Category Archives: Labor Zionism

5 WAYS to support Palestinian Liberation within the Bay Area

View in searchable PDF format: 5 Ways to Support Palestine_Final

Screenshot 2016-07-08 20.39.54


Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!

Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.48.25Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW
Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!


Screenshot 2016-04-26 18.30.03Joint Statement GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment
This past week the NYU Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), both representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. . . . In December 2014, the 14,000 student-worker union at the University of California (UAW Local 2865) system passed a similar resolution supporting BDS with 65% in favor.


JWJContext: America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)
Following a well-attended panel hosted by Western Mass Labor for Palestine at the April 16 Jobs With Justice Conference in Springfield, MA, author Vijay Prashad extensively reviews the rise of Labor for Palestine and U.S. trade union support for BDS. Panelists included Prashad, LFP Co-Conveners Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin, Carol Lambiase (United Electrical Workers), Bill Shortell (International Association of Machinists), and was moderated by WMLFP members Jordy Rosenberg and Ruth Jennison. Prashad’s article concludes by quoting Adely: “Ultimately, building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”


delegation-birzeitLabor to Palestine: We Stand with Palestine in the Spirit of “Sumud”: The U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
On April 16, the nineteen-member March 2016 delegation to Palestine, which included LFP Co-convener Jaime Veve and several other trade unionists, issued a powerful report stating, in part: “We join hands with our comrades in the Palestinian labor movement and salute the struggle of striking teachers, labor organizers and workers demanding economic justice, independence and national self-determination from colonial structures. We further pledge to campaign in the ranks of U.S. labor to divest from Israeli bonds and sever ties between the AFL-CIO and the Histadrut.” To host a local event with delegation members, contact


socialsecstrike-maanLabor in Palestine: Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law (IMEMC)
Thousands of Palestinians, on Tuesday, demonstrated outside of a government building, in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, against the Palestinian Authority’s approval of a new law many believe fails to provide adequate protection for workers. . . . Weeks earlier, a teachers’ strike brought the largest public demonstrations against the PA in years.

Analysis: Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’
In a new article, British BDS activists Peter Waterman discusses the hypocrisy of Zionist anti-BDS spokesperson Eric Lee, owner of the widely-read website, LabourStart.

Download: New Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.


Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’ (Peter Waterman)

Labour-StartApril 16, 2016

Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’ 

Peter Waterman 

Eric Lee is best-known as the owner/coordinator of two international labour sites online. LabourStart is a unique and humungous news and solidarity site, fed by hundreds of volunteers. It is heavily identified with the Eurocentric and Social-Liberal International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). UnionBook is his pinboard or sandbox, on which contributors can post almost anything, or in which they can play, without any visible effect, with others.[1]

Eric, moreover, is organizing, 2016, a rather broad LabourStart Conference in Toronto, Canada this year. And he is this same year also the recipient of two awards for his online labour solidarity work, one in the UK, one in Norway.

I was therefore astounded to see his recent declaration, Proud to be a Zionist, a statement illustrated by a Left Zionist poster, with Hebrew lettering, from 1944: that is from before Israel was even created! Eric also identifies with the Israeli kibbutzim (he once lived and worked in one), though the numbers and socialist inspiration of these has been in decline for many years. As a US Left (?) Zionist paper puts it (in a piece worth reading in full) ‘What Actually Undermined the Kibbutz’:

Over the past quarter-century, most of Israel’s 270 kibbutzim have abandoned the founders’ socialist credo, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,’ and replaced it with the new ‘privatized’ kibbutz.

So Eric’s Pride seems to be inspired by a Left Zionist Israel (real or aspirational) of the 1940s-50s, rather than the neo-liberal, racist, religious-conservative, projection of the present day. In the 1940s-50s Israel was almost universally supported by at least the Western trade union internationals, and the major Western (and even Non-Western) national unions. Today there is a growing international union movement, modeled on the Anti-Apartheid one, that identifies with the Palestinian unions and people, and calls for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Now, like Eric Lee, I am a Jewish socialist and labour internationalist, both on the Ground (modestly) and in the Cloud (even more so). Shocked by his Zionist Pride statement, I decided that rather than dissecting his more-than-somewhat chauvinist[2] declaration, I would offer my own take on the Israel/Palestine situation. This is part of a general 2014 paper on the current crisis of union internationalism. It considers different international labour responses to that conflict, including Eric Lee’s Labour Zionist one. The relevant section begins as follows:

I have identified with Palestine Solidarity and/or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, particularly in so far as this has involved unions and the wider labour movement. More so since the 2014 Israeli outrage in Gaza that scandalized even liberal Zionists abroad and former IDF intelligence unit soldiers in Israel. Given the Balkanisation/Ghettoization of Palestine, I have come to consider any UN-type ‘two-state’ solution as dead in the water (or should one here say ‘desert’ – including those caused by long-standing and continuing Israeli destruction of Palestine’s ecology?). If we are not to continue towards Israel’s ‘Final Solution of the Arab Problem’, then I see a one-state solution as the only democratic one. It may be distant (so is a post-capitalist world!) yet it provides a horizon toward which we must move.

The section continues with this consideration (edited) of the Labour Zionist position:

The Labour Zionist. Though not confined to one person, this position is

exemplified by … Eric Lee … whose position reminds me of that of Western Communists as Stalinist Russia stagnated and declined. He has been busy with triumphalist celebration of Israel’s wars, as well as the successes of the Zionist Histadrut within the [traditional trade unions] in general and the ITUC in particular. He has, however, increasingly shifted, if uncertainly, to sobering reflections on the success of the BDS/Palestine-solidarity movement, though this is not to the point of recognizing any Israeli responsibility [for this]. Two pro-Israeli sites he has either created or been connected with, TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) and TUFI (Trade Union Friends of Israel) appear to have run out of steam late-2013.[3] Eric (with whom I fruitfully dialogued on [international labour communication by computer] in the 1990s) has also increasingly withdrawn his pro-Israeli/Histadrut news, views and personal attachments from LabourStart and UnionBook, concentrating them on his own blogsite (from which he has also removed his LabourStart/UnionBook affiliations!). Unlike many Western Communists (myself amongst them after the Soviet invasion of Communist Czechoslovakia) he has not yet had his ‘1968 Moment’ – that of abandoning a fundamentalist state-nationalism and an inevitably ‘particularistic internationalism’, in favour of the dialogical/dialectical internationalism that his remarkable and pioneering online creations make possible.

Eric Lee does a disservice to both his online and offline LabourStart activity by his continued total identification with one particular state (compare that of Communist internationalists with the Soviet Union). That he has separated his Zionism from LabourStart is a result, evidently, of 1) Israel’s increasing violation of human rights both within the country and in Palestine, 2) the increasing inter/national union opposition to Israel, and 3) the international criticism made of his continuing Zionism over the years. This shows, amongst other things, a British union refusing funds for LabourStart on the grounds of his Zionism, as well as a failure to achieve a place on the elected board of Amnesty International in the UK. Indeed, a condemnation of Eric’s support for the Israeli Zionist union confederation, Histadrut, also heavily marked a LabourStart conference in Turkey, 2011! Lee has consequently played down his identification with that body.

In so far as left, labour, socialist and human rights campaigning internationally, has caused Eric to retreat from using LabourStart to promote Zionism (and Israeli Zionist unionism), I am convinced that further campaigning at LabourStart conferences, and award-winning ceremonies, is necessary and would be to the advantage of such internationalism as LabourStart/UnionBook might represent.

I would like to forestall any argument that it is sufficient if Eric separates his Zionism from LabourStart. This would not stand up for anyone who on one of his sites promoted his labour internationalism and on another expressed anti-semitism, sexism, Maoism or Trumpism.

Eric Lee has shown he is sensitive to the forward march of the union BDS movement, and to criticism of his Israeli chauvinism. A widening campaign might oblige him to recognize there is a fundamental contradiction between national chauvinism and labour internationalism.

The Hague

[1] Full disclosure: I was for a year or two an active contributor to UnionBook. This was when I thought it had potential as a site of dialogue, whilst LabourStart is a ‘broadcaster’, collecting news to a centre, then sending this out. I was twice suspended from UB by Eric Lee, the second time definitively. I decided to focus my energy elsewhere.

[2] Merriam-Webster definition: 1 :  excessive or blind patriotism — compare jingoism, 2 :  undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged.

[3] Update, April 18, 2016: The TULIP site has evidently been revived, though it seems to have forgotten which Palestinian unions it now ‘links’ with.


Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line

To join 170+ initial trade union signers, please click here.


Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line
Labor for Palestine
January 28, 2016

As workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists, we call on the United Auto Workers International Executive Board to rescind its undemocratic and arbitrary “nullification” of UAW 2865’s respect for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the 13,000 teaching assistants and student-workers at the University of California in 2014. 


Unfounded Interference

The IEB concedes that it could “find no evidence that the local union engaged in any improper actions that may have prohibited a fair and democratic vote.”

Nonetheless, it sides with anti-labor corporate lawyers to defend the profits of military contractors who arm apartheid Israel. Enlisting in a well-funded witch-hunt designed to silence those who speak up for Palestinian rights, it falsely calls BDS “anti-Semitic.”

In doing so, the IEB disregards more than a century of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, including Israel’s establishment through the dispossession of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), a regime that veteran South African freedom fighters call “worse than apartheid.”

It turns a blind eye to $3.1 billion a year in U.S. military aid, with which Israel massacred 2200 Palestinians (including 500 children) in Gaza in 2014, and inflicted a 10-year high in Palestinian casualties in the West Bank in 2015.

It refuses to acknowledge more than fifty laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

It is deaf to urgent Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity in the form of support for BDS.

It omits the stated goals of BDS, which demands an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

It ignores the endorsement of BDS by Black Lives Matter activists, Jewish members of UAW 2865, and trade unions around the world.

It fails to recognize that BDS is entirely consistent with past UAW support for boycotts organized by the Civil Rights Movement, United Farm Workers, and South African anti-apartheid movement.

Lacking any semblance of fairness, the IEB’s decision has been appealed to the UAW’s Public Review Board.

UAW Leaders’ Complicity with Apartheid

In contrast to UAW 2865’s highly-transparent support for BDS, the IEB’s biased ruling reflects UAW top leaders’ longstanding and unaccountable complicity with the racist ideology of Labor Zionism.

In the 1940s, UAW and other top U.S. labor leaders actively supported the Nakba. UAW president Walter Reuther was closely allied with future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who later infamously pronounced, “[t]here were no such things as Palestinians.”

In the 1950s, UAW conventions passed pro-Israel resolutions and raised funds for the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation. Reuther’s brother, Victor, served as U.S. spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund, which remains at the forefront of seizing Palestinian lands. In subsequent years, “the UAW may have been the largest institutional purchaser of Israel Bonds,” which fund dispossession of the Palestinian people.

In 2007, International UAW leaders signed a statement drafted by the Jewish Labor Committee that attacked unions in the UK for endorsing BDS.

Now they seek to disenfranchise UAW 2865 members, muzzle free speech, and demonize the surging BDS movement.

Rank-and-File Resistance

Rank-and-file UAW members have a history of challenging this pro-apartheid stance.

In January 1969, the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers publicly condemned Israeli colonialism. On October 14, 1973, three thousand Arab autoworkers in Detroit held a wildcat strike to protest UAW Local 600’s purchase—without membership approval—of $300,000 in Israel Bonds. On November 28, 1973, Arab, Black and other autoworkers struck to protest UAW International President Leonard Woodcock’ acceptance of the B’nai B’rith’s “Humanitarian Award.”

UAW 2865’s BDS resolution reclaims and revives this proud tradition of solidarity and social justice. When Palestinian trade unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and Labor for Palestine issued renewed BDS calls in response to Israel’s 2014 Gaza massacre, UAW 2865’s Joint Council openly informed the entire membership:

“We intend to throw our weight behind the BDS movement to add to the international pressure against Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinian people. As workers, students, and as a labor union, we stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination from a settler-colonial power.”

On December 4, 2014, UAW 2865 members adopted this non-binding resolution by a landslide sixty-five percent, thereby becoming the first major U.S. union to endorse BDS.

Growing U.S. Labor Support for BDS

UAW 2865’s courageous vote was paralleled by LFPILWU Local 10 members who refused to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014, and has been followed by adoption of BDS resolutions by the United Electrical Workers and Connecticut AFL-CIO in 2015.

Attempts to silence this growing solidarity movement are doomed to failure, as reflected in the National Labor Relations Board’s recent dismissal of a challenge to the UE’s BDS resolution.

As the 2865 BDS Caucus explains:

“No letter from the IEB can erase the educational and organizational work we have done over the past year, work we will continue to do, energized no doubt by the IEB’s undemocratic, business­-friendly attempt to nullify this vote. . . .

“We are part of a growing movement for union solidarity with the people of Palestine and for a democratic and visionary U.S. labor movement. As workers, educators, and students, we know together we can prevail over these forms of repression and continue striving for justice for all peoples.”

Sharing that vision, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with UAW 2865 in respecting the BDS picket line.


Please also sign:
Support Student Workers’ Historic BDS Vote (US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)
Stand with UAW Local 2865 (Jewish Voice for Peace)

INITIAL SIGNERS (List in formation)
(Affiliation shown for identification only // *Labor for Palestine co-conveners)

*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW (NYC)

*Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)

*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU L. 10 (retired)(Oakland CA)

*Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union L. 100 (retired)(NYC)

Rabab Abdulhadi, California Faculty Association-San Francisco State University

Judith Ackerman, 1199SEIU, AFT, UFT, AFTRA, SAG (NYC)

Larry Adams, Former President, NPMHU L. 300; People’s Organization for Progress (NJ)

Bina Ahmad, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)

Sameerah Ahmad, Former Diversity Coordinator, GEO/UAW L. 2322 (Chicago, IL)

Tanya Akel, Regional Director, IBT L. 2010

Greg Albo, YUFA, York University (Toronto, ON)

Tania Aparicio, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)

Noha Arafa, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

B. Ross Ashley, Former Shop Steward and Executive Council member, SEIU L. 204, then L. 1 (Toronto, ON)

Shahar Azoulay, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)

Lejla Bajrami, 1199SEIU (Brooklyn, NY)

John Becker, IBT L. 814 (Detroit, MI)

Marie Bellavia, NEA/Portland Association of Teachers (OR)

Zarina Bhatia, GMB, TUC (retired) (Birmingham, UK)

Michael Billeaux, Recording Secretary, WITAA-AFT 3220 (Madison, WI)

Walter Birdwell, Retired Shop Steward, NALC Br. 283 (Laguna Vista, TX)

Dana Blanchard, Executive Board, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT L. 1078

Dave Bleakney, 2nd National VP, CUPW (Ottawa, ON)

Donna Blythe-McColgan, Staff Rep., USW (Boston, MA)

Deena Brazy, AFSCME L. 6000 (Madison, WI)

Richard Blum, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Ray Bush, UCU Leeds Branch (UK)

Claudia Carrera, Shop Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Joshua Carrin, Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Sara Catalinotto, Former Delegate, UFT/AFT L. 2 (NYC)

Joe Catron, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (NYC)

Nora Carroll, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Jan Clausen, President, Goddard College Faculty Union, UAW L. 2322

Frank Couget, NALC Br. 36 (NYC)

CUNY Law School Labor Coalition (NYC)

Amy Cross, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Mike Cushman, Former Secretary, LSE Branch, UCU (London, UK)

Denise D’Anne, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)

Ziad Dallal, Steward, UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Buzz Davis, Executive Board, AFT-W Retiree Council (Stoughton, WI)

Dominic DeSiata, IBEW L. 103 (Boston, MA)

John Dudley, SEIU-CT State Retirees Chapter

Lisa Edwards, Alternate Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)

Arla S. Ertz, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)

John Estes, NALC (Birmingham, AL)

Shelley Ettinger, AFT L. 3882 (NYC)

Jessica Feldman, Shop Steward, UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Sarah S. Forth, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Los Angeles, CA)

Josh Fraidstern, TWU L. 100 (Brooklyn, NY)

Cynthia Franklin, UHPA (Honolulu, HI)

Jeremy Fredericksen, Alternate VP and Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council

Nick Giannone, Trustee, Boilermakers L. 29 (Weymouth, MA)

Steve Gillis, Financial Secretary, USWA L. 8751 (Boston School Bus Drivers’ Union)

Mike Gimbel, Executive Board, AFSCME L. 375 AFSCME (retired)(NYC)

Brian Glennie, IUEC L. 82 (Parkville, BC)

Sherna Gluck, Former VP, CFA/SEIU L. 1983

Sam Grainger, SENS-UAW (NYC)

Martha Grevatt, Civil and Human Rights Committee, UAW L. 869 (Ferndale, MI)

Ira Grupper, Delegate (retired), Greater Louisville (KY) Central Labor Council, BCTGM L. 16T

Gabriel Haaland, Steward, CWA L. 9404 (Vallejo, CA)

Jesse Hagopian, Association Rep., Seattle Education Association/NEA

Frank Hammer, UAW-GM international Rep.; UAW L. 909 (retired)(Detroit, MI)

Denise N. Hammond, Unifor 591g (Toronto, ON)

Lenora Hanson, Member, Executive Board, AFT L. 3220, Teaching Assistants’ Association (Madison, WI)

Abdul-Basit Haqq, Staff Rep., CWA L. 1037 (Piscataway, NJ)

Janet Harmon, Local Trustee, AFSCME DC 37 L. 436 (NYC)

Shafeka Hashash, Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

David Heap, University of Western Ontario Faculty Association

Win Heimer, VP, Greater Hartford Central Labor Council; AFT L. 4200R and CSEA Council 400, L. 2001, SEIU, CTW

Lucy Herschel, Delegate, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)

Monadel Herzallah, SEIU (San Francisco, CA)

Jack Heyman, ILWU L. 10 (retired); Chair, TWSC; Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (Oakland, CA)

Molly Hogan, ILWU/IBU (retired)(CA)

Jey Iyadurai, Human Rights Rep., CUPW 626 (Toronto, ON)

Ruth Jennison, Departmental Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA

Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary, San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers-AFT L. 1493

Daniel J. Kelly, Shop Steward and Albany Labor Council Delegate, CSEA L. 1000 and L. 690

Ed Kinchley, SEIU L. 1021 Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council

John Kirkland, Carpenters L. 1462 (Bucks County, PA)

David Klein, California Faculty Association (Los Angeles, CA)

Jeff Klein, Retired President, NAGE/SEIU L. R1-168 (Boston, MA)

Cindy Klumb, Chief Shop Steward, OPEIU L. 153 (Brooklyn, NY)

Dennis Kortheuer, California Faculty Association

Daniella Korotzer, Former VP and former Health and Safety Officer, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Dennis Kosuth, Steward, NNU (Chicago, IL)

Pooja Kothari, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Rebecca Kurti, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)

David Laibman, PSC-CUNY/AFT L. 2334 retirees’ chapter (NYC)

Carol Lang, AFSCME DC 37 and PSC-CUNY/AFT L. 2334 (Bronx, NY)

Patrick Langhenry, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Queens, NY)

Angaza Laughinghouse, VP, NC Public Service Workers Union-UE L. 150

Raymond Leduc, Boilermakers L. 29 (retired)(Orleans, MA)

David Letwin, AAUP (Brooklyn, NY)

Eli Lichtenstein, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)

Michael Louw, Organizer/Educator, Congress of South African Trade Unions

Eamon McMahon, Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA); UNISON; Secretary, Trade Union Friends of Palestine

Ying-Ying Ma, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Mone Makkawi, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Leah Martin, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)

Mark S. Mendoza, Cincinnati Worker Center

Kevin Moloney, CUPE 3903 (ON)

Susan Morris, Former Alternate VP, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Roslyn R. Morrison, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Eli Nadeau, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)

Yasaman Naraghi, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WI)

Chris Nickell, Shop Steward and Unit Rep., GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Michelle O’Brien, Steward, GSOC/UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Jose A. Ortega, IBEW L. 145 (Rock Island, IL)

Rod Palmquist, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)

Anne Pasek, Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Joe Piette, NALC Br 157 (retired)(Philadelphia, PA)

Daniel Pines, CSEA L. 0828 (Rochester, NY)

Kristin Plys, GESO/Yale (Göttingen, Germany)

Andrew Pollack, Former Shop Steward, District 65-UAW (Brooklyn, NY)

Stephanie Pope, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Staten Island, NY)

Tom Potter, AFSCME L. 3650, HUCTW; Socialist Alternative (Cambridge, MA)

Minnie Bruce Pratt, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Syracuse, NY)

Nathaniel Preus, GSOC-UAW L. 2110, (NYC)

James Prothero, IBT L. 155 (Mission, BC)

Linda Ray, Co-chair, Peace & Solidarity Committee, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)

Eric Robson, Steward and Trustee, AFSCME L. 171 (Madison, WI)

Laurence S. Romsted, AAUP-AFT Rutgers University (Highland Park, NJ)

Marco Antonio Rosales, UAW L. 2865 Unit Chair (Davis, CA)

Sandra Rosen, Former Solidarity Committee Co-chair, HUCTW/AFSCME (retired), (Cambridge, MA)

Mimi Rosenberg, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Susan Rosenthal, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Canada)

Andrew Ross, President, NYU-AAUP (NYC)

Gillian Russom, Area Chair, Board of Directors, UTLA/AFT L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)

James W. Ryder, Collective Bargaining Director (retired), CNA/NNU (Oakland, CA)

Carl Sack, Membership Secretary, AFT L. 3220 (UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association)

Rodrigo Santelices, ALAA/UAW 2325 (NYC)

Heike Schotten, Faculty Staff Union at University of Massachusetts Boston; Executive Committee, MTA

Gerry Scoppettuol, Co-founder, Pride at Work, Boston AFL-CIO; past member, District 65/UAW

Mary Scully, Women’s, Safety, and Education committees, IUE-CWA L. 201 (retired), (McAllen, TX)

Richard Seaford, UCU (Exeter, UK)

Kim Scipes, Former Chair, Chicago Chapter, NWU/UAW L. 1981

Snehal Shingavi, TSEU/CWA L. 6186 (Austin, TX)

Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 (Toronto, ON)

Sid Shniad, Research Director, Telecommunications Workers Union (retired)(Vancouver, BC)

Alexandra Smith, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Linda Sneed, Campus Rep., AFT 2279 (Sacramento, CA)

Nancy Snyder, Recording Secretary Emeritus, SEIU L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)

Edward Stiel, IBEW L. 302 (San Francisco, CA)

Susan Stout, Retirees Secretary, Unifor L. 2002 (N. Vancouver, BC)

Garrett Strain, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)

Uri Strauss, Steward, UAW L. 2320 (Springfield, MA)

Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707, Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement (Brooklyn, NY)

Cynthia Taylor, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)

Steve Terry, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Will Thomas, NEA (NH)

Miriam Thompson, UAW L. 259 (retired)(Chapel Hill, NC)

Joanne Tien, Steward, UAW L. 2865 (Oakland, CA)

Azalia Torres, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)

Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (Oakland, CA)

Burnis E. Tuck, AFGE L. 3172 (retired); IWW (Fresno, CA)

Mar Velez, Former President, UAW 2865 (Oakland, CA)

Karen Walker, Postings Officer, CUPE 3903 (ON)

Dr. Peter Waterman, ABVA-KABO, FNV (retired)(The Hague, Netherlands)

Barry Weisleder, OSSTF (Toronto, ON)

Dave Welsh, NALC Br. 214; Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council

Nancy Welch, United Academics, VTAFT/AAUP (Burlington, VT)

Paul Werner, Former member, ACT-UAW L. 7902 (Vienna, Austria)

Edwina White, SEIU L. 1000 (retired)(Sacramento, CA)

Rand Wilson, SEIU L. 888 (Somerville, MA)

Ella Wind, Unit Rep., NYU GSOC-UAW L. 2110; Academic Workers for a Democratic Union

Sherry Wolf, Lead Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT; CWA L. 1032

Marc Wutschke, House of Rep.s, AFT L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)

Nantina Vgontzas, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)

Sabina Virgo, Past and Founding President, AFSCME L. 2620 (retired)(Los Angeles, CA)

John Yanno, Delegate, UFT/AFT L. 2 (Brooklyn, NY)


Mark Matthews, CAW (retired)(Vancouver, BC), Canada
Max Rosen-Long, Bldg. rep., PFT L. 3 (Philadelphia, PA), and a building representative
Chris Butters, Chapter Chair, L. 1070, DC 37, AFSCME (retired)(NYC)
Brooks Ballenger, Organizer/Representative, UAW L. 2322 (Amherst, MA)
Larry Hendel, CFA (Berkeley, CA)
Catherine Orozco, NOLSW/UAW (retired)(San Francisco, CA)
George McAnanama, TWU L. 100 (retired)(Bronx, NY)
Russell Weiss-Irwin, SEIU L. 175 (NYC)
Robert Kosuth, MEA (retired)(Duluth, MN)
David Riehle, Chairman Emeritus, UTU L. 650 (St. Paul, MN)
Robert Pfefferman, DC 37, AFSCME retirees (NYC)
Vincent Calvetti, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Mercedes Martinez, President, FMPR (Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico)
Julia Wallace, SEIU L. 721 (Los Angeles, CA)
Aaron Amaral, Esq., DC 37, AFSCME (Jackson Heights, NY)
Michael Haire, 1199SEIU East (Saten Island, NY)
Adrienne Pine Washington, Former Recording Secretary and and statewide bargaining team member, UAW 2865 (UC Berkeley)
Hannah Roditi, CWA (Bloomfield, CT)
Nathan Pensler, Unit Representative, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Elisabeth Fiekowsky, former member UAW; Labor rep., IFPTE, ESC L. 20 (Sebastopol, CA)
Frances Agnew Crieff, National Federation of Post Office and British Telecom Pensioners, (UK)
Peter King Churchill, UCU (Oxford, UK)
Blair Bertaccini, AFSCME retirees Chapter 4; AFSCME Council 4 PEOPLE Committee (Waterbury, CT)


Donate to Labor for Palestine
Contact Labor for Palestine


UAW2865 & Palestine-SF Labor (WorkWeekRadio)

Pacifica KPFA WorkWeek On Tuesday 2:30 PM PST

To Focus On UAW International Nullifying UAW 2865 Support For BDS

WW 12/29/15 The UAW And Zionism and Imperialism Trumps Democracy for Union Executives

WorkWeek this week will look at the recent decision of the UAW Executive Board to nullify a democratic vote of the UAW 2865 to support BDS or boycott, divestment and sanctions.
We also will hear from ILWU Local 10 member Clarence Thomas about what labor should do to stop the continued police murders in the Black community.

There is growing support around the world for the BDS movement. Unions in Europe including in Ireland and the UK to support actions against Israeli apartheid policies.
In the US most national unions support the Israeli government and also the Histadrut which represents the majority of unionized Israeli workers.

Last year after a long discussion and debate within the 20,000 member UC graduate students who are members of UAW 2865, the union voted to support BDS.

This was appealed by a supporter of Israel who is a PhD at UCLA.

The appeal to the international union executive board voted that it had indeed been a democratic vote but the action was an economic threat to companies that UAW members worked for and did business with Israel. These included Caterpillar, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Electric, ITT, Lockheed-Martin and Northrup-Gruman.
Workers at these companies are represented by the UAW and supporters of Israel’s position.

The appeal was also supported by other union leaderships including AFGE, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Teamsters California Council. The Teamsters also represent IBT Local 2010 at the UC campuses and in the bay area the Teamster Joint Council President Rome Aloise not only protested the BDS resolution by UAW 2865 but vehemently opposed the protests that stopped the Zim shipping line at the Port of Oakland and other ports on the West Coast arguing that it would cost jobs.

The BDS resolution did have broad support in the vote including many Jewish members of the union who submitted statements of support.

The International also charged that the support of the BDS would subvert the no strike clause of the UAW Constitution and subvert the collective bargaining of the union.

They then nullified the vote.

WorkWeek interviews Kurt Horner who is a steward of the UAW 2865 at UC Irvine and a supporter of the BDS caucus and Alborz Ghandehari who is the recording secretary of the Local and is a graduate student at UCSD.

Also interviewed is Jeff Blankfort a journalist, radio host and former editor of the Labor Bulletin on the Middle East. Blankfort has written extensively on the role of the AFL-CIO on Israel and Palestinians.

For more information:…%2012%20opt.pdf
Production of WorkWeek Radio on the Pacifica Network.

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

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

Screenshot 2015-12-23 19.45.28

Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism

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

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

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

Zionist Roots in US Labor

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the American Federation of Teachers promoting Israeli apartheid? (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Why is the American Federation of Teachers promoting Israeli apartheid?

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten led a propaganda tour to Israel and uses her union to push J Street’s anti-Palestinian-rights agenda. (Flickr)

The Israel lobby group J Street has just wrapped up its annual conference in Washington, DC.

The prevailing mood of alarm and despair in the wake of Israel’s election was captured by keynote speaker Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-strong American Federation of Teachers (AFT) trade union.

“This is a difficult moment for those of us who believe in the ideal of Jews and Palestinians living side by side, in two states, with real rights, and with security,” Weingarten lamented.

She lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “last-ditch effort to retain power.” It was, she said, “both painful and pitiful – just days after thousands of us went to Selma to honor those brutally beaten fighting to exercise the right to vote – to watch Netanyahu renounce the two-state solution and demonize Israel’s Arab citizens for exercising their basic democratic rights.”

Weingarten fretted about a status quo that “threatens the future of the State of Israel.” She posited herself as a representative of the reasonable middle in a “vast chasm between those who believe: Israel, right or wrong, and never mind the occupation or democracy; and those who believe: Israel is evil and doesn’t have a right to exist, which then justifies BDS, or worse, violence or terrorism.”

Fighting BDS

Her attack on BDS – the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions – and her attempt to associate it with “violence” and “terrorism,” echoes her earlier condemnation of the American Studies Association for endorsing the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli institutions complicit in occupation and human rights violations.

Weingarten then began to speak about a delegation of AFT officials earlier this year to “Israel and the West Bank” that she traveled on along with J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami.


Weingarten is one of the most influential and high-profile union leaders in the country. But at a time when inner city public school teachers are battling against education cuts and privatization, she is spending her time on advocacy for Israel that has nothing to do with that agenda.

Without consulting her constituents, she is using her union platform to push a Zionist agenda informed by her view that the Israeli occupation army is the sacred and miraculous answer to the Holocaust.

Her address to J Street represented precisely the kind of liberal Zionism that Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf condemned when he appeared on the same stage: full of easy potshots at the bogeyman Netanyahu, but total silence about Israel’s siege and massacres in Gaza.

Union funds

The AFT president’s speech was not the only involvement of a US teacher’s union in the conference. The J Street program lists the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) as a major donor to the conference.

IFT, which represents more than 100,000 educators and public employees in Illinois and is affiliated with the AFT, ignored repeated requests for comment about the amount of the donation and its purpose.

But here’s a clue: IFT president Dan Montgomery, who serves as a vice-president of the AFT, also went on the junket with Weingarten and Ben-Ami.

Israel lobby’s kinder face

J Street poses as the kinder, gentler face of the Israel lobby, the alternative to hardlineAIPAC. But it is just as adamantly opposed to fundamental Palestinian rights.

Its insistence on a “two-state solution” is motivated by a desire to rescue Israel as a “Jewish state” by hiving the Palestinians off into bantustan-like reservations where they can pose no “demographic threat” to Israeli Jewish power.

For the same reason, J Street opposes the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

It has unyieldingly supported recent Israeli massacres of Palestinians, including the attack on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 people. It has endorsed the Obama administration’s campaign to end all efforts to bring Israeli war criminals to justice.

J Street has regularly hosted and honored Israeli leaders implicated in war crimes. At the same time, it staunchly opposes the nonviolent BDS movement.

Normalizing apartheid

Neither Weingarten nor Ben-Ami responded to requests for comment about the AFT/J-Street visit to “Israel and the West Bank.”

But we can gain much insight into the delegation and its pernicious politics from this ten-minute video released by AFT to coincide with Weingarten’s appearance at the J Street conference.

Bearing Witness: AFT Leaders Mission to Israel and the West Bank

It opens with Weingarten standing against the backdrop of occupied East Jerusalem and waxing poetic about looking out over “four thousand years of history.”

She enthuses about Israel’s “Declaration of Independence” as a document that embodies Israel’s supposed egalitarian, open and democratic spirit. (This is the same document that historian Ilan Pappe describes in the current issue of The Link as “window dressing aimed at safeguarding Israel’s future international image and status” from the reality of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.)

With uplifting music playing throughout, the video reproduces almost every conceivable trope of what Palestinians condemn as normalization.

There is a relentless insistence on “dialogue” and heart-warming singing groups and schools bringing Arab and Jewish children together. There is constant chatter about “both sides,” obscuring the enormous power imbalance between a nuclear-armed, US-backed military occupation engaged in industrial-scale colonization, and a nearly defenseless, impoverished, occupied and disposessed people.

The American delegates are presented as caring innocents who just want to make a difference.

J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami (far right) with AFT president Randi Weingarten and Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery (fifth and sixth from right, respectively) with other members of the AFT delegation and Dalia Rabin (center) at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. (via Facebook)

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, defines normalization as: “cultural activities, projects, events and products involving Palestinians and/or other Arabs on one side and Israelis on the other … that are based on the false premise of symmetry/parity between the oppressors and the oppressed or that assume that both colonizers and colonized are equally responsible for the ‘conflict.’”

Such activities, PACBI states, “are intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible forms of normalization that ought to be boycotted.”

PACBI is not opposed to all contact between Israelis and Palestinians, but says context and politics are critical.

It welcomes “co-resistance” activities in which “the Israeli party in the project recognizes the comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law” corresponding to the rights set out in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions: an end to occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and full respect of the rights of Palestinian refugees.

Obscuring reality

But even when the AFT video documents delegates being shown some of the most brutal aspects of the occupation, it is overlaid with an anesthetizing, normalizing fog.

The delegates are seen on a tour of Hebron, led not by Palestinians who live there but by an Israeli Jew from the group Breaking the Silence. They witness the emptiness of Shuhada Street, once the bustling heart of the Old City, but forbidden to Palestinians by the occupation army.

One AFT delegate says the situation in Hebron is “symbolic of the distrust on both sides.” But what former UN Special Rapporteur and international jurist John Dugard has documented in Hebron is an Israeli-imposed regime he explicitly likens to the apartheid that existed in his native South Africa.

The forcible closure of much of Hebron to Palestinians is the direct act of a brutal colonial occupation, done solely for the benefit of a few fanatical settlers.

This episode, like the rest of the video, deceptively presents occupier and occupied as equally vulnerable and equally responsible.

Erasing Gaza massacre

The only exception is when Israelis are shown as the victims of Palestinians.

“We went to a community right along the Gaza Strip,” Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery explains.

He talks about how “when fighting broke out in Gaza,” Israelis living in the area got fifteen-second warnings of rocket strikes. “And you’re frantically trying to find out where your small kids are,” he adds.

As he speaks, the video lingers on Israeli elementary school children. It then shows how many “safe places” – bomb shelters – they have.

This Israeli-centric view regularly instilled in participants of hasbara, or propaganda, tours completely ignores the 900,000 children – half the total population imprisoned in the Gaza Strip under Israeli siege – who have no shelters.

There is no mention of the UN schools repeatedly bombed during Israel’s attack, as they served as makeshift shelters, killing children and their families.

Montgomery does not fret about the more than 500 children killed – many wiped out with their entire families – and more than 3,300 injured, during Israel’s 51-day bombardment of Gaza last summer.

Neither is there any mention of Israel’s relentless ceasefire violations and attacks on Gaza, before and after the summer massacre.

Palestinians in Gaza are invisible, not a subject of concern for AFT or for J Street.

Weingarten made no mention of them in her speech, except, like the video, as a threat to Israelis.

Palestinians: visible but absent

The AFT delegates, however, do remind us repeatedly that they met and spoke to Palestinians in many places in the West Bank – an assertion meant to deliver an impression of even-handedness.

But in the film all the analysis and framing is given by Israeli and American Jews. No Palestinian is seen or heard providing analysis or bearing witness to Israeli crimes.

At one point, J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami is seen lecturing to the group. In the background is a slide showing relative population figures of Arabs and Jews – the “demographic threat” supposedly posed by Palestinian births is a particular obsession of liberal Zionists.

Palestinians only appear as a smiling, harmless backdrop, eagerly welcoming their American guests and grateful for tokenistic and depoliticized training programsprovided by AFT in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority.

Scholars Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock have termed AFT’s US-funded teacher training programs in the Middle East “labor imperialism” that serves “US government foreign policy interests in maintaining and extending American control and influence over the region.”

At the same time, the video suggests AFT is encouraging normalization between Palestinian and Israeli teachers’ groups.

Selective amnesia

Towards the end of the video, there is a sanitized segment on how the Nakba – the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine – is commemorated at Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand School, one of a tiny number of mixed Jewish-Palestinian schools.

Jewish and Palestinian students and teachers briefly speak about how difficult it is. A Palestinian teacher talks about how she teaches the history from “both sides.”

A Palestinian girl says that Nakba Day “reminds us that we need to move on and not just stick to the past and all the bad things that happened.”

The message is clear: forget about the past, and forget about its present – the unfulfilled rights of millions of Palestinian refugees.

But forgetting is only a prescription for Palestinians, never for Jews.

After the visit to Palestine, Weingarten and the rest of the AFT delegation went to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland – and this is featured in the video.

The lesson of Auschwitz, Weingarten explains, is “Never forget. You can’t combat hate and prejudice if you forget.”

Using the Holocaust

The inclusion of Auschwitz in a video on the situation in Palestine seems calculated to send the not so subtle message that whatever is happening to Palestinians is dwarfed morally and in scale by the Holocaust.

In her address to J Street, Weingarten made the connection clear, using the Holocaust – or Shoah – as a rhetorical device to justify Zionism and whitewash and elevate the Israeli state to a sacred principle and manifest destiny.

She intersperses this passage with “dayenu” – a word taken from the Passover ritual meaning roughly “it would have sufficed for us”:

For our ancestors, if we had said: There will be a Jewish state – for the 6 million who died in the Shoah, there is now a homeland where more than six million Jews live – they would have said, “Dayenu.” A state with a powerful military. Dayenu. A vigorous economy. Dayenu. A proud democracy. Dayenu.

Here, Weingarten really lays out her cards. Her interactions with and ostensible concern for Palestinians are nothing but a liberal cover for Jewish nationalism. In the end she represents the Israeli army as the answer to the Holocaust – a classic Netanyahu talking point.

In addition to Weingarten, Montgomery and Ben-Ami, the delegation included Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania; Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco; Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers; Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, leader of Congregation Simchat Beit Torah in New York; Louis Malfaro, an AFT vice-president and an officer of Texas AFT; Ruby Newbold, an AFT vice-president and vice-president of AFT Michigan and Patricia Keefer, AFT’s director of international affairs.

AFT’s sordid history

A little history is useful to put the AFT’s support for Israel and for the anti-Palestinian rights agenda of J Street in perspective.

The union had a long and sordid history of zealous participation in McCarthyist purges, expelling members and affiliates accused of communism.

During the decades of the Cold War, AFT functioned as an arm of US imperialism and foreign policy, particularly in Latin America.

The union’s leaders, foremost among them Albert Shanker, its president from 1974 to 1997, formed close alliances with the CIA and other US government agencies. Their mission was to stem the influence of communism by creating politically amenable US-sponsored international labor organizations. In the process they helped divide and destroy the trade union movements in many countries.

AFT was central to a nexus of organizations doing such work, including the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), the US-financed organization sponsored by the AFL-CIO labor federation. AIFLD notoriously worked closely with the CIA and the US embassy to destabilize Chile and instigate Pinochet’s 1973 coup.

A pamphlet on the AFT’s relationship with the CIA by George N. Schmidt, a long-time Chicago Teachers Union activist and publisher of Substance News, includes a letter from David Selden, who preceeded Shanker as president of AFT.

This quotation from Selden suggests that much of the international activity undertaken by Shanker and like-minded associates was motivated by a desire to advance Israel’s interests:

The whole AIFLD, CIA, AFT, AFL-CIO and Social Democrats USA web of relationships is complicated by the Israel problem. American Jews are understandably concerned for the future of Israel, and rightly or wrongly they consider the policy of the Soviet Union to be anti-Israel, at least in its effect. This in turn leads many Israeli supporters to condone activities of the interlocking defense-intelligence labor establishment which they otherwise would indignantly denounce. It is hard to take a balanced view of such an emotional problem.

Democracy’s Champion, a book published by the AFT’s Albert Shanker Institute to honor Shanker’s legacy, confirms that his Zionism was a strong motivation throughout his life and leadership, turning the union into a perfect tool for both Israel and US imperialism.

Soon after he took office, for instance, Shanker appointed AFT staffer Eugenia Kemble to join AFL-CIO delegations to the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO). One of Kemble’s “main tasks,” according to Democracy’s Champion, “was to help defeat the anti-Israel resolutions that arose quite regularly at ILO conferences.” Kemble received the “Israel State Medal” for her efforts.

During the 1970s, the AFT regularly adopted resolutions pledging staunch support for Israel. A 1974 resolution railed against the UN for voting to allow Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat to address the General Assembly.

“Not even the terrorists’ most ardent supporters seriously envision the wolf turning into a lamb,” the resolution states, before asserting, “We stand firm with the State of Israel and her heroic people, Jews, Arabs and Christians alike.”

Similarly, a 1976 resolution called Israel “our only remaining sister democracy in the Middle East” and “a cornerstone of America’s defense against the spread of totalitarian movements and military dictatorship into the Mediterranean and the Middle East.”

Supporting Israeli and American wars

Shanker’s successors continued his legacy of serving US imperialism. AFT supported and helped the Bush administration justify the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

In 2006, the AFT adopted a resolution fully supporting that year’s invasion of Lebanon, during which Israel killed more than 1,200 civilians and deliberately destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.

It was not without opposition, however. “The delegates narrowly passed this resolution after heated debate,” wrote AFT San Francisco Local 2121 member and past president Allan Fisher in a letter published by the The Boston Globe.

According to Fisher, “half the delegates on the convention floor vigorously opposed this resolution because it does not call for a ceasefire and makes no criticism whatsoever of Israel’s unjust and brutal behavior.”

Michael Letwin, co-convener of the solidarity group Labor for Palestine, says that despite the complicity of union leaderships like the AFT’s, rank-and-file labor is playing a growing role in the Palestinians’ struggle to regain all their rights.

“That is why BDS is championed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions and numerous other trade unionists around the world, including dockworkers on the US West Coast who refuse to handle Israeli Zim line cargo, and UAW 2865 at the University of California,” Letwin told The Electronic Intifada.

“Weingarten and other US labor leaders must end their longstanding complicity with apartheid Israel, and support a free Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all,” he added.


The support for Israel may be rooted in the AFT’s history but it is also symptomatic of the approach Weingarten takes to politics and power today when it comes to the union’s core mission.

Weingarten and her leadership team have faced persistent challenges from segments of the membership for being “too willing to partner with the corporate elite allied to the Obama administration’s attempt to ‘reform’ public education.”

She was criticized for cozying up to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – appearing with him on a June 2012 Clinton Global Initiative panel supporting privatization – at a time when the city’s teachers were preparing to strike.

The strike by the AFT-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union the following September was seen as a model and inspiration for educators across the US facing neoliberal “reform” and privatization agendas.

Chicago has long been ground zero for the assault on public education, especially stealth privatization through the creation of charter schools. In 2013, Emanuel announced the closure of dozens of schools, overwhelmingly in long-neglected African American neighborhoods.

Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, was tipped as a possible challenger to Emanuel for mayor, but declined to run for health reasons.

Still, for many, her grassroots leadership offers a marked contrast to Weingarten’s approach.

While Chicago teachers fought for and won major concessions on the picket lines, Weingarten was there with them.

But she has been accused of being late to come to their side and then downplaying their victory. Her members may ask why she has so much time to promote Israel through hasbara tours and so little time for teachers on the frontlines.

Israel and the politics of boycott (Al Jazeera)

Al Jazeera

Israel and the politics of boycott

Zionism and Israel will continue to support any boycott that seeks to institutionalise racism and racial separatism.


Israel's expertise in separation fences and walls was put to productive use with the massive "Apartheid Wall" it built on Palestinian lands [EPA]
Israel’s expertise in separation fences and walls was put to productive use with the massive “Apartheid Wall” it built on Palestinian lands [EPA]


Joseph Massad

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

“Boycott” is a term as old as political Zionism. As is commonly known, it came into circulation in 1880, starting out as an Irish peasant action to prevent peasant evictions from the land by landlords and their agents – in that inaugural case an agent named Charles Boycott. This is not to say that this was the first time such a tactic had been used. Indeed, half a century earlier, in 1830, in the United States, the National Negro Convention supported a boycott of slave-produced goods, a movement which had started among White Quakers at the end of the 18th century and which would spread among White and Black abolitionists during the 19th century until the American Civil War.

These auspicious beginnings of the boycott to restore the land and freedom of peasants and slaves would inspire movements in the 20th century that would range from anti-colonial tactics (as in the Indian boycott of British goods beginning in 1919 to end the British occupation of India) to anti-colonial-settler tactics (including the Arab League boycott of the Jewish settler-colony since the mid-1940s and the anti-South African Apartheid boycott beginning in the 1960s) to anti-racist tactics (including the anti-Nazi Jewish boycott of 1933 to end Nazi racial separatism and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by African Americans in the mid-1950s to end American white colonial settler apartheid in Alabama and the rest of the American South).

Boycotting the Palestinians

There is however a different history of the uses of the boycott. In contrast with its uses to force the end of race, class and colonial injustice, boycott would also be deployed as a tactic to bring about colonial and racial injustice. Zionism would be a pioneer in this regard. Upon the formalisation of Zionist settler colonialism in the 1897 First Zionist Congress, Jewish colonists were incensed that earlier Russian Jewish agricultural colonists who had settled in Palestine since the 1880s would employ Palestinian labour in their colonies, on account of its availability and cheapness. It was in this context that Zionism would develop its racially separatist notion of “Hebrew labour”, insisting and later imposing its regulations on all Jewish colonists in Palestine, namely that Jewish labour should be used exclusively in the Jewish settler-colony.

Realising the difficulty of imposing its racialisation project on Palestine, a country which Zionism did not control yet, the movement developed the idea of the first racially separatist planned community for the exclusive use of Ashkenazi Jews, namely the Kibbutz, which would develop in the first decade of the 20th century. Lest one mistake the idea of the Kibbutz as a commitment to socialism, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, who came up with the exclusive “Hebrew labour” idea to boycott the Palestinians, set the record straight: The Kibbutz was set up to “guarantee [separatist] Jewish labour” and not as an application of socialist theory.

As a racially separatist Jewish economy and colony established on the lands of the Palestinians continued to be the primary goal of Zionism, the principle of boycott of Palestinian labour and products would become more aggressive as time passed. Like its parent Zionist movement before it, which used the tactic of boycott to effect racial separation and discrimination rather than end it, the Zionist labour Federation, the Histadrut, would begin in 1927 to use the time-honoured act of picketing. Picketing is traditionally used by workers and unions to end practices involving the exploitation and unfair treatment of workers. In the case of the Jewish colonists, they used picketing to bring about discrimination against Palestinian workers and to deny them employment in their own country. The Zionist picketing campaign sought to boycott Jewish businesses which continued to employ Palestinian labour as well as the goods the Palestinians produced. This was not only confined to the agricultural Jewish colonies in the Palestinian countryside, but also included urban settings where Jewish businesses employed Palestinians in the area of construction.

The Zionist campaign would continue until 1936 when the Great Palestinian Revolt would erupt threatening both the Zionist settler colonial project and the British occupation safeguarding it. In these nine years of picketing, not only did the workers among the Jewish colonists join the picket lines, but so did the professionals and the middle class of Jewish colonial society, including actors, teachers, librarians, as well as Histadrut officials. In addition to the major picketing campaign of the citrus groves of Kfar Saba in the 1920s, the Histadrut would organise “mobile-pickets” where picketers would travel from one construction site to the next in the cities, including Tel Aviv, where Palestinian workers were employed in the building of the first racially separate Jewish city.

If labour picketers around the world would harass scabs who were coopted by exploitative employers at the expense of union workers, colonial Jewish picketers in Palestine would harass Palestinian workers who were violating the racially separatist project of Zionism. Picketers would attack and beat up Palestinian workers and steal their tools and destroy their work. The picketers would also destroy the produce of the Jewish colonies that employed Palestinian peasants and workers. This was hardly an exception but harked back to Zionist colonial practices in the first decade of the 20th century when the racist principle of “Hebrew labour” was first put into action. When Jewish colonists found out in 1908 that the saplings in a forest that was founded in memory of Zionism’s founder Theodor Herzl in Ben Shemen near Lydda were planted by Palestinians, they came and uprooted them and then replanted them again, thus preserving the Jewish character of the forest.

Breaking the anti-Nazi boycott

Unlike the Zionists who were pioneers in their use of boycotts to effect racial separatism, the Nazis would be latecomers to the tactic. The Nazis would begin to boycott Jewish businesses in Germany starting in April 1933 in response to the American Jewish call for a boycott of Nazi Germany, which had started a month earlier in March 1933. In view of the racist Nazi regime’s targeting of Jews, American Jews and other European Jews started a campaign in March 1933 to boycott Nazi Germany until it ended its racist campaign and political targeting of German Jews.

Whereas American Jews, including Zionists, began to lobby US politicians and organisations to join the boycott, the Zionist leadership in Palestine and Germany saw the matter differently. It was in this context that the Zionists signed the notorious Transfer (Ha’avara) Agreement with Nazi Germany, whereby Jews leaving Germany to Palestine would be compensated for their lost property, which they were not allowed to transfer outside the country, through the transfer of German goods to the Jewish colonies in Palestine.

The official parties to the agreement included the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Nazi government, and the Anglo-Palestine Bank (which was founded in 1899 as the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) under the name “The Jewish Colonial Trust”, and renamed in 1950 as “Bank Leumi”). Bank Leumi is today the largest bank in Israel. The Ha’avara Agreement, which was signed in 1933, not only broke the boycott against Nazi Germany, but also entailed the selling of German goods by the Zionists to Britain. Sixty percent of all capital invested in the Jewish colonies of Palestine between 1933 and 1939 came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement. This infuriated not only American and European Jews who were promoting the boycott, which the WZO was breaking, but also the right-wing revisionists within the Zionist movement itself who assassinated the major Zionist envoy to the Nazis, Chaim Arlosoroff, in 1933 upon his return from Nazi Germany where he had been negotiating the Agreement.

Not only would Zionism break the boycott, but its local German branch would also be the only German Jewish organisation that would support the Nazi Nuremberg laws that were issued in 1935 to separate German Jews from German “Aryans” racially. The Zionists, like the Nazis, agreed that German “Aryans” and German Jews were separate races and people. Here Zionist thinking becomes clear on the question of boycotts. Wherein Zionists were using boycotts to bring about racial and colonial separatism in Palestine to privilege colonising Jews and separate them from Palestinian Arabs, they opposed the Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany which sought to end Nazi racial separatism in the country targeting Jews. For Zionism, what mattered most was its commitment to racial separatism, whether in Germany or Palestine, and it supported only those boycotts that would bring it about. Indeed, as the Nazis in the 1930s sought to deport Jews and render Germany Judenrein (the Nazis proposed Madagascar as a destination for German Jews), the Zionists were proposing Palestine as the destination for German Jews, whose deportation they ultimately supported and were using the boycott and picketing campaigns to render the Jewish State-to-be in Palestine Araberrein.

 Inside Story: On the road to Israeli apartheid?

The Palestinians countered Zionist separatism with boycotts of their own, targeting the Zionist colonies and their products during the British Mandate years. The Arab League of States would issue its own boycott of Zionist and Israeli goods that would go into effect in 1945. Like the American Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany in 1933 which sought to end Nazi racial separatism, the Palestinian boycott of the 1930s and the ongoing Arab League boycott were imposed precisely to end Jewish colonial and racial separatism and discrimination against the Palestinians.

Supporting French settler-colonialism

From 1948 until 1967, the Israelis would become the major ally of France, which was the chief colonial-settler European enforcer of racial apartheid on another Arab people, namely Algerians. Not only would France become Israel’s major arms supplier and ally during this period, the fact that the two countries shared the status of being the only two European settler-colonies on Arab lands was paramount in its calculations.

When the Algerian revolt started in November 1954, the French decided to increase their arms sales to the Israelis. French Generals explained the intensification of their military alliance with Israel as part of the fight against the Algerian revolutionaries, as well as against the anti-imperialist Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser who supported the Algerian Revolution. The alliance and friendship between the two colonising states was so strong that Israel would also carry out military manoeuvers with the French on occupied Algerian territory and would enlist Algerian Jews (who were granted French citizenship in 1870 by France to separate them from their compatriot Algerian Muslims and grant them the privileges of White French colonists) to spy on the Algerian National movement that was seeking to end French colonialism and racism.

A few months after the end of his 13-month stint as Governor General of French Algeria, the French colonial politician and later terrorist, Jacques Soustelle, helped to create and presided over the pro-Israel lobbying group Alliance France-Israel in November 1956. This followed Israel’s collusion with France to invade Egypt that year and destroy the regime of Abdel Nasser. In 1958, Soustelle would enjoin not only Israel but the world Jewish communities to support French colonial apartheid in Algeria: “We believe that given the influence which not only Israel but above all the Jewish communities throughout the world exert on international opinion, this alliance would produce happy results for us.” Soustelle’s anti-Semitism and Nazi-like views concerning the alleged power of the world Jewish communities did not bother Israel one bit. Indeed, Soustelle would join the terrorist group Organisation de l’armee secrete (OAS) in 1960 to fight against Algerian independence, which was by then increasingly becoming the accepted vision in French government circles for the future of Algeria.

The military alliance with Israel did not only provide arms and impart military training to the Israelis, but also made it possible for the French themselves to learn a few Israeli tricks, including “convoy bombing”, which the French would use in Algeria. This was not all. French officers would be dispatched to Israel to learn new techniques in psychological warfare from the Jewish colonists. French General Maurice Challe, Commander-in-Chief of the French forces in Algeria (1958-1960), insisted in an interview with Sylvia Crosbie that the Israelis were “consummate artists” at dealing with the Palestinian natives. Challe went further and hoped to use the Kibbutz as a model for his pacification program in Algeria, but the triumph of the Algerian Revolution would prevent his plan from being executed.

Israeli study missions in Algeria were also welcomed as the Israelis were keen to learn from the French the use of helicopters to fight the Algerian guerrillas. Challe, like other generals who were friends of Israel, would participate in the failed coup of April 1961 against the French government in Algeria and would be tried by a military tribunal. Testimonies by at least one participant in the failed coup stated that the coup leaders were expecting support from a number of settler colonial powers: “Portugal, South Africa, South America, and perhaps Israel.”

“For Zionism, what mattered most was its commitment to racial separatism, whether in Germany or Palestine, and it supported only those boycotts that would bring it about.”

Israel’s alliance with colonial France would sour when the French opted to end their war against the Algerian people and acceded to their independence. Not happy with its isolation as the only remaining European settler colony in the Arab world, Israel rushed to support the right-wing French terrorists who opposed their government and began to fight against Algerian independence. Aside from conscripting a number of Algerian Jews, who had joined the terrorist OAS, into Israel’s spy network, the Israelis provided logistical support to the French terrorists. This included support for Jacques Soustelle himself, who was supported by Ben Gurion and was financed by rich right-wing pro-Israeli American Jews who opposed de Gaulle and Algerian independence. Algerian Jewish commandos organised themselves in Oran against Algerian Muslims and sought partition of the colony along racial lines. They were said to be inspired in their quest by Israeli government policy. Thus, just like its support of Nazi racial separatism and refusal to join the Jewish anti-Nazi boycott, Zionism and Israel opted to support French colonial racism and separatism, and indeed to fight actively against its final dissolution in Algeria, rather than join the international condemnation of French colonial policies.

Breaking the boycott against apartheid

But the story of Zionism and boycotts would not end there. Zionism would stay true to its principles of supporting boycotts that promote racial apartheid and denouncing boycotts that oppose racial apartheid to the present. When the United Nations imposed mandatory sanctions against the racist settler-colony of Rhodesia in 1966, Israel supported the sanctions at the UN but in reality never abided by them. Israel would provide arms and helicopters to be used in counterinsurgency by the Rhodesian government against the anti-racist independence movement seeking to overthrow the regime (a tactic, as we saw, which it learned from French colonial forces in Algeria and which it was now imparting to Rhodesian white supremacist colonists). Indeed the Israelis, breaking the international boycott, would provide the racist Rhodesians in the 1970s with a 500-mile separation fence along the border with Mozambique and Zambia. The fall of the Rhodesian settler colony in 1980 and the rise of Zimbabwe did not bode well for the future of Israel.

When the African National Congress (ANC) and progressive allies, who would also be joined by the United Nations, began to call for and effect different forms of boycott against apartheid South Africa beginning in the early1960s, Israel would be a central breaker of the boycott, becoming the apartheid state’s major political and economic partner. Indeed Israel’s strategic alliance with South Africa would be built in the late 1960s as the boycott campaign against the apartheid regime became more vociferous.

Here again, Zionism was true to its principles. One of its founding fathers, Chaim Weizmann, was a close friend of none other than the Afrikaner leader Jan Smuts, one of the central founders of modern South Africa. Smuts was such a big supporter of the Jewish settler colony that Jewish colonists named a Kibbutz after him: Ramat Yohanan.  It was both ideological proximity and structural positionality that led to the alliance between the two settler colonies. In November 1962, The UN General Assembly resolution 1761 was passed and called for a voluntary boycott, requesting member states to break off diplomatic relations with South Africa, to cease trading with South Africa (arms exports in particular), and to deny passage to South African ships and aircraft. In August 1963, the United Nations Security Council established a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa. Finally in November 1977, the Security Council adopted a mandatory arms embargo. Under increasing domestic and international pressure, the Carter administration finally voted in favour of the embargo.

As international consensus was mounting against the apartheid state, Israel would strengthen its alliance with it, not only in military, including nuclear cooperation, but also in providing it with training, arms and equipment to put down the ongoing anti-apartheid demonstrations and uprisings. Support for the apartheid state would come from Israel’s quintessential racist and separatist institution, the Ashkenazi-Jewish Kibbutz. For example, Kibbutz Beit Alfa would provide the apartheid security forces of South Africa with anti-riot weapons to put down the demonstrations. One of Beit Alfa’s main industries is indeed riot control equipment, including water cannons, which it would provide to the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s in a “secret pact”. Kibbutz Beit Alfa, it should be mentioned, was established by the Jewish National Fund partly on lands purchased from absentee landlords and partly on confiscated lands belonging to Palestinian villages.

Israeli settlers take part of Palestinian city

Israel would also provide South Africa, as in the case of Rhodesia, with hundreds of miles of mined electric fences to protect the racist state’s borders from ANC guerrilla infiltration. It would also build a thousand-mile fence on the Namibia-Angola border to protect South Africa’s occupation of Namibia. Its expertise in separation fences and walls would be put to productive use with the massive “Apartheid Wall” that Israel would build on Palestinian lands beginning in 1994 and continuing into the 21st century. Israel’s breaking the boycott against the apartheid regime would continue until the latter’s demise in 1994. With the fall of colonial Algeria, Rhodesia and South Africa, Israel remained alone as the last European settler-colony across Asia and Africa.

The Palestinian Authority and boycott

Since the beginning of the so-called “peace process”, all diplomatic solutions which Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have signed on to are engineered to preserve Israel’s racially separatist project of a “Jewish state” and of racial partition. Indeed, not only does Israel and US president Barack Obama insist on preserving Israel as a separatist and racist Jewish state as a precondition to all peace talks, but also on Israeli policies of racial separation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which continue unabated with the construction of Jews-only settlements and Jews-only highways on stolen Palestinian lands.

In Israel itself, Israel’s state-appointed rabbis have been incensed that Israeli laws do not fully ensure racial separatism. In light of Safad’s chief Rabbi’s call urging Israeli Jews not to sell or rent houses or apartments to non-Jews, dozens of Israel’s municipal rabbis signed onto his rabbinical ruling in December 2010. The Rabbis issued a letter to announce their call to “urge neighbours of anyone renting or selling property to Arabs to caution that person. After delivering the warning, the neighbour is then encouraged to issue notices to the general public and inform the community… The neighbours and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracise] him until he goes back on this harmful deed”.

Unlike the Palestinian anti-colonial resistance which sought to boycott colonial goods in the British Mandate years, and unlike the Arab League which mandated an Arab boycott of Israel, the PA has a different view of economic relations with Israel. Like the World Zionist Organization and the German Zionists who saw the fight against anti-Semitism as self-defeating and saw collaboration with anti-Semitism as crucial to the success of Zionism, the Oslo Palestinian leadership has followed a similar strategy of collaboration with Zionism and of prohibiting resistance to it.

Calls for boycotts by Palestinians are constantly assailed by PA operatives, who only recently, in 2010, and under public pressure heeded a minimalist call to boycott the Jewish colonial settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In December 2012, unelected PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an erstwhile opponent of a boycott of Israel, issued a call to West Bank Palestinians to boycott all Israeli goods for the first time ever in retaliation for the Israeli government decision to sequester PA tax revenues, an action that bankrupted PA coffers. His government, however, never provided any mechanisms or logistical support for such a boycott nor has there been any official follow-up. In fact, when Fayyad announced the boycott of settlement goods in May 2010 as a publicity stunt, it was accompanied with assurances from unelected PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the PA was not boycotting Israel at all and would continue trade cooperationwith it.

“Israel’s attempt to rebrand itself as a just and egalitarian society comes up against its actual and stark racist reality.”

BDS, Obama, and pinkwashing

Today, it is the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its international solidarity network that is the champion of a boycott of the racist Israeli settler colony. Like its noble predecessors, from African American boycotts in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Indian boycott of British goods, the Jewish anti-Nazi boycott, and the international boycott of Rhodesia and South Africa, the BDS movement insists that its call for a boycott should be heeded until Israel sheds all its racist laws and policies and becomes a non-racist state.

Israel has expectedly mobilised much of its political power to defeat the BDS initiative and has solicited the help of its formidable ally, Barack Obama, who has publicly expressed hostility to the BDS movement and shamelessly threatened the Palestinian people with dire consequences were they to dare to dismantle Israel’s racist institutions. Israel’s campaigns have included what some have called “pinkwashing”, portraying itself as a democratic country that safeguards the rights of homosexuals unlike its allegedly oppressive Arab neighbours. In this regard, it is important to mention Zionism’s prehistory of “pinkwashing”.

The first European Jew that the Zionist movement assassinated in Palestine was the Dutch Jewish poet and novelist Jacob Israel de Haan. De Haan, whom the Zionists assassinated in 1924, was not only a fighter against Zionist racism and oppression of the Palestinians, but was also known in Zionist circles to engage in homosexual activities, and that he had a special fondness for young Palestinian men (he wrote a poem about the theme). His assassin, Avraham Tehoni of the official Zionist army, the Haganah, was given the orders to assassinate him by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who would become Israel’s second president (1952-1963). The Zionists tried to pin de Haan’s murder on the Palestinians who were allegedly motivated to kill him on account of his homosexual activity with Palestinian boys.  While Zionist propaganda failed, and de Haan’s Jewish murderer would confess decades later publicly to his assassination, some evidence suggests that de Haan’s homosexual activities might have been an important factor on the mind of Zionist decision-makers when they ordered his assassination, though his assassin denied that this was a motive.

Israel’s attempt to rebrand itself as a just and egalitarian society comes up against its actual and stark racist reality. Its opposition to the Palestinian BDS movement is often framed as an opposition to all boycotts as a form of struggle. But as the historical record shows, this is not a time-honoured Zionist position. As they have done throughout their history, Zionism and Israel will continue to support any boycott that seeks to institutionalise racism and racial separatism and will denounce any boycott that seeks to end racism and racial separatism. Their campaign and that of Obama against BDS should be understood in this context of their commitment to apartheid as a principle of organising human life.

Joseph Massad teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question published by Routledge. 

Source: Al Jazeera

The international labour movement in, against and beyond, the globalized and informatized cage of capitalism and bureaucracy (Interface)

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Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 35 The international labour movement in, against and beyond, the globalized and informatized cage of capitalism and bureaucracy1 Peter Waterman Abstract Six questions and answers address the present crisis of the hegemonic, Europebased and Western-centric international trade union organisations, the impact of globalisation, neo-liberalisation, informalisation and informatisation on labour internationalism, the experiences and possibilities of informal/alternative kinds of labour internationalism, and the significance of labour solidarity with Palestine. Much scepticism is expressed concerning the capacities and possibilities of the traditional trade union internationals. But this is also the case with the union presence within the World Social Forum. Attention is drawn to certain alternative international(ist) labour movement initiatives, mostly marked by networking forms. And the challenges facing a new labour internationalism are considered with respect to the Palestinian case. Keywords: union, Eurocentrism, restructuring, globalisation, internationalism, World Social Forum, shopfloor, informatisation, networking, solidarity 1 This piece began as a response to a number of personal questions posed by Indian feminist and labour specialist Amrita Chhachhi. She had been editing a special issue of the journal of the International Institute of Social Studies, Development and Change on labour internationally (Chhachhi 2014). When I could not meet the D&C requirements, I decided to expand it for this special issue of Interface. Although Amrita can now hardly be considered responsible for it, I do appreciate her original stimulus. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 36 Weber’s Iron Cage There will be an evolution of an iron cage, which will be a technically ordered, rigid, dehumanized society…The iron cage is the one set of rules and laws that we are all subjected and must adhere to. Bureaucracy puts us in an iron cage, which limits individual human freedom and potential instead of a “technological utopia” that should set us free. It is the way of the institution, where we do not have a choice anymore. Once capitalism came about, it was like a machine that you were being pulled into without an alternative option; currently, whether we agree or disagree, if you want to survive you need to have a job and you need to make money2 . Widening the Cracks Within Capitalism In the last twenty or thirty years we find a great many movements that claim something else: it is possible to emancipate human activity from alienated labor by opening up cracks where one is able to do things differently, to do something that seems useful, necessary, and worthwhile to us; an activity that is not subordinated to the logic of profit. […]We are victims and yet we are not. We seek to improve our living standards as workers, and also to go beyond that, to live differently. In one respect we are, in effect, people who have to sell their labor power in order to survive. But in another, each one of us has dreams, behaviors and projects that don’t fit into the capitalist definition of labor. […] The difficulty … lies in envisioning the relation between those two types of movements [wage labour and living differently]. How can that relation avoid reproducing the old sectarianism? How can it be a fruitful relation without denying the fundamental differences between the two perspectives?3 1. To what extent has the international trade union movement responded to the challenges of neo-liberal globalization? The largest union international, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) held its Third Congress, Berlin, May 2014. But the Congress website suggested that the ITUC was still living in or looking back toward the ‘kinder, gentler’ West European capitalism of the mid-20th Century.4 The Congress slogan was ‘Building Workers’ Power’, symbolized by a male worker in a hard hat. Women, the ‘Informal Sector’ and the Indigenous did not appear on the agenda but only in non-plenary sessions. Although a Draft Statement declared that ‘The 20th century model of capitalism has failed, and the ‘Washington Consensus’ must be buried forever’5, its three main themes were: 2 3 4 5 Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 37 Union Growth Realizing Rights Sustainable Jobs This might be compared with the World Social Forum’s Another World is Possible! the Spanish campaign for Real Democracy Now! with Occupy’s We Are the 99%! the Latin American indigenous movements’ identification of a Crisis of Civilisation6 and the simple but potent slogan Capitalism is not in Crisis, Capitalism is the Crisis!7 It seems to me that ITUC’s slogan and symbol are hardly going to mobilise or reach out beyond the unionized – if even these.8 The ITUC’s Congress issues suggested, rather, those of what the Dutch unions have long called themselves – ‘an interest-representing organization’. The ITUC is based in Western Europe, is profoundly Eurocentric, and a fundamentally defensive organization. It has long forgotten any history of labour’s ‘street-fighting days’. It clearly does not believe in the strategy attributed to Clausewitz that the best means of defence is attack. And it cannot publicly confront the fact that the unionized part of the world’s wage labour force is only between seven and 15 percent.9 Then there is its fear – indeed suppression – of dialogue. When a unique public challenge was made to it by the South African national union centre,10 it didn’t 6 7 It’s a movie, it’s free and it’s on Utube here. 8 The ITUC has been producing international surveys on major labour questions. I am no specialist opinion surveys but it does occur to me that the latest one was intended to confirm rather than challenge the actions and opinions of those who commissioned it. There is here, for example, no question about whether those surveyed know anything about the ITUC, including where it is sited, who its leaders might be, the name of their national ITUC affiliate, or what ITUC policies might be. The survey results, moreover, do not even indicate what percentage of interviewees were union members and whether their attitudes might differ from those of nonmembers! An expert analysis of these surveys would be welcome. 9 I have for some years been using the higher figure, but the lower one has been recently confirmed publicly by the General Secretary of the South African COSATU, and in a personal exchange with a veteran international union leader. 10 Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 38 even bother to publicly respond. At its 2014 Congress it provided plenary time to such representatives of ‘the Great and the Good’ as Guy Ryder, the ex-ITUC(!) Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Helen Clark of the United Nations Development Programme, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister (!) and Gordon Brown, ex-Prime Minister of the UK (representative of yet another inter-state organization).11 Why does it exhibit such a clientelist orientation? Where here were the representatives of ‘global civil society’, of the dramatic global social movements that are receiving not only public attention globally but very considerable public approval? Such concerns may have appeared in Congress workshops, the latter paying at least some attention to domestic workers, to the ‘informal economy’, to climate change, migrant workers, violence against women, the retired, and of the unions ‘partnering’ (upwards again?) for ‘development’. All these elements, plus the audio-visual, electronic and TV-presentation elements in a ‘paperless congress’, suggest the ITUC has been pushed by the current crisis and pulled by the newest global social movements to move from obeisance to the international financial institutions towards some kind of critique of neo-liberalism (though not of capitalism).12 But why, if this congress represented 176 million workers, in some 161 Countries, and if the ITUC is, as Gordon Brown stated, the largest democratic movement in the world, did it witness such limited resonance in either Germany or internationally, in either the dominant or alternative inter/national labour media? I asked Google to alert me to anything on the ITUC Congress. Over about a week from June 24, I got four alerts, mostly from the ITUC press department itself, with one or two from Deutsche Welle, the international radio/TV service of the German state. Such reports from national union media that I myself found were mostly about their own participation or the speeches of their representatives. So on the basis of the evidence at time of writing, one has to conclude that the ITUC is the largest invisible democratic organization in the world. Compare dominant and/or alternative media response to Amnesty International campaigns or Greenpeace actions! 11 This is a marginal improvement over the Second ITUC Congress in Vancouver, 2010, where plenary invitees included Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. And this whilst a massive anti-globalisation demonstration was occurring (and being violently repressed) elsewhere in Canada! 12 For forceful critique of capitalism at the ITUC Congress, we have to again turn to the South African COSATU. The problem here, however, is that this alternative orientation not only clearly failed to impact on the congress but to itself reach the media. Whilst the COSATU President’s (overly diplomatic?) address to the congress was at least reported on the COSATU website, Its more radical, substantial and detailed positions on congress issues could, at time of writing, only be found on UnionBook, here (note its attachments). For a conceptualization of the position of the ITUC in a schema of union responses to neo-liberalism, consider that of Gall, Wilkinson and Hurd (2011:9-10): 1) Agreement and Support; 2) Qualification and Conditional Support; 3) Social Democratic Opposition; 4) Socialist Resistance. Whilst it would seem reasonable to put the ITUC somewhere between positions 2 and 3, I am not sure whether a spectrum is sufficient to allow for alternatives to capitalism that do not even use the word ‘socialism’. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 39 The ITUC is, however, the major union international, having merged earlier social democratic and catholic ones (here un-capitalized since their original ideological inspirations have long faded) and absorbing not only the main national union centres of the post-communist world but also major militant centres in the global South, such as those of Brazil, South Africa and South Korea.13 But the ITUC, its allied internationals and its members have been severely damaged by a capitalist tsunami that has been not only neo-liberal and globalized but also informatized (though this informatization was hardly recognized by its 2014 congress). Much of what the ITUC and family do is on the North-Rest Axis (the Global South, the ex-Communist East), operates in a North-Rest direction and is conflated with Northern state-funded ‘development cooperation’ (consider here again the ITUC Congress workshop on this topic).14 The ITUC in any case assumes that the Rest is ‘developing’ or ‘emerging’, that what it needs is what the West has got or values, and that this is what the Rest desires. In 2013 I attended two international solidarity events of the Dutch trade unions, both cheerfully marked by this ‘Solidarity of Substitution’ (standing in for the victim) syndrome.15 I do recognise this as an aspect of solidarity, but I certainly reject the reduction of solidarity to something so ethically close to 19th century middleclass Christian charity, and inevitably structured on patron-client lines. (More on this later). Capitalism, red in tooth and claw, within and outside industry, in the media and culture, off and online, has to be understood as revolutionary (if you prefer, counter-revolutionary) in carrying out a one-sided and till-now virtually unlimited war in which the traditional working class has been dispersed, restructured, outsourced, and in which its traditional forms (the Union, the Party, the Cooperative, the Newspaper, the Culture) have been reduced in size, and/or their position within the economy the polity, and in their socio-cultural impact. I have proposed the following parable. 13 This is not to ignore exceptions, such as those of the impressively strike- and protest-prone Chinese and South African working classes. But the former are still outside the ITUC, and the ITUC-affiliated South African COSATU was, at time of writing, under an innovatory left challenge from its major industrial affiliate, the Nation Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Marshall 2014). The possible implications of both phenomena for a post-ITUC labour internationalism have yet to be considered. And we should not forget signs of new union crossborder strike action within Europe (Nowak and Gallas 2014). 14 For what solidarity activities European ITUC affiliates are carrying out on a primarily WestWest axis see the insightful but sobering account of Bieler and Erne (2014). 15 I was a participant at the launch of a Dutch union-funded (actually Dutch state development cooperation funded) film entitled ‘Working Class Heroes’. One of these heroes, present at the launch, and awarded a Dutch Union Rights award, was a prominent and charismatic Indonesian union leader, Said Iqbal. In 2014, Iqbal identified himself – and his union(s) – with the (losing) Presidential candidate – a man with a background in the Suharto military dictatorship! Also present at the launch was the Dutch Labour Party Minister of both development cooperation and foreign trade. Enough said. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 40 The Capitalists and the Unions meet in the traditional World Labour Cup. The Unions arrive, all kitted up, from shirts to boots. But they find, to their horror, that the customary green pitch has been replaced by a shiny white skating rink. They protest loudly but the Capitalists say, ‘This is New Football, it’s faster, it’s more profitable, so get your skates on or go away’. The Unions complain to the Referee but he hoists his shoulders and says, ‘What can I do? If I make it an issue, they’ll simply move the match somewhere else’. The analogy is, of course, incomplete: the capitalists are playing not on an ice rink but in cyberspace. And the unions are still primarily orientated to the industrial/office worker identified with grounded workplaces, local living spaces, national polities. The problem is that the basic form of labour self-articulation, the union, was developed in and against a capitalism that was industrial, national, statebuilding, centralizing (and, of course, patriarchal, racist, imperial and militaristic). Its colonies and dependencies were expected to ‘develop’ along this path. Or, conversely, after 1917, to follow the State-Communist path to such.16 A contradictory and volatile combination of these two paths can be found in China, the new Workshop of the World. The inter/national ‘trade union as we know it’ (let’s call it the TUWKI), is a pyramidal institution, assumes the archetypical proletarian – male, industrial, waged, condemned to life-time (un- or under-) employment, living in a working-class community, surrounded by a working-class culture. The pyramidal organization is a nominally representative-democratic one, just as are, supposedly, worker’s parties, parliaments and the liberal-democratic state. The assumption was that with the growth, spread and deepening of capitalism the worker’s numbers, needs and values would permeate society and the state. This aspiration was given its best – but always partial – representation in the capitalist welfare state (Wahl 2011). With the gradual undermining of Welfare Capitalism (and the dramatic destruction of its Communist would-be equivalent), and with the diverse ‘global justice and solidarity movements’ mostly taking networked and cyberspatial form, the inter/national TUWKI resembles more a monument to the past of emancipatory social movements than a model of a future one.17 16 There were other international labour movement traditions that were crushed between these two millstones, such as the anarcho-syndicalist, the council communist and other democratic socialist ones. I am reminded of these by two recent books. One is that of Dan Gallin (2014), one-time Secretary of the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), who belonged to and reminds us of a particular democratic socialist tradition. The other is edited by Immanuel Ness (2014), which deals with such traditions in both their historical and contemporary manifestations – North and South, East and West. Such tendencies are – in so far as they surpass their own ‘labourist’ assumptions – making their own contribution to the re-invention of the union movement. 17 Detailed data and convincing additional reasons for the profound crisis of the international labour movement are provided by Marcel van der Linden (2015). Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 41 Finally, at global level, the inter/national unions – North, South, East and West – are incorporated and self-subordinated to the structure, ideology and programmes of the ILO – condemned by a leading former official, Guy Standing, as ‘An Agency for Globalization’ (Standing 2008). Since the ILO’s foundation – with enthusiastic union support – after the First World War and Russian Revolution, this famously ‘tripartite’ organization has been one in which governments and employers (State and Capital in political-economic terms) have 75 percent of the power, Labour 25 percent. ‘Labour’ here means only trade unions recognized by ‘their’ governments, which also actually pay for their unions’ presence at ILO conferences! This structure reproduces the SocialLiberal theory of capital and labour as competing interests, requiring a neutral state to preside over them. From here also comes the ideal of ‘free tripartite collective bargaining’, a model worshipped, or at least accepted, by most unions, North, South, East and West. The contemporary inter/national trade unions can still mount defensive action and organize effective solidarity campaigns (for their affiliates). With their millions of members they cannot be dismissed. But, given the Iron Cage that surrounds their thinking and action, one has to conclude that within this church there is no salvation – or at least no emancipation. The best one can hope for is that the TUWKI will eventually learn from the newest wave of emancipatory social movements. However the Berlin Congress website reveals but a marginal recognition of even the growing number of women workers (headscarved rather than hardhatted?), of the mass of labourers in the petty-commodity sector, of the wave of precarization threatening labour even in its West European fortress, and that capitalism is destroying the environment on which human existence – and therefore inevitably trade unions and collective bargaining – depends. 2. Given the restructuring of work/labour, informalization, migration etc. is there any real basis for international labour solidarity? Well, first we need to recognize the extent, forms and limits of past labour internationalisms.18 We also have to recognize the different times and places in, with or from which, internationalisms were expressed or experienced. I pluralize ‘internationalisms’ in order to avoid homogenization. Even in their iconic forms and moments they had their specificities and limitations. One of these lies in the very concept of internationalism (or, if you prefer, internationalism). There is ambiguity here even in the Communist Manifesto, which at one point asserts that workers have no country, and at another that they will first have to take power nationally.19 Etymologically, as well as 18 Considerable help here is provided by the work of David Featherstone (2012), reviewed here. Featherstone is all the more important for those working on labour internationalism because of his consideration of multiple kinds of such solidarity, of both historical and contemporary cases, and because of his sensitivity to socio-geographic space and distance. 19 Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 42 historically, labour internationalism has been a relationship between workers identified by nationality, interpellated (hailed or addressed) by nationalists and identified with various types of nationalism (e.g. American patriotism, left populism in Latin America, ‘great nation chauvinism’ in Communist – and evidently – post-Communist, Russia and China). With the development of centralized states, imperialism and inter-state or interbloc wars, workers and unions often opted for a state-national or bloc (Western, Eastern, Southern) identity rather than an international class one. We also need to distinguish worker, union, and party/ideological (Labour, Socialist, Communist, Anarchist) internationalisms. Everyone refers to the failure of the call for a general strike against World War One, when, with exceptions, workers identified themselves – at least initially – rather as national subjects/citizens than as an international class. But even the path-breaking 19th to early-20th century international campaign for the eight-hour day, 40-hour week, intimately linked with the establishment of Mayday as International Workers’ Day, was never universalized. In other cases it has been reversed. And I observed and photographed an enormous Mexico City Mayday demonstration, some 15 years ago, in which space was provided for the Zapatistas (who are of course Mexican), but in which there was no single sign of or reference to lo internacional! So the period of a globalized, neo-liberalized, informatized capitalism creates new problems and new challenges. It certainly questions any such simple appeal as that of the Communist Manifesto, assuming that workers are the privileged internationalist subjects; or any assumption that the ITUC, its associated unions and members provide the parameters for, or essence of, labour internationalism. The challenges are beginning to be met, I would argue, by internationalist labour solidarity initiatives at the base, on the periphery and outside the TUWKI. (More under Point 4 below). But we should here note that they customarily take network form, are more active in cyberspace than in offices or conferences, that they are open to dialogue (both internally and externally), that they are often informed by the emancipatory principles and practices of the newest wave of global solidarity and justice movements. Finally, and obviously, they do not accept the Iron Cage of Capitalism and Bureaucracy as the parameters of their thought and action. Consider the slogans I quoted above. Weber’s Iron Cage was, after all, his conceptual one. Traditional national, industrial, colonial, militarist capitalism was actually a mass/mess of contradictions, of which the early labour movement was to various extents conscious of and exploited. The newest global solidarity movements are commonly aware both of the traditional contradictions and of the new ones. As well as of the new terrains of struggle, such as the cyberspatial. And they are customarily aware that the emancipatory struggle is both worldwide (privileging no world area) and ‘intersectional’20 – meaning interpenetrated by and 20 See Wikipedia on intersectionality. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 43 interdependent on other alienated beings (including, in Latin American indigenous thinking, the earth itself). 3. What has been the experience of networking on work/labour issues in the World Social Forum – has it led to any concrete international action? The dominant Brazilian union centre, the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUTB) played a major role and was a major presence in the early editions of the WSF, most of which took place in Brazil. It later fell out publicly with the WSF and not for any left (as distinct from institutional) reasons I am aware of. The ITUC has had an increasing presence, and sometimes a giant ‘World of Labour’ tent, has provided its family with a focal point. But this was also, of course, a platform, and I am aware of no significant effort by the ITUC, or the allied Global Unions, to dialogue with ‘other’ labour movements present (of rural labour, of women). There may have been others but the only ‘crossmovement dialogue’ I recall was sponsored by feminists, not by labour. An alternative labour initiative, with the impressively (or was it deliberately?) low-profile name ‘Labour and Globalization’, was sponsored by a pro-WSF Italian union officer and a leading left socialist. It certainly attracted some of ‘labour’s others’, but it acted always as ‘His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’, in the sense of accepting the parameters of the traditional unions, and issuing no alternative programme, charter, or even a discussion document. This effort ran out of steam around 2011, reportedly due to lack or loss of Italian union interest. But we should not consider the unions or other labour people solely responsible here. The WSF, whilst hosting numerous significant social movements, and representing a significant challenge to the global hegemons, has, I think, been heavily marked by 1) the epoch and discourse of ‘global civil society’, 2) been subject to ongización (ngo-ization, for which see Alvarez 1999),21 and 3) been inevitably coloured by the 70-80 percent of participants with a university background. For many of these (as well as the new social movements of the later-20th century) ‘work’ was not, as such, an issue (although jobs increasingly are!), and the labour movement has been considered more a part of the problem than of the solution. We can’t write off the WSF, any more than the traditional trade unions – or for that matter national parliaments. But I am convinced that a global movement for the emancipation of labour will have to start elsewhere. A 2014 Cambridge conference on labour protest worldwide22 reinforced my feeling that if ‘power’ comes from the top and the centre, ‘empowerment’ comes from the base and the periphery: the base of the unions, the periphery of the class, and at least the 21 See here also Wikipedia on NGOization. 22 “‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice’: Organised Workers and Mass Mobilizations in the Arab World, Europe and Latin America”, 25028. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 44 semi-periphery of capitalism (Southern Europe, East Asia, Brazil, South Africa). The appropriate slogan here might have to be ‘In the unions, with the unions, without the unions and – where necessary – against the unions’. 4. How effective are alternative cross-border/transnational worker initiatives in countering the power of global capital? There was a 1980s wave, in which I was involved and wrote about, known as the ‘New Labour Internationalism’ (NLI) or ‘Shopfloor Internationalism’, itself a result of the labour and social movement radicalism of the 1970s. This was largely based on inter/national and local labour resource centres (LRCs), mostly acting as support groups, providing information and research services, many experimenting with what I called ‘international labour communication by computer’ (ILCC). Operating at the lowest levels of unionism, creating international linkages between workers on the shopfloor, this was rather independent and highly innovatory. With the rise and rise of neo-liberal globalization, however, the NLI was trapped by its orientation to the workplace and the union form. It failed to recognize that any new labour internationalism had to go beyond the ‘factory gates and the union office’ (Haworth and Ramsay 1984). Some of its leading activists entered the unions they had previously criticised, others faded away, yet others continued their efforts to create autonomous LRCs for a new kind of labour internationalism. The devastating impact of an informatized, neo-liberalized capitalist globalization has, however, given rise to a new wave of both action and reflection. International women worker campaigning may have best survived the neo-liberal tsunami (because of the women activists and feminist ideas). There is a significant new rural labour international, Via Campesina (Braga Vieira 2010, Bringel and Braga Vieira 2014), which organizes labourers as well as small farmers, and which could be considered a ‘networked organization’. There is a well-established network of mostly-female street traders, Streetnet. This links not the relevant NGOs in general but ‘membership-based organizations’ in particular. It adapted its constitution from that of an international trade union. Streetnet is autonomous of inter/national unions whilst often collaborating with such. Note that both Via Campesina (VC) and Streetnet were initiatives of the South or are actually initiated and/or inspired thereby.23 23 Being autonomous from the traditional inter/national unions, and being a membership-based organization, is no necessary guarantee of an autonomous discourse or strategy. Reading the following from WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), cosigned by StreetNet and numerous related bodies, I am reminded of the words of feminist Audre Lourde, that ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’: A majority of workers worldwide work in the informal economy, and most new jobs are informal jobs. It is assumed that informal work is unlikely to completely disappear, and that many informal economic activities will remain informal or semi-formal in the foreseeable future. There is no single, easy, one-step way to formalize informal employment. Rather, it should be understood as a gradual, ongoing process of Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 45 Numerous new labour solidarity initiatives have responded to the dispersion, restructuring and differentiation of working classes or categories, addressing themselves to particular regional or national formations (such as the China solidarity centres in Hong Kong), to the precarized, to the informatized, the petty-production sector, fisherpeople, sex workers, and migrants. One might think of migrant workers as the very embodiment of a globalized labour force and therefore as privileged bearers of a new labour internationalism. But whilst there are numerous networks of such, based on country of origin or country of work, and whilst there are various international NGO or church bodies addressing such workers, they seem to have remained resistant to the global models offered by VC or Streetnet. One simply cannot read off consciousness, organization and action from political-economic or socio-geographic position. Then there are initiatives on the fringe of the formal inter/national union structures but largely oriented toward such. The union inter/nationals have so far proven generally incapable of doing more than using – instrumentalising – the Internet (faster! cheaper! wider-reaching!), as a one-way, one-to-many broadcaster. They have not understood informatization as implying a revolution in work, kinds of workers, the self-empowerment thereof, and for moving toward a constructive, horizontal dialogue and dialectic of equals. This role has been taken on by projects such as the humungous information/solidarity project, LabourStart/UnionBook, by Union Solidarity International (USI)24 and the Global Labour Institute (GLI). These also happen to be heavily, if not solely, UK based. So is one ‘industry specific one’, Teacher Solidarity.25 But the China Labour Bulletin, Hong Kong, is one of several such sophisticated operations there. Then in Australia we can find a Southern Initiative on Globalization and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) in Perth, and an Australia-Asia Worker Links (AAWL) in Victoria. And one should not forget the open and internationalist socialist sites such as ‘Links International Journal of Socialist incrementally incorporating informal workers and economic units into the formal economy through strengthening them and extending their rights, protection and benefits. (WIEGO 2014) The whole ambitious and detailed document surely invites de- and re-construction. To start with, those in the informal economy are not a ‘majority’ – 50% plus? – but more like 85% – surely ‘an overwhelming majority’? To continue, this is not ‘the informal economy’ (ILO socialliberal discourse): it is the ‘petty-capitalist’, ‘petty-entrepreneurial’ or ‘real economy’ (according to various political-economic discourses). Finally, the declaration represents, surely, a backward-looking utopianism: during an on-going global capitalist economic crisis, and a war on labour in the capitalist ‘formal economy’, the aim of WIEGO and friends is that of getting (back) into it. And this with the assistance of the ILO, denounced by Guy Standing (2008) in terms already quoted. 24 See here. This page introduces us to an ‘Organising Network’, whilst, dramatically, reminding us that social networking is not neutral, that every technology bears an ideology, and arguing that it is introducing a new kind of international social networking site for unions. Bearing in mind my early concept of ‘International Labour Communication by Computer’, I am wondering whether we are now moving to a new stage – ILCC 2.0. 25 ‘Teacher Solidarity’. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 46 Renewal’ in Australia, ‘Debate’ in South Africa, ‘The Bullet’ in Canada, or ‘LeftEast’ (wherever, apart from Cyberia, it might be sited).26 Other projects increasingly come even to my inevitably limited attention. One is ‘Forum Worlds of Labour – China and Germany’, which is intended to create ‘personal encounter and debate’ at the shopfloor level. This could be understand as a revival of the shopfloor internationalism of the 1980s, linking as it does both German and China/Hongkong publications and networks largely of that era.27 In Austria there is a new body for the ‘Active Unemployed’, which is proposing an international network of such.28 Then I note a left metalworkers’ union site in Brazil that has an international solidarity page in English, no less!29 And also expressing solidarity in the South-North direction. Whilst many of the labour-specific sites above are heavily oriented toward and sometimes dependent on inter/national union support – moral or material – their position on the union periphery and their cyberspace awareness and activity means they can obviously do things that the traditionally earth-bound unions cannot. And they show, to varying degrees, an awareness of or sensitivity toward the increasingly networked nature of the latest global social movements. This was, I think, demonstrated by a couple of events that took advantage of the ITUC Congress in Berlin. One was of the Global Labour University which, despite its German social-democratic base and intimate links with the ILO, nonetheless addresses the 21st century world.30 A step beyond a union-fixation was taken by a NetworkedLabour conference, Amsterdam, 2013. It brought together 20-30 autonomous left specialists/activists on the globalization/informatization of work, of products, of workers, and then on the possibilities of emancipatory networking amongst such. One year later, however, it was yet to publish a promised report. My feeling is that it lacked significant reference to the history of ILCC, and the presence of those with practical contemporary experience of such. It is nonetheless an initiative which bears following.31 It seems to me to be being challenged (in direct relevance to workers and the labour movement) by a New York event, DigitalLabour.32 26 LeftEast, This is its e-dress. It seems not to have an earthbound ad-dress. 27 See here, so far only in German. 28 aktive-arbeitslose. 29 30 Which is not to exaggerate its radicality, given its focus on labour policies rather than labour politics (in the sense of collective labour self-empowerment). See here its pre-event paper outlines, which at least permit those not present to make their own sense of sometimes conflicting orientations. 31 See here, however, the NetworkedLabour-related work of Senalp and Senalp (forthcoming) and Senalp (2014a, b). And note the hope to hold a following Networked Labour Seminar, May 2015. 32 Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 47 As for the general impact of such efforts? I think we have to recognize this remains modest. It also remains to be critically researched. For example the site of the CLB in Hongkong declares, In addition to promoting workers’ initiatives and our own project work in China, CLB informs workers in China of important developments in the international trade movement. We select stories of worker solidarity and courage that will inspire China’s workers and show them what real trade unions do. Our English-language website conversely gives international readers a comprehensive introduction to and analysis of the workers’ movement in China. [My emphasis.] This seems to reproduce the asymmetrical and Westocentric union internationalism previously criticised. Here the paradise to be gained is one the West is losing! Fortunately, other Hong Kong-based sites go beyond this. I have here in mind, for example, the long-established Asia Monitor Resource Centre33 but there are others. Taking the longest-established and largest-scale cyberspace operation, LabourStart, this provides a remarkable multilingual source of news, and a space in which surfers can declare solidarity with numerous – with endless – online campaigns. Here the dangers arise of ritualization and information overload. Of course, those who use LabourStart can themselves select the countries or respond to issues that most concern them. But insofar as solidarity (overwhelmingly West-Rest) requires of surfers only a click, it raises the danger of ‘clicktivism’. And then the LabourStart-linked UnionBook, whilst a many-tomany site (with the rather restrained presence of LabourStart’s founder-owner, and whilst one I have long used as my own blogsite), comes over so far as a notice-board – or as a sandbox where we surfers can play, with minimal dialogue and with no visible cumulative effect or learning process.34 LabourStart ran one of its in-place conferences immediately following the ITUC Congress in Berlin. Whilst an evaluation of the event (co-authored by LabourStart’s initiator/owner) was predictably uncritical35 another report was rather more informative.36 The GLI is an interesting case in so far as it is union supported, has demonstrated some autonomy from the TUWKI complex, runs an annual international school, has a slowly increasing number of affiliates (including 33 34 This statement has to be qualified following Israel’s third war on Gaza, July-August 2014, when UBook creator, Eric Lee, suspended me without warning for an ‘offensive’ and ‘libelous’ posting, then destroyed the evidence thereof and, finally, (after I had circulated widely an-online protest) de-suspended me! Clearly this raises more issues than those between two Jews, one who would consider himself Zionist Internationalist, the other a Radical-Democratic one. See further the reaction from UBook user, Orsan Senalp and a wrap-up on UBook by myself. 35 36 Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 48 Russia, but not yet the Global South). At one of its annual summer schools, 2013, GLI founder, Dan Gallin, produced a blistering critique of international unionism, all the more telling in that it came from the former General Secretary of one of the Global Union Federations. He also proposed a re-politicising of the international union movement.37 The GLI has also published, with or for the International Transportworkers Federation (ITF), a path-breaking multilingual handbook on Organizing Precarious Transport Workers.38 Striking about this attractive brochure is: its awareness of the multiple forms of precarity; that precarity is a universal worker problem; that different kinds of precarious workers have different needs and demands; that they may (or may not) have effective non-union forms of self-organization; and, finally, that we cannot assume unions confronted by precarization are ‘fit for purpose’. It urges a positive but critical attitude to NGOs working with the precarious. And it warns against the dangers of external (foreign ‘development cooperation’?) funding. A more unusual case would be the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), which managed to finally get an ILO Convention (No.189) on ‘Decent Work for Domestic Workers’ in 2011. The campaign for this brought together unions of and NGOs for domestic workers from various world regions, the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), various national union centres, a Manchester-based research-action centre (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, or WIEGO), and others. Also of interest is that this campaign made use of the ‘Decent Work’ slogan of the ILOITUC – a campaign of which I have been critical, not only because of its origin in an interstate organization rather than the labour movement, but because of its reiteration of traditional liberal capitalist notions about, well, what work and decency are (it would allow production of junk food, nuclear weapons and ecologically-destructive extractive industries, as long as working conditions and union rights were ‘decent’).39 These can only be static shots of how a new kind of labour internationalism is developing, and they are obviously snapshots only from my camera – or ‘subject position’ as feminists might say. If I have seen and am here recognizing these projects, then there must be dozens of other such occurring in other places, other spaces, in other languages, in other alphabets. 37 One version of this can be found here. 38 39 For a movement and a theoretical critique or and alternative to ‘Decent Work’, see Dinerstein 2014. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 49 5. You have argued for moving beyond trade union internationalism, which remains trapped in the ‘iron cage’, and see new forms of labour self-articulation going beyond ‘the capitalist canon’, leading to the emergence of a new labour movement internationalism. I hope I have given some answers to this question above. So I will here concentrate on the literature that goes beyond the Cage and the Canon.40 Some of this literature is reviewed in pieces I have written on the ‘new global labour studies’. There was a certain shrinkage of international labour studies in the 1990s, possibly when many leftists lost faith in the proletariat as a socialist vanguard and the incrementalist left in it as a modernizing one! Recently there has been an equally considerable revival of such studies. And not only by these 20th century tendencies. I have indeed been taking issue with such new ‘global labour studies’ as I consider to be trapped, like the inter/national trade unions, within the Cage. I don’t want to repeat the arguments in two recent review articles (Waterman 2012, 2013a).41 Nor do I want to be too picky about what is or is not emancipatory (in the sense of seeking the surpassing of the alienation of labour by and for capital/state/empire/patriarchy/war). But we do seem to be witnessing a new wave of critical and creative monographs, conferences and compilations that are undermining (or firing at?) the Canon.42 Here I would like to note a substantial new textbook entitled, simply enough, Globalization and Work (Williams et. al. 2013). Here are some of its chapter titles: Consumption, Work and Identity; Multinationals; International Labour Standards; Globalization, Labour and Social Movements; Management in Global Factories; Migrant Labour; Transnational Mobility; Gender and Intersectional Inequalities; Labour Conflict. In so far as this work ends up suggesting a Australinavian utopia (pp. 247-8), I consider that it here returns 40 It is late, but hopefully not too late. to here introduce the ‘Capitalist Canon’ and the alternatives to such. Although earlier proposed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, here is an accessible discussion of such (Serrano and Xhafa 2011). 41 The second of these (Waterman 2013a) provides a base from which much of the argument of this paper is drawn. 42 Which is not to say that these compilations universally surpass the capitalist – or for that matter vulgar Marxist – canon. They each require or even invite critical review. In particular, I think, they need to be tested on their ICT-Awareness – the extent to which they recognize this latest capitalist technological revolution, creating new kinds of work, of workers, of forms of labour self-articulation and of ‘disputed terrain’. See Chhachhi 2014, the already-mentioned Ness (2014), Clua-Losada and Horn (2014), WorkingUSA (2014) and Gall, Wilkinson and Hurd (2011), Panitch and Albo (2015). As for 2014 conferences, consider these: Forms of Labour in Europe and China, the Case of Foxconn, Organised Workers and Mass Mobilizations in the Arab World, Europe and Latin America, Social Movements In Global Perspectives: Past – Present – Future as well as the site of RC44, the labour movements group within the International Sociological Association. Critical accounts of all of these would be welcome. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 50 itself to the Golden Age of the Iron Cage. So I guess it is more the book’s varied subject matters – and its extensive discussion of the relevant literature – that it seems to me a provocation to debate, discussion and dialogue on labour (and the newest global social movements!) in the New World Capitalist Disorder.43 A dramatic piece coming out of the prolonged wave of social protest in Greece calls for ‘the regeneration of a social-labour movement from the base for emancipation’.44 This seems to echo a project I launched that has otherwise had little impact. That was – maybe still is? – the Global Labour Charter Project I initially launched around 2005. It was, on the one hand, provoked by the socialliberal ‘Decent Work’ campaign of the ILO-ITUC and, on the other hand, encouraged by emancipatory declarations coming out of the newest global social movement and thinking.45 And, as I was completing this piece, I received this Italian call for a Europe-wide ‘social strike’ to take place November 14, 2014.46 It is an attempt to combine all social discontents and struggles – including those concerning education and gender: It is clear to all…that Europe is the minimum space of confrontation, the transnational level is decisive for conflicts that want to be incisive. And it is clear that without the creation of a space of permanent relationship and innovation between struggles and movements, breaking the impasse and subverting the present is unimaginable. A social strike, a strike that should be general and generalized, precarious and metropolitan, wants to be a first step, undoubtedly partial but fundamental, of this experiment. A way to begin to reverse this toxic narrative that replaces merit with equality, fierce competition with common happiness. 43 Another global labour study came to my attention as I was completing this piece. This is Atzeni (2014). It is a compilation of some brilliant papers, many original and thoughtprovoking. But it is, indeed, concentrated on ‘contemporary themes and theoretical issues’. So it does not take us much further in the direction of strategy. Nor does it address the question of internationalism. It is accessible here. The WorkingUSA (2014) compilation, introduced by Kim Scipes, although primarily focused on the Northincludes a number of novel and sometimes fascinating case studies. For yet another journal special issue on ‘Globalization and International Labor Solidarity’ (Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 2014) see here. And yet another relevant contribution, the piece by North American labour movement and socialist veteran, Sam Gindin (2014), with its list of things to know about organising against capitalism in the USA. Whilst his critique of traditional unionist thinking and most of his alternative understandings are well taken, however, his prioritization of national over – or at least before – international solidarity means a blind eye to the manner in which these are inevitably interdependent, more than ever in a world he recognizes as globalized, neoliberalised and financialised. Perhaps if he recognized informatization as contemporary capitalism’s fourth leg, he would also see that the beast has many bellies and that this requires any emancipatory labour strategy to be simultaneously international and national – not to speak of local and regional. 44 See here. 45 See here. 46 See here. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 51 I commented on this to the effect that whilst I thought a couple of months too short for this to be widely effective, it carried dramatically further the idea of ‘social movement unionism’ I launched in the later 1980s. 6. What does the 2014 Israel-Gaza war reveal about labour internationalism within or beyond your ‘iron cage’ and ‘capitalist canon’? This is an on-going and extremely fraught issue, so what I have to say are only some first thoughts. I do, however, think that it is the kind of issue for international labour solidarity that has been historically represented by World Wars One and Two, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, AntiColonialism, Vietnam, the Cold War (NATO and West/East nuclear ‘exterminism’), Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, Poland’s Solidarnosc and Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Note that many of these went beyond the limits of any ‘trade unions as such’ discourse. Now, I have identified with Palestine solidarity and/or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, particularly in so far as this has involved unions and the wider labour movement. More so since the 2014 Israeli outrage in Gaza that scandalized even liberal Zionists abroad and former IDF intelligence unit soldiers in Israel.47 Given the Balkanisation/Ghettoization of Palestine, I have come to consider any UN-type ‘two-state’ solution as dead in the water (or should one here say ‘desert’ – including those caused by long-standing and continuing Israeli destruction of Palestine’s ecology?). If we are not to continue towards Israel’s ‘Final Solution of the Arab Problem’, then I see a one-state solution as the only democratic one. It may be distant (so is a post-capitalist world!) yet it provides a horizon toward which we must move. At the same time I have been having difficulty in seeing the different reactions to the Israel/Palestine issue in the international labour movement in other than 20th Century terms. Whilst not identical, the issue itself has clear echoes of that against apartheid South Africa (not to speak of earlier cases of imperial racism, humiliation, militarism, expansionism, repression and massacre). There are even clearer echoes of the South African case in the international labour movement. The Eurocentric trade union internationals of that era (and various of their equally Eurocentric affiliates) were complicit with the white racist unions of South Africa, until they were forced by the rising Anti-Apartheid Movement, national and international, to boycott the latter and recognize the Black South African trade unions (Webster 1984, Southall 1995). And the Palestinian, civil society- and union-endorsed, BDS movement is at least 47 This, as well as other reactions can be found amongst multiple postings on Union Book blog here. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 52 implicitly inspired by the successful South African campaign.48 I identify various union responses to the latest invasion of Gaza, briefly: The Labour Zionist. Though not confined to one person, this position is exemplified by the earlier-mentioned Eric Lee (Footnote 29), whose position reminds me of that of Western Communists as Stalinist Russia stagnated and declined. He has been busy with triumphalist celebration of Israel’s wars, as well as the successes of the Zionist Histadrut within the TUWKIs in general and the ITUC in particular. He has, however, increasingly shifted, if uncertainly, to sobering reflections on the success of the BDS/Palestine-solidarity movement, though this is not to the point of recognizing any Israeli responsibility. Two proIsraeli sites he has either created or been connected with, TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) and TUFI (Trade Union Friends of Israel) appear to have run out of steam late 2013. Eric (with whom I fruitfully dialogued on ILCC in the 1990s) has also increasingly withdrawn his pro-Israeli/Histadrut news, views and personal attachments from LabourStart and UnionBook, concentrating them on his own blogsite (from which he has also removed his LabourStart/UnionBook affiliations). Unlike many Western Communists (myself amongst them after the Soviet invasion of Communist Czechoslovakia) he has not yet had his ‘1968 Moment’ – that of abandoning a fundamentalist state-nationalism and an inevitably ‘particularistic internationalism’, in favour of the dialogical/dialectical internationalism that his remarkable and pioneering online creations make possible.49 The ITUC/ETC. By this formulation I mean the ITUC itself, the Global Unions (GUs) intimately associated with it, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, the European Trade Union Confederation and similar bodies for other regions,50 and such national trade union affiliates as identify themselves uncritically with the ITUC, as well as such NGOs as might have been sponsored by, or that consider themselves allies of, the ITUC. The ITUC declared that it was ‘horrified by the appalling death toll of civilians in Gaza’, and called for ceasefire, a return to the 1967 borders, negotiations and a two-state solution. This identifies it closely with the UN position, to which the ITUC refers and defers. It, somewhat pathetically, organized an international campaign for union peace postcards to be sent to the UN! The International 48 There is an important point of distinction between the labour campaign for BDS in South Africa and Palestine. This is precisely the existence of a mass Black working class and autonomous democratic trade unions in the former, the limited size of an Arab working class in Israel, and the party-political domination of the undemocratic Palestinian unions. This implies a greater challenge to the international labour BDS campaign, particularly the need to surpass a narrow labourism. (More on this below). 49 Though he continues, after first suspending my account and then restoring it – to tolerate my own anti-Zionist and pro-BDS postings on Union Book. 50 An exception must be made for its regional organization for the Americas, CSA/TUCA, which came out with a clear condemnation of Israel, particularly the ‘brutal escalation’ of its assault. As with previous such deviations from the Brussels line, however, this is unlikely to be reproduced – far less responded to – by the Kremlin/Vatican of TUWKIism. Indeed, I could only find it on the CSA site, in Spanish, not on the TUCA site, in English! Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 53 Transportworkers Federation, which condemned the Israeli bombings of Gaza has at least, however, created a humanitarian fund for Gaza. The ITUC has the Histadrut as a member and, at its 2012 Congress actually elected its leader, Ofer Eini, to a leading position within the organisation. Such Histadrut affiliations probably exist for all or most of the GUs.51 The ITUC/ETC thus appears to be in the position the old ICFTU occupied on South Africa before the South African and international Anti-Apartheid Movement forced it to abandon the racist unions and identify with the Black/anti-racist ones. However, there are and may be growing differences within this camp. The Irish TUC, which is an ITUC affiliate, identified itself with the BDS movement already in 2007.52 And a 2014 congress of the British TUC, whilst not coming out explicitly for BDS, nonetheless took a stand distinctly more radical than that of the ITUC (whose position it nonetheless endorses). The TUC also identified itself with Amnesty and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK.53 Some of the international labour support bodies, independent from but oriented toward what I have called TUWKI, came out for support to Palestine and/or BDS. At least one preserved ‘radio silence’ (actually internet silence), considering the matter a ‘political’ or ‘inter-state’ issue rather than a ‘labour’ or ‘social’ one. Such a position reproduces the hegemonic Western liberal discourse (the infamous Canon) that compartmentalizes the social terrain and does not recognize that an anti-political position is also a political position, at least if we take ‘the political’ to cover all exercises of power and expressions of powerlessness. Unsurprisingly, this silence on Israel/Palestine is also reproduced by that US state-funded shill, the Solidarity Centre of the American AFL-CIO.54 Palestine Solidarity and/or BDS campaigns. This campaign, launched from Palestine and endorsed by all Palestinian trade unions and the South African COSATU, is, as already suggested, either explicitly or implicitly inspired by the historical Anti-Apartheid Movement. As Israeli outrages have continued, this campaign has had increasing success. It has a considerable variety of expressions, from the passing of resolutions by national trade union centres and individual unions, to demonstrations and then actual labour boycott actions, such as those of South African dockers and those on the West Coast of the 51 This account is impressionistic, given that neither Wikipedia, the ITUC nor Histadrut websites yield the complete information necessary. Some was gleaned from a booklet on the Global Labour Movement (a misnomer given that it is limited to the ITUC, GUs and some ITUC friendly/acceptable NGOs), published 2013 by LabourStart. A systematic and critical research effort is necessary also here. 52 See here 53 This all causing considerable misgivings to Labour Zionist, Eric Lee. 54 July 2014, it reported that Palestinian unions were ‘under fire’, without reference to what kind of fire this was and where it was coming from, and giving this item no more importance than a half dozen other more routine collective bargaining matters. Oh, and a shill, in the US, is a person or body who/which publicly supports or publicizes someone or some body without revealing his identification with or dependence on the latter. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 54 US/Canada.55 I won’t give this position more attention here because it finds explicit and detailed expression in its own media (see Footnote 45). However a question still needs to be raised about the failure or limitations, so far, of any campaign to get the ITUC/ETC to boycott Histadrut. I suspect that, with the exception of COSATU, those to the left of the ITUC confine any criticisms they might have of it to the corridors of powerlessness, and this for diplomatic reasons somewhat out of consonance with even Gorbachov’s late-20th century notion/aspiration of perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and transparency). Back to the Iron Cage. I said at the beginning of this section that the Palestine labour solidarity campaign seemed to me a typically 20th century one, meaning that it all falls within the solidarity repertoires of the epoch of a nationalindustrial-colonial capitalism. Consider the parallel between the Right/Left, Nationalist/Internationalist typology, presented above, and that I critiqued in Footnote 10. The problem is revealed if we look at the position of the (Neolithic) Communist World Federation of Trade Unions, which has declared total solidarity with the Palestinian unions, attacked Israel and world imperialism, and condemned the ITUC position on the conflict as ‘a hideous joke’.56 What WFTU here offers is in terms of Virtue v. Vice – a Manichean Opposition. Alternatively we could place this position on a Spectrum, leading from the Labour-Zionist one to that of ‘Class and Mass’, of ‘Anti-Imperialism’, and ‘Revolution’. Indeed, various autonomous leftist solidarity bodies have been reproducing, uncritically, this knee-jerk WFTU reaction. In so far, however, as we now recognize ‘revolution’ as a problem rather than a solution (look at what happened to the Chinese one!), do we not also need to see solidarity with Palestinian workers and people in dialectical rather than mechanical (yes/no, good/bad, occupation/liberation) terms? I have earlier proposed that we do need to see ‘international solidarity’ in more complex ways. I have also suggested we need to consider its axes, its directions, its external reach and local depth. I use the acronym ISCRAR: Identity, Substitution, Complementarity, Reciprocity, Affinity and Restitution.57 None of these alone ‘represents’ solidarity; each of them alone can contradict both itself and a holistic notion of solidarity. Solidarity with Palestine falls largely within the category of a Substitution Solidarity – standing in for a suffering or needful community. But if this is understood as a sufficient understanding of solidarity, it may be, or can easily become a patron-client relation. And in so far as it is unidirectional, in this case from the West to the Rest, it can imply, like trade union ‘development cooperation’, the export or imposition of Our understanding and values on the Other. If, alternatively, a Substitution Solidarity is motivated by feelings of guilt or obligation, it can lead to ‘selfsubordination to the victim’. This was a syndrome common to the ‘FirstWorld/Third-World’ solidarity movements of the last century. 55 See here. 56 See here 57 Waterman (1998, 2010), Vos (1976). Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 55 It seems to me that attempts to understand and surpass these limitations, in the case of solidarity with Palestine (if not of labour solidarity with Palestine) are beginning to be made. David Landy (2014/Forthcoming) has Hamas and other problematic/conflicting Palestinian forces in mind when he argues that a notion of solidarity which seeks to avoid its necessary tensions, leads to a suppression of our political imaginations and activities, rather than to their expansion. This may be the greatest casualty of the doctrine of noninvolvement [in the internal relations of the Palestinian movements] – that we may find that in undertaking such blinkered political work we are not engaged in action that is meaningful either for Palestinians, ourselves or our mutual world. In a theoretical consideration of various identities and differences in relation to global [?] social transformation, which takes on both Marxism and feminism, Sriram Anath (this issue) says that the BDS call provides an interesting platform to understand that it is in the lived politics of solidarity-based struggle that one is able to determine where greater attention to difference is needed, where commonality of interests lies, and how to engage with the contradictions arising from different forms of solidarity for a transformative political movement…[I]t would be interesting to see how the variegated coalitions/alliances and movements that have spawned from the BDS call engage with these numerous issues surrounding political solidarity. Such reflections surely take us outside the Cage and beyond the Canon. There are implications here for those concerned with a project of global social transformation, also in relation to labour and what I call the new global solidarity. This is clearly not the rose garden that we (were) promised in the last century. These roses have prickles. We need to work in this garden, together with our Others, armed less with industrial era steam shovels than with Gramsci’s ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’. Our major challenge in creating a new kind of labour internationalism is surely that of doing what Holloway, in my initial quote, says of holding together international struggles within the wage-labour relationship with those that seek to surpass it. And doing this without suppressing the necessity of moving from the first to the second. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 56 References and resources Alvarez, Sonia. 1999. ‘Advocating Feminism: The Latin American Feminist NGO “Boom”’, in International Feminist Journal of Politics, Vol. 1. No. 2. Atzeni, Maurizio. 2014. ‘Workers and Labour in a Globalised Capitalism: Contemporary Themes and Theoretical Issues’. Bieler, Andreas and Roland Erne. 2014. ‘Transnational solidarity? The European Working Class in the Eurozone Crisis’ in Leo Panitch and Greg Albo (eds). ‘Transforming Classes’, Socialist Register 2015. Braga Vieira, Flávia. 2010. Dos proletários unidos à globalizăçao da esperança: Um estudo sobre internacionalismos e a Via Campesina. (From Proletarians United to the Globalisation of Hope: A Study of Internationalisms and of Via Campesina). Rio de Janeiro: Alameda. Bringel, Breno and Flávia Braga Vieira. 2014. ‘Educational Processes, Transnational Exchanges and the Reconfiguration of Internationalism in Brazil’s MST and La Via Campesina’. (Unpublished draft). Chhachhi, Amrita (ed). 2014. ‘Forum Debate 2014: Revisiting the Labour Question’, Development and Change. dech.2014.45.issue-5/issuetoc. Clua-Losada, Monica and Laura Horn (eds). 2014. ‘Analysing Labour and the Crisis: Challenges, Responses and New Avenues’, Global Labour Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2. Dinerstein, Ana. 2014. ‘The Dream of Dignified Work: On Good and Bad Utopias’ in Development and Change, Vol. 45, No. 5, pp. 1037-58. Featherstone, David. 2012. Solidarity: Hidden Histories and Geographies of Internationalism. London: Zed. Gall, Gregor, Adrian Wilkinson and Richard Hurd (eds). 2011. The International Handbook of Labour Unions: Responses to Neo-Liberalism. London: Elgar. Fernandes, Sabrina. 2014. ‘Brazil on Strike: Class Struggle in the Wake of the World Cup’. The Bullet. Gall, Gregor, Adrian Wilkinson and Richard Hurd (eds). 2011. The International Handbook of Labour Unions: Responses to Neo-Liberalism. London: Elgar. Gallin, Dan. 2014. Solidarity: Selected Essays. Labour Start. Gindin, Sam. 2014. ‘Unmaking Global Capitalism’, https://www.jacobinmag. com/2014/06/unmaking-global-capitalism/. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 57 Marshall, Judith. 2014. ‘Building a United Front Against Neoliberalism: South African Metalworkers Change Course’. http://www.socialistproject. ca/bullet/944.php. Haworth, Nigel and Harvie Ramsay. 1984. ‘Grasping the Nettle: Problems with the Theory of International Trade Union Solidarity’, in Waterman, Peter (ed), For a New Labour Internationalism. The Hague: ILERI Foundation. Pp.60-87. Ness, Immanuel (ed). 2014. New Forms of Workers Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism. Oakland: MR Press. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. 2014. ‘Globalization and International Labor Solidarity’ Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. Vol. 4, No. 1. Nowak, Jörg and Alexander Gallas. 2014. ‘Mass Strikes Against Austerity in Western Europe – A Strategic Assessment’, Global Labour Journal, Vol. 5, No. 3. Panitch, Leo and Greg Albo (eds). 2015. ‘Transforming Classes’, Socialist Register 2015. Senalp, Orsan. 2014. Making of the Global Working Class. Senalp, Orsan and M.G. Senalp (Forthcoming) ‘Transnational Networks of Radical Labour Research’. In Kees van der Pijl (ed), The International Political Economy of Production. London: Edward Elgar. Serrano, Melissa and Edlira Xhafa. 2011. ‘The Quest for Alternatives Beyond (Neoliberal) Capitalism’. Global Labour University Working Paper 14. Geneva: International Labour Organisation. Southall, Roger. 1995. Imperialism or Solidarity? International Labour and South African Trade Unions. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press. Standing, Guy. 2008. ‘The ILO: An Agency for Globalisation?’, Development and Change, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 355-84. Vos, Henk. 1976. Solidariteit: Elementen, Complicaties, Perspectieven. Baarn: Ambo. Wahl, Asbjorn. 2011. The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State. London: Pluto. Waterman, Peter. 1998. Globalisation, Social Movements and the New Internationalisms. London: Mansell. Or: 2010. London: Bloomsbury. E-book. Waterman, Peter. 2009. ‘Needed: A Global Labour Charter Movement’, Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements. Vol1, No.2, 255-262. Waterman, Peter. 2012. ‘An Emancipatory Global Labour Studies is Necessary!’, Interface: a Journal for and about Social Movements. Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 317 -368. Waterman, Peter. 2013a. ‘International Union Power within the Rusting Cage of Capitalism and Bureaucracy: A Review Article’. Draft. Interface: a journal for and about social movements Interview Volume 6 (2): 35 – 58 (November 2014) Waterman, In, Against and Beyond 58 Waterman, Peter. 2013b. ‘Trade Unions at World Social Forum, Tunis, Call for a Global Union Forum (Federation of Workers of Quebec – FTQ)’. UnionBook, April 21. Webster, Eddie. 1984. ‘The International Metalworkers Federation in South Africa (1974-80)’, in Peter Waterman (ed), For a New Labour Internationalism. ILERI: The Hague. Pp. 213-30. WIEGO. 2014. WIEGO Network Platform: Transitioning from the Informal to the Formal Economy in the Interests of Workers in the Informal Economy. Manchester: WIEGO. Williams, Steve et. al. 2013. Globalisation and Work. Cambridge: Polity. WorkingUSA. 2014. ‘Special Theme: Global Labour Solidarity’, WorkingUSA, June 2014, Vol. 17, No. 2. About the author Peter Waterman (London, 1936) worked twice for international Communist organisations before becoming an academic. He is now a pensioned (but unretiring) activist/writer on international unions and labour internationalism, global social emancipation movements, and culture/communications – particularly cyberspatial – in relation to such. He has just published his autobio (available online, CopyLeft and free), From Cold War Communism to the Global Emancipatory Movement: Itinerary of an Internationalist. He can be reached at peterwaterman1936 AT

The loyalty oath and Israel’s Zionist “left” (Electronic Intifada)

The loyalty oath and Israel’s Zionist “left”

8 November 2010

Activists in Israel rally against the proposed loyalty oath in Tel Aviv, October 2010. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

On 10 October 2010, the Israeli government proposed a bill obligating non-Jewish naturalized citizens to swear loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic state.” The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) deplores this attempt to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — a state whose existence is premised on the removal of the indigenous people of Palestine.

In response to this bill, members of the Zionist “Left” in Israel issued a “declaration of independence from fascism.” Announced at a rally in Tel Aviv, the Middle East’s most ethnically cleansed city (indigenous population: four percent), the declaration asserts that the proposed law “violates [Israel’s] basic commitment to the principles of equality, civil liberty and sincere aspiration for peace — principles upon which the State of Israel was founded.”

The Zionist “Left” is distancing itself from this policy, but the proposed oath is entirely consistent with Israel’s racist foundations and continued ethnic cleansing — all of which the Zionist “Left” has played a central role in perpetrating and whitewashing.

In the 1930s, as the Zionist state was forming, the Histadrut and other Labor Zionist institutions campaigned to dispossess Arab peasants and workers, while helping crush the resulting 1936 Arab rebellion.

In 1947-48, under the leadership of David Ben Gurion, Labor Zionism — the dominant force in the Zionist “Left” — also directed the Nakba (catastrophe), which established the “Jewish state” by terrorizing and expelling at least eighty percent of the indigenous Palestinian population.

In the following decades, “Left” Zionism imposed domestic apartheid, made apartheid South Africa Israel’s closest ally and led or supported every Israeli war of domination — most recently in Lebanon and Gaza. Under Labor governments, Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank exploded in number (see “Briefing: Labor Zionism and the Histadrut,” International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor and Labor for Palestine (US), 13 April 2010).

Today, “Left” Zionists, no less than their right-wing counterparts, view Palestinians as a “demographic threat” to Jewish supremacy. Like the “Right,” they insist that Palestinians ratify their own unequal status by recognizing 1948 Palestine (“Israel”) as a “Jewish state.” Ironically, this Zionist racism, violence and apartheid serve to deliver a segregation of Jews that parallels traditional European anti-Semitism.

The problem, then, is not alleged betrayal of Israeli “principles” at the hands of right-wing “extremists,” but Zionism itself — both “Left” and “Right.” For Israeli Jews who reject Israel’s racist foundations, we stand with you.

We ask others not only to join us in opposing the loyalty oath, but to reject the Zionist principles upon which it rests. Concretely, that means supporting Palestinian demands for an end to military occupation, implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and equal rights for all throughout Palestine.

Jesse Benjamin, an associate professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University, is aUS and an Israeli citizen. He is a member of IJAN.

David Comedi is an activist, physicist and coordinator of IJAN in Argentina.Â

Toby Kramer is a member of IJAN in the San Francisco Bay Area.