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.

Socialist Zionism Panel at Socialism 2017 Conference

Socialist Zionism Panel at Socialism 2017 Conference
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine
Chicago, July 7, 2017

Let’s start at the beginning: In the narrative of the oppressed – in this case, the Palestinian narrative — “Israel” is not a place, but a colonial-settler regime. Just as Zimbabwe was never “Rhodesia,” all “Israel” is occupied Palestine.

Therefore, the “Occupation” is not just the West Bank and Gaza, which have been Israeli-occupied since 1967, but every inch of land stolen by the Zionist state since 1948. In the Palestinian narrative, “Israel” or “Israel proper” are known as 1948 Palestine, or simply ’48. Conversely a free Palestine refers to *all* of Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all its inhabitants.

Think: Make Israel Palestine Again.

Against that narrative is “Progressive Except for Palestine” (PEP), which reflects Zionism’s long-term impact on the U.S. left, specifically through the misappropriation and misapplication of  the right of national self-determination, civil rights, even “socialism” itself, to Israeli settler-colonialism, and often linked to the notion of binationalism.

As discussed by Tikva Honig-Parnass and others, this misappropriation was spearheaded by the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation, which was the Israeli state-in-waiting until 1948, and then ruled the Zionist regime for its first 30 years. Even before that, the social democratic Second International supported Labor Zionism as part of its overall support for imperialism: both the First World War “at home,” and colonialism abroad. Indeed, imperialist regimes like Britain saw Zionism as a way to undermine Bolshevism and the October Revolution of 1917. It’s no surprise that, to this day, the Histadrut is closely aligned with the Second International.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, at the Histadrut’s behest, social democratic garment union leaders in this country enlisted both the AFL and CIO — they were separate federations until 1955 — to loudly demand establishment of a “Jewish state” in Palestine.

This misappropriation of the right to national self-determination and other genuinely-socialist principles was also adopted by the non-Social Democratic left. In the 1920s and 1930s, virtually all communists and socialists had staunchly denounced Zionism as a reactionary, colonial movement. But during the Second World War, Stalin supported a “Jewish state” in Palestine, mainly in the delusional hope of helping Russia replace Britain as the dominant imperial power in the Middle East.

Toward that end, he sent 142,000 displaced Eastern European Jews – willing or not – to displace indigenous Palestinians, organized the necessary two-thirds majority for UN partition in 1947, armed the Zionist militias that carried out the Nakba, and made Russia the first country to recognize the Israeli regime. As U.S. Communist Party chief William Z. Foster wrote in the early 1950s:

“The only true friend of the Jewish people in their fight for national freedom was the Soviet Union, which steadfastly supported the setting-up of the longed-for homeland of the Jews. . . . Eventually, the Jewish masses themselves virtually settled the matter by establishing the Republic of Israel, in May 1948. They then defended their government, arms in hand, against the British-inspired attacks from the neighboring Arab governments. . . . Within the United States. . . . [t]he Communist Party took a very active part in the whole struggle.”

Ironically, some Trotskyists took a virtually identical position. Amidst the Nakba, Hal Draper stated the majority view of the Independent Socialist League: “We not only support the Palestine Jews’ right to self-determination but draw the necessary conclusions from that position: for full recognition of the Jewish state by our own government; for lifting the embargo on arms to Israel; for defense of the Jewish state against the Arab invasion in the present circumstances.”

Now obviously, Draper did not share Stalin’s motives for supporting a Jewish state in Palestine. Rather, his position was rooted in binationalism — the same premise shared by Socialist Zionists of the Hashomer Hatzair — that Jews have an equal right to self-determination in Palestine, including a right to a *separate* state. Jewish and Palestinian workers were to unite for a “socialist” Israel. To put this into perspective, it is like saying that, as communities suffering oppression in Europe, the Boers in apartheid South Africa, or European immigrants in Americas, had the right to a separate — i.e., apartheid — state on stolen indigenous land.

Though common on the left, this premise didn’t go unchallenged. During the 1936-1939 Arab uprising in Palestine, the South African Trotskyists noted that some Marxists had “been swept off their feet by the widespread anti-Semitic wave [in Europe] and have fallen victims to nationalism,” and reminded readers that, “[a] clear, unambiguous stand in support of the colonial people in their struggle against imperialism is the first duty of revolutionary socialism.”

Palestinian Marxists asked how “socialist” were kibbutzes — or “Jewish states” — built on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin, site of the most infamous Zionist massacre of the Nakba?

As documented in Black Liberation and Palestine Solidarity, this same position was upheld in the 1960s by Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and others, who condemned not only particular Israeli policies, but Zionism itself. This was based on the understanding that Palestinian oppression — and resistance – was part of the same international system of racism and colonialism inflicted on black South Africans, Vietnamese, Latin Americans and African Americans. Indeed, in 1973, thousands of Arab and Black workers held a wildcat strike in Detroit to protest UAW support for Israel.

Who defended Israel against these protests? Labor/Left/Socialist Zionists and social democrats, including black moderate civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, the Jewish Labor Committee, and the Workmen’s Circle – the same “left” forces who jumped on the bandwagon for U.S. and Israeli wars in the wake of 9/11.

However, 9/11 and its immediate aftermath also sparked the first visible labor anti-Zionism since the 1973 UAW wildcats, including New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) and Labor for Palestine, both co-led by black radical activists from the 1960s.

And since the most recent Israeli massacre Gaza massacre in 2014, we have seen a small, but growing number of labor bodies standing with Palestine, including the refusal of the dockers in ILWU Local 10 to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo, and the adoption of BDS resolutions by a small but growing number of labor bodies. This has paralleled growing intersectional solidarity from Black4Palestine, the Movement for Black Lives, Labor for Standing Rock, immigrant rights and other grassroots social justice movements in the United States.

That kind of solidarity with Palestinian resistance is the antidote to Socialist Zionism.

5 WAYS to support Palestinian Liberation within the Bay Area

View in searchable PDF format: 5 Ways to Support Palestine_Final

Screenshot 2016-07-08 20.39.54

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Donate

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.

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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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Donate to Labor for Palestine
Contact Labor for Palestine

 

UAW2865 & Palestine-SF Labor (WorkWeekRadio)

Pacifica KPFA WorkWeek On Tuesday 2:30 PM PST

To Focus On UAW International Nullifying UAW 2865 Support For BDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They then nullified the vote.

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

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

For more information:
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.