington@ranknfile-ue.org. They’re having a convention in Pittsburgh in August. Maybe they can put forward a resolution against the bill in Congress at their convention.

Of course, if you’re a union member you can make your local union aware of the issue and call on it to bring it up with the folks who do legislation in DC.

(Full disclosure. I’ve been a member of three trade unions, Retail Clerks, Machinists and the American Federation of Teachers, the last one continuously since 1969)

Investigate groups with “Jewish-sounding” names, says Nevada lawmaker (Electronic Intifada)

Investigate groups with “Jewish-sounding” names, says Nevada lawmaker

Despite allegations of dirty tricks by lobbyists, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed an anti-BDS bill into law on 2 June. (via Facebook)

This month, Nevada became the 20th state to adopt legislation against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, after an Israel advocacy organization allegedly made threatening remarks to lawmakers if they opposed the bill.

Meanwhile, The Electronic Intifada has obtained a memo from a Nevada lawmaker to fellow Jewish lawmakers across the United States giving advice on how to fight back against the movement for Palestinian rights – including the Jewish activists who support it.

According to the Las Vegas Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, state assembly member Edgar Flores said he was threatened by the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, which told him that his political career would be ended if he did not support the anti-BDS bill.

Flores was one of only three lawmakers to abstain in a vote on the bill.

Though no other legislators have revealed they were threatened, Seth Morrison, of Jewish Voice for Peace in Las Vegas, suspects Flores was not alone.

Morrison points out that assembly member Skip Daly voted against the bill during a committee meeting, but joined Flores in abstaining for the final vote.

Jewish Voice for Peace in Las Vegas believes that Dillon Hosier, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action lobbyist, secretly recorded private meetings with at least two assembly members.

Morrison outlined these allegations of dirty tactics and intimidation in a letter to the governor, urging him to veto the legislation. But on 2 June, Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law.

Blacklist

The law prohibits the state from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Nevada will now prepare a blacklist of companies that are said to boycott Israel.

Other states that have passed similar laws have included companies on their blacklists that withdrew from Israel for their own economic interests, such as G4S.

The world’s largest security firm, G4S announced it was dumping almost all of its business in Israel following a sustained campaign against its involvement in human rights abuses against Palestinians.

The Nevada bill was opposed by Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Culinary Union, which all argued the bill infringes on constitutional rights to speech and association.

The Culinary Union is one of the largest in Nevada and represents workers in the Las Vegas hotel and casino industry. It also describes itself as the state’s largest immigrant organization.

The union argued that boycotts are a fundamental tool for organizing for justice.

Despite this broad opposition, the state assembly passed the bill 39-0 with 3 abstentions, and the senate voted 19-2 in favor.

The two dissenting senators were Yvanna Cancela and Tick Segerblom, both of whom have records of advocating for civil liberties.

“They are both very progressive and very brave,” JVP’s Morrison told The Electronic Intifada.

Spiegel memo

Less than two weeks after the bill became law, Nevada assembly member Ellen Spiegel sent an internal memo to the National Association of Jewish Legislators listing key lessons to the bill’s success. (The memo is attached below.)

The National Association of Jewish Legislators, of which Spiegel is an officer, has placed combatting BDS on the top of its agenda.

Spiegel writes that even though the bill passed by such wide margins, “it required a lot of work.”

Spiegel encourages direct collaboration with Israel lobby organizations, including the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, the Israel Action Network and The Israel Project.

The Israeli-American Coalition for Action has already spent $50,000 in 2017 to lobby for anti-BDS legislation in Congress – five times as much as it spent last year. It is the lobbying arm of the Israeli-American Coalition, which is backed by wealthy anti-Palestinian donors Adam Milstein and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Spiegel says these groups can “provide back up support throughout the process.”

She claims that the legislation passed in states across the country is “seeking to protect Israel from harm,” and urges advocates to “talk about Israel as a ‘safe haven’ for Jews” and as an “important trading partner.”

But she also encourages lawmakers to advance arguments that Israel should be entitled to keep “contested” land – the occupied West Bank – because it “won” it during the 1967 war.

Opposition research

Significantly, the memo indicates Spiegel’s discomfort with the fact that not all Jewish Americans support the anti-BDS agenda.

She recommends trying to discredit groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, urging lawmakers to “do some research on the people presenting the opposing testimony.”

“If they are members of an organization with a Jewish-sounding name, try to determine whether it really is a Jewish group,” she writes.

Spiegel also suggests that anti-BDS legislation should appear to represent a “bipartisan” consensus and that proponents should “invite the participation of the state’s Jewish and non-Jewish communities.”

Spiegel advises Israel advocates to prepare to answer why all Jews do not support anti-BDS legislation. She suggests invoking the words of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who several years ago expressed opposition to a total boycott of Israel.

But she fails to mention that in the same statement – which was widely criticized by Palestinians – Abbas nonetheless expressed support for boycotting products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to Spiegel, opponents of the anti-BDS bill “spoke with legislators about the importance of using boycotts as free speech and were privately telling African Americans and Latinos that they wouldn’t have equal rights if not for use of boycotts.”

Boycotts did indeed play a major role in the civil rights movement – leading to the landmark 1982 US Supreme Court decision ruling that boycotts intended to bring about social, political and economic change are constitutionally protected free speech.

Seth Morrison says that while he is disappointed the bill passed, he is also energized. He helped found the Las Vegas chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace last year, and says this was the first time that people mobilized to oppose a pro-Israel bill in Nevada.

“We’ve shown legislators that they can’t do things like this without being called out for it.”

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism (Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP)

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Press Release from Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)

for immediate release – 29th May 2017

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Support for Palestinian professor denied entry to Israel

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation which defends the right to criticise Israel, and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which campaigns for academic and cultural boycott of Israel, today welcomed the vote by the University and College Union (UCU) to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Motion 57, submitted by UCU branches at the University of Leeds, Goldsmiths, and the University of Brighton, along with two strengthening amendments from Queen’s University Belfast and London Retired Members Branch, was carried overwhelmingly in the closing minutes of UCU’s annual Congress in Brighton.  Only one delegate spoke against the motion.

UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism

UCU had previously, in 2011, rejected the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).  The IHRA definition strongly resembles the EUMC version.  Today’s vote strengthens UCU’s existing policy.

Both these definitions are considered highly problematic because they seek to conflate criticism of Israel with genuine anti-Jewish racism: examples cited in them make explicit reference to Israel.  The UK Government has adopted the IHRA definition, and in February this year Universities Minister Jo Johnson wrote to Universities UK insisting that university activities must respect the definition.  In particular, he alleged that “anti-Semitic incidents … might take place under the banner of ‘Israel (sic) Apartheid’ events.”  Some universities have banned or curtailed campus events during Israeli Apartheid week or subsequently, and campaigners for Palestinian human rights consider that the definition is being used to censor legitimate political activity and debate which criticises the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.

In moving the motion, Mark Abel of Brighton UCU noted that an event organised by Friends of Palestine had been cancelled by the University of Central Lancashire, who cited the IHRA definition as making the event ‘unlawful’.

Reacting to this wave of censorship the new, Jewish-led organisation Free Speech on Israel, along with Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Independent Jewish Voices, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, obtained a legal Opinion from the eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC.

The Opinion is devastating: it characterises the IHRA definition as confusing, not legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of “unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion”.  A public body that bans a meeting under the IHRA definition without any evidence of genuine antisemitism could be breaching the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees freedom of expression (Article 10), and freedom of assembly (Article 11).

In concluding his speech, Mark Abel said: “This is a dangerous conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. … It is a definition intended to silence those who wish to puncture the Israeli state’s propaganda that it is a normal liberal democratic state.”

Mike Cushman, a UCU member and co-founder of FSOI, said: “Free speech on Israel welcomes UCU’s recognition that fighting antisemitism is a separate struggle from defending the rights of Palestinians, and that both these struggles are important. Putting these in opposition to each other assists both antisemites and war criminals.”

Les Levidow, a UCU member speaking for BRICUP, said: “Congratulations to UCU for defending free speech on Israel/Palestine by rejecting the government-IHRA agenda to weaponise antisemitism, conflated with anti-Zionism.”

UCU Congress also passed a motion in support of Professor Kamel Hawwash, a UCU member at the University of Birmingham, who was prevented from entering Israel on 7th April on a trip with his wife and young son to visit relatives in occupied East Jerusalem.  It seems likely that Prof. Hawwash was banned under the new Israeli boycott law, which prevents activists accused of supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) from entering Israel.  Prof. Hawwash was until recently the vice-chair of PSC.  The General Secretary of UCU will now be writing to the Israeli Embassy and the FCO to urge that the ban on Prof. Hawwash and all non-violent human rights campaigners be lifted.

ENDS

Motion 57 As amended and agreed

Composite: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism

Congress notes:

  1. UCU’s exemplary anti-racist work, eg. Holocaust Memorial Day materials
  2. policy (2011) dissociating UCU from the ‘EUMC working definition’ of anti-semitism
  3. the close similarity between the IHRA and EUMC definitions, including their conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel
  4. that government has formally adopted the IHRA definition of anti-semitism
  5. that this definition conflates anti-semitism with criticism of the state of Israel and has been used to intimidate academics who are engaged in activities that are critical of the policies of the Israeli government but that are not anti-semitic
  6. government-inspired attempts to ban Palestine solidarity events, naming Israeli Apartheid Week
  7. The legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC, obtained by PSC and other groups, characterising the IHRA definition as confusing, not legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of ‘unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion’.

Congress re-affirms:

  1. UCU’s condemnation of all forms of racial or religious hatred or discrimination
  2. UCU’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom
  3. the importance of open campus debate on Israel/Palestine.

Congress resolves that UCU dissociates itself from the IHRA definition and will make no use of it (eg. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints).

Congress instructs:

  1. NEC to contact all members in a dedicated communication urging report to NEC of all repressive uses of the IHRA definition
  2. conduct research about the implications of the use of the IHRA definition
  3. general secretary to write to VCs/principals urging staff protection from malicious accusations, and freedom of political criticism
  4. president to issue, and circulate to members, a detailed press statement on UCU’s criticism of the IHRA definition
  5. lobby government to seek a review of its endorsement of the IHRA definition and to replace it with one that will both protect free speech and combat anti-semitism.

Recalling the experience of Fraser vs UCU, we call upon the NEC to take a position against any university management that reacts to spurious accusations of anti-semitism by banning speakers who are opposed to the policies of the state of Israel but who have not in any way expressed racism against Jewish people.

Victory! We salute the striking Palestinian prisoners (Labor for Palestine)

An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine)

[Please endorse the statement below by clicking here.]

An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine)

“We urge all labor organizations and workers’ movements to express their solidarity and support for the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, for the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation and for the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS), April 28, 2017

Labor for Palestine joins workers around the world to stand with 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike since April 17 to protest conditions that Amnesty International calls “unlawful and cruel.” After more than a month, their health is failing, but their steadfastness remains unshakable.

From workers’ rights and women’s rights, to anti-racism and anti-colonialism, hunger strikes are a time-honored form of protest against injustice.

But the Israeli government — which receives $3.8 billion per year in U.S. weapons and closely coordinates with the same police agencies that systematically terrorize Black and Brown communities in the United States — threatens to force-feed the strikers, and is gunning down their supporters in the streets of Palestine. Such relentless state violence reflects the continuing Nakba, Israel’s 69-year-old ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinian people.

Undeterred, the prisoners have vowed: “Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.”

They know that, like Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa, Zionist settler colonialism will one day fall to the unstoppable tide of popular mass resistance.

Labor bodies around the world have risen to their defense, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Canadian Labour Congress, 26 European trade unions and labor organizations, World Federation of Trade Unions (representing 92 million workers in 162 countries), International Trade Union Confederation (representing 181 million workers in 163 countries), and the Trabajadores-Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores (PIT-CNT) of Uruguay.

Their outpouring is accompanied by rising international labor respect of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which demands an end to occupation and apartheid, full equality for all, and Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled.

In the U.S., BDS has been embraced by West Coast dockers refusing to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo, the United Electrical Workers, CT State AFL-CIO, UAW 2865, UAW 2322, GSOC-UAW 2110, AFT 3220, and thousands of other union members.

This parallels growing intersectional solidarity with Palestine from the Movement for Black Lives, Standing Rock, #NoBanNoWall, and other U.S. grassroots social justice movements.

Today, we affirm:
*Victory to Palestinian Political Hunger Strikers!
*From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!

=====

Issued May 21, 2017 by Labor for Palestine Co-Conveners:
(Affiliations below for identification only)
*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network
*Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Labor for Standing Rock
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired)

=====

Endorsing Organizations (list in formation)

Labor for Palestine
Labor for Standing Rock
GSOC-UAW Local 2110
Al-Awda New York, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center
Black4Palestine
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100)
CUNY4Palestine
Decolonize This Place
Existence is Resistance
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City
LA4Palestine
NYC Solidarity with Palestine
NYC Students for Justice in Palestine
Palestinian Youth Movement – USA
Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
TOLEF: Tree of Life Educational Fund
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
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Defying leaders, Norway trade unionists endorse Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Defying leaders, Norway trade unionists endorse Israel boycott

Actvists carry a banner calling for recognition of Palestine and a boycott of Israel, at the annual May Day march in Oslo, Norway, 1 May. Ryan Rodrick BeilerActiveStills

Norway’s largest and most influential trade union organization has called for a full boycott of Israel.

Last Friday, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) voted to endorse a statement that embraces the entire slate of demands in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

The Palestinian BDS National Committee hailed the decision as courageous and urged LO to pressure the Norwegian government to end military ties with Israel.

At its annual congress, LO delegates voted 197 to 117 to demand an “international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel” as a means to end the blockade of Gaza, remove Israel’s wall in the West Bank, respect the right of return for Palestinian refugees and ensure “equal rights for all.”

Full boycott, full explanation

Sara Bell, leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees in the city of Bergen, was a key organizer among those putting the boycott on LO’s agenda.

Bell told The Electronic Intifada that the original language simply stated: “LO supports the international BDS movement, and will work for an international trade boycott of Israel.”

But with several other unions and local branches supporting the boycott, the final wording included clauses on the right of return as well as demanding that the Norwegian government recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 boundaries and takes steps to ensure “a democratic state solution with equal rights for all.”

The declaration states that since international political efforts and dialogue have not produced results, it is now necessary to “work for an international, economic, cultural and academic boycott to achieve these goals.”

Something of a thriller

“The voting process was something of a thriller, but the result was overwhelmingly in favor of boycott,” Bell said. “I’m still pretty euphoric about it.”

“I think the result reflects ordinary Norwegian people’s understanding and rejection of the horrible injustices the Palestinian population has been suffering for far too long,” she added.

The primary debate at the LO congress was not over whether to boycott, but how.

LO president Hans-Christian Gabrielsen had urged only a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

He warned that adopting the full boycott could prevent LO representatives from traveling to visit Palestinian trade unions, due to a new Israeli law that bars entry to BDS supporters.

Nothing to lose

However, that law does not distinguish between boycotts limited to settlements and broader boycotts of Israel.

A boycott of settlement goods had already been adopted at a previous LO congress.

And, LO’s newspaper FriFagbevegelse reported earlier in May that two LO members have already been denied entry by Israel this year because of their Palestine solidarity activism.

Gabrielsen also argued that a full boycott would hurt Palestinian workers and labor unions.

This claim was blunted by the fact that the BDS call has been endorsed by the Palestinian trade unions federation PGFTU.

Its general secretary Shaher Saad also spoke at the LO congress.

“We are a people who need help and solidarity from our friends, and we need it now,” Saad said.

Boycott not the goal

Like many LO leaders, Bell has visited Palestine, most recently traveling to the Gaza Strip in March with a union delegation. Bell told the LO congress about Abd al-Rahman Wahdan, a potato farmer from Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, Wahdan’s house was occupied by Israeli forces for three days, Bell told the congress. Some family members fled to Jabaliya refugee camp, others stayed in Beit Hanoun. Eight were killed by a bomb in Beit Hanoun and four others by airstrikes in Jabaliya.

Today, Wahdan farms potatoes close to the no-go zone enforced by the Israeli military inside Gaza near the boundary with Israel.

Bell said her union helps fund irrigation systems for Wahdan and other growers in the area where farmers are frequently shot at by Israeli forces and have their crops sprayed with poison by Israeli aircraft.

“Boycott in itself isn’t a goal for us,” Bell told The Electronic Intifada. “Our goal is to end the occupation, end the siege and blockade of Gaza, end the illegal settlements, and start working for freedom, democracy and equal rights. We hope many other trade unions will follow us and join this effort.”

Boilerplate backlash

Criticism was swift and predictable. Foreign minister Børge Brende tweeted that Norway’s current right-wing government “strongly” opposed the LO’s decision. “We need more cooperation and dialogue, not boycott,” Brende wrote.

In January, during a visit to Israel, Brende signed an agreement on scientific cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A spokesperson for Norway’s far-right Progress Party called the resolution “shameful.”

Israeli ambassador to Norway Raphael Schutz called the decision “immoral” and claimed it reflected “deeply rooted attitudes of bias, discrimination and double standard towards the Jewish state.”

He added that the measure placed the LO “shoulder to shoulder with the worst enemies of Israel.”

Growing support

But solidarity activists are welcoming the vote as a sign of change.

“Such popular resistance from the grassroots of the Norwegian labor movement shows just how out of sync with the public both Norwegian and international politicians are in allowing Israel impunity against human rights and international law violations,” Tora Systad Tyssen, chair of the Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada.

Kathrine Jensen, chair of the Palestine Committee of Norway, said the vote demonstrated that Israel had not succeeded in its “war on international solidarity.”

And on 9 May, days before the LO congress vote, the municipality of Lillehammer passed a resolution to boycott Israeli settlement goods.

This made it the third major city in Norway to call for a settlement boycott, following Trondheim and Tromsø.

Norway’s Largest Trade Union Federation Endorses Full Boycott of Israel to Advance Palestinian Human Rights (BNC)

Norway’s Largest Trade Union Federation Endorses Full Boycott of Israel to Advance Palestinian Human Rights (Credit: Ole Palmstrøm)


May 12, 2017
 – Today, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), representing close to one million workers, endorsed a full boycott of Israel to achieve Palestinian rights under international law. LO is the largest and most influential umbrella organization of labor unions in Norway.

Commenting on this significant BDS victory in Norway, Riya Hassan, the Europe Campaigns Coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, said:

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) salutes the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) for endorsing a full “international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel” as a necessary means to achieve Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right of return for the refugees and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

By courageously heeding the Palestinian BDS Call, issued by an absolute majority in Palestinian civil society in 2005, LO joins some of the world’s most important trade union federations, including South Africa’s COSATU, Brazil’s CUT, Quebec’s CSN and the Irish ICTU, in calling for meaningful BDS pressure on the corporations and institutions that have enabled decades of Israeli occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

The BNC hopes to closely coordinate with Norwegian partners within LO, particularlyFagforbundet, to translate this new policy into effective measures of accountability at the academic, cultural and economic levels to uphold human rights and international law. We also call on LO to apply pressure on the Norwegian government to end all its military ties with Israel’s regime of oppression and to divest its sovereign fund from all companies that are complicit in Israel’s occupation and illegal settlement enterprise.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Visit www.bdsmovement.net and follow @BDSmovement

UK teachers’ union now “HP free zone” due to Israel ties (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

UK teachers’ union now “HP free zone” due to Israel ties

An Israeli checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. HP services computers used by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank.

Shadi HatemAPA images

The UK’s largest union for school teachers has launched a boycott of HP over the technology giant’s role in the Israeli occupation.

More than 21,000 people in the UK have also signed a pledge to boycott the US-headquartered firm.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary with the National Union of Teachers, said “the NUT does not buy or use HP products or services as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The union has declared its offices “HP free zones,” Courtney added, arguing that the firm is “complicit in the illegal occupation of the West Bank.”

HP has an active and ongoing role supporting the Israeli military. That includes providing support services for the biometric ID system used at Israeli checkpoints all over the West Bank to enforce Israel’s dictatorial pass system on Palestinians.

Prisons, settlements, blockade

HP is also contracted to provide IT services to Israeli prisons and settlements in the West Bank.

And the firm provides services and technologies to the Israeli military, including the navy, which enforces the decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are illegal under international law, as are all Israeli settlements.

Details of HP’s role in the occupation have been cataloged and verified by the group Who Profits.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said that the boycott pledge signed by tens of thousands was a “wake up call” for HP. He said that councils, businesses and faith groups should follow the lead taken by the teachers’ union.

“Beyond repair”

“HP should sit up and take notice – being complicit in human rights violations tarnishes your brand beyond repair,” he said.

Jamal said that “technology-enabled racism and reckless profiteering from the oppression of the Palestinian people doesn’t sit well with customers.”

HP became a key target for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement last year. That followed similar – and successful – years-long campaigns against Veolia and Orange, two French corporations that had also sought to profit from the Israeli occupation.

An international campaign launched against HP in late 2016 prompted a California church to vote that all of the firm’s products should be shunned.

An earlier vote in the United Methodist Church that proposed divestment from HP was condemned by Hillary Clinton during her failed campaign to become US president. Clinton is herself a Methodist.

More recently, the student senates at two US colleges voted to divest from HP and other companies involved in the Israeli occupation.