Category Archives: LFP Media

Are US labor unions finally speaking out on Palestine? (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Are US labor unions finally speaking out on Palestine?

Trade union involvement is seen as key to the success of the international movement in support of Palestinian rights. Ryan Rodrick BeilerActiveStills

The trade union leadership in the US has generally been reluctant to defend Palestinian rights. Sometimes, it has been openly hostile to the Palestine solidarity movement.

Soon after Richard Trumka was elected president of the AFL-CIO in 2009, he denounced the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

That call has been endorsed by organizations representing Palestinian workers with direct experience of occupation and apartheid. That does not seem to have convinced the AFL-CIO – the largest federation of trade unions in the US – that it should side with Palestinian workers.

The AFL-CIO has a long history of supporting the Histradut, an Israeli union that played a prominent role in the Zionist colonization of Palestine and the dispossession of Palestinians.

Moreover, the AFL-CIO has been a major buyer of Israel bonds: by some estimates, such investments are worth $5 billion.

A decision taken by the San Francisco chapter of the AFL-CIO earlier this month is among a series of small breakthroughs for Palestine solidarity in the US labor movement.

The San Francisco Labor Council, as the chapter is known, has taken a strong position against bullying by pro-Israel and Islamophobic groups.

Earlier this month, the council approved a resolution that declares full support for students and teachers at San Francisco State University (SFSU) who have suffered abuse over their campaigning on Palestine.

The resolution focuses on an incident from last year, when posters appeared on the university’s campus, alleging one professor was a “collaborator with terrorists.” The professor in question was Rabab Abdulhadi.

The posters – some of which also targeted students who had been vocal on Palestine – have been claimed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Canary Mission. Those groups promote anti-Muslim bigotry and slander critics of Israel.

Abdulhadi welcomed the resolution as a step towards building a stronger relationship between the Palestine solidarity movement and US trade unions.

“Glacial movement”

“The US labor movement has been one of the hardest nuts to crack in terms of Palestine,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

Her husband, Jaime Veve, is a veteran labor organizer, who has been active on Palestine for several decades.

Veve, who now represents the group Labor for Palestine, said that the AFL-CIO has “by and large tried to avoid the issue of Palestine and taken an official position against BDS.”

Yet he added there had been “glacial movement” by labor unions towards supporting the Palestinian struggle for justice and equality.

In 2014, UAW Local 2865 – which represents graduate student workers at the University of California – became the first labor union in the US to endorse the BDS movement.

In 2015, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America – known as UE – voted to back BDS, becoming the second. That same year, the Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO voted to back key elements of BDS.

“Defend free speech”

Veve regards US labor unions as key to the success of BDS activism.

“If labor gets involved and begins to act, it has the potential to withdraw its investments in Israeli bonds,” he said.

The San Francisco Labor Council called for “full action” to be taken against the Horowitz Freedom Center and Canary Mission.

Ann Robertson, a philosophy lecturer at SFSU and delegate to the council, explained that the term “full action” was intended to leave all options open, including litigation.

Robertson argued that the response from Les Wong, the SFSU chancellor, to the posters had been “too vague.”

Wong had blamed an “an outside extremist group” for the posters and pledged not to tolerate “bullying behavior.”

Yet his statement did not defend any of the teachers or students targeted by name.

“He needs to clear the names of those smeared,” Robertson said, “and specifically defend the free speech rights of Palestinian students because they are the ones under attack.”

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)

Update1Huffington Post

Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be?

05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET

On May 25 the New York Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman with the incendiary title, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine,” which attempts to show just how far the Israeli Prime Minister has gone to destroy any notion of a two-state solution. That Friedman would have only now caught on to the demise of such a possibility should indicate just how far out of touch he is.

Friedman spends his space talking about Netanyahu’s purging of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, and his naming of “far-right Avigdor Lieberman” as his Yaalon’s replacement. But he begins his piece with this entrée: “Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the ‘boycott, divestment, sanctions’ (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.”

Friedman seems to take always alluding in some way or another to BDS as an obligation. Not only does he do so with remarkable consistency, he also always gets it wrong. More than two years ago, Mondoweiss succinctly captured Friedman’s modus operanti: “Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions.”

Yes, Friedman persistently misattributes the origins of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, (BDS) which in 2005 emanated not from U.S. college campuses as he suggests, but rather from Palestinian civil society, with over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements joining together to fight for Palestinian rights. Talk about obfuscation.

Besides purposefully erasing the origins of BDS, Friedman constantly ignores its reach. Well beyond the borders of U.S. college campuses, churches, unions, artists, writers, musicians and others, from around the world, have either explicitly endorsed BDS or taken on one or another of its tactics. And they are doing so in increasing numbers.

In April the Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; in May the United Methodist Church passed three measures criticizing Israel and advocating for Palestinian rights; in January that same church put five Israeli banks on a blacklist, declaring that the church would do no business with banks involved in the Occupation; previously in 2014 the United Presbyterian Church voted to divest from companies doing business on the West Bank.

In terms of labor unions, Vijay Prashad notes,

a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UE—decided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.”

Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”

Artists and musicians such as Junot Diaz, Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Chuck D, Boots Riley, and others have come out in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in Augist 2015 over a thousand Black artists and activists signed on. As I reported then:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

Commenting on Friedman’s latest, Mondoweiss again has it just right:

Friedman’s smear is obviously the establishment litmus test these days. Hillary Clinton says BDS is bad. So does President Obama, so does the French prime minister. But that will soon change. As Israel sinks further into its existential identity crisis, the few remaining liberals among the Jewish elites there will turn desperately to the world to pressure Israel, as Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner have already done. That pressure means boycott, divestment and sanctions. And if it also means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that prospect will by then no longer be tragic to realistic Americans, including Friedman, who have glimpsed the paranoid Sparta that the Jewish democracy has produced.

One can only wonder how long Thomas Friedman can staunchly keep on with his delusional lies about BDS.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Madison Grad Students Are First AFT Local to Adopt BDS! — and more from Labor for Palestine

Update1View in PDF format: LFP Update 4


EXTRA! EXTRA!
Madison Grad Students Are First AFT Local to Adopt BDS!
— and more from Labor for Palestine
May 19, 2016

UW-Madison Union of Graduate Student Workers (TAA) Endorses BDS Movement
“At a time when Israel is limiting free speech and the principles of democracy by policing and limiting the movement of BDS supporters within the West Bank and Israel and criminalizing advocacy for BDS, U.S. states are introducing resolutions that make engaging in the non-violent strategy of BDS illegal, and parent unions are voiding democratic votes that called for BDS, the TAA still strongly believes in the difficult practice of democracy. It is only by valuing and creating platforms for all ideas and opinions that the labor movement will be strong.”

Click here to read full press release and resolution text.

 


“We must counter Israel’s McCarthyism”: Meet the Palestinian intellectual Israel fears most (Salon)
‘That is a profound moral obligation: to counter Israel’s induced McCarthyism and to fight together against all forms of injustice, including racial, economic, social, and other forms of injustice. We’ve got to stick together because they are sticking together, our enemies: large corporations, the military, security, industries, and the oil companies – they’re sticking together. They know their interests and so do we. It’s time we worked together.’

Click here to read full article

 


Sat., May 21, 2016 NYC — Labor for Palestine at the Left Forum: 
Confronting Racism, Zionism & Injustice on the BDS Picket Line
How growing U.S. labor solidarity with Palestine is helping to rebuild a democratic, militant, anti-racist, effective workers’ movement — at home and abroad.

Click here to RSVP and for full text.


Save the Date: Fri., July 15 NYC
The 2016 U.S. prison, labor, and academic delegation to Palestine presents
Imprisoned Resistance: Politics of Incarceration in Palestine & the U.S.

Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Ctr.
3940 Broadway, NYC (at 165th St.)
Sponsors include Labor for Palestine

Speakers
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Laura Whitehorn
Rabab Abdulhadi
Nancy Mansour
Johanna Fernandez
Susie Day
Nyle Fort
Jamie Veve
Rep. From Samidoun

Click here to RSVP.


Resource: Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
19-page color, download in PDF format: LFP Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.

Contents:

Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (December 2015)
Labor for Palestine Founding Statement (December 4, 2004)
Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)
Stop the War on Gaza: No Arms for Apartheid Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions! (July 28, 2014)
Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS): Statement of Principles & Call for International Trade Union Support for BDS (May 4, 2011)
Briefing: The Jewish Labor Committee and Apartheid Israel (April 13, 2010)
The Histadrut: Its History and Role in Occupation, Colonisation and Apartheid (October 11, 2012)
Briefing: Labor Zionism and the Histadrut (September 1, 2011)
Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA (Maan, March 11, 2016)
UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine (March 14, 2016)

Contact Labor for Palestine
Like Labor for Palestine on Facebook
Donate to Labor for Palestine

Urgent Action: Sign appeal to the UN about Israel’s war of repression on BDS — and other news from Labor for Palestine

View in PDF format: LFP Update 3

Screenshot 2016-05-17 17.58.54Update 4

Urgent Action: Protest Israel’s war on BDS
“We’re urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to take the necessary measures to uphold and protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the BDS movement. Please click here to add your name to our appeal now.”


Update 5

May 21, 2016 NYC — Labor for Palestine at the Left Forum: Confronting Racism, Zionism & Injustice on the BDS Picket Line
How growing U.S. labor solidarity with Palestine is helping to rebuild a democratic, militant, anti-racist, effective workers’ movement — at home and abroad. Click here to RSVP and for full text.


Screenshot 2016-05-17 18.00.10


Update7

Posters Salute UAW 2110, 2322, and 2865 BDS Resolutions
Download here.


Update8

Response to President Hamilton, NYU
(GSOC Members for BDS)
“As with the boycott of Apartheid South African universities–which NYU eventually supported, revealing that the university has not always been categorically against such boycotts–we hope to create pressure so that Israel respects the freedoms of the Palestinians, including their academic freedoms.” Read full text.


Update9

UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism
“Make no mistake, it is the repeated ignoring and delegitimization of Islamophobia, racism, and complicity in the routine suppression of pro-Palestine speech and activity on university campuses that allowed for the sort of escalation we have seen from David Horowitz and his followers, whose actions epitomize the often ignored intersection of Islamophobia, racism, and the demonization of pro-Palestine sentiment.” Read full text.


Update10

Amherst Professors: UAW Resolution affirms human rights (Daily Collegian)
“It is encouraging to us as faculty that GEO, the largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local 2322, and representing over 2,000 graduate student workers at our flagship campus, voted overwhelmingly (95 percent) in favor of the resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society. In doing so it became the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.” Read full text.


Where Did The Palestinians Go?
In 1948, around 80% of Palestinians were forced out of their homes during the creation of Israel. That event is known as the Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.” So where did they go? And how many Palestinians are there around the world now?

New Yorkers march for justice and liberation for workers in Palestine and around the world (Samidoun)

Samidoun

New Yorkers march for justice and liberation for workers in Palestine and around the world

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in New York City joined labor, social justice and migrant rights movements on 1 May to participate in the annual commemoration of May Day, International Workers’ Day, at Union Square. Samidoun joined the Palestine contingent organized by New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, marching for justice for Palestine and for workers in the US and internationally.

Samidoun members also participated in the Odessa Commemoration prior to the May Day rally, commemorating the deaths of the victims of the right-wing attack on the Trade Unions House in Odessa, Ukraine on 2 May 2014.

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During the Immigrant Worker Justice Tour following the rally, among a number of sites where participants stopped and chanted included Bank of America, a client of G4S, the massive security corporation that provides security systems, equipment and control rooms to Israeli prisons, checkpoints and police training centers; as well as Aroma Espresso Bar, the largest Israeli coffee shop chain and the subject of an international boycott campaign. Bank of America also invests in Corrections Corp of America and GEO Group, America’s largest for profit prison corporations.

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Other stops on the Justice Tour included Wendy’s, which is the subject of a boycott campaign supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food program fighting abuse of workers in US agriculture; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and City Winery, whose baguettes are supplied by Amy’s Bread Factory, where many workers struggle to survive on meager wages and work two or three jobs.

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Palestinian and solidarity activists participated in May Day events around the world, including in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris, where slogans calling for freedom for Palestinian prisoners and the freedom of imprisoned Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, were raised.

gaza-mayday1

In Palestine, Palestinian labor organizations marched in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine against siege and for the rights of workers, and workers’ role in the Palestinian liberation movement.

Photos by Joe Catron, Michael Letwin, Afif el-Ali, Somaya Badawi

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

America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)

Alternet

America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine

The Israeli government and its American allies have spent millions of dollars to destroy the credibility of the BDS advocates. It does not seem to have succeeded.
JWJ

On March 28th, a “Stop the Boycott” conference was held in Jerusalem. Afraid of the support for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the participants lashed out against its advocates. Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz called upon his government to conduct “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders. Such an alarming statement is not unusual. Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information said that BDS activists must “pay the price” for their advocacy (he later said that he did not mean to provoke “physical harm”). Israel’s Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri has threatened to revoke the permanent residency of BDS leader Omar Barghouti–who says that he now fears for his life.

Such is the Israeli reaction to the peaceful BDS movement.

The United States Congress sometimes seems like a subsidiary of the Israeli Knesset. Senators Mark Kirk (Republican of Illinois) and Joe Manchin (Democrat of West Virginia) as well as Representatives Robert Dold (Republican of Illinois) and Juan Vargas (Democrat of California) tabled the ‘Combating BDS Act of 2016’ in both houses. This bill asks state and local governments to divest from any group that “engages in commerce or investment-related boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel.” Republican donor and gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson held a secret anti-BDS gathering in Las Vegas, where mega-donors pledged to go after BDS activists – mainly the college campus activities of BDS activists and the Students for Justice in Palestine. Last year, Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton wrote to Democratic donor Haim Saban to pledge her support against BDS. “I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she wrote. Clinton linked the BDS campaign, which targets Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, to anti-Semitism. It is the clichéd way to rebuke BDS campaigns and campaigners.

The Israeli government and its American allies have spent millions of dollars to destroy the credibility of the BDS advocates. It does not seem to have succeeded.

As if undaunted, a host of US labor unions have decided to endorse the BDS pledge. The United Electrical Workers (UE), a union of over thirty-five thousand members, debated the question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine at its August 2015 convention. “Our government is on the wrong side,” said Angaza Laughinghouse of Local 150 (North Carolina). “We have to stand on the right side of the Palestine struggle.” Laughinghouse’s union—UEdecided to unanimously endorse BDS and to actively work “to become engaged in BDS.” In October, the two hundred thousand members of the AFL-CIO of Connecticut passed a resolution that called upon the national AFL-CIO to endorse BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.” There is no immediate sense that the national—which represents twelve and a half million workers – would follow suit.

A few years ago, the AFL-CIO—whose membership dwindled in the United States—turned to college campuses to organize adjunct professors and other campus teachers. This strategy has borne fruit, as many unions, especially the United Auto Workers (UAW)—found receptive campus workers (teachers, adjuncts, and graduate students) to fight for and form locals. A number of these campus unions have begun to push for BDS resolutions in their student and faculty organizations. Two affiliates of the UAW took the lead on this road – UAW Local 2865, the University of California’s graduate student union that represents thirteen thousand workers, and Graduate Employees Organization-UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) that represents over two thousand workers.

It is little wonder that the labor movement for Palestine has a strong foundation on college campuses. Many scholarly bodies voted in favor of BDS—American Studies Association being the most prominent, while the American Anthropological Association is currently getting ready to vote on a resolution. Anti-BDS advocates are correct to point to the colleges as a hotbed of BDS activity, with bold Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP) units sprouting up across the country. Pressure to rein in the SJP groups runs up against moderate faculty support for these student initiatives, either on the grounds of free speech or of solidarity with Palestine.

Social movements across the United States—whether Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ struggles—have stretched out their arms towards Palestine. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization cleverly linked its struggle to that of the Vietnamese and the Algerians, building on global solidarity movements already in motion. This current solidarity is an echo of that era of “Palestine is Another Vietnam.” The 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine and the many tours of Black Lives Matter activists to Palestine as well as the solidarity statements from Palestine to Ferguson provide the template for the new connections. The most powerful symbol of this was the visit to Palestine by activists from Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders and Ferguson/Hands Up United. Standing in Nazareth, the young men and women sang a powerful song of solidarity, drawing a line between Ferguson and Palestine. This is the culture that moved the CUNY Doctoral Students Council to endorse BDS. “The repression of CUNY students,” said fourth year History student Jeremy Randall, “is connected to the same systems of power that uphold the Israeli state’s violation of Palestinian rights.” Comparisons and connections between the security state in the West Bank and in the United States embolden the solidarity.

In 2004, activists in al-Awda New York and New York City Labor Against the War formed Labor for Palestine. They did so, as Michael Letwin told me, “to honor the BDS picket line and fight for full inclusion of the Palestinian liberation struggle in the post-9/11 antiwar movement.” Letwin, who comes from a radical family and has been involved in most radical struggles in New York since the 1960s, understands that there has been a strand in the labor movement committed to Palestine. “There is a hidden tradition of US trade union solidarity with Palestine,” he told me. In 1969, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers took a position against Zionism, and in 1973 Black and Arab workers in the UAW “held wildcat strikes against the UAW.”

Labor for Palestine prods the US labor movement for good reason. Suzanne Adely, another leader in Labor for Palestine, tells me that the US labor unions have to disinvest from the Israel Bonds, which provide capital towards the occupation. Adely understands that the movement, however, has a history of complicity not only with the Israeli labor federation but also with the Israeli state. “Labor solidarity against apartheid and racism,” she says, “has always come from below.” The leadership has to be pushed by the union locals and by campaigns such as Labor for Palestine.

Western Massachusetts’ Labor for Palestine is one of these local chapters. It comes out of both the GEO-UAW Local 2322 struggle and the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine; the labor movement and the Palestine solidarity movement, in other words. The members of this chapter come out of union work, but also from Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ liberation groups. “We wanted to remain active in the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine,” says Ruth Jennison, an English professor at UMASS, “but we also wanted an organization that drew on the constant and permanent nature of union activism.” The chapter hosted a panel discussion last weekend at a Jobs with Justice conference in Springfield, MA, which was attended by representatives from Labor for Palestine and the Connecticut AFL-CIO. The Connecticut unionists – Carol Lambiase (UE) and Bill Shortell (Machinists union) – reported on a union trip to Palestine in 2015. In Palestine, Lambiase delivered a copy of the UE resolution for BDS to Shaher Sa’ed, the General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. The panel in Springfield was well attended. Jennison told me, “Many union members and some leadership are excited about our organization, and want to help us build.”

Pressure against BDS will continue. Attempts to make it illegal remain on the table. The UAW leadership continues to attempt to nullify the resolutions of some of its locals. The fight inside the unions has now turned from the question of BDS to that of union democracy. These are conjoined issues. “Ultimately,” Adely says to me, “building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter(AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South(Verso, 2013) and the forthcoming The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.

The Adjunct Project Endorses the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

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The Adjunct Project endorses the Resolution Endorsing the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, scheduled to be voted on at the April 15 plenary meeting of the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) at the Graduate Center, CUNY. This resolution responds to a call from Palestinian academic workers in the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, among other Palestinian labor and civil-society organizations. If passed, it would require the DSC to adhere to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and support the work of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups and other solidarity efforts.

Palestinian workers face some of the world’s highest unemployment rates and are increasingly forced to take exploitative, unregulated, non-unionized jobs. Answering the call to boycott is a refusal to cooperate with institutions complicit in Palestinian workers’ exploitation and occupation.

In New York City and across North America, groups supporting Palestinians have come under attack. Students, faculty, and other workers associated with CUNY SJP chapters currently face unsupported charges of anti-Semitism that infringe on their freedom of speech, their academic freedom, and their working conditions. The Adjunct Project joins the SJPs in vehemently opposing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of bigotry and racism. We advocate an end to Israeli state apartheid policies as a specifically anti-racist and anti-colonial project.

We further condemn local and state politicians who attempt to justify a regime of austerity through the suppression of solidarity organizing on campuses. In March, the New York State Senate voted for a $485-million reduction in state funding for CUNY in part as retribution for Palestinian solidarity organizing on campuses. This planned defunding failed in last-minute budget negotiations, but the CUNY system still faces a massive shortfall: in addition to millions of dollars in cuts to individual colleges, no funds were allocated for contract negotiations with the 25,000 workers represented by the Professional Staff Congress who have gone six years without a pay increase.

The passage of this academic-boycott resolution is important for resisting both the austerity politics that target public employees like CUNY workers and, in particular, the effects of such politics on working-class people-of-color students, faculty, and staff, who must contend with forms of structural racism, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism similar to those faced by Palestinians.

We join the graduate student worker union UAW 2865 at the University of California in endorsing academic boycott and the many other academic groups that have done so as well, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association, and we support the GSOC for BDS caucus of the union of graduate student workers at New York University in their referendum on BDS, including academic boycott.

The boycott resolution before the DSC is an important step in supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. We encourage representatives of the DSC to vote for the resolution, and all members of the CUNY community to raise awareness, through resources like those provided by Labor for Palestine, and to support or get involved with efforts on their campuses, including CUNY for Palestine and SJP chapters.

With love and solidarity,

The Adjunct Project coordinators

[Image: “Palestine: The Separation Wall” by MissyKel via CC BY-NC-Nd 2.0.]

American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine (In These Times)

In These Times
WEDNESDAY, APR 6, 2016, 3:12 PM

American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine

BY JEFF SCHUHRKE

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In an address on Middle East policy last month, Bernie Sanders —the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary—did something virtually unheard of in contemporary U.S. politics when he called for an end to “what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory” by Israel.

The only candidate to skip the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, Sanders instead delivered a speech from Utah in which he acknowledged that “today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians” due to the occupation.

“For a presidential candidate to break from the mold, like it seems maybe Sanders is doing, and to talk about the fact that the occupation needs to end, is something that’s exciting to Palestinians,” says Manawel Abdel-Al, a member of the general secretariat of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

“We hope this isn’t just election talk,” he adds. “People were very excited about Barack Obama as well and we didn’t get much progress. But we’re hopeful.”

Abdel-Al—who lives in occupied East Jerusalem—is visiting Chicago this week at the invitation of the United Electrical Workers (UE), the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and Jewish Voice for Peace to enlist the support of the U.S. labor movement in the Palestinian liberation struggle. He addressed standing-room-only audiences of rank-and-file unionists at last weekend’s Labor Notes conference and again on Tuesday night at the local UE Hall.

A machine repair technician by trade, Abdel-Al has been a union activist for three decades. He tells In These Times that throughout their history, Palestinian trade unions have always waged a “two-part” battle. “We represent workers in the class struggle for socioeconomic rights, but also in the national, political struggle for freedom and independence,” he says, noting that the Palestinian labor movement has managed to endure despite a century of repression and upheaval under British, Jordanian, and Israeli control.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU represents 14 private sector unions in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, Abdel-Al says the PGFTU negotiates collective bargaining agreements with employers and successfully convinced the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) to pass a minimum wage law in 2012. The union federation is now calling for the P.A. to implement social welfare policies by next year.

Meanwhile, over 25,000 public schoolteachers (not affiliated with PGFTU) staged a one-month strike earlier this year to call for the P.A. to honor a promised pay raise that had been “left on the backburner for three years,” Abdel-Al says. The strike ended last month after President Mahmoud Abbas intervened and promised back pay and a 10 percent wage increase.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU is not recognized by the Israeli government, leaving unprotected the approximately 92,000 West Bank Palestinians who regularly cross into and out of Israel and Israeli settlements for work. Abdel-Al explains that while many of these workers have legal permits to be employed in Israel, many others are unauthorized workers—hired under-the-table by Israeli employers—and face extreme exploitation. “When they’re injured on the job, they’re simply taken to the closest border checkpoint and left there. The employer disappears.”

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Abdel-Al at Chicago’s Haymarket monument. (Jeff Schuhrke)

Regardless of their legal status, Abdel-Al says that all Palestinian workers in Israel, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, face discrimination, arbitrary dismissal, low pay, and a host of other issues on the job.  “All we want is freedom from oppression,” he says, asking U.S. unionists to do whatever they can to help their fellow workers in Palestine.

Heeding this call, last August, UE became the first national U.S. labor union to endorse Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)—a global, nonviolent movement to protest Israeli human rights violations inspired by the successful efforts of civil society groups to pressure South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s.

While the activist network Labor for Palestine has been pushing U.S. unions to get behind BDS for the past decade, serious strides have only been made in the two years since Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza, which killed 1,462 civilians. In December 2014, BDS was endorsed by University of California graduate student workers with UAW Local 2865—a vote that was controversially nullified by the UAW’s International Executive Board earlier this year. Following Local 2865 and UE’s lead, the Connecticut AFL-CIO also passed a resolution in favor of BDS late last year.

BDS is gaining traction within the international labor movement as well, with support from unions in South Africa, the UK, Norway, Brazil, and elsewhere. Last April, it was endorsed by Canada’s Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), which represents 325,000 public and private sector workers in Quebec.

“I think BDS is a powerful tool to educate people on what is happening in Palestine,” Nathalie Guay, coordinator of CSN’s international relations, tells In These Times. Guay, who helped connect the PGFTU and UE, hopes that more North American unions will not only endorse BDS, but also send their members on delegations to Palestine to learn about the situation first-hand. “Every single person who goes there comes back as an activist for Palestine. We need more of that.”

Noting the growing international influence of unions from the global south, including Brazil’s pro-BDS Central Única dos Trabalhadores, Guay predicts the international labor movement will continue to increase its support for Palestine in the years to come. “I think there will be some evolution,” she says.

This evolution is already evident in the International Trade Union Confederation—a global organization composed of the world’s major labor federations—which has issued increasingly critical statements of Israel since the 2014 assault on Gaza.

“We believe statements are not enough and hope the ITUC will change its policies in a more definitive way to help end the occupation,” Abdel-Al says. “But no matter how small, this is a positive change.”

Abdel-Al took time out of his busy schedule this week to visit the Haymarket memorial—a tribute to martyred Chicago unionists who were hanged in 1887 as a result of their activism in support of the 8-hour workday. “This is the birthplace of the worldwide labor movement. Around the world, we celebrate labor on May 1st because of what happened in Chicago.”

He wants U.S. labor activists to remember that occupied Palestinians are also oppressed workers. “Any activism, any support for us would be in accordance with a slogan that is well known by the working class everywhere—workers of the world, unite! Through solidarity and willpower, workers can make changes and bring about the achievement of rights for persecuted and oppressed people everywhere.”

Jeff Schuhrke is a Summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times.

New York law targets BDS activists (Workers World)

Workers World

New York law targets BDS activists
By Minnie Bruce Pratt posted on January 8, 2016

bds_0114The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel’s apartheid policies won big victories in 2015, 10 years after BDS was launched by Palestinian civilian organizations. Now, a vicious campaign is targeting Palestine supporters at the state and national levels in the U.S. through “enemies list” laws aimed at BDS advocates.

In New York state, Senate Bill S6086/Assembly Bill 8220 has been introduced to punish people, companies and nonprofit organizations that support boycotting Israel because of its attacks on the Palestinian people. The bill would create a list of people “engaging in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the state of Israel or companies based in the state of Israel or in territories controlled by the state of Israel.”

Individuals, organizations and companies on the list would be denied access to grants, funding or contracts with New York state. For instance, a church, mosque or synagogue participating in a rally advocating for BDS could potentially lose state funding for its homeless shelter or its community food bank program.

To get off the list, accused individuals or groups would be required to sign a statement repudiating a boycott of Israel. This parallels the notorious 1950s McCarthyite policing of people’s political beliefs, when to receive government scholarships, for example, students had to sign loyalty oaths to the Constitution.

Petition drive launched

The Syracuse-based Palestine Solidarity Collective has launched a petition drive to inform people about the BDS movement and to alert people to the reactionary New York state bill.

The petition reads in part: “[New York] Senate Bill S6086/Assembly Bill 8220 seeks to criminalize political action. … In effect, this law would grant the state the power to coerce those who wish to support Palestinian human rights and the call for BDS. … The Bill conflates BDS with anti-Semitism. …. BDS is not anti-Semitism because it targets the expanding and illegal occupation by the state of Israel and its military, which uses disproportionate and illegal forms of violence against Palestinian civilians.” (tinyurl.com/np8hvaj)

In a sustained attack on BDS, similar laws have been passed by the Illinois and South Carolina legislatures and are under consideration in California, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey. (palestinelegal.org/legislation/) An anti-BDS clause was attached to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a major U.S. “free trade” deal with the European Union that was OK’d by Congress in July.

The current anti-BDS campaign is a reaction to powerful BDS initiatives against Israel. In a stunning victory, a seven-year BDS campaign drove French-based corporate giant Veolia out of Israel in 2015, forcing it to sell off all subsidiaries there. Veolia was deeply invested in infrastructure projects in illegal Israeli settlements, and its withdrawal reportedly cost it billions of dollars.

BDS economic muscle helped cut foreign direct investment in Israel by 46 percent in 2014, according to separate United Nations and World Bank studies. A Rand Corp. analysis projected BDS could cost Israel between 1 and 2 percent in annual national income over ten years. (mondoweiss.net, Dec. 30)

A 2015 cultural boycott of Israel reinforced the economic boycott, supported by over 1,000 artists, writers and musicians, including Lauryn Hill, Alice Walker and Arundhati Roy. A parallel academic boycott has international support, including U.S. professional groups like the National Women’s Studies Association.

A growing international movement against racism has linked Palestinian struggles to the Black Lives Matter movement, with chants and signs asserting, “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” at many protests. U.S. student divestment campaigns have proliferated, and student-worker movements have weighed in, as when United Auto Workers Local 2865, representing all graduate students in the University of California system, endorsed BDS in 2014.

International unions have passed BDS resolutions, including the Arab Labor Union and Canada’s Central Council of the Confederation of National Trade Unions. The United Electrical Workers Union became the first major U.S. national trade union to adopt BDS.

The Palestine Solidarity Collective petition against the New York state “enemies list” bill has been signed by organizations including Labor for Palestine, the International Action Center, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

To sign as an individual or group, go to tinyurl.com/np8hvaj

WW contributing editor Minnie Bruce Pratt is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Collective in Syracuse, N.Y.