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Labor and the Middle East War
New York City Labor Against the War
August 11, 2006
For weeks, Israel has turned Lebanon into a killing ground, slaughtering and maiming thousands of people, destroying the civilian infrastructure, and turning a quarter of the population into refugees in their own land. At the same time, it continues to brutalize Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel’s crimes are carried out with U.S.-made F-16s, Apache helicopters, and cluster bombs. These high-tech lethal weapons are part of $5 billion that Israel gets each year from the United States, courtesy of the Republican and Democratic parties, with enthusiastic support from Neo-cons and right-wing Christian fundamentalists.
The U.S. does not arm Israel to “promote democracy” or for “self-defense.” Even Zionist historians now admit that Israel’s origins are rooted in dispossession of the Palestinian people — whose labor then built the Israeli economy — through an unrelenting campaign of ethnic cleansing: exile, squalid refugee camps, imprisonment, torture and murder.
Since the 1970s, Israel has also pursued territorial expansion by repeatedly invading and devastating Lebanon, as exemplified by the slaughter of thousands of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatilla in 982. That occupation lasted until 2000, when Hezbollah forced Israel to withdraw.
Since then, Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians, taken thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese political prisoners, and tried to strangle the democratically-elected government of Hamas. When Hamas and Hezbollah responded by capturing a few Israeli soldiers, Israel unleashed a new, bloody, long-planned attack on Lebanon; only then did Hezbollah respond by firing crude rockets at Israel.
Behind its empty platitudes, the U.S. government supports this Israeli racism and state terrorism because, along with dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it is a cornerstone of U.S. domination over the world’s most important oil-producing region.
Now, with the Iraq war in shambles, the U.S.-Israel partnership seeks to break Lebanese and Palestinian resistance, while recklessly provoking confrontations with Syria and Iran. The U.N. has done nothing to stop this war of empire — what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sickeningly calls “birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that Hezbollah has won tremendous support in and beyond the Arab world, even amongst those who question some aspects of its ideology or tactics. For this spiraling cycle of oppression and resistance evokes Iraq, Afghanistan, Soweto, Vietnam, Algeria, the Warsaw Ghetto, or David and Goliath.
Horrified by the images from Palestine and Lebanon, international labor has strongly denounced Israel’s attacks.
On July 10, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) urgently called for sanctions and boycotts against the “apartheid Israel state,” which it branded worse than the former racist regime in South Africa.
On July 31, the General Union of Oil Employees in Iraq issued an “appeal to all the honorable and free people of the world to demonstrate and protest about what is happening to Lebanon.”
On August 5, major British trade unions supported a massive London protest against Israel’s attacks. Even before the current escalation, several labor bodies in Britain, Canada and elsewhere called for divestment from Israel.
In the United States, however, nearly all labor bodies either support Israel or say nothing at all.
State employee retirement plans and union pension funds invest hundreds of millions of dollars in State of Israel Bonds. In April 2002, while Israel butchered hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Jenin, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney spoke at a “National Solidarity Rally for Israel.” The American Federation of Teachers has specifically embraced Israel’s new assaults.
In the antiwar movement, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), which consistently segregates the Palestinian cause, has organized no mass response. U.S. Labor Against the War, which promotes union resolutions against the war in Iraq, remains disturbingly silent.
Fortunately, growing protests have been organized by the Arab-Muslim community, people of color, anti-Zionist Jews, and other activists who recognize that Lebanon and Palestine are inseparable from Iraq and Afghanistan.
New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) is part of this grassroots movement, and with Al-Awda New York, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, a cosponsor of Labor for Palestine <http://www.al-awdany.org/lfp/>.
NYCLAW believes that the labor and antiwar movements in the United States have a special obligation to speak out and demand:
1. End the U.S.-Israel war against the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
2. No aid for Israel.
3. Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
4. End Israeli occupation, and fully implement the Palestinian right of return.
5. Out Now from Iraq and Afghanistan — No timetables, redeployment, advisors, or air-war.
NYCLAW Co-Conveners (other affiliations listed for identification only):
Former President, NPMHU Local 300
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March