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“Between the rock of the occupation, and the hammer of coronavirus”

“Between the rock of the occupation, and the hammer of coronavirus”

ANTI-RACISM  •  April 19, 2020  •  G.N. Nithya

The Coronavirus and the Conditions of Palestinian Workers

“Colonialism is not a thinking machine,
nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties.
It is violence in its natural state…”

— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1963).

This past month Israeli soldiers dumped a Palestinian worker at a checkpoint on the border of the West Bank, shivering from fever and barely able to breathe. According to Middle East Eye, he “had been showing signs of the coronavirus over the past four days, and was recently tested for the virus. But before the man, allegedly a resident of Nablus, could receive his test results, his Israeli employer reportedly called the authorities, who picked him up and dropped him on the other side of the Beit Sira checkpoint, which connects central Israel and the occupied West Bank.” “It’s like we are slaves to them,” says a local Palestinian, “They use us when they need us, and when they are finished, they throw us away like trash.” Since the crisis began Israeli soldiers have actively obstructed the emergency response for Palestinians by shutting down multiple clinics and continuing their practice of arbitrary house demolitions.

Checkpoint in Bethlehem. [Photo: Anne Paq]

Praise for “battle-ready” Israel’s militarized response to the coronavirus pandemic has turned a blind eye to the manner in which it has also weaponized the coronavirus pandemonium against Palestinians. While Gaza has been strangled by a 13-year blockade and repeated military invasions, which renders its two million inhabitants vulnerable to pandemics, in the West Bank Palestinians struggle with a brutal occupation that seeks to deny them the most basic and necessary means to survive and care for themselves. As of April 9, 2020, the West Bank is reported to have 250 cases of the coronavirus. However, these numbers are set to increase significantly in the coming period due to the return of many Palestinian workers from Israel following Passover and for Ramadan. While people in Italy and UK take to their balconies applauding the “essential sector” workers, Palestinians who work in Israel’s “essential industries” find themselves crushed “between the rock of the occupation and the hammer of coronavirus.”1

Palestinian civil society organizations are calling for an immediate international intervention. Though the COVID crisis may be an “exceptional” moment in recent world history, the conditions to which Palestinians are subjected reminds us that the Nakba (النكبة) – the expulsion, dispossession, and dehumanization of Palestinians in 1948 – is not a fact of the past, but is ongoing. Palestinian workers bear the brunt of this violence. It is imperative that the international left recognize the exceptional setting of the pandemic confronting Palestinians, and take political actions in support of immediate relief to the medical emergency and an end to the Israeli occupation.

The Occupation and the Pandemic

Many Palestinians are denied access to basic health services by Israeli land confiscations and checkpoints. Palestinian communities in Area C, which comprises approximately 60 per cent of the West Bank, are particularly in jeopardy.2 In the area of the Naqab (Negev), for example, over 80,000 Palestinians have no access to emergency healthcare. Coronavirus cases are rapidly spreading in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians are subject to Israel’s discriminatory “residency” criteria and severe underfunding of public services.3 Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem only have 22 ventilators for nearly 350,000 people. Many working class and poor Palestinians’ access to health services in the West Bank has been on the decline because their public health infrastructure has been undermined by Israel’s withholding of clearance revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA), cuts in US funding under the Trump administration, as well as austerity measures imposed on the PA by the World Bank and IMF. In the West Bank, only 256 adult ventilators are available for a population of three million Palestinians, of which 90 per cent are already in use. Spread of the virus will have catastrophic consequences for Palestinians.

Yet efforts by Palestinians to develop communal systems of support are systematically sabotaged by the Israeli occupation. In March, Palestinians involved in disinfecting public spaces and distributing aid packages in the Old City of Jerusalem were arrested. In early April, the Israeli army arrested the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi Hidmi as he sought to assist Palestinians in Jerusalem with the COVID pandemic.4 On April 15, despite forty confirmed cases in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, the Israeli army raided the coronavirus testing clinic in the local mosque and arrested its organizers. Palestinian residents of Silwan have been repeatedly the target of evictions and expulsions, as have Palestinians throughout Area C. In the Jordan Valley hamlet of Khirbet Ibziq, similarly, the Israeli army is sabotaging coronavirus relief attempts by confiscating equipment for the construction of a field clinic and emergency housing for its residents, some of whom have been subject to house demolitions.5 Even as the United Nations has called for ceasefire in all conflict zones and populations world over are told to stay indoors, Israel throws Palestinians out of their homes.

On a daily basis, Palestinians confront institutionalized segregation through Israel’s control over their water, access to which is a basic necessity under this pandemic. Israel’s appropriation and exploitation of water in Palestine’s coastal and mountain aquifers and in the Jordan Valley has been one of its main weapons of war. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities issued military orders to consolidate their control over underground water basins and water-related infrastructure, a control which they safeguarded under the terms of the 1994 Oslo Accords. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are forced to purchase water (trucked or from the Israeli state-owned water company, Mekorot) at exorbitant prices. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 180 rural communities in the West Bank have no access to running water. In the “unrecognized” villages of the West Bank, over 56,000 people are in the same situation. According to Amnesty International, water expenses can amount to one-half of the family’s monthly income in some of the poorest communities. The outcome is a manifestly racialized discrimination; the average Israeli settler living in the West Bank consumes three to eight times the amount of water than Palestinians.6 This system of “water apartheid” makes it impossible for Palestinians, especially working class and poor, to maintain the most basic hygiene conditions that are necessary to survive this pandemic. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel as an occupying power must at a minimum ensure the basic conditions of health and hygiene, including conditions of water and sanitation.

This moment of the COVID pandemic is being exploited by the Israeli authorities to further intensify military actions, electronic and other mechanisms of surveillance, and to create new “facts on the ground” in a process of annexation of Palestinian land that has been normalized by the Trump administration, recent Israeli Knesset decisions, and the “unity deal” being negotiated between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.7 In the last month, major Israeli settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem are being expanded, further cutting the territorial contiguity of the West Bank.8 Apartheid road infrastructure for settlers only are being extended in major settlements like Ma’ale Adumim.9 While the Palestinian Authority has imposed lockdowns in the West Bank, the Israeli army has intensified night raids, arrests, home demolitions, and house evictions in the West Bank and Jerusalem.10 In a two week period during the pandemic in March alone, according to Mondoweiss, “Israeli forces injured 200 Palestinians, detained 100, demolished 16 structures.” Israeli violations in the West Bank have intensified meanwhile, with recent news reports that attacks by settlers have risen by 78 per cent with Palestinians being brutally assaulted,11 kidnapped, their olive trees uprooted, and their property spat on by Israeli soldiers and attacked by settler-youths who are under coronavirus quarantine.

Palestinians Crossing the Green Line and the Apartheid of Virus Containment

Palestinians who work in Israel and the settlements are particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. Having stripped Palestinians of their land, Israeli colonization has worked to transform them under military rule into dependent, subordinate, and exploitable wage-workers incorporated into the Israeli economy. A systematic policy of de-development suppressed Palestinian industrial development after 1967, and, accompanied by the expropriation of cultivable land and water in the Occupied Territories, forced many Palestinians to work as daily wage labourers in Israel and on the very settlements built on their confiscated lands. This policy remains in place today. Given the high levels of unemployment as a result of Israel’s strangulation of their economy, Palestinians now working in Israel and the settlements are estimated to number over 133,000,12 while their wages support a population of over half a million.13

Even before the pandemic, these thousands of workers were subject to multiple tools of racial discrimination by the Israeli authorities. These include subjection to the checkpoints’ permits system, which is a primary tool of blackmail to politically discipline Palestinians and force collaboration; inhumane conditions in the checkpoints as thousands cross in the early morning hours; humiliation and harassment by soldiers; and discrimination in law and exploitation in practice by Israeli employers. Palestinian workers have minimal to no legal protections, are paid far less than their Jewish Israeli co-workers, without the benefits of health insurance, and yet they are forced to pay social security contributions and union fees to the Israeli labour syndicate Histadrut without representation. They are exploited by Israeli and Palestinian intermediaries – mafias who force them to pay exorbitant fees (at over $800 (US) monthly) to acquire black market permits to simply cross the Green Line but without any guarantee of actual employment.

The Israelis have been lauded for their “military style” effectiveness in response to COVID, tightening internal lockdowns. However, in order to keep key sectors of the Israeli economy running in the midst of the pandemic, which stood to lose $1.8-billion a month from the cessation of construction alone,14 the Israeli government allowed continued entry of Palestinian workers into Israel. In doing so, Israeli authorities have used the pandemic to intensify surveillance and repression of these workers. Palestinians who require permits to stay in Israel are now “advised” to download a smartphone app called “Al Munasiq” (“The Coordinator”) which allows the Israeli military to track users’ location, and access their personal files as well as the phone’s camera.

The frontiers of Israeli apartheid not only segregate Palestinians from Jewish Israelis, but also the Palestinian bodies themselves. Israel has privileged able-bodied young Palestinian workers to the exclusion of older ones. On March 11, the Israeli authorities announced new regulations barring Palestinian workers over 50 years of age from crossing effective March 12; On March 17, they announced that effective March 18, those Palestinian workers under 50 were obliged to remain in Israel for a one- to two-month period if they wished to continue employment. It is estimated that between forty and fifty thousand Palestinian workers entered Israel in this scramble. However, on March 25, the Palestinian Prime Minister issued a call for Palestinian workers to return to the West Bank following public outcries over their racist and inhumane treatment. Workers are being forced to live in squalid conditions at their places of work in Israel, which are reportedly “not appropriate for humans” while Israel has failed to test workers for coronavirus. Rather than being cared for, workers who develop symptoms or who have been suspected of being sick have been have been dumped back into the West Bank at checkpoints along the Green Line, “like trash,” often without coordination with Palestinian authorities.

A potential uncontrolled spread of coronavirus is feared in the West Bank due to the return of over 40,000 workers after the start of Passover and Ramadan. Moreover, the Israeli government has announced that workers who return to the West Bank during this holiday period will be denied entry back into Israel for employment.15 These workers are highly reliant on their wages in Israel as the only source of income and many still owe debts for the permits they purchased to cross the checkpoints.16 Meanwhile they risk direct exposure to the virus in Israel and are simultaneously unable to access healthcare or testing. Upon their return to the West Bank, these workers are still unable to get tested and face backlash with the recent surge of cases.17

International Labour Solidarity with Palestinians

This moment of crisis offers a historical opportunity to galvanize solidarity movements with Palestinians and other indigenous people and workers around the world. On April 7, a coalition of Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations issued a new call for international solidarity, demanding that Israel allow access to critical civilian health infrastructure, and release Palestinian political prisoners who have been illegally detained and risk exposure to the virus in Israeli prisons. They have also called for the siege of Gaza to be broken with another Freedom Flotilla, and the escalation of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.18 Coalitions between civil society organizations have issued a Palestinian Civil Society Joint Statement on COVID. Regular systems of reporting have been established by Al-Haq, the long-time legal advocacy group, to monitor the violence to which Palestinians are being subject in the current pandemic, as well as, on basic conditions of water, health, and medical equipment. Most recently on April 14, 2020, a coalition of human rights organizations issued an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures. They are calling on the UN to denounce Israel’s systematic practices of racial discrimination and exploitation of Palestinian labour, who are forced to risk their health and life under this crisis. Beyond COVID, initiatives to bring Israel to trial on war crimes in the International Criminal Court have direct bearing on current realities.

One of the questions for the international left is how to urgently mobilize support for the campaigns and coalitions being advanced in/from Palestine. Nakba Day on May 15, 2020 will mark the 72nd year of the unconscionable injustices against which the Palestinian people continue to struggle. It is imperative for left forces to link the specific conditions of colonialism and apartheid facing Palestinians with neoliberal attacks on working classes the world over. The struggle of Palestinian workers cannot be interpreted only as a national struggle for self-determination. COVID-19 comes at a time of intensified capitalist crisis, in which the working class has been under systematic attack from decades of neoliberalism, commodification of most areas of social life, dispossession of land base, and indebtedness. Palestinian workers are fully incorporated in these processes of global finance capital, in the particular context of the ongoing Israeli settler-colonial rule. Thus, struggle of workers in Palestine with COVID-19 needs to be understood as a struggle also against capitalism. Calls for unified global action by labour have been made by the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle, among others, demanding solidarity with Palestinians and all colonized people in this pandemic.19 We need to urgently act in solidarity, understood, in the words of Mozambican revolutionary Samora Machel, not as “an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.”20 •

Endnotes

  1. Mahmoud Zawahreh, Palestinian activist, in “Coronavirus: Israeli settlers exploit lockdown to annex Palestinian land.”
  2. Joint statement, “Israeli Apartheid Undermines Palestinian Right to Health Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic,” 7 April 2020; World Health Organization, “Overcoming barriers to healthcare access in the West Bank with mobile clinics.”
  3. Nir Hasson, “After Weeks of Warning, Coronavirus Spreading Among Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” 14 April 2020; J. Ahmad, “Falling between the cracks in Jerusalem,” 30 March 2020.
  4. Daoud Kuttab, “Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him,” 4 April 2020; Dr. Ashrawi, “Israel deliberately undermining Palestinian efforts to combat COVID19 pandemic,” 3 April 2020.
  5. B’Tselem, “During the Coronavirus crisis, Israel confiscates tents designated for clinic in the Northern West Bank,” 26 March 2020; The New Arab, “Coronavirus under occupation: Israeli forces demolish emergency health clinic for Palestinians,” 27 March 2020.
  6. Adri Nieuwhof, “Israeli settlers use six times more water than Palestinians,” 8 April 2013; Al-Haq, “On World Water Day, Al-Haq Recalls Israeli Water-Apartheid Amidst a Global Pandemic,” 23 March 2020.
  7. Chaim Levinson, Jonathan Lis, “Netanyahu, Gantz Agree on West Bank Annexation Proposal as Unity Deal Nears,” 6 April 2020; Yaser Alashqar, “From Covid-19 to the ‘Deal of the Century’ – Palestine and international law,” 8 April 2020.
  8. Israel exploiting coronavirus for settlement expansion,” 12 March 2020; Akram Al-Waara, “Coronavirus: Israeli settlers exploit lockdown to annex Palestinian land,” 27 March 2020.
  9. Haaretz editorial, “Israel’s Latest Highway to Apartheid,” 11 March 2020; for background: “The E1 plan and its implications for human rights in the West Bank,” 27 Nov. 2013.
  10. Ali Abunimah, “Israel attacks Palestinians as they fight COVID-19,” 31 March 2020; “Israel demolishes Palestinian homes amid coronavirus crisis,” 28 March 2020; “Since coronavirus pandemic outbreak: Israel kidnapped 292 Palestinian,” 3 April 2020.
  11. Tamara Nassar, “Settler attacks rise by 78 percent amid pandemic,” 11 April 2020; “Jewish Settlers Attack Palestinian Family Homes in Hebron,” 6 April 2020.
  12. Estimates includes West Bank and Gaza, “The Labour Force Survey Results 2019,” Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
  13. In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Jerusalem estimated these figures at 200,000 Palestinian workers, implying their wages support a population of over one million (assuming each worker supports at least five dependents) (“Palestinian labourers fear loss of income as well as coronavirus”).
  14. On March 6, 2020, the Israeli financial newspaper, Calcalist, estimated significant losses at $1.8-billion monthly for the construction sector if Palestinian workers were not allowed in, see Ahmad Melhem, “Israel tightens grip on Palestinian workers to limit COVID-19,” 20 March 2020; Adam Rasgon, “PA urges Palestinian workers to return to West Bank as Israel’s virus cases grow,” 25 March 2020.
  15. Jack Khoury and Hagar Shezaf, “Palestinians fear coronavirus surge as workers return from Israel over passover,” 4 April 2020; Rania Zabaneh, “Palestinians brace coronavirus outbreak workers return,” 6 April 2020.
  16. Zeina Amro, “A Glimpse into the COVID-19 Crisis in the Context of Palestine,” 2 April 2020; Alex Lederman, “Palestinian labourers fear loss of income as well as coronavirus,” 28 March 2020.
  17. Palestinians brace for influx of workers as Covid-19 cases continue to risesee video.
  18. Al-Haq, “In the face of potential COVID-19 outbreak in the Gaza Strip, Israel is obliged to take measures to save lives,” 7 April 2020; Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council press release, “PHROC Calls the International Community & ICRC for an Urgent Intervention,” 23 March 2020; Samidoun, “Virtual call to action for Palestine: COVID-19, Gaza and the Struggle for Justice,” 16 March 2020; also see, internationally: Michael Arria, “Warren, Van Hollen lead Senators in demanding Trump admin send aid to Palestine amid COVID-19 crisis,” 27 March 2020; IfNotNow, “Demand Israel Protect Palestinians in Gaza.”
  19. Solidaires (CM), “Coronavirus: colonialism worsens the situation too,” 1 April 2020; Solidaires (CM), “Palestine in the Time of Covid-19,” 9 April 2020.
  20. Salim Vally, “From South Africa to Palestine, Lessons for the New Anti‐Apartheid Movement,” Left Turn, Notes from the Global Intifada, April 2008.

G.N. Nithya is a Ph.D. candidate at York University.

Labor for Palestine Statement at NYC May Day 2019

Presented by Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine

From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!

On May Day 2019, I first want to remember Bud Korotzer, who was present at NYC May Days for some 70 years through 2018, and who is very much here today in spirit. To his lifelong partner, Fran, and their family, please join me in saying: Bud Korotzer, presente!

There are many organizations and struggles represented here. That’s how it should be, because the whole meaning of May Day is to show unity between all struggles for justice, to reaffirm, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “justice is indivisible.”

Today, from Jim Crow to Jerusalem, from the Mexican border to Gaza, Palestine is on the cutting edge of such justice movements. And Palestine is a workers’ issue!

At the forefront of that intersectionality are Dr. Angela Y. Davis, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Michelle Alexander, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Black for Palestine, and other Black supporters of Palestinian liberation.

Their leadership, in turn, reflects more than half a century of Black solidarity with Palestine, as exemplified by Malcolm X, SNCC, the Black Panther Party, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. And that is why those leaders are being smeared by Zionists with charges of anti-Semitism, and even being cynically blamed for recent attacks on Jewish synagogues in this country.

To the contrary: blame for those attacks lies squarely with Trump and his mob of  anti-Semites, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and rightwing politicians—all of them openly allied with Israel—who have whipped up and/or tolerated a frenzy of racist violence against Muslims, People of Color, Jews, and others.

These alliances echo Israel’s long-standing and well-documented complicity with rightwing dictatorships and apartheid South Africa.

Let’s be clear: none of this started with Netanyahu. It is rooted in Zionism, a settler-colonial ideology that has practiced “ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death” against Palestinians, an ongoing Nakba (Catastrophe) has been carried out since 1948 by an Israeli apartheid regime that veteran South African freedom fighters have called “worse than apartheid.”

Nowhere is this clearer than at the Gaza fence, where for the past year, Palestinians have demanded an end to the siege, and their right to return to their homes throughout historic Palestine. In response, Israeli snipers have killed hundreds, and maimed thousands, using $3.8 billion each year in U.S. weapons. In exchange,  Israel serves as watchdog for imperialism throughout the region and beyond.

But none of this can stop the Palestinian freedom struggle and the mushrooming Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which call for (1) ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; (2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Together, we will win.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

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To a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 people, a discussion: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go” was held on Wednesday, March 22, at 6101 Wilshire Blvd., formerly Johnie’s with the theme, “grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality (sic),” according the Facebook page of the event.

Also according to the same Facebook page, the event was sponsored by Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement Southern California, California for Progress, HP Boycott Campaign-Los Angeles, Idle No More L.A., Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Jewish Voice for Peace-L.A., Labor for Standing Rock, LA4Palestine, and March and Rally Los Angeles.

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Karen Pomer, who was the lead event organizer, also according the Facebook page, and who is also with Labor for Standing Rock, said, “If we are missing a few people tonight, it’s because we have hundreds of people that we helped organize along with many other groups outside the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office tonight fighting back against the raids and again protecting the state of California from ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

To read the Facebook page, which announced the discussion, click here.

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Pomer introduced Garik Ruiz.  Ruiz said he’s the North America liaison for the Palestinian BDS Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee (BNC).  Thus, he works with organizations fighting for human rights for Palestinians against the Israeli state.  Ruiz reported last week the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia released a report for the first time named Israel as “creating a system of apartheid” and asked governments to respond to the BDS campaigns.  Because of pressure from the U.S. and Israel, the U.N. removed the report.  In response, the director resigned rather than withdraw the report.  He also reported the Israeli state had detained prominent Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti placed him under “intense interrogation” to intimidate him and the BDS movement.  Click here to read the the full statement on Barghouti by BNC.

Ruiz then introduced the panelists: Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, who was born in Kuwait and is the National Chairwoman of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Alfredo Gama, who is a member of the Papalotl Brown Berets and an organizer of the recent immigration protests; Nana Gyamfi, who is a member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, including BLMLA; Michael Letwin, who is a New York City public defender, former president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (United Auto Workers Local 2325) and Labor for Standing Rock; Lydia Ponce, who is an organizer with the American Indian Movement and Idle No More of Southern California and an organizer of the No Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Los Angeles; and Ameena Mirza Qazi, who is the Executive Director of the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, civil rights attorney who has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination and due process issues.

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Barakat characterized herself as a Palestinian-American immigrant and refugee.  She said, “Trump’s win … has been very difficult and exhausting for many of us…. Aside from him (President Trump) bringing us together today, we’re only two months into his administration and we’re already seeing a change in the American landscape….Tens of thousands of citizens across the country have stormed congressional offices and town hall meetings.…We can see today policy flourishing in the larger institutional structure that serve only select few in the American society.  Whether you’re Black, Latino, Native American, LGBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer) or a Muslim, the system excludes you equally….As a Palestinian, I can say with certainty that injustices we face are the same ones our Black, Latino and Native American brothers and sisters have faced for far too long.”

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Next was Gama.  He said when he was first asked to speak he was reminded of the Facebook picture, which said, “From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson to Palestine.”  He then explained that Ayotzinapa is “where 43 students went missing, to Ferguson, where Michael Brown was murdered right to Palestine, where … indigenous Palestinians are also being murdered…. We have to understand we are still a colonized people…. The law is not about justice but power…. We are illegal because we are profitable…. We are saying we are here and we are here to stay.”

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Gyamfi followed Gama.  She almost immediately said, “It is clear that everyone that’s here is someone who understands that how this system is constructed is completely wrong, that it needs to be destroyed and that we need to build a new world.”  She pointed out the Platform for the Movement for Black Lives in 2016 included support for BDS and Palestinian autonomy because Pan-Africanism and the struggle of the Palestinians are a result of colonialism.  At the end, she said, “We are talking about the onslaught on the freedom, the liberation, the autonomy of indigenous populations and we will win together.”

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Letwin followed Gyamfi.  He said the struggle around Palestine is “a beating heart” of intersectionality, which puts Palestine in the center.  Letwin rhetorically asked what the Trump administration means for the movements?  He said while the Trump era is troubling and worrisome, the response, the resistance to it is hopeful.  He pointed out that the policies of the Trump administration that the grassroots movements are responding to are the policies that were part of the Obama administration and all the administrations before it.  Letwin’s last point was that different struggles must include those struggles that have been most marginalized, like the struggles of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Palestine.

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Ponce immediately reminded the audience they were on the land of the Tonga people.  She said when we come to these kinds of gatherings and meetings, “we recognize that we are all healing from our historical trauma and that the value of coming together like this is to do it more often.”  Ponce said activists “need to step out of their comfort zone and “just show up” even when it “may not be your thing.”  She added, “For solutions tonight, … is to accept the idea the economic elite has declared war on all of us and has signed a death certificate for earth mother.”

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Last to speak on the round was Qazi.  She wasted no words.  She described briefly that the question of Palestine was important to the Middle East South Asian Committee, which is part of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.  She spoke of the Arabic concept of “ummah,” which means community, but also “transcends space and time” and the need to return to that concept that was used before 9/11.  She said, “The United States plays the most active role in oppression of foreign peoples with the suppression of Palestinian rights.”

Ruiz posed some questions to the panel.  First, besides just showing up, are there ways to develop what Ruiz called, “joint struggle.”  Barakat said it was important to learn about each other’s struggles and then participate.  Gama said it was important “to show up but to shut up.”  He said for himself, while he can learn about the Palestinian struggle and stand in solidarity with it, he understood the Palestinians must lead their own struggle.  Gyamfi said issues need to be identified that “we have the same opposing force” and that we understand that we are oppressed and harmed in different ways.  Letwin said one area for potential struggle is to look at “class” and when attempts are made to exclude folks, we need to figure out a way to participate without being silenced, including our own contingents.  Ponce echoed Gama and ended her thoughts with “honor the differences but find the similarities.”  Qazi said it was important to create safe spaces for all of us.  She used a recent example, where it was necessary for the NLG had to boycott a meeting because the Anti-Defamation League (According to the Electronic Intifada, the ADL had been advising universities how to isolate the BDS movement.  Click here to read the Electronic Intifada article.), was participating.  To educate those at the meeting, the NLG sent a letter explaining its decision.

Ruiz posed a second question: what does it mean for us to be supporting Palestinian indigenous resistance, when we are doing that work here on indigenous land and how can we better shape our campaigns and messaging?  Ponce said it was divestment and the need to support the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights for the Indigenous People.

Ruiz posed a third question: how can the Palestine Solidarity Movement in the U.S. do more to support the Movement for Black Lives?  Gyamfi said one way is “to address the anti-blackness within in the Palestinian population.”

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”

 

From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from#NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality.

Join some of the leading representatives from these movements to discuss how we can deepen coalition building and a united front within mushrooming resistance in the Trump era.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22nd
6:30 PM: Reception with refreshments
7:00 PMRound Table starts promptly

WHERE: Formerly Johnie’s Coffee Shop 
6101 Wilshire Blvd, (at Fairfax) Los Angeles, CA 90048

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MODERATOR: Garik Ruiz, the North America Liaison for the Palestinian#BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. He works with local and national partners throughout North America to support BDS campaigns and be a direct link for local organizers back to the BNC leadership in Palestine. Garik spent 6 months in Palestine at the height of the second Intifada in 2002 and 2003 working with Palestinians resisting the occupation non-violently through the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). LA-based Garik has been deeply involved in local struggles for racial and environmental justice over the years.

ROUND TABLE PANELISTS:

 
Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, Palestinian-American community organizer, refugee born in Kuwait, and originally from the village of Tantoura in the suburbs of Haifa. Currently the National Chair of Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and a board member of the newly launched Palestine Foundation; organizer of many of So-Cal Palestinian Solidarity actions.

Alfredo Gama,
 member Papalotl Brown Berets; undocumented (illegal) youth organizer; organizer of many of the recent large immigration #NoWallNoRaid protests in the Los Angeles area.

Robert Gardnerstudent activist; member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, who has been targeted by ultra rightwing Zionists for his activities; a senior studying Political Science, African American Studies, and Urban Planning.

Nana Gyamfi, member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys dedicated to providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, which includes BLMLA; represented all the BLMLA members who were arrested/had court cases/went to trial from 2014 – 2016; will continue to represent BLMLA members who ask for representation. 

Michael Letwin, 
NYC public defender; former president, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; 1960s-1970s L.A. youth activist (Red Tide); co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock.

Lydia Ponce, organizer with American Indian Movement-SoCal; Idle No More LA; lead organizer of all the many #NoDAPL protests in LA.

Ameena Mirza Qazi, Executive Director of the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. A civil rights attorney and activist; she has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination, First Amendment, equal protection, and procedural due process issues, including #NoWallNoBan.

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: 
Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement (AIM) So-Cal, California for Progress, Idle No More LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock and LA4Palestine, March and Rally Los Angeles.

 
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Labor and Women’s Rights Movement Plan Ambitious Mass Protests to Fight Trumpism (Alternet)

Labor for Standing Rock Pamphlet

View in PDF format: l4sr-first-pamphlet

screenshot-2016-11-03-20-03-52

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

U.S. Unions Under Attack by the Israeli Government (The Sruggle)

The Struggle

U.S. Unions Under Attack by the Israeli Government

Defend US Unions

In 2015 official bodies of the U.S. trade union movement began to endorse BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in support of Palestinian rights. In the summer at convention the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union passed a resolution calling for an end of U.S. military aid to Israel and endorsing the BDS movement. They got a thank you from 3,000 people, but a lawsuit from the Israeli government.

The Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center filed a charge under the hated Taft-Hartley provision of the National Labor Relations Act saying the resolution amounted to a secondary boycott. A secondary boycott is where you ask people to boycott a company to try to make it stop doing business with a company that you’re striking or taking some other labor action. The Shurat HadDin was claiming the unions was acting like a “discriminatory hate group”.

Then at the very end of October the Connecticut AFL-CIO federation (repesenting 200,000 workers) passed a resolution requesting the national AFL-CIO join in measures of BDS against Israel. The Israeli government-funded “Stand with Us” group issued a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed”. You can imagine what their “disappointment” will lead to, alliances with anti-union billionaires, lying charges of anti-Semitism and the like.

The rank and file group “Labor for Palestine” notes that in addition to the Israeli government, StandWithUs lists as its “sponsors and partners” dozens of the most extreme Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian organizations active today, including CAMERA, Christians United for Israel, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Zionist Organization of America.

What You Can Do

Sign on to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation petition in support of the CT AFL-CIO. (4,500 signers as of Thanksgiving) Get your union to pass a resolution in support of BDS

If you’re not in a union, join one

Contact one or more of these national AFL-CIO Executive Board members and urge them to speak out in favor of BDS and get the national AFL-CIO to support BDS.

If you’re in a union ask your local or international Treasurer in writing if it owns Israel Bonds and tell him/her to sell off the bonds and invest in something that would benefit U.S. workers. See one union’s answer to a letter in 2009.

Check out the rank-and-file group Labor for Palestine

taft-hartley
How Taft-Hartley weakened unions and working people

scare us

buying_israeli_goods_is_funding_apartheid_1

Image digitized in the late 2000s and processed for the Oakland Museum of California Museum Technology Initiative for Educational Outreach, July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

Image digitized in the late 2000s and processed for the Oakland Museum of California Museum Technology Initiative for Educational Outreach, July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

solidarity forever
from a censored mural by Mike Alewitz

Barcelona Dockworkers Salute ILWU Local 10 and 34

Letter from Barcelona to ILWU

Carrer del Mar, 97 – 08003 – Barcelona -Tel. 93 221 58 23 – Fax 93 221 65 88\ zonacatalana@coordinadora.org

Barcelona, September 5, 2014

ILWU International Longshoremen Workers Union

Locals 1 0 and 34

Dear brothers and sisters,

On behalf of the dockworkers of Barcelona, Spain, we want to congratulate you on the actions of the past summer, in support of the Palestinian struggle for survival. With your solidarity you did your bit to stop the slaughter that the Israeli government was perpetrating on the civilian population of Gaza.

As workers we are aware that we must build the tools that allow us to make this world a better place to live, not only defending our rights, but also those denouncing unfair wars whose main victims are civilians. Such actions are those that give real meaning to our unions.

Comrades, receive our fraternal greetings. Oakland longshore solidarity action should be an inspiration for dockworkers around the world.

Yours in solidarity,

Jordi Aragunde Miguens Delegate from Barcelona and member of the International Area of La Coordinadora, Spain.

Thousands march on California port to prevent Israeli ship’s arrival (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Thousands march on California port to prevent Israeli ship’s arrival

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Crowd chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” at the Oakland Port.

(Charlotte Silver)

“Let the world register that on 16 August 2014, we prevented the apartheid Zim liner for the second time from docking and unloading anywhere on the West Coast,” declared the official statement from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center when word arrived that the Israeli cargo ship had chosen to stay at sea, avoiding thousands of protesters marching toward the northern California port of Oakland on Saturday.

Bay Area activists see their success at delaying the Israeli cargo ship from offloading at Oakland as a significant victory for Palestine solidarity work, especially in light of Israel’s month-long assault on the civilian population of Gaza.

For more than two weeks, Palestine solidarity activists have been mobilizing their own network as well as reaching out to port workers in the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union to ensure that Oakland port would be shut down for the Zim vessel’s usual weekly arrival.

Zim Integrated Shipping Services is Israel’s international maritime cargo company.

On Friday night an online ship tracking service showed that the container vesselZim Piraeus remained at sea off Monterey, California, rather than docking at Oakland as would have been expected.

Delays in docking may add significant costs for Zim as well as holding up the delivery of cargo to final destinations.

Activists believe this was in direct response to the dockside mobilization. Organizers called off the original 5:00am Saturday meet-up time, and sent word to participants via social media and email to rally instead at 3:00pm, when another shift of port workers would be called in.

Reem Assil, an activist with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, told The Electronic Intifada that protest organizers suspected the ship’s maneuver toward Monterey was an attempt to diffuse momentum for the action.

But on Saturday afternoon hundreds of people convened at the West Oakland BART public transit station to march to the port en masse to create a picket line.

Solidarity with Ferguson

While the solidarity action was in response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and to a call by the Palestinian General Federation Trade Union, marchers also called attention to the recent murder of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

As approximately two thousand people filed into the port with drum beats keeping their energy up, many chanted: “From Ferguson to Palestine, police brutality is a crime,” “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as well as “Block the boat! Block, block the boat!” and “Free Palestine, Long live the Intifada!”

Witnesses said that the unarmed Brown was shot to death by a police officer on 9 August as he tried to surrender, sparking ongoing protests in Ferguson and around the country at this latest act of unprovoked police brutality targeting a young African American man.

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Marching toward the port.

(Charlotte Silver)

Even before the demonstrators made it to the loading dock, however, organizers got word that the Zim ship would remain at sea and not dock at the Oakland Port.

AROC members read their victory statement as they continued to march toward Berth 57, where Zim Pireauswas scheduled to dock:

The Zim Pireaus arrived in Northern California by afternoon yesterday. It could have docked by early Saturday morning. We held the Zim off in place due to our readiness and mobilization at 5am. We showed up again at 3pm to stop the scheduled work crews from unloading the ship. Our actions today have sent a clear message that genocide and apartheid does not pay in Oakland, or anywhere on the West Coast.

Our action along with the hundreds of thousands of people who mobilized worldwide in solidarity with the resilient Palestinian people should send a clear and resounding message that the beginning of the end for the Zionist apartheid regime in Palestine is upon us.

Once at Berth 57, a line up of speakers from some of the seventy different organizations that had endorsed the action read statements in solidarity.

Eyad Kishawi, a local activist and frequent speaker, told the crowd: “As the people in Gaza under occupation have a right to defend themselves … so do the people in Ferguson from a racist system.”

According to local reports, the Zim Pireaus is now scheduled to dock tonight, 17 August, and the Marine Traffic website shows it steaming toward the San Francisco Bay.

Assil said that AROC is excited about building on the momentum of the event for future actions, as well as the strong Palestinian solidarity activist and worker coalition that this event helped to forge.