Monthly Archives: October 2007

Additional NYC Labor Support for Israel Boycott (Chief-Leader)

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper
October 26, 2007

As a Jewish trade unionist who supports the just struggle of the
Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel, I object to the
hypocrisy inherent in the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) President
Stuart Appelbaum’s statements, as quoted in the Sept. 7 issue.
[] JLC
President Appelbaum, in opposition to the boycott of Israel by British
unions, states in the JLC letter that “Trade unionists and their
organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be
assisting those working to bring the two sides together.”

Where has the JLC actually done this? The JLC is a partisan supporter
of Zionism! It has always fought strenuously against such a dialogue
within the labor movement! Please tell me what unions in NYC have
allowed representatives of the Palestinian resistance movement to
speak to their members? From my own personal experience, I know that
just bringing up the question of defense of the Palestinians, even in
the most moderate fashion, is enough to bring down on one’s head a
full frontal political attack intended to silence all critics of

Many years ago, I chaired a large meeting of my union chapter where I
invited both sides to speak. Only the Palestinian side showed up
because the Zionists’ side refused to sit at the same table with the
Palestinians! Last month, at a meeting I chaired at DC 37 opposing the
Iraq occupation, I made a plea to the union movement to begin a
dialogue on this critical issue. The JLC letter is quoted as stating:
“We call for increased engagement of trade unions with their
counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” I
challenge the JLC to make that statement a reality! I’ll gladly help
them set up such a meeting where the rank-and-file union members can
attend and ask questions. Let’s start a real and continuing dialogue!

The issue of the boycott of Israel can’t be allowed to be pushed under
the rug. The issue of Zionism is central to almost every political
conflict in the Middle East. U.S. foreign policy for over a half
century is wedded to the ideology and strategy of Zionism. Trillions
of dollars of our tax money and the blood of the U.S. soldiers, as
well as the blood of millions of Iraqis, Lebanese, Iranians, Afghans,
Palestinians and Jewish civilians are at stake. Washington has no
money for health care, no money for rebuilding our bridges and
infrastructure, no money to rebuild New Orleans while trillions of
dollars are poured into the wars in the Middle East.

Can the AFL-CIO affiliated American Center for International Labor
Solidarity known as the Solidarity Center continue to embrace U.S.
support for the Israel occupation while unions all over the world are
backing the boycott? In order to emphasize the importance of the
issue, I stated at the meeting I chaired at DC 37 last month that
“Today’s Palestinians are yesterday’s Jews” and “Today’s Gaza Strip is
yesterday’s Warsaw Ghetto.” We must support the seven million
Palestinian refugees waiting outside occupied Palestine for decades
because the Zionists refuse their legal right to return, while the
other three million Palestinians live directly under the Zionist boot
heel. This is one of the greatest crimes in human history along with
the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews!

Let’s have a dialogue on the rise of anti-Semitism but most
importantly, engage the labor movement in a dialogue about Palestinian
human rights and the right of return. Let’s not cover up the U.S.
sponsored crimes of Zionism. As a first step in that dialogue, I was
pleased to see that The Chief printed the letter in your Oct. 19th
edition that was written by Larry Adams, Brenda Stokely, Marty Goodman
and Michael Letwin that criticized Comptroller William C. Thompson and
the JLC witch-hunt of the British unions for boycotting Israel. I
contacted them, after seeing their letter in The Chief, in order to
say how much I liked their letter.

Our union members come from all over the world. That includes the
Middle East and it includes Palestinians as well. Shouldn’t we give
them the right to be heard? Shouldn’t we also allow Jewish
anti-Zionists to be heard? Isn’t it about time that our unions set up
forums where both sides can be heard? That’s what I actually did in my
union chapter many years ago. Unity cannot be achieved by silencing
our Palestinian and Middle Eastern members. Let’s follow the old and
true union motto: “In unity there is strength.”

Between Boycott and Apartheid

Between Boycott and Apartheid

History will also remember those academics and university presidents who stood on the side of apartheid, oppression, and colonial domination.

Hammam Farah:UCU

October 24 2007

After passing a motion in May that called for the circulation and debate of the Palestinian call for the academic boycott of Israel, Britain’s University and College Union (UCU)’s strategy and finance committee unanimously accepted a recommendation from its Secretary-General, Sally Hunt, that not only is the call to boycott apparently unlawful under discrimination legislation, but even debates on the issue at the union’s meetings should be silenced “to ensure that the union acts lawfully.” Consequently, the union also cancelled a UK speaking tour in which Palestinian academics would discuss the academic boycott of Israel with their counterparts at UK universities.

There is ample reason to doubt the claim that th e union and its members are at risk. After months of trepidation over the boycott due to its alleged violation of academic freedom, the irony lies in that the sole violator of academic freedom is the leadership of the UCU. One is forced to question whether they were driven by genuine concern for justice and the importance of the boycott for achieving it, or bitter resentment at their own membership’s democratic decision to discuss the boycott. As Amjad Barham, head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, stated, “by muzzling debate and free discussion on the boycott, the [Israeli] lobby and its supporters within the UCU are suppressing academic freedom in the most crude manner.” In addition, the opacity of the UCU statement further compounds the perception of hypocrisy felt towards the leadership of the union. The fact that academic unions in the UK are discussing the issue of academic boycott is a big step in the right direction, but it seems like the activists in the UCU will have to continue this uphill battle against apartheid, and we can expect them to keep fighting.

It appears we have been put on the defensive, consumed more with rebutting the allegations of violating academic freedom and singling out Israel than with providing a thorough elaboration of the appalling ways in which Israel has been systematically violating Palestinian academic freedom and students’ right to education for the past 60 years: Schools and universities have been closed for hundreds of days by the military government; students shot and left to bleed in their classrooms; violent crackdowns on student non-violent demonstrations; thousands of arrests and detainments of students and faculty members are common; permits to study abroad, even from Gaza to the West Bank, are regularly denied. Just recently, Israel’s High Court rejected a petition by students from Gaza to transf er to the West Bank to study occupational therapy because the universities in Gaza do not provide the program. This process of academic destruction has driven Palestinian education underground, where classes are held secretly in teachers’ apartments, in local churches and mosques, and in refugee camps.

Perhaps more importantly concerning the academic boycott, however, is not only the Israeli government’s actions, but the active participation of Israeli academia itself in discriminating against Palestinian students, and here I mean Palestinian citizens of Israel since Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not even allowed to physically access Israeli universities to take admission exams, let alone go to class. Here are just some of the examples of Israeli academic institutions’ role in perpetuating apartheid, above and beyond the fact that they have failed to condemn Israel’s colonial/apartheid policies.

While 25% of Haifa University’s students are Arab -Palestinian citizens of Israel, they make up 80% of the students facing disciplinary action, a clear disproportion. Recently, students were brought in front of a disciplinary committee for demonstrating against a university-sponsored conference entitled “The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel.” The “demographic problem” alludes to the racist fear of the high Arab birth rates that threaten Zionism’s obsession with maintaining Israel’s Jewish majority at any and all costs. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if Black students were brought in front of a disciplinary committee in the US or Canada for demonstrating against a conference addressing the population growth “problem” of Blacks? Furthermore, Haifa University’s official guide for foreign and exchange students includes a warning entitled “Special Security Instructions” cautioning against visiting Arab-Palestinian towns and villages in Israel. These are only a few of many Haifa University discriminatory practices. At Ohalo College, the only Palestinian student candidate running for head of the student union was disqualified, on the day of the election nonetheless. At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Arab-Palestinian visitors are required to carry a “certificate of integrity” if they wish to enter the university.

Many of the universities have also played a role in the theft and confiscation of Palestinian land. Hebrew University began expanding its housing and offices in 2004 over the destroyed and depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta – and of course, the Palestinian refugees do not have the right to return, which means that the people whose land the university is built on are not allowed to study at the institution, let alone reclaim their land. Professor Margaret Aziza Pappano of Canada’s Queen’s University informed us recently that “Hebrew University has a long an d deleterious history of appropriating Palestinian land. In 1968, in opposition to a UN resolution, the university evicted hundreds of Palestinian families to expand their campus in East Jerusalem. This history of confiscation continues, as October 2004 saw more evictions of Palestinian families and destruction of their homes for another campus expansion.”

Tel Aviv University was built over the destroyed and depopulated village of Sheikh Muwannis. The former home of the village Mukhtar (mayor) has become the faculty club/cafeteria. To add insult to injury, the university refuses to allow the posting of a sign that would explain the origins of the building – perhaps it would spoil the faculty’s appetite. The university plans to ironically build a new Faculty of Archeology as an expansion of its campus further into the lands of the destroyed village. Last but not least, in perhaps the most infamous case, the Ariel University Centre of S amaria (AKA “the settler university”), an extension of Bar Ilan University, was built inside the illegal settlement of Ariel inside the West Bank. The village of Salfit endured massive land confiscations to make way for the settlement and its residents will soon be displaced to the other side of the illegal Wall that is being erected inside the West Bank (separating students from their universities) to cage in Palestinian communities and to eventually annex the illegal settlement blocks where this University will operate.

This is only a glimpse of the long list of Israeli academia’s participation in the colonization of Palestinian land and in the discrimination against Palestinian students. If we are to build on the case for the academic boycott of Israel, we must dedicate more time to disseminating the painful details of this academic apartheid that is part and parcel of the wider apartheid system imposed by Israel on the Palestinians.

In l ight of this, it is a fair demand on behalf of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine that the leadership of the UCU publish the ‘legal advice’ for examination and tell us who provided it, tell us whether any other sources were sought out for advice, and what the nature of that advice was. Furthermore, an explanation of why it was ‘heroic’ for British academic unions to lead the academic boycott of South Africa, but ‘illegal’ to even discuss the academic boycott of Israel is vital. Indeed, a fundamental component of academic freedom is academic transparency.

Lastly, it is important to note that academia, perhaps more than any other sector of society, should be at the forefront of the boycott campaign because of its long professed commitments to anti-oppressive and anti-racist ideals. Just as dangerous or hate-speech is ideally exempted from the right to freedom of speech, so should academic practices that perpetuate and entrench racis m and apartheid be exempted from academic freedom. All around the world, academics have begun to take principled positions against Israeli apartheid, and history will remember this. Conversely, history will also remember those academics and university presidents who stood on the side of apartheid, oppression, and colonial domination. So, to Sally Hunt and her ‘legal’ team, the lines are drawn – which will it be?

Special to

Hammam Farah is a Palestinian Canadian who was born in the Gaza Strip as part of Gaza’s small Christian community. He resides in Toronto and is a solidarity activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), which is spearheading the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign in Canada.


Also read
Palestinian Academic professor urged the end to Academic Boycott

Israel, South Africa, Apartheid and The Labor Movement

Educational Forum/Video Screening

Israel, South Africa, Apartheid and The Labor Movement
Sunday October 21, 2007
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

$5.00 Donation Requested (no one turned away due to lack of funds)

New College Cultural Center
766 Valencia St./19th St. San Francisco

There is a growing movement worldwide among labor to take direct
action against the policies of Israel on the Palestinians. This forum
will look at the relationship between Israel and South Africa and why
trade unionists in South Africa and Canada are taking action to
support a economic boycott of Israel. We will also look at the history
of the AFL-CIO and it’s relationship with Israel.


Iliam Burbano
Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario Division
CUPE Ontario’s International Solidarity Committee.
President of CUPE Local 3393

Robert Mashego (invited)
Vice President South African Transportation and Allied Workers

Hassam el-Hamalay
Labor Journalist
Cairo, Egypt

Videos: The Mall

The Wisconsin Plan: From Welfare to Work? (13 min) 2007 by Sawt
el-Anel/The Labor’s Voice Israel’s welfare-work experiment “Wisconsin
Plan” has entered its decisive phase, as the two-year pilot period is
about to end in June 2007. This film shows how this plan is causing
the social and economic problems on Palestinian people in Israel.

the Mall by Video 48 An inside look at the living conditions of
Palestinian workers inside Israel. Their home is a mall.

The Alley (14 min) 2007 by a-films/RJI From Occupied Palestine, this
film explores aspects of the current political economy of Balata
Refugee Camp in Nablus. Perspectives from this hard-hit community
include the insights and voices of vegetable sellers and other
residents of Balata, such as those forced by the harsh conditions of
Israeli occupation to seek work in a sweatshop at the edge of the
camp. a-fils[at]riseup[dot]net <>

USA vs Al-Arian (98 min) 2007 by Line Halvorsen This is the story of
the targeting by the US government of Palestinian American professor
Dr. Sami Al-Arian at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Sami
who was also a member of the NEA United Professors of Florida received
their support against the pressure to fire him after he appeared on
Fox s Bill O’Reilly show. The film shows a personal story of a family
living in a society where fear of terrorism has resulted in increasing
stigmatization and discrimination against Muslims. For years, Nahla
Al-Arian and her children have been fighting to prove the innocence of
husband and father Sami, a Palestinian refugee, and civil rights
activist, who has lived in the USA for more than thirty years. In
2003, Sami Al-Arian was accused of giving material support to a
terrorist organization and held in solitary confinement for over three
years. His six-month trial ended without a single guilty verdict. The
failure to convict Dr. Al-Arian was seen as a stinging rebuke for the
federal government. While the Bush administration considered this a
landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism,
Professor Sami Al-Arian claims he has been targeted in an attempt to
silence his political views. Because the jury hung on some of the
counts, however, Dr. Al-Arian remained in jail as the prosecution
threatened to retry him. Laila Al-Arian, daughter of Sami Al-Arian
will be attending.

Sponsored by Labor Video Project and Endorsed By New College Center
For Activism

For Further Information Please contact
Labor Video Project
P.O. Box 720027
San Francisco, CA 94172

NYCLAW Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (Chief-Leader)

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper October 19, 2007

Thompson and Israel

To the Editor:

The undersigned trade-union activists disagree with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the Jewish Labor Committee, who have joined the witch-hunt against British unions for boycotting Israel (Sept. 7 issue [*]).

Palestinian trade-union bodies have long asked international labor to support the boycott; endorsers now include the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and unions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

It is no more unfairly selective or one-sided than the isolation of apartheid South Africa, a campaign in which we and many others actively participated. This boycott — many of whose supporters are Jewish — DOES NOT target Israel for its ethnicity, but for theft and colonization of Arab lands, denial of equality to Arab-Palestinians in Israel, and violation of Palestinian Refugees’ right to return home.

South African apartheid — racist oppression of the black majority — was consolidated in a 1948 white-only election. At the same time, apartheid Israel began with the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1947-49, when Zionists systematically terrorized, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian majority. Some 13,000 Palestinians were massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent — including East Jerusalem, the’ West Bank and Gaza — which remains under military rule.

Today, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are in exile — the world’s largest refugee population. Those who managed to remain — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are confined to 2.5 percent of the land, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, and deemed a “demographic threat” to be “transferred” elsewhere.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined, separated and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints. In Gaza, 1.4 million suffer sealed borders; air, artillery and ground strikes; economic blockade; designation as “enemy entity”; and suspension of essential services.

During the past seven years, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories have been killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

Apartheid Israel has also aggressively exported itself beyond Palestine. It was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally. Especially since 9/11, it has promoted the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but manufactured phony “evidence” of WMD for the Bush administration to invade Iraq.

There, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon, the U.S./Israel alliance has killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, using Israeli-perfected techniques of collective punishment, air war, human shields, home demolition, assassination, kidnapping, rendition, detention, torture, separation walls, partition and ethnic cleansing. Working people in this country have also paid a high price for these wars to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. Now, Israel is at the forefront of escalating attacks against Syria and Iran.

Moreover, apartheid Israel is sponsored by the U.S. In the past ten years alone, it has provided $17 billion in military aid, which the bipartisan Congress has just increased by 25 percent. U.S. trade-union officialdom is a shameful accomplice, and tries to silence union members who oppose this apartheid regime.

Ending this support would strike a critical blow against war and racism — abroad and at home. As in South Africa, points out Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a boycott “will not change [the regime’s] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [apartheid is] racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

Workers in Palestine, the United States, and around the world, deserve no less.

Former president, Mail Handlers Local 300

Former executive board member, TWU Local 100

Former president, Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Former president, AFSCME DC 1707

[Signers affiliated with New York City Labor Against the War; other affiliations listed for identification only]

*The Chief-Leader, September 7, 2007

Thompson Hits Israel Boycott by Brit Unions


City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Aug. 28 blasted several British unions, including the Transport and General Workers Union
(TGWU), for supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.

Various groups have called for boycotts of products made in Israel and for institutions to divest from companies that do business in Israel to protest the country’s 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Thompson sent letters to several trade-union leaders saying, “Boycotts of this nature will result merely in a failure to achieve a just and fair resolution of the Middle East conflict.”

Labor Leader Applauds

Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum, who is also president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, praised Mr. Thompson’s stance.

“I thank Comptroller Thompson for his bold words against these ill-conceived anti-Israel resolutions,” Mr. Appelbaum said in a statement. “It is my hope that Comptroller Thompson’s words will be followed by similar actions by others truly concerned about seeking a just and fair resolution, and peace in the Middle East.”

The JLC issued a statement signed by dozens of American labor leaders opposing such boycotts and divestment campaigns. The president of the TGWU’s American counterpart, James C. Little of the Transport Workers Union of America, signed the statement, but Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100, has not made his stance on the issue public.

‘Bring Them Together’

“Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations,” the JLC’s letter said. “In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.”

Mr. Thompson was pleased to see American unions signing the JLC’s statement.

“The Comptroller is concerned about any issues that affect trade and the economy,” a spokesman for Mr. Thompson said in an email. “In this instance, as he indicates in his letter, he is concerned that ‘antagonism or retaliation’ are being employed whereas constructive dialogue would be a more productive route.”

We will not be silenced (Guardian)


We will not be silenced

The cancellation of the Palestinian academics’ UK speaking tour amounts to censorship and bullying, writes Amjad Barham

Tuesday 2 October 2007 07.39 EDT Last modified on Sunday 10 January 201615.21 EST

Palestinian academics received with dismay, although not entirely with surprise, the decision by the University and College Union (UCU) to cancel their UK speaking tour, during which they had planned to discuss the academic boycott of Israel with colleagues at British universities.
Citing legal advice, the union released a statement saying that “while UCU is at liberty to debate the pros and cons of Israeli policies, it cannot spend members’ resources on seeking to test opinion on something which is in itself unlawful and cannot be implemented”. Debating effective means of countering Israeli colonial policies has thus been declared illegal.

We believe that this ban on debating the Israeli academic boycott has deprived our British colleagues of an opportunity to better inform themselves about an issue that is of concern to conscientious academics and intellectuals the world over. The complicity of the British government, among others, in Israel’s continued military occupation and persistent violation of international law makes it all the more relevant for British civil society, academics included, to rationally deliberate on its moral responsibility in countering injustice.

We are disappointed to see that the leadership of the UCU has failed to defend the right of its members to engage in unfettered discussions on this or any other matter of concern to academics. Open debate, after all, is one of the key foundations of academic freedom, and thus we cannot understand why the door to open consideration of controversial ideas has been so abruptly closed.

Palestinian academic unions will continue to pursue other avenues to make our case heard in the academic community in the UK, and shall not be deterred by the cancellation of the invitation extended to us by the UCU. While we do not have the resources of the Israel lobby in the UK, we do think that fair-minded British academics will be willing to listen to our case and give it thoughtful consideration. Truth is stronger than power, and we trust in the integrity of British academics to know that instinctively.

In fact, we can detect the not-so-hidden hand of that lobby in this latest episode of stifling debate on issues pertaining to Israeli policies and the complicity of the Israeli academy in perpetuating them. Given that the same suppression of academic freedom has been proliferating among US campuses for quite some time, one cannot escape the conclusion that an abhorrent wave of new McCarthyism has perhaps crossed the pond.

By resorting to bullying, censorship and intimidation, however, the Israel lobby in the US and UK, supported by the Israeli government and academic establishment, is declaring its definitive loss of confidence in its own ability to rationally refute the case for an academic boycott against Israel.

By muzzling debate and free discussion on the boycott, the lobby and its supporters within the UCU are suppressing academic freedom in the most crude manner. They are proving once again that they were never concerned about the alleged “infringement” of the boycott on academic freedom; rather, their only concern has always been how to shield Israel’s unique form of apartheid from scrutiny and censure. Their aim has been to protect the Israeli academy from damning accusations of complicity in maintaining Israel’s oppression of all Palestinians, academics and students included.

We think that UCU members are aware of the significant role played by the union’s predecessor, the Association of University Teachers, in upholding academics’ commitment to justice in a historical precedent. During the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa, British academics were at the forefront of boycotts of the racist state. We do not see why considering ways of fighting Israel’s unique yet equally pernicious form of apartheid should be subject to different considerations.

We appreciate the sentiments expressed in the UCU statement about finding a way of opening a dialogue with the Palestinian academic community on building solidarity. The best form of solidarity with Palestinians is direct action aimed at bringing an end to the occupation and the regime of apartheid in Palestine. Isolating Israel in the international arena, through various forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions, and forcing it to obey international law and to respect Palestinian rights, are among the most effective and morally sound strategies open to international civil society. We are confident that our British colleagues will begin to realise that true solidarity with Palestinian academics requires a political commitment to bringing about an end to oppression and injustice.

Needless to say, the boycott campaign will not only continue, but is likely to gain public support among western academics in particular; the true face of the anti-boycott camp has been exposed as a McCarthyist front that unabashedly violates the most revered values of academic freedom and open debate.

· Amjad Barham is head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees