Category Archives: Labor Zionism

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

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

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

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

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

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

The vote to endorse BDS passes! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising anti-imperialism in DSA’sranks

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

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

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

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

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

DSA BDS Resolution

DSA BDS Resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whereas, all of the aforementioned constitutes apartheid;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BE IT RESOLVED:

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

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 palestine.prison.delegation16@gmail.com

 

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.

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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
peterwaterman1936@gmail.com 

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
20.04.16

[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.

JFPROR LFP UAW2865

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)

ADDITIONAL SIGNERS

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)

=========

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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:
kora.matrix.msu.edu/files/50/304/32…%2012%20opt.pdf
Production of WorkWeek Radio on the Pacifica Network.
415-282-1908
workweek@kpfa.org
@workweek-radio

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.

“Hypocritical”

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.

“Partnership”

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.

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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]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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