Debate At SF Labor Council On Israel And Cessation Of US Military Aid-Amendment To Cut Off US Military Aid To Israel Exposes Secret Back-room Deal

by Steve Zeltzer

At the 1/12/2009 San Francisco Labor Council meeting a debate broke out about whether or not there should be a cessation of US military aid to Israel. The debate took place after a carefully crafted resolution which called for a ceasefire of the war, collaboration between the Palestinian and the pro-Zionist trade union federation Histadrut and for humanitarian aid. The resolution avoided any mention of the fact that the US was centrally involved in supplying weaponry to the invasion and war against Palestinians. One delegate  Ramon Castellblanch, president of the SFSU California Faculty Association asked how a resolution on the Israel-Palestine dispute could leave out the question of the US role in supplying Israel with military supplies. One of the chief organizers of the resolution  Francesca Rosa argued that a resolution that was introduced and passed in 2002 had created such a bad situation that it took five years to have mutual agreement between the pro-Israel supporters and those supporting the rights of Palestinians. She also said the most important thing was to reach a mutual agreement.

It later turned out that many of the delegates including SFLC Executive Board member Alan Benjamin from OPEIU who is also the editor of Socialist Organizer and the US representative of the International Liaison Committee  had been in on a negotiation that would leave out the issue of US arming Israel if he and others were allowed to raise humanitarian aid to the Palestinians on good of the order part of the meeting. The International Liaison Committee is based in Paris and led by Daniel Gluckstien.

This deal was exposed when NALC 214 delegate Vicki Sawicki introduced a resolution following the unanimous vote for the resolution Francesca Rosa resolution  leaving out the role of the US military support for Israel. Sawicki’s resolution follows:

“Whereas Israel couldn’t conduct its war on Gaza without US military/monetary support,

Be it resolved that the San Francisco Labor Council calls for the immediate cessation of all US military aid to Israel.

After receiving a second on the resolution the debate began. Speaking for the resolution came from Frank Martin Campo representing LACLA. Campo pointed out that many of the wars around the world were in fact being financed by the US government and it was time that people have a responsibility to tell the truth about the role of the US internationally.

SEIU 1021 Francesca Rosa angrily attacked the resolution saying that she had spent years working to get agreement with the supporters of Israel and this threatened all her efforts. She said the resolution should not be voted on. Delegates such as David Welsh and other critics of Israel were silent as other delegates sought to eliminate the mention of US aid to Israel.

Suwicki refused to amend her resolution to eliminate the reference to Israel and the resolution was defeated. Alan Benjamin abstained on the vote and many of the anti-war delegates were left with a resolution that failed to mention that the US taxpayers and people are directly paying for the war crimes that Israel is engaging in.

Following the defeat of the motion, a motion to adjourn the meeting was introduced and Benjamin was on his feet demanding that this was out of order because an agreement had been made that in return for support of this joint resolution with the Zionists, he and others would be allowed to raise humanitarian support for the Palestinians. After pressure from the chair, the motion was withdrawn and the meeting continued.

This blowup exposed that a secret deal had been made to drop any reference of US military aid to Israel in return for collecting humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The “supporters” of the Palestinians had also failed to get the actual resolution of the Palestinian General Federation Of Trade Unions PGFTU which contained a call for a economic and military boycott of aid to Israel. Many of the delegates were unaware that not only has the PGFTU called for such a boycott but also COSATU, the Irish Trade Unions, CUPE and the Canadian Postal Workers.

The need for education on the real positions of world labor is obviously crucial to change dynamics of the discussion and take forward the movement for a world wide labor boycott of Isreal and particularly action by US labor to stop military and economic aid to Israel.

Minutes Of The San Francisco Labor Council January 12, 2009 Page 2 of 3

New business
2. It was m/s/c to adopt a resolution calling for the halt of violence against Palestinian and Israeli civilians and for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza submitted by Sister Francesca Rosa, SEIU 1021: Rodger Scott, AFT2121; Dennis Kelly, UESF; Linda Plack, UESF; Hene Kelly, UESF; and Conny Ford, SFLC Vice President for Political Activities, with one abstention. Sisters Francesca Rosa and Hene Kelly thanked the Vice President for Political Affairs Conny Ford for working with all con-signers of the resolution to find consensus.

4.Sister Vicki Sawicki, NALC 214, made a motion for the SFLC to call for the withdrawal of all military aid to Israel. The motion was seconded. She said she knows this is a controversial issue but thinks the labor movement has an obligation to take a stand on it. Brother Frank Martin del Campo, LCLAA, said unity in the movement has an obligation to take a stand on it. Brother Frank Martin del Campo, LCLAA said unity in the SFLC is important and that that end he doesn’t want to speak about Israel because it is too sensitive a subject, but said its appropriate to focus on the U.S. and the role it plays. He offered a friendly amendment to ad “U.S.” to the resolution so that is called for “the withdrawal of all U.S. military aid to Israel.” It was accepted as a friendly amendment. Sister Gus Goldstein, AFT 2121, said the delegates worked very hard to craft the consensus resolution that was adopted earlier to avoid just such a conflict. She offered a friendly amendment to remove all reference to Israel from the resolution and have it read “The SFLC is in opposition to U.S. aid anywhere.” This was not accepted as a friendly amendment. Sister Francesca Rosa, SEIU 1021, said people worked very hard on a new resolution that built unity and trust within this Council and to present an ad-hoc new resolutioin at this point is not appropriate and she is not in favor of the motion. Sister Jean Taylor, APWU, said to keep rehashing this issue is useless and very divisive. She encouraged the maker of the motion to withdraw it. Brother Ken Tray, UESF, said in the spirit of the unity is that went into the adopted resolution on the issue he thinks we need to realize that the resolution adopted earlier contains what the SFLC is in favor of, which is an end to violence. it was m/s/c call the question. The motion failed.

Good of the council
1.Brother Alan Benjamin, OPEIU 3, said the SFLC appealed to humanitarian aid in the resolution earlier and we need to take that seriously. There is a fund through the Palestinian Alliance of Trade Unions and donations will go to families of union members. He encouraged all to donate.

Justice and Support for poor and working families in Gaza
A message from
The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions

Sisters and Brothers:

The PGFTU has been working at all levels in Palestine and in its international relations to mobilize international support for peace in the region.  This is the ultimate goal for our working families in Palestine, who labored in every way possible to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian territories.  This occupation is the longest and worst in the modern history.

Over the years and even at this moment, these efforts have been met only with terrorism against our people by the Israeli army of occupation which has indiscriminately destroyed homes and worksites, slaughtered our people, confiscated our land, established and expanded illegal settlements, and limited the movement of workers who are only trying to feed their families. These measures have affected every member of Palestinian society.

The recent construction of the Apartheid Wall stands as a symbol of the extent of Israel’s brutal aggression against the Palestinian people and denial of their legitimate rights, dignity and human needs.

We call upon all peace-loving people in the world:

You are now witness to the criminal aggression by the Israeli army in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, bringing a new wave of killings and massacres against the Palestinian people by Israel as the occupying state.  These are war crimes according to international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions.

As our families in Gaza (the poorest in the Middle East) are being slaughtered nonstop for a week now, many of us are reliving what occurred in the summer of 2006 during the Israeli aggression against the people of Lebanon.

We witnessed then as we experience now waves of support and solidarity and similar anger and energy against this brutal injustice.   We cannot afford to let this surge of support pass us by without utilizing the moment to build our movement to face future challenges.  The most important thing is to be aware and equipped.

*  We urgently ask you and your sister labor organizations to help us spread the message that

* “WE ARE ALL GAZA” – that this war is against all poor workers and families of the world.  These are not just crimes against the people of Palestine.  They are crimes against humanity.

*  Help us create a strong voice for the working families of Gaza by building coalitions with unions, faith groups, antiwar movements and all social justice organizations.

*  We join you in the hope that in the election of Barack Obama, he will fulfill his reputation as a pro-union antiwar candidate, and that he understands that the CHANGE he spoke about during the campaign must include a fundamental change in U.S foreign policy so that  ”FREE GAZA. ŠFREE PALESTINE” becomes more than just a slogan.

* We support and encourage your Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) efforts against Israel around the world, but especially in Europe and most particularly in the United States as a response to the harsh economic conditions, violations of labor and human rights, and other forms of oppression imposed by the illegal and immoral Israeli Apartheid occupation.

* We ask you to stop U.S aid to Israel.  This becomes not only necessary but also a duty of international solidarity among labor unions around the world.  It is U.S. government aid that provides Israel with the weapons of oppression and U.S. government support that enables them to use those weapons against our people.

* We ask you to be an active player in raising funds to meet the bare necessities of food, medicine and medical supplies for the people of Gaza.

[See below for information on how to send financial contributions to the PGFTU for Gaza Aid]

With your solidarity with our struggle for human rights and justice, we can transform this moment of crisis into a turning point for an end to the brutal occupation and a step toward the liberation of the people of Palestine.

With the will and determination of all the people, we can say “FREE PALESTINE — YES WE CAN.

Manawell Abdel Al, Executive Committee Member
Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

Bab El Zahryeih
P.O.Box 38903

San Francisco Labor Council Call for a Halt to Violence Against All Civilians in Palestine and Israel; Humanitarian Assistance to Civilians in Gaza

Whereas, violence against civilians—whether in Palestine or Israel—does not and will not serve the interest of peace and greater humanity in the region; and

Whereas, neither the Israeli military nor Hamas is justified in attacking the civilian population of  the other; and

Whereas, the situation in Gaza has reached a profound and extremely desperate humanitarian crisis for the entire population of 1.5 million people – a crisis that requires the immediate attention and assistance of all people and organizations of conscience throughout the world; and

Whereas, the U.N. Security Council has expressed its serious concern about this escalation, issued a call for an immediate halt to all violence, and has called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including opening of border crossings, to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies, including supplies of food, fuel and provision of medical treatment; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council has always been guided by the belief that international working class solidarity offers a path to mutual understanding and peace and that working people of the U.S., Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine and throughout the Middle East must reach across the borders of our differences to create a common ground for mutual understanding that can lead to the peace, prosperity and security to which we all are entitled; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council affirms our support for the working-men and women in Israel and Palestine and their labor unions who seek a peaceful life for themselves and their families. We cite the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions for their recent cooperative programs across the Green Line and their work together toward peace.  We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists to maintain contact in the midst of this crisis despite living under personal threat and witnessing the death and injury of their friends and family; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council urges increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of this conflict to improve the lives of working people in Gaza and Israel, build grassroots trust and enhance the peace process; and

Therefore be it Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council affirms its support for the principle of international solidarity, its respect for international law; its support for the call of the U.N. Security Council for a cessation of all violence; and urges all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs of the people of Gaza recognizing the necessity for all civilians of both Palestine and Israel to live in peace and security; and

Be it Further Resolved that the San Francisco Labor Council urges increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of this conflict to improve the lives of working people in Gaza and Israel, build grassroots trust and enhance the peace process; and

Be it finally resolved, that a copy of this resolution shall be forwarded to all affiliates of this Council, and to the California Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO, and Change to Win with a request that they take a similar position.

Submitted by Francesca Rosa, SEIU 1021*, Roger Scott, AFT 2121*, Dennis Kelly, UESF*, Linda Plack, UESF*, Hene Kelly, UESF, Conny Ford, V.P. SF Labor Council* and adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on January 12, 2009.


Tim Paulson
Executive Director

*all union ID’s for identification purposes only

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