The following letter was sent from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) to International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, whose member workers honored the Labor/Community picket line at the Port of Oakland on June 20, 2010, leading to the historic boycott of an Israeli Zim Lines ship.
Following this historic action, the Israeli consul-general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, asked to address the Executive Board of ILWU Local 10, in an attempt to pressure dockworkers against their honoring of the picket line and boycott. On July 6, 2010, however, ILWU Local 10 Executive Board, after receiving this request from the PGFTU, denied permission to the Israeli consul and his delegation to address the union and reaffirmed the union’s position.
ILWU Local 10 has consistently stood as an example of international workers’ solidarity; its leadership in the boycott of South African apartheid, Latin America solidarity and opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupation is well-known. In 2009, the ILWU Longshore Caucus adopted a statement commending South African workers who refused to unload Israeli cargo in protest of the Gaza massacre, and the ILWU Local 10 issued an official statement condemning the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
The PGFTU’s letter follows (or download PDF):
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
Friday, July 2, 2010
ILWU Local 10 President Richard Mead
Brother Richard Mead, President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10
Executive Board of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10, San Francisco Bay Area
United States of America
Dear Executive Board Members,
We are writing your union to express our appreciation and support for your historic action in boycotting the Israeli Zim ship, destined to the Port of Oakland on June 20, 2010. The action your union took in honoring the Labor/Community picket line and your refusal to unload the ship for the duration of 24 hours was indeed heroic and sent a clear message to the global labor community.
We want to underscore that Rosa Parks’ refusal to surrender to the racial injustice by revolting against the simple, but highly symbolic act of sitting in the back of the bus, could have cost her life. The subsequent courageous acts of the civil rights movement and the bus boycott did indeed compound the suffering of many African American civil rights activists who enjoyed little protection under the law at that time. Today’s labor union members are at a similar historical position, as many have suffered losses and set backs in the struggle for economic justice and worker protection.
Within this context, we understand that ILWU Local 10 has come under a predicted pro-Israeli pressure to hold an emergency executive session and meet with Akiva Tor, the Israeli consul general to the Pacific Northwest. We want to express our deepest concern in considering reversing this giant leap forward by meeting with an emissary of a foreign government. Although we do not live in the United States, we find it highly unusual and somewhat uncustomary that a paid foreign representative of a racist and apartheid regime can demand and get a meeting with the executive board of a local union no less than the ILWU.
Your union’s history is renowned for the great maritime strike, the boycott of the South African apartheid ship the Nedlloyd Kimberly in 1984, the strike against the war on Iraq that led to your repression with measures we are all too familiar with. You see on a daily basis our people have endured closures, destruction of homes, bombardment with phosphorous and cluster bombs, the targeting and shooting of children at play, curfews and outright massacres.
Mr. Tor will be defending the Israeli position to you for blockading 1.5 million people in Gaza, imprisoning us and calling that a defense policy against Hamas. In all truth Mr. Tor’s government is criminal as it violates many facets of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including articles on genocide by destroying a population in part or in full, racism by favoring “Jewish Nationals” over Palestinians carrying Israeli passports and collective punishment by refusing the Palestinian right return and maintaining an illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 43 years. Mr. Tor and his government had been at war with us well before the establishment of Hamas, and even well before the establishment of the PLO. If you are interested, we would be very happy to assist in educating your members on the history of the Zionist oppression of Palestinians.
Our civil society has risen and said that justice is universal. We supported the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States, and the struggle for international solidarity. We remember that May 1st commemorates a labor struggle that took place in Chicago, IL, in the US and on May Day 2008, your union the ILWU, shut down all west coast ports to oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting a precedent in the U.S. Labor movement.
We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union. The call for a meeting with your union by a foreign paid emissary is intervening in the domestic affairs of local community grassroots action in the United States. Israel, an apartheid state, maintaining an illegal war against our people, should not be given the platform at your union house. That platform should be reserved for heroes who champion justice and equality for all. Please ask Mr. Tor to end his government’s criminal actions and answer for the 40,000 people Israel killed during the multiple invasions and occupations of Lebanon, the massacres of Deir Yassin, Qibya, Sabra and Shatilla, Jenin and Gaza. Like the Turkish nationals, the fallen have names, lives and families and worked in the most destitute of conditions. Our mission, like yours, is to bring dignity to our working people.
Long live international workers’ solidarity!
Signed: Manawell Abdul-Al
Member of National Secretariat