Category Archives: Canada

Canadian Labour Congress resolution of support for prisoners’ strike joins growing labor solidarity for Palestinian freedom (Samidoun)


The Canadian Labour Congress, the national labor federation representing 3 million workers across Canada passed an Emergency Resolution at its 2017 convention in Toronto on 10 May in support of Palestinian prisoners’ #DignityStrike. The text of the resolution follows:

Emergency Resolution

CLC Supports Palestinian Prisoners’ Dignity Strike

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will:

a) Call on the Canadian Government to pressure Israel to stop violating international law by illegally detaining Palestinians and depriving them of their basic human, civil and political rights;
and

b) Work with global union federations, affiliates and civil society organizations in Canada on campaigns in support of Palestinian prisoners.

BECAUSE More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike since April 17, 2017; and

BECAUSE Key demands of the hunger strike include: end to the denial of family visits, the right to appropriate health care, the right to education in prison and an end to solitary confinement and “administrative detention”; and

BECAUSE The CLC supports the right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination and an end to the illegal Israeli occupation as the basis for a just peace in the region.

This important resolution follows on strong, growing international labor movement and trade union support for Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian struggle for justice, self-determination and liberation.

On 12 May, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), which represents nearly one million workers in Norway, endorsed a full international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel as a necessary means to support fundamental Palestinian rights.

The Congress of LO unanimously supported some form of boycott of Israel, as 193 delegates voted for a full boycott and 117 voted for a limited boycott of Israeli settlements. The strong majority of the LO congress embraced a full boycott of Israel, emphasizing the importance of meaningful international action in the face of impunity and apartheid.  The LO vote escalated the existing position of the labor confederation in support of the boycott of settlement products.

This important action came as 1500 Palestinian prisoners have been engaged in a hunger strike since 17 April for their basic human rights, including an end to the denial of family visits, proper medical treatment and health care, the right to pursue distance higher education, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.

A number of trade unions and workers’ organizations have been vocal in their support for the Palestinian prisoners. 26 European trade unions and labor organizations endorsed a collective statement in support of the hunger strike:

“We believe that as trade unionists and conscious citizens of this world, we have duty and power to take a stand. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in their demand for fair treatment and justice. We commit to working within our respective unions not to renew contracts with corporations like HP and G4S profiting from the imprisonment of Palestinians. In addition we call on the EU and European member states to end their complicity and hold Israel accountable for its gross violations of human rights,” emphasized the unions, including labor organizations in Belgium, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, Galicia, Basque Country, Valencia, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands, Catalonia, and Luxembourg.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Teachers in the UK has joined several other international labor unions in being an HP-free zone.  Kevin Courtney, general secretary with the National Union of Teachers, said in the Electronic Intifada that “the NUT does not buy or use HP products or services as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people.” HP provides services and technologies to the Israeli military as well as the Israel Prison Service, and the boycott of HP is a priority for BDS campaigns in support of Palestinian prisoners.

These statements followed declarations by the World Federation of Trade Unions, representing 92 million workers in 162 countries, and the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 181 million workers in 163 countries, in support of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike.

The WFTU statement “expresses its firm internationalist solidarity with the more than 6700 Palestinians, including 389 children and 56 women, currently imprisoned by the Israeli occupation forces.

We strongly denounce the imprisonment of the Palestinian people by Israel, the inhumane detention conditions and the acts of abuse like the violent beatings against our Palestinian brothers and sisters and we demand the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners and the end of Israel’s arrest campaigns, aggressiveness and occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The WFTU also issued a statement condemning the Pizza Hut Israeli advertisement – later pulled – mocking Palestinian hunger strikers, emphasizing again that “The World Federation of Trade Unions and the international class oriented trade union movement stand on the side of the heroic Palestinian people and prisoners, express their solidarity and support to their fair struggle.”

ITUC also expressed its solidarity with “Palestinian prisoners who have declared an indefinite hunger strike to protest against violations of human rights inside Israeli Prisons. We also support the ‘general strike for freedom and dignity’ held in solidarity with hunger striking prisoners and call for wider international solidarity…

We add our voice to the demands of the hunger striking Palestinian detainees calling for the lifting of restrictions on family visits, improved overall detention conditions and access to medical care, including easing restrictions on access to education materials and food, as well as the installation of telephones to communicate with their relatives. We also recall that under international humanitarian law, detainees from occupied territories must be detained in the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying power, as enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In South Africa, among the endorsers of the South African Campaign for Palestinian Political Prisoners is the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) as well as the South African Municipal Workers Union.  Sidubo Dlamini, the President of COSATU, is joining in the broad one-day hunger strike in South Africa in support of Palestinian prisoners, alongside government officials, anti-apartheid struggle veterans and former political prisoners.

This support comes amid a growing campaign in the international labor movement in support of Palestinian rights, including 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. Unions endorsing BDS include COSATU, CUT in Brazil, CSN in Quebec, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) in the United States. Unions in Scotland, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Belgium, the Basque Country, Uruguay and many other countries have also taken a stand in support of Palestinian rights and the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Workers’ struggles and popular movements like the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil have been strong supporters of the Palestinian struggle – including that of the Palestinian prisoners – for many years.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes all of the labor unions taking a stand with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian prisoners. We echo the call of Palestinian trade unions:

“We also take this opportunity to call on trade unions yet to join the BDS movement to: implement boycotts of Israeli and international companies that are complicit with violations of Palestinian rights, divest trade union funds from companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid, and apply pressure on governments to cut military and trade relations with Israel. We reiterate our call for a boycott of Histadrut, Israel’s general trade union, for its complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and its refusal to take a clear stand in support of comprehensive human rights for Palestinians.” 

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. The majority of Palestinian prisoners are Palestinians of the popular classes: workers, from the villages, the refugee camps and the cities. The international workers’ movement is engaged in a battle confronting capitalist exploitation, oppression and austerity around the world. The Palestinian prisoners in their battle for dignity and freedom are on the front lines not only of the struggle for Palestinian freedom, but for social justice and human liberation in the world today.

Les luttes de la classe ouvrière palestinienne et le mouvement mondial de solidarité pour la Palestine

fsm_logo_frLes luttes de la classe ouvrière palestinienne et le mouvement mondial de solidarité pour la Palestine / The struggles of the palestinian working class and the global solidarity movement for Palestine / Las luchas de la clase trabajadora palestina y el movimiento de solidaridad global para Palestina

Atelier de discussion

Avec / with / con :
PALESTINIAN GENERAL FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (PGFTU)
PALESTINIAN POSTAL SERVICES WORKERS UNION (PPSWU)
PALESTINE NEW FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (PNFTU)

Avec l’appui / with the support of / con el apoyo de :
ELA (Pais Vasco), CIG (Galicia), CSN (Québec), CUT (Brasil), CGIL (Italia), STTP/CUPW (Canada), USS (France)

L’atelier mettra l’accent sur les conditions de travail et de vie de la classe des travailleuses et travailleurs palestiniens, la lutte pour la justice sociale, le travail décent, les réalités particulières du travail syndical sous un régime d’occupation, les défis du mouvement ouvrier et la lutte politique pour la libération de la Palestine. Ensuite, la discussion sera ouverte sur la façon dont les syndicats et les organisations à l’extérieur de la Palestine peuvent agir en solidarité avec les travailleuses et travailleurs palestiniens.

The workshop will focus on the conditions of the Palestinian working class, the struggle for social justice, decent work, the particular realities of the union work under an occupation regime, the challenges of the Labor movement and the political struggle for the liberation of Palestine. The discussion will then open on how unions and organizations outside Palestine can act in solidarity with the Palestinian Workers.

El taller se centrará en las condiciones de trabajo y de vida de la clase trabajadora palestina, la lucha por la justicia social, el trabajo decente, las realidades particulares del trabajo sindical bajo un régimen de ocupación, los retos del movimiento obrero y la lucha política por la liberación de Palestina. A continuación, la discusión se abrirá en cómo los sindicatos y organismos fuera de Palestina pueden actuar en solidaridad con los trabajadores palestinos.

Intervenants

À venir, PALESTINIAN GENERAL FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (PGFTU)
À venir, PALESTINIAN POSTAL SERVICES WORKERS UNION (PPSWU)
Jamal Juma, PALESTINE NEW FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (PNFTU)

Atelier de discussion
Activité à confirmer
Date et heure à déterminer
Emplacement à déterminer
Langue(s) principale(s) de l’activité

Français, Anglais, Espagnol, Arabe

Traduction simultannée

Français, Anglais, Espagnol

Publics cibles

Général, Jeunes (13 à 17 ans), Jeunes (18 à 35 ans), Aînés, Femmes, Travailleurs et travailleuses, Personnes en situation de handicap, Autochtones, LGBT, Personnes racisées, Personnes en situation précaire

Activité étendue sur internet

non

Dernière modification
20 June 2016
Les luttes de la classe ouvrière palestinienne et le mouvement mondial de solidarité pour la Palestine / The struggles of the palestinian working class and the global solidarity movement for Palestine / Las luchas de la clase trabajadora palestina y el movimiento de solidaridad global para Palestina
Organisation responsable de l’activité

Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)

Administrateurs

Nathalie Guay

Thème

Décolonisation et autodétermination des peuples

Objectifs

Informer / Sensibiliser
Débattre / délibérer / discuter
Proposer / Développer des alternatives
Converger pour l’action / décider
Développer des partenariats / Constituer des alliances

Canadian Union of Postal Workers passes historic Boycott Resolution

Canadian Union of Postal Workers passes historic Boycott Resolution

Report by Katherine Nastovski
Published here: 21/04/08

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) Congratulates Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) on Historic Boycott Resolution!

16 April 2008

CAIA extends its warm congratulations to the delegates of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers national convention held in Ottawa, Canada, April 13-17th 2008. At the convention, CUPW passed an historic resolution, Resolution 338/339, in support of the global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli Apartheid. This resolution is an extremely significant landmark for the Palestinian solidarity movement in Canada. It represents the first time in North American history that a national union has passed a BDS resolution. The resolution recognizes Israel as an apartheid state and expresses CUPW’s support for boycott and divestment from Israel. It was passed almost unanimously after nearly one hour of discussion on the convention floor.

CUPW represents more than 50, 000 postal workers across Canada and has been at the forefront of campaigns against privatization and deregulation at Canada Post. The union has a proud history of international solidarity. During the South African apartheid years, CUPW was at the forefront of labour solidarity with South African workers and engaged in concrete actions such as the refusal to handle mail from South Africa.

The CUPW resolution was modeled on Resolution 50 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario), which was passed in May 2006 and re-affirmed in 2007. The resolution commits CUPW to “support the international campaign of BDS until Israel meets its obligations to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

The resolution states that CUPW will work “Š with Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations to develop an educational campaign about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the political and economic support of Canada for these practices.” The resolution also calls on the Canadian government to increase humanitarian aid to Palestinians who have been affected by the conflict, and commits CUPW to research on Canadian involvement in the occupation.

CAIA congratulates CUPW on this vital show of support for Palestinian workers and their families. At a time when the Palestinian people are suffering under brutal siege and daily bombardment this resolution is an important show of solidarity. Today alone, 22 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, were killed by Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The explicit recognition by yet another Canadian union that Israel is an apartheid state, deserving of international isolation and boycott in the manner of South African Apartheid, is an inspiration for the North American and international labour movements. It is one further confirmation that the Israeli apartheid regime has deservedly become a pariah for progressive movements across the globe.

We call on supporters across the world to take the following action in support of CUPW:

1) Immediately email and fax the CUPW National office congratulating them on their stand against Israeli apartheid (sample letter below). Please fax your letter of support to CUPW National Office at ++ (613) 563-7861 or email endapartheid@riseup.net and we will pass them on to the CUPW national officeholders.

2) If you are a member of a union then get involved! Please contact the CAIA Labour Committee, Labour for Palestine, at labour@caiaweb.org for ideas and ways to get involved in Palestinian solidarity work within your workplace and union.

3) Visit your local post office and thank the workers for this resolution! Let them know that you appreciate this show of solidarity with Palestine.


Sample letter

Dear CUPW-Executive:

Thank you for passing the resolution to support the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Like South Africa, Israel will have to be subjected to intense international pressure before it recognizes Palestinians as a people with the right to self-determination. Your union played a critical role in the fight against South African Apartheid – it is wonderful to see you taking on this leadership role again in the fight against Israeli Apartheid.

No doubt you will come under intense pressure from pro-Israeli, pro-apartheid organizations to reverse this courageous decision, but rest assured that the overwhelming majority of people in the world are not fooled by right-wing, racist rhetoric and the mainstream media bias surrounding this issue.

Thank you again!

The Palestinian BDS National Committee* Salutes the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on their Historic Decision to Boycott the Israeli Apartheid Regime

For Immediate Release

The Palestinian BDS National Committee* Salutes the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on their Historic Decision to Boycott the Israeli Apartheid Regime
18 April 2008

The BDS National Committee (BNC), comprising over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations and including all major Palestinian workers’ unions, salutes the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) for their decision to support the international campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli apartheid regime. This decision, the first of its kind at the national level of a union in North America, constitutes a major step forward in the global struggle for freedom and justice. It further exemplifies the cause of workers’ solidarity against oppression and racism, particularly at a time when Israel is intensifying, with impunity, its acts of genocide against close to 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza.

Delegates to the annual convention of the CUPW, representing over 50,000 postal workers, voted overwhelmingly in support of resolution 338/339. This resolution also states that the union will work “with Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations to develop an educational campaign about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the political and economic support of Canada for these practices.”

Israel’s apartheid and colonial policies and practices have resulted in the near collapse of the Palestinian economy, resulting in massive loss of work and livelihood. These policies have had a particularly acute effect on Palestinianpostal workers. The apartheid regime has ensured that there is no Palestinian controlled access to other countries; as a result, all incoming and outgoing Palestinian mail has to pass through the Israeli postal service which routinely delays delivery, often for several months. In the course of fulfilling their duty, Palestinian postal workers have to travel through Israeli checkpoints at which Israeli soldiers regularly delay their passage, often detaining them for hours under the sun or rain, or denying them passage altogether. By virtue of working under conditions of a brutal military occupation, Palestinian postal workers regularly risk imprisonment, injury, and death while at work.

This resolution comes at a time when Israel prepares to celebrate the sixtieth year since its establishment, a celebration in which many of the most powerful governments of the world will participate. For sixty years, thePalestinian people have endured and resisted the ongoing displacement of the majority of Palestinians, as well as the land confiscation, military violence, institutionalized racism, and political repression of those who managed to remain in their homeland. CUPW’s resolution is a statement to the world that when the states of the world stand behind oppression and apartheid, it is up to the people of the world to oppose it.

We call on the workers of CUPW to ensure that their union implements this historic resolution. We also call on all people of the world to follow CUPW’s example, and work within their societies and institutions to support the isolation of the Israeli apartheid regime until the apartheid system is dismantled, and the Palestinian refugees return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled. Only thus can a just peace based on international law and fundamental human rights be built and maintained.

* The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) is a wide coalition of major unions, networks and organizations representing Palestinian civil society.

For more information please contact:
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: info@boycottisrael.ps
Badil Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights: info@badil.org
Stop the Wall Coalition: info@stopthewall.org

Canadian Union of Postal Workers joins the international campaign against Israeli apartheid

Canadian Union of Postal Workers joins the international campaign against Israeli apartheid

April 2008: Sign on Statement and Appeal for Solidarity

We the undersigned organizations congratulate the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) for joining the international boycott of Israeli apartheid. We call on workers and labour unions worldwide to join CUPW in creating a strong and effective labour movement in solidarity with struggles against Israeli apartheid and violence.

At the national convention of CUPW, representing over fifty thousand workers across Canada, a strong majority of delegates voted for a resolution in support of the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid.

Marking the first time a country-wide labour union in North America has voted to participate in the global campaign against apartheid in Palestine, CUPW’s resolution represents a critical juncture for the involvement of North American labour in this campaign. International support for CUPW’s resolution – which recognizes the Palestinianpeople’s inalienable rights, including the right of return – could prove key to shoring up this victory.

In Canada, CUPW has been at the forefront of campaigns against privatization and deregulation of postal services in Canada, while maintaining a proud history of international solidarity. During the South African apartheid years, CUPW played a lead role in labor solidarity with South African workers, engaging in concrete actions such as the refusal to handle mail from South Africa.

CUPW has now joined the international campaign against Israeli apartheid, committing itself to “support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligations to recognize thePalestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

Israel’s apartheid and colonial policies have resulted in the near collapse of the Palestinian economy, resulting in massive unemployment and bleak poverty. In the West Bank, over 51 % of the population is estimated to live under the poverty line; in Gaza, the figure rises to 81 %. Israel’s policies have had a particularly acute effect on Palestinianpostal workers, as the apartheid regime has ensured that there is no Palestinian-controlled access to other countries.

As a result, all incoming and outgoing Palestinian mail has to pass through the Israeli postal service, which routinely delays delivery, often for several months. In the course of fulfilling their duty, Palestinian postal workers are forced to travel through Israeli checkpoints at which Israeli soldiers regularly delay their passage, detaining them for hours under the sun or rain, or denying them passage altogether. Working under a brutal military occupation, Palestinianpostal workers can risk imprisonment, injury, and death in the course of a day’s work.

CUPW’s resolution comes at a time when Israel prepares to celebrate the sixtieth year since its establishment, a celebration in which many of the most powerful governments of the world will participate. For sixty years, thePalestinian people have endured and resisted ongoing displacement, land confiscation, military violence, institutionalized racism, and political repression of the minority who managed to remain in their homeland. CUPW’s resolution is a clear statement to the world that when the states of the world stand behind oppression and apartheid, it is up to the people of the world to oppose it.

Every passing week demostrates the urgent need for a strong popular movement against Israeli apartheid. Last week, Israel once more stepped up the violence of its bloody siege of Gaza, leaving dozens of Palestinian civilians dead. Israel continues to impose collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who live with chronic shortages of electricity, fuel, food and basic necessities as a result.

We call on all workers and labour unions to join CUPW in creating a strong and effective boycott movement to help bring an end to this injustice and violence.

—> Actions you can take:

* Endorse this statement: send the name of your organization and city to
tadamon[at]resist.ca

* Send a message of solidarity through email or fax to the CUPW National office congratulating them on their stand against Israeli apartheid. Please fax your letter of support to CUPW National Office at:

+ 1 613 563 7861 or email care of tadamon[at]resist.ca.

* Ask your union, community group, association or collective to follow CUPW’s lead and adopt a position in support of the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid.

* In Montreal, join the “Boycott Apartheid” bloc in the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine demonstration to mark the 60th year of the Nakba on Saturday, 10 May 2008, 1pm Dorchester Square (Peel & René-Lévesque). To join the boycott bloc, look for the ‘boycott Israeli apartheid’ banner…

—> Endorsed by:

Tadamon! Montreal (Montreal, Quebec)
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) (Palestine)
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto, Canada) Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec (Quebec) Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) (Quebec) Campaign to boycott Supporters of Israel (Beirut, Lebanon)
People’s Movement (Beirut, Lebanon)
Civil Resistance Campaign (Beirut, Lebanon) Committee Against Normalization of Relations with “Israel” in Jordan (Jordan)

Israel, South Africa, Apartheid and The Labor Movement

Educational Forum/Video Screening

Israel, South Africa, Apartheid and The Labor Movement
Sunday October 21, 2007
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

$5.00 Donation Requested (no one turned away due to lack of funds)

New College Cultural Center
766 Valencia St./19th St. San Francisco

There is a growing movement worldwide among labor to take direct
action against the policies of Israel on the Palestinians. This forum
will look at the relationship between Israel and South Africa and why
trade unionists in South Africa and Canada are taking action to
support a economic boycott of Israel. We will also look at the history
of the AFL-CIO and it’s relationship with Israel.

Speakers:

Iliam Burbano
Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario Division
CUPE Ontario’s International Solidarity Committee.
President of CUPE Local 3393

Robert Mashego (invited)
Vice President South African Transportation and Allied Workers

Hassam el-Hamalay
Labor Journalist
Blogger
Cairo, Egypt

Videos: The Mall

The Wisconsin Plan: From Welfare to Work? (13 min) 2007 by Sawt
el-Anel/The Labor’s Voice Israel’s welfare-work experiment “Wisconsin
Plan” has entered its decisive phase, as the two-year pilot period is
about to end in June 2007. This film shows how this plan is causing
the social and economic problems on Palestinian people in Israel.
laborers@laborers-voice.org http://www.laborers-voice.org

the Mall by Video 48 An inside look at the living conditions of
Palestinian workers inside Israel. Their home is a mall.
www.odaction.org/wac

The Alley (14 min) 2007 by a-films/RJI From Occupied Palestine, this
film explores aspects of the current political economy of Balata
Refugee Camp in Nablus. Perspectives from this hard-hit community
include the insights and voices of vegetable sellers and other
residents of Balata, such as those forced by the harsh conditions of
Israeli occupation to seek work in a sweatshop at the edge of the
camp. a-fils[at]riseup[dot]net <mailto:a-filns@riseup.net>

USA vs Al-Arian (98 min) 2007 by Line Halvorsen This is the story of
the targeting by the US government of Palestinian American professor
Dr. Sami Al-Arian at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Sami
who was also a member of the NEA United Professors of Florida received
their support against the pressure to fire him after he appeared on
Fox s Bill O’Reilly show. The film shows a personal story of a family
living in a society where fear of terrorism has resulted in increasing
stigmatization and discrimination against Muslims. For years, Nahla
Al-Arian and her children have been fighting to prove the innocence of
husband and father Sami, a Palestinian refugee, and civil rights
activist, who has lived in the USA for more than thirty years. In
2003, Sami Al-Arian was accused of giving material support to a
terrorist organization and held in solitary confinement for over three
years. His six-month trial ended without a single guilty verdict. The
failure to convict Dr. Al-Arian was seen as a stinging rebuke for the
federal government. While the Bush administration considered this a
landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism,
Professor Sami Al-Arian claims he has been targeted in an attempt to
silence his political views. Because the jury hung on some of the
counts, however, Dr. Al-Arian remained in jail as the prosecution
threatened to retry him. Laila Al-Arian, daughter of Sami Al-Arian
will be attending. http://www.usavsalarian.com

Sponsored by Labor Video Project and Endorsed By New College Center
For Activism

For Further Information Please contact
Labor Video Project
P.O. Box 720027
San Francisco, CA 94172
(415)282-1908
lvpsf@labornet.org

US Unions and Boycotting Israel A reply to US labor leaders, from Canada by Labor for Palestine; August 28, 2007 (ZNet)

ZNet

US Unions and Boycotting Israel A reply to US labor leaders, from Canada by Labor for Palestine; August 28, 2007

27 August 2007

In July 2007, a group of labour leaders from the US issued a statement opposing the growing international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The statement was signed by a number of presidents from unions including the American Federation of Teachers, the American Postal Workers Union, the Communication Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the AFL-CIO(1). It was widely discussed in the Israeli media, where it was presented as a response to this summer’s important set of boycott resolutions from unions in the UK. While the US statement can in no way be seen as representative of grassroots sentiment within the North American trade union movement, as labour activists involved in a variety of Canadian unions we feel it is important to respond to the array of mistruths and distortions it contains.

Singling out Israel or international solidarity?

The US statement begins by endorsing a sentiment that is repeated adnauseum by pro-Israel activists:

“with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.”

The first thing to note about this argument is that it contains a remarkable omission. Nowhere in the entire US statement is there mention of the fact that the global campaign of BDS against Israel is a direct response to an urgent appeal signed in July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian worker, student, farmer, women, professional and refugee associations (2). This appeal was endorsed by everyPalestinian trade union federation and is the broadest and most representative call for international solidarity ever made by Palestinian society.

This point bears repeating. To portray the call for boycott as a “simplistic and non-constructive approach” originating from outside the region deliberately obfuscates the central point of the BDS campaign. The global trade union support for boycott resolutions is a direct response to an urgent appeal from Palestinian workers and their representatives. Palestinian workers and their representatives have set up a picket line and asked us not to cross. As North American trade unionists we have an extra responsibility to workers and their families struggling against unjust and oppressive regimes ? particularly when those regimes are fully supported by the US and Canadian governments.

It is worth emphasizing that attempts to characterize the international trade union movement as ‘singling out’ Israel appear ridiculous to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with the labour politics. If there is one issue ? particularly in North America – that the labour movement has simply been silent on for too many decades it is the injustice committed against the Palestinianpeople. The courageous resolutions coming from the UK, Canada and countries in Europe are a long overdue response to a shameful blight on the history of the international trade union movement. Our fellow trade unionists in the US should take up this campaign with even more vigour, given the fact that the crimes committed against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government would simply not be possible without US diplomatic, financial and military support.

The ‘why-pick-on-Israel’ response to the boycott campaign is even more shocking to hear from the leaders of the largest and most influential union organizations in the US. What kind of trade unionists ever make the argument that we shouldn’t support a labour struggle in one city because there are other workers also being oppressed in another? Or that a victory in one sector won’t aid our struggles as workers in another? This is an essential ABC of international solidarity. It is an unfortunate truth that too many in the labour movement in the US – and Canada – have largely forgotten or deliberately buried the principle of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’. Nevertheless, we must constantly uphold and stress this principle as essential to rebuilding our respective labour movements around a platform of militant, progressive solidarity and anti-imperialism. It is indeed striking that the US statement avoids all mention of even the word ‘solidarity’.

We are absolutely certain that the trade unionists in the US that are active around solidarity with Palestine are the same ones promoting other solidarity issues in the labour movement: the wars against the Iraqi and Afghan peoples, solidarity with workers in Mexico, Columbia, Egypt, the Philippines,and many others. These activists are also on the forefront of picket lines, organizing the unorganized, building support for undocumented workers, and leading ‘unauthorized’ strikes for social justice. The portrayal of BDS resolutions as narrowing the work of trade union activists is simply dishonest. A victory on one of these issues will inspire and mobilize activists across a broad range of social justice issues. This is our experience in Canada. It is certain to be the case elsewhere.

The ‘both sides’ argument

The US labour leaders’ statement also invokes the equally oft-repeated argument that we need to be ‘balanced’, look at ‘all sides’, avoid talking about the ‘victims and victimizer’, and so forth. The statement claims:

“We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these [BDS] resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies ofPalestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.”

This argument of balance is willfully blind and deliberately obfuscating of the central political issues at hand. There is an underlying cause to the ongoing misery and suffering that affects peoples in the area ? and it affects some people more than others: The destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1948; the creation of an exclusivist state that closely resembles the apartheid state of South Africa; the continued occupation, since 1967, of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of UN resolutions; and the current encirclement, siege and economic strangulation of Gaza; these are the root problems of the conflict. Israel (with U.S. and British support) is the key perpetrator of these violations and it is morally disingenuous to deploy arguments of ‘all sides equally guilty’. These violations of the Palestinian peoples and nation must be addressed if a genuine and just peace is to be achieved in the region. Avoiding these issues ? and repeating vacuous calls that serve to equate the oppressed and their oppressors ? really means standing on the side of those in power.

Of course civilians on all sides suffer from the ongoing state of war. But if you want to do something about that, then the fundamental causes of the problem need to be addressed. The global BDS movement attempts to do just that: by denying legitimacy to those who make a living justifying the current state of affairs; by refusing to work with organizations that support the oppression of an entire people; and by opposing investments that strengthen the occupation and domination of thePalestinian people. Peace can only be brought to the region by supporting peoples struggling for their freedom and social justice.

The negotiations myth

The US labour leaders’ statement goes on to argue that peace requires the coming together of the parties. The calls for boycotts stand in the way of the necessary interaction between the warring communities. Such an argument is again similar to those used against workers engaged in struggle in their workplaces. How often have we been told that a strike ‘hurts everyone’, and if we sit down and negotiate then ‘all sides will win’?

The reality is that over the last few decades the so-called ‘peace’ negotiations have simply served to cement Israel’s stranglehold over the Palestinian people. Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank doubled. Its system of military orders governing every aspect of Palestinian life was expanded to include an invidious control of Palestinian movement based on the notorious South African pass card system. Israel guaranteed the complete dependence of the Palestinian economy through control of all exports and imports, the construction of industrial zones to exploit cheap Palestinian labour, and the ultimate supply of all water, electricity, and fuel entering the Palestinian areas. The disconnected islands of territories that Palestinians have been made captive within have been rightly described as Bantustans. These Bantustans are now encircled by the Apartheid Wall and its associated network of military checkpoints, barbed wire fences and explosive mines.

To claim that ‘direct talks’ are a panacea for these fundamental problems overlooks the basic fact that negotiations are not neutral. The Israeli government wields tremendous military, economic and political superiority over the Palestinian people. It is supported by the most powerful states on the planet. The Palestinian people are living under Israeli occupation. In such a situation can it be anything more than self-evident that negotiations will favour the more powerful? These realities of power in the region ? and its implications for the achievement of rights of self-determination and justice for Palestinians ? must be acknowledged to truly demonstrate international solidarity. It means taking sides. As unionists we know that this means always being in the front ranks supporting those suffering against exploitation and oppression.

There are groups of people in Israel that respect the rights of Palestinians, maintain relations of solidarity and support for their struggle, and also support the BDS movement against Israeli apartheid. Much like the relations between the white South African supporters of the ANC and the liberation movement, the former fully supported the struggle and renounced the privileges and the superior status given to them by the racist regime. We are absolutely confident that the numbers and public profile of those courageous Israelis who stand with the Palestinian people will continue to increase alongside the growing strength of the global boycott movement.

Israeli and Palestinian unions

What about the Palestinian and Israeli trade unions? Once again, the silence of the US labour leaders’ statement towards the call issued by all Palestinian trade union federations in February
2007 to boycott the existing Israeli union movement ? the Histadrut ? needs to be underlined (3). The Histadrut represents a colonial-type union formation that supports the ongoing domination of thePalestinian people. It has worked hand-in-hand with the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip for decades, and is thus an integral part of the exploitation of Palestinian labour. The former Histadrut leader, Amir Peretz, moved straight on to Israeli Defence Minister and in that position presided over the horrendous bombardment of Lebanon in 2006. As part of Olmert’s government, he participated in the further extension of settlements in the West Bank and the building of the Apartheid Wall. The relationships that exist between the Histradrut and Palestinian labour institutions can in no honest way be described as constituting “co-operative and mutually supportive activities”.

Why BDS?

The purpose of boycott and divestment resolutions is to force the Israeli government to fulfill basic principles of human rights. Governments around the world have clearly failed to do so ? and, in contrast, are instrumental to supporting Israel’s system of oppression. The BDS campaign message is direct: it simply says that we should have no part in supporting those who stand with and maintain Israeli apartheid; we refuse to participate with and strengthen those structures and demand that basic human rights are achieved for the Palestinian people.

The boycott campaign is working. What other international initiative over the last few decades has so publicly expressed global dissatisfaction with Israeli policies against the Palestinian people and been so effective in forcing the Israeli government to respond? We know that we are having an impact when the Israeli government decides to set up a special government committee to combat the global boycott movement (4). We know that our voices are being heard when the British government must publicly come out against the UK trade union movement because of its position on Israeli human rights violations (5). When was the last time a western government has paid attention to a trade union resolution?

The BDS movement is also a powerful consciousness raising tool. By raising the arguments and debates we help to educate workers around an issue that it is simply impossible to understand on a diet of the mainstream, corporate media. In Canada, for example, union activists in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario) have been conducting a year-long education campaign throughout dozens of union locals based on material produced by the union on BDS. Hundreds of workers have gone through these educational sessions. Discussions and groups supportive ofPalestinian solidarity have formed in other unions. This would simply not have been possible without a resolution passed by CUPE in March 2006.

Over the past fifty years much of the trade union movement in the US (and many in Canada as well) have an inglorious record in supporting the foreign policy efforts of successive pro-business governments. Nevertheless, today a growing number of trade unionists are rejecting that tradition and are instead looking to rebuild a truly internationalist worker’s movement. The BDS campaign is a powerful component of this movement for progressive union solidarity.

As Canadian trade unionists, we are convinced that the global BDS campaign represents a re-awakening of the true principles of the labour movement. The boycott movement was an important part of solidarity with black South Africans struggling against apartheid. We are certain that it will be an instrumental part of achieving justice and peace in the Middle East. We are proud to be active in this campaign in Canada. A great many rank-and-file labour activists in the US support this work. Their voices and solidarity will not be silenced.

Notes:

(1)  A copy of this statement.

(2) See http://www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/BDSEnglish.pdf

(3) See http://www.stopthewall.org/boycott/bds/cupe.shtml

(4) See “Government to Form Joint Task Force to counter U.K. Boycotts”, Haaretz, 8 June 2007http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/868700.html

(5) See British Embassy Tel Aviv, “Howells Comments on Boycott of Israeli Goods”http://www.britemb.org.il/news/2007/howells180407.htm

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About Labour for Palestine

Labour for Palestine is a network of activists involved in promoting and strengthening the BDS campaign across a variety of different Canadian unions as a sub-committee of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA).