Monthly Archives: December 2014

Palestinian man crushed to death inside overcrowded Israeli checkpoint (Ma’an News Agency)

Ma’an News Agency

Published Wednesday 31/12/2014 (updated) 02/01/2015 12:56
Palestinian man crushed to death inside overcrowded Israeli checkpoint
Yesterday (Last Update) Time 12:56

Palestinian workers wait at a checkpoint in Bethlehem to enter
Israel. (MaanImages/file)

TULKAREM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian man from the northern West Bank village of Farun died Wednesday morning after he was crushed to death inside an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarem as he was trying to get to work.Witnesses said 39-year-old Ahmad Samih Bdeir, who was on his way to a construction job inside Israel, choked to death in extreme overcrowding amid large numbers of people trying to cross the al-Tayba checkpoint, also called Shaar Efrayim.

The witnesses said the crush occurred because of the extremely slow pace at which inspection procedures were carried out by the Israeli soldiers staffing the facility.

The death is the second at al-Tayba this year, after 59-year-old Adel Muhammad Yakoub died in early January as a result of extreme overcrowding at the checkpoint as well.

Inspection procedures at the checkpoint typically take hours as every person must pass through metal turnstiles one-at-a-time.

The turnstiles in turn are controlled by Israeli soldiers from hidden posts, and workers frequently complain about unnecessary delays caused by the soldiers staffing the checkpoints, who are typically 18- or 19-year-old conscripts finishing their compulsory military service.

Following the revolving gates, there are metal detectors and inspection stations. Palestinian are often crowded into metal pens inside the checkpoints, unable to leave or enter, and Israeli soldiers rarely respond to requests for movement from those stuck inside.

Sources in the Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions said that more than 15,000 Palestinian workers pass through al-Tayba checkpoint every day.

They said that the checkpoint is operated by the Israeli military as well as private Israeli security companies.

The group’s secretary-general, Shahir Saad, appealed to international human rights groups and trade unions to exert pressure on Israel to remove the “death checkpoints” and protect Palestinian workers.

According to the Palestinian census bureau, around 30,000 Palestinians have received permits to work in Israel and are thus forced to cross the checkpoints on a daily basis.

According to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Israel denies permits to tens of thousands of other Palestinians who apply, and up to 30,000 Palestinians work in Israel without permits.

Nine days ago, more than 5,000 Palestinian workers refused to cross the checkpoint in the morning protesting what they called “humiliating” inspection procedures.


California Campus Workers Become First Major Local Union to Endorse BDS Against Israel (In These Times)

In These Times

MONDAY, DEC 29, 2014, 10:00 AM

California Campus Workers Become First Major Local Union to Endorse BDS Against Israel


In These Times

Will other American unions follow suit and vote to boycott Israel? (raysto / Flickr)

On December 4, United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union of 13,000 teaching assistants and student-workers at the University of California, became the first local of a major American union to pass a resolution by membership vote endorsing the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Voting results were released December 12 and mark an unprecedented moment for the BDS movement within the context of modern American labor activism.

A total of 2,168 votes were cast by union members, with 65 percent of them in favor of the measure directing the University of California and UAW International to divest their investment portfolios and pensions funds away from companies “complicit in severe and ongoing human rights violations as part of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.” The primary targets of BDS campaigns are Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar, SodaStream, Elbit Systems, G4S, Mekorot, and Israeli banks. The advocates at UAW Local 2865 are demanding that, at a minimum, the university and union divest from these companies.

Local 2865’s ballot also included an optional box asking voters whether or not they would voluntarily pledge to boycott any scholarship sponsored by Israeli universities “complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel.” Fifty-two percent of voters voted in favor. The ballot also called for an end for U.S. aid to Israel “until [Israel] complies with international law.”

According to Local elected official Skylar Covich, a Political Science graduate student at UC-Santa Barbara who serves the campus recording secretary, union leadership passed a resolution in July endorsing BDS and calling for a membership vote on the matter after this summer’s bombardment of Gaza by Israel prompted members to attempt to heed the call of solidarity made by Palestinian trade unions who condemned the violence.

“Even though there certainly have been really horrible acts on both sides, there is something about the way the Israeli government has acted about this all that has been an injustice, especially since they are the far more powerful country,” says Covich. “Since other people in the union were interested in this, I felt I needed to join [the local governing body] to make sure a message was sent about this,” he adds.

The bombardment, which killed upwards of 2,000 Palestinian citizens in a 50-day campaign, along with continuing Israeli settlement encroachment into Palestinian territory, has brought Israel much criticism from human rights groups and foreign nations seeking peace in the region. Covich says that aside from a few abstentions, there was minimal resistance from union leaders when finalizing the election date.

Kumars Salehi, a German Studies graduate student at UC-Berkeley and a member of the BDS caucus within Local 2865, suggests that the resolution’s outcome was symbolic of the crucial link between BDS and American organized labor: “The overwhelming margin of victory shows that a consensus is emerging that BDS is a legitimate and justified strategy of international solidarity,” Salehi said in an email to In These Times. “Palestine is a social issue in the United States: Israel is now something you either boycott or you don’t, and these results suggest for a new generation of workers and students the answer is increasingly to boycott.”

Although rank-and-file enthusiasm is strong according to the results, Local 2865 Executive Board member Katy Fox-Hodess, a sociology graduate student at UC-Berkeley, states that the UAW International has largely ignored its UC members’ desires to link their union to the BDS movement.

“The only comment they’ve made throughout this whole process was to reiterate a 2007 position that they and 44 labor leaders from around the country had signed on to,” says Fox-Hodess. Like Salehi, she hopes that the current generational shift will be favorable for BDS advocates. “[The statement was made] seven years ago and we hope that this vote taken by a local with large membership will lead to the International revisiting their earlier position.”

While Salehi’s home campus of Berkeley accounted for nearly one-third of votes cast, the resolution managed to pass with a majority at all UC campuses except for UC-Irvine and UC-Santa Barbara. The large support for BDS among UC teaching assistants parallels the success seen at the undergraduate level, with six out of nine student governments—UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and UCLA—passing resolutions regarding divestment. The undergraduate legislative meetings devoted to these measures were notable for long hours and emotionally charged, packed rooms.

Despite the dual success for union and undergraduate advocates, the 26 Regents appointed by the state Governor to control the UC system have attempted to block BDS. In the past 15 months since Janet Napolitano became President of the University of California, she has not only criticized the academic boycott that 52 percent of Local 2865 members now belong to, but also reaffirmed a 2010 position on divestment stating that the University would only adopt it in the cases of genocidal foreign entities.

The lone seat on the Regents designated for students has also met controversy in recent years due in large part to divestment issues. UC Regent Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, abstained from a vote to approve the 2013 appointment of Sadia Saifuddin, an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, due to her political activity as an advocate for BDS during her term as a senator at Berkeley’s student government. Earlier this year, UCLA undergraduate Abraham (Avi) Oved was appointed amid protest stemming from a possible connection with pro-Israel donors.

Regardless of the recurring problem with the “undemocratic” UC Regents, Fox-Hodess told In These Times, “It’s going to take people from many different sectors within the university—other UC unions, the faculty and hopefully the broader public in California—to build on this momentum begun by undergraduate activists that we have continued with this union resolution.” Referencing the popular connection used by BDS activists, she adds, “Divestment from South Africa didn’t happen overnight, but was the result of years and years of groundwork by activists.”

Clarence Thomas, a member of ILWU Local 10, the same union that honored the “Block the Boat” picket lines at the Port of Oakland this past August, mentioned in an interview that while the union has not taken a formal stance on BDS, the institutional memory of BDS movement against apartheid in South Africa is very much a reason for expanded consciousness regarding Israel.

“Current members of Local 10 know past longshoremen have taken similar actions in the past. Many of them feel this is their chance to step up to the plate and be consistent with our history of honoring community picket lines, which we’ve done since the 1930s. They’re paying attention to things on social media and progressive press, and it has made people’s perspective change,” he says.

Thomas, speaking as a rank-and-file activist rather than on behalf of Local 10, says the movement for BDS against Israel will only grow stronger as it mirrors the anti-apartheid actions against South Africa in the 1980s. For the longtime rank-and-filer, ILWU Local 10’s “courageous” actions go hand-in-hand with the rest of the movement’s attempts to provoke large-scale economic shifts in Israeli investment.

“Anytime the working class can help out with rank-and-file grassroots victories it is really important and people have to pay attention to it,” Thomas says. Members should “think about the South African anti-apartheid struggle: we did it once, and we can do it again.”

Mario Vasquez is a writer from Santa Barbara, California. You can reach him at

Student workers “have spoken”: US labor union backs Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Student workers “have spoken”: US labor union backs Israel boycott

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This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

The Electronic Intifada podcast is available on iTunes! Click here to view the podcast archive, or subscribe via the iTunes interface (search for The Electronic Intifada).


Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus rally in support of the boycott of Israeli goods, 29 November 2014. A growing number of international labor unions, student groups and academic associations are signing onto the boycott movement.

(Nedal Eshtayah / APA images)

Interview with Kumars Salehi

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Student workers at the University of California have voted by a landslide to support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign to hold Israel accountable for its violations of human rights.

The votes, which were cast on 4 December by members of UAW Local 2865, resulted in 65 percent of voting members casting their support of a BDS resolution against 35 percent voting against.

UAW Local 2865 has thus become the first major labor union in the US to join the BDS movement.

The union represents 13,000 student workers in the University of California system. It joins a growing number of student governments, academic associations and activist organizations in the US which have pledged to hold Israel accountable for rights violations and to end the complicity of corporations and universities which profit from such violations.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: First off, your reaction to the landslide victory as the UAW Local 2865 voted in support of BDS, and the significance of this being the first US labor union to join the BDS movement.

Kumars Salehi: I’m overwhelmed because our margin of victory was so overwhelming. We expected to win, but not by a thirty point margin.

Although academic boycott was not up for a vote, 52 percent, by our calculations, of voters actually made a personal pledge on their ballot to respect the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, which of course Palestinian civil society has asked us to do, including their academic organizations. We actually won every UC campus except Irvine and Santa Barbara — we even won at UCLA, which last time we talked I said I didn’t even really think that we had a shot at UCLA until divestment passed there a couple of weeks ago in their student government.

That means six of nine undergrad student governments have voted to divest; they’ve spoken, the UC student body, and now the UC grad workers have too. It’s our labor that keeps these universities running, and if the Regents want to continue to ignore students’ voices, they have to ignore us too. And I think that I’m more hopeful when it comes to other unions following suit — as you mentioned, what makes this resolution so historic isn’t just the margin of victory, it’s that we’re now the first major US union to pass a BDS resolutions by a member vote.

And I think that what this indicates to me is that peoples’ views are really changing. Palestine really is a social issue in the United States, and a new generation of workers and students is seeing how we’re linked — not only as workers, not only as students, not only as Americans, but as people of conscience to the struggle of Palestinians, and how we can actually help them in their struggle.

NBF: What’s the next step here, in terms of activating this resolution and pressing forward with the demands for divestment from the University of California?

KS: Well, there isn’t a particular mechanism that is on us right now to complete. I think that the opposition is going to try to contest this result, they have already indicated that they’re going to try to dispute the result on some sort of procedural grounds, maybe even file legal injunctions, which they’ve been threatening to do the whole time.

However, we feel that we went to enough lengths to ensure an open and transparent democratic process that this result will stand. This is a non-binding resolution, so UAW International, our umbrella organization, doesn’t have to act on it and to divest its funds from companies complicit in the occupation.

But I think that the general view, in my personal opinion, is that this will trigger something of a domino effect, and that as more and more unions, perhaps other locals of UAW in the US follow suit and also pass BDS resolutions, that eventually the pressure will build, and UAW International will see that their locals across the United States are starting to join their counterparts in Europe and across the rest of the world in supporting the call for BDS.

NBF: Finally, if people want to learn more about this resolution and get in touch with members of UAW Local 2865, if they want to start replicating this kind of BDS activism on their campuses, where can they go?

KS: They can go to, where the results as well as all of the procedural information, all of the press releases and statements from way back when this bill was first being considered by the joint council — the elected body — of the union, you can basically see how we did it. And if you want to talk to us about it, you can send an email to the union, you can find the contact information on the website.

And frankly, if you want to do this at your union, you should talk to us individually. You can talk to me on Twitter at @KumarsSalehi. This information is probably going to get put into more of a readily-accessible form, but for now, I think we’re going to take a couple of days and celebrate.

Davis, other UC grad students vote yes on BDS (Davis Enterprise)

Davis EnterpriseThe Davis Enterprise

Davis, other UC grad students vote yes on BDS

From page A1 | December 12, 2014 |

UC Davis, along with graduate-student workers at eight other University of California campuses, have voted to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

UAW 2865, the local union that represents UCD’s graduate-student workers, announced the victory Wednesday in a news release, saying, in part, “The measure calls on the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; the UAW International to divest from these same entities; the US government to end military aid to Israel.”

The release continued: “52 percent of voting members also pledged not to ‘take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel’ until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation and apartheid.”

The only campuses to vote against BDS were UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.

BDS caucus representative and UCD graduate student Tory Brykalski said this election generated the highest percentage of voters they’ve had on any ballot measure. BDS is the issue “that engaged our membership more than anything before,” she said.

That number, however, is difficult to pin down. The full tally from the vote taken on Dec. 4 was 1,411 in favor of joining BDS, and 749 against. A total of 203 votes were cast at UCD, which, according to Brykalski is about 33 percent of the approximately 600 eligible voters.

But the union represents some 13,000 graduate-student workers, systemwide. Graduate students reportedly could sign up to become union members at the polls, which could have increased the number of voters substantially.

The numbers are important because both the union and the opponents of BDS — specifically a student organization called Informed Grads — are claiming opposite outcomes. While UAW 2865 calls the results a landslide, because 65 percent of voters were in favor of joining the movement, Informed Grads issued a news release stating that “a small unrepresentative minority of UC graduate students” voted.

Specifically, the release said that “2,189 UC graduate students voted out of a total of over 52,000 potential voters.”

Brykalski said the union’s next steps will be to “live the vote,” which involves actions such as sending letters to the UC Office of the President asking for divestment from Israel, as well as letters to UAW international.

She also hopes the union can use “the momentum on this vote to raise awareness about the role of corporations” in UC education.

Additionally, Brykalski believes the “vote opens up academic freedom. Until yesterday, it has been swayed in the other direction,” meaning pro-Israeli discourse overshadows pro-Palestinian discussion.

“We have opened up the possibility for an open debate,” she said.

Luanne Lawrence, associate chancellor for strategic communications, pointed to a September letter from UC’s Office of the Provost to all chancellors regarding the issues surrounding academic freedom and expected codes of conduct by students and faculty. Lawrence said “the academic enterprise cannot be compromised,” and that the letter from UC is “an accurate statement of how all the campuses feel.”

The letter states, in part, that “students must be free in the classroom to express a wide range of viewpoints in accord with the standards of scholarly inquiry and relevance to the topic at hand.”

The directive also reminds UC affiliates that “the university should remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.”

To see the full BDS ballot wording, visit

— Reach Tanya Perez at or 530-747-8082. Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya

In unprecedented vote, UC student-workers union votes to support divestment (Daily Californian)

In unprecedented vote, UC student-workers union votes to support divestment


Members of a UC student-workers union voted Dec. 4 to pass a measure that calls for the University of California and the United Auto Workers International to divest funds from companies associated with the Israeli military, becoming the first major U.S. labor union to support this type of divestment by a membership vote.

United Auto Workers Local 2865 is a labor union representing more than 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and other student employees at the university. More than 2,100 members voted, with 65 percent in support of the divestment measure.

Nearly one-third of the votes were cast at UC Berkeley, of which about 70 percent were in favor. The vote passed with a majority at all UC campuses except for UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. Student governments from six of nine undergraduate UC campuses — UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and most recently, UCLA — have passed divestment resolutions to date.

The divestment efforts are in line with the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The ballot language specifically called on the union’s members to divest funds from “Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in severe and ongoing human rights violations.”

The ballot also included an optional question asking members to make a voluntary, nonbinding pledge not to participate in any research, conferences, exchange programs or other activities sponsored by “Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” Approximately 52 percent of voting members across the UC system and 55 percent of voters at UC Berkeley took the pledge.

“We see this as another very significant drop in the bucket in the University of California that builds on the work of what undergraduate student groups have done,” said Katy Fox-Hodess, spokesperson for UAW Local 2865’s statewide executive council.

Kumars Salehi, a doctoral student at UC Berkeley and a member of Cal Students for Justice in Palestine, hopes the vote will not only hold significance within UC system but will also become a catalyst for other unions across the nation to join the movement for divestment.

The regents have explicitly stated that they do not support a policy of divestment, but Salehi believes that a broad consensus across the UC system could pressure them into action.

“As soon as the regents decide to respect the growing consensus, then we will have dealt a concrete blow to the mechanism,” Salehi said.

The vote and its outcome were met with opposition from a group called Informed Grads, which believes that the vote was undemocratic. Jonathan Kummerfeld, a UC Berkeley graduate student and the leader of Informed Grads’ UC Berkeley chapter, believes that insufficient discussion occurred prior to the vote.

“I came into this expecting that these were people with strong opinions and that we were going to debate the issue and see opinions from both sides,” Kummerfeld said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to hear what our members really think.”

As a group, Informed Grads is discussing what to do next and is looking into appeals, but it will not pursue legal action against the union, Kummerfeld said. He said those who opposed the divestment measure now face the dilemma of recognizing the importance of unions but opposing the adoption of the measure in their names.

“I think unions are important, which is why I signed up in 2011,” Kummerfeld said. “But if the union is going to take such an extreme stance, then I’m really opposed to it. I don’t want them to claim that they are representing my views.”

The labor union’s next steps will be decided upon by the joint council, comprising 83 elected officers across nine UC campuses, as it discusses strategies to approach the university and the national union, Fox-Hodess said.

Contact Amy Jiang at and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.

Victory: UAW 2865 Endorses BDS — An Injury to One is an Injury to All (JFPROR)


Fearing Jewish attacks, 100 Arab bus drivers in Jerusalem quit their jobs (Haaretz)


Fearing Jewish attacks, 100 Arab bus drivers in Jerusalem quit their jobs

‘It’s better to earn less money and not come home in a body bag,’ says one of 100 drivers who have left Egged since wave of violence started this summer.

By | Dec. 12, 2014 | 5:00 PM |
Bus Drivers

Palestinian mourners attending the funeral of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. Photo by Reuters
Bus Drivers 2

A passenger stepping off an Egged bus in Jerusalem.Photo by Emil Salman

Forty-seven years after the unification of Jerusalem, there are very few islands of Jewish-Arab coexistence in the city. Of these, one of the most noteworthy was the Egged bus cooperative. About half its drivers were East Jerusalem Palestinians, who say they received fair treatment, good wages and benefits – things few other East Jerusalem Palestinians enjoy.

But the wave of violence in the city in recent months, which has included violent attacks on Arab drivers, has caused 100 of them – about a third of Egged’s Arab drivers – to quit. Forty have officially resigned, while 60 have simply not shown up for work. This has severely disrupted public transportation in Jerusalem.

“I worked for Egged for six years,” said Arafat Tahan. “It was good work. But it’s better to earn less money and not come home in a body bag.”

Last Wednesday night, yet another Arab bus driver was attacked. Two Jewish men on a scooter drove up beside his bus in the Gilo neighborhood and tried to break the windshield. When this failed, they forced the bus to stop, threw a stone that shattered the windshield and took off.

In this case, the suspects were swiftly arrested. But usually, drivers say, the police are slow to react.

Drivers say scarcely a day has passed in recent months without at least one violent attack on an Arab driver. Tamir Nir, head of the municipal transportation department, confirms this. And that doesn’t include cursing, spitting or racist remarks.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked – mainly in the last four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”

The breaking point was the death of driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, who was found hanged on a bus in an Egged garage last month. The autopsy concluded that he hanged himself. His fellow drivers don’t believe that; they’re convinced he was murdered by Jewish extremists. The day after Ramouni’s death on November 16, most Arab drivers stayed home.

Tahan described an incident that occurred last month. After all the other passengers had left the bus at the final stop, several young men began cursing him: “Arab son of a bitch”; “terrorist.”

“I told them, ‘If I’m a terrorist, why are you riding with me?’” he recalled. “I opened the door and, suddenly, I got a fist in the nose and four of them jumped on me. I began driving; they left the vehicle and fled. I called the police and then lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital.” Doctors diagnosed a broken eye socket and other injuries.

Nighttime is the worst

Awad Ganin was attacked by several Jewish passengers last Saturday. One summoned the others from the back of the bus, saying, “Come, this driver doesn’t like Jews,” he told Channel 2 television. “One of them hit me in the chest – while I was driving.”

He continued to the terminus and parked the bus. When he stood up, however, they attacked him. “They kicked me in the side, hit my back. They pulled me from the [steering] wheel, outside, and began shouting ‘Death to the Arabs! We’ll kill you, you Arab.’”

Drivers say certain neighborhoods are particularly problematic, including the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo and Ramot. Nighttime is the worst, and most attacks occur at the last stop, after other passengers have left.

The problem isn’t unique to Jerusalem. Drivers from the Kavim bus company say they frequently suffer verbal and physical attacks in Betar Ilit and Modi’in Ilit, two ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlements.

“People get on and tell me, ‘I don’t want to pay, you’re an Arab son of bitch,” said one Kavim driver, Nidal Jitt. “And there’s one street where they always throw stones at us.”

Both Jewish and Arab bus drivers are also routinely stoned in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. And Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.

All the drivers say police are slow to react. Amjad Arikat said the windows of his bus were broken several times, but “You call the police and they get back to you after an hour.”

Ala Jaljal said that after thugs tried to beat him up on August 4, police arrested him instead of his assailants, holding him in a cell for seven hours for allegedly using tear gas. When they eventually released him, they refused to let him file a complaint against his attackers, he says. “The policeman told me, ‘Go home or we’ll arrest you,’ so I went.”

Drivers also accuse Egged of not doing enough to protect them. One said he had urged managers to speak with rabbis in Har Nof, or even halt bus service to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood for a few days, but they refused. “I’m not willing to die for Egged,” he said.

Ibrahem argued that there should be a partition separating drivers from passengers. “That’s the only solution to the problem,” he said.

But that would require installing an automatic ticketing system: Currently, people buy tickets from the drivers. In the meantime, the police and Egged are considering other options, like installing security cameras in buses and placing more policemen in problem neighborhoods.

The police said in a statement that they respond to every complaint “immediately” and “professionally,” and are working closely with Egged on both open and undercover enforcement activities. “These operations have led to a decrease in incidents,” the statement added.

Egged said its bus service in Jerusalem is back to normal, adding that the cooperative “believes in coexistence and is working to recruit and train new drivers, including Arabs, to fill its ranks.” It denounced the violence against its drivers, but said this “isn’t unique to Jerusalem and doesn’t distinguish among drivers on the basis of religion, [ethnic] origin or gender.”

Egged provides support to drivers and their families, the statement continued, and relies on the police “to know how to deal with this outrageous phenomenon.”

University of California Labor Union Makes History with BDS Vote in Solidarity with Palestinians (Tikkun)


University of California Labor Union Makes History with BDS Vote in Solidarity with Palestinians

by: Kumars Salehi on December 11th, 2014


The union that represents 13,000 graduate student-workers in the University of California system has become the first major U.S. labor union to pass, by member vote, a resolution endorsing the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination.

The teaching assistants, tutors, and other UC student workers who belong to United Auto Workers Local 2865 voted strongly in favor of a bill calling on the union’s umbrella organization, UAW International, and the University of California Regents to divest from companies complicit in Israeli occupation, and calling on the U.S. government to end all military aid to Israel. The results were released yesterday, following the counting of ballots cast on December 4, and the measure passed with 65 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

Tikkun2The resolution won on all University of California campuses except for UC Irvine and Santa Barbara – it even won at UCLA, which has a notorious history of organized opposition to quash divestment debates.Although academic boycott was not up for a vote, 52 percent of voters checked a box indicating their personal pledge to respect the boycott, which has been called for by Palestinian academic organizations, among others.

Last week’s vote was just the beginning. Consciousness about these issues is spreading, and our work is far from done. Here is the letter that the union’s executive board sent out to the 13,000 members of our union statewide, which will be sure to spark more discussion and organizing in the coming months:

Dear Fellow Student-Workers,

UAW Local 2865 has become the first major labor union in the United States to endorse by membership referendum the grassroots Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). In July, the Joint Council issued a statement in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions in solidarity with the call from Palestinian workers and students under occupation. The Joint Council asked the statewide membership to vote on the issue. After fourth months of internal debate, we held a membership vote and members clearly indicated their support.

65% of voting members approved calling on our parent union, the UAW International, to divest. We also voted to call on the UC to divest financial portfolios from companies involved in the Israeli occupation and to call on the U.S. government to end aid to Israel until Israel ends its colonial and apartheid practices and respects the human rights of Palestinians. In addition, 1136 (52% of voting members) pledged to take part in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to end their complicity with Israeli dispossession, apartheid and occupation of Palestinian people and lands.

We recognize that our members hold many different views on the proposal. We thank union members from every perspective who shared your views and your life experiences to inform debate and engage vigorously in such an urgent issue for workers and students. We value dissent within our union, and we think that, as shown by the influx of new members during this campaign, vigorous debate strengthens our union.

With the announcement of the results, we reiterate our opposition to discrimination in all forms, and re-commit the union to ending racism. We welcome members from all national origins – including Israelis – to join the union and engage with us in addressing the local and international issues confronting workers.

The goal of this non-violent global strategy is that Israel end the military occupation, land confiscation, and human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respect; and promote the right under international law of refugees to return to their homes.

We join several labor unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, UNITE New Zealand, CUPE in Canada, COSATU in South Africa, and many dockworker unions around the world. We also join growing voices in the U.S. labor movement to end many U.S. labor unions’ uncritical support of Israel and show labor solidarity with Palestinians. These include the leadership of North Carolina’s Public Service Workers’ Union-UE Local 150, rank and file members of the International Longshore Workers’ Union Local 10 who successfully blocked Israeli ships from unloading goods echoing their historic involvement in the anti-South African apartheid movement, and hundreds of labor organizers who have signed on to the U.S.-based Labor for Palestine statement. Furthermore, our attention to Palestinian struggle is not without precedent in the UAW. In 1973, Arab-American auto workers in Detroit protested the union’s purchase of Israeli bonds that financed the seizure of Palestinians’ lands.

We are also inspired by the substantial turnout of voters; over 2,100 union members voted in this election! We stand together in support of the rank-and-file Palestinian members of our union who brought this call to our attention and the rank-and-file members of all national origins, including Israelis, who have supported them. We are inspired by the incredible displays of solidarity across communities which demonstrate for us that only when all people are given the right and dignity to be free can we enjoy our own freedoms. From Palestine to Ferguson and Ayotzinapa, our union’s commitment to social justice must always ground itself in intersectional politics of solidarity.

The move to support Palestinian freedom, as with all other solidarity with other anti-racist and anti-colonial movements, is only a first step and it is up to us to follow this statement with action so that our solidarity translates into material transformation of living conditions of Palestinians. The union will follow up with the International and the UC Office of the President, and we look forward to working with our members to determine next steps. We invite you to think of creative ways to translate our union’s support for the Palestinian struggle into concrete action.

Thanks for your involvement in this process!

In solidarity with all of our members,

UAW 2865 Executive Board

The overwhelming margin of victory adds to the weight of this historic vote, which union members such as I believe will be the first of many BDS endorsements by major unions in the United States, including UAW International. We hope the UC Regents will heed the voices of graduate student-workers just as they should heed the six out of nine UC undergraduate student governments that have passed resolutions to divest from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses. This vote confirms that a new generation of U.S. students and workers sees how we’re linked to the oppression of Palestinians, and how we can do what is asked of us in their struggle for freedom.

Kumars Salehi is a PhD student at UC Berkeley and a rank-and-file member of UAW 2865.

Historic Landslide BDS Vote by Grad Student Union at University of California

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For Immediate Release: December 10, 2014

Historic Landslide BDS Vote by Grad Students’ Union at University of California

First time membership of any major union body in the US has taken a stand in support of boycott of Israel

University of California graduate student-workers have ratified UAW 2865’s resolution to join the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The historic December 4 vote, passed by a landslide 65%-35% margin, is the first time that the membership of any major union body in the United States has taken a stand against more than six decades of complicity by U.S. government, university and top labor officials in Israeli apartheid.

Labor bodies in the United States have — often without knowledge or consent of union members — invested billions of dollars in State of Israel Bonds.

UAW 2865’s resolution answers urgent calls from Palestinian trade unions and Labor for Palestine issued amid last summer’s Israeli war on Gaza — armed and funded by the United States government — that ultimately killed more than 2000 people, including more than 500 children.

It embraces BDS demands for decolonization of all historic Palestine: an end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194.

By respecting the worldwide BDS picket line, UAW 2865 joins the Congress of South African Trade Unions and labor organizations around the world, including ILWU Local 10 dockworkers who refuse to handle Israeli Zim line cargo.

It also reflects a long tradition of labor, civil rights and South African anti-apartheid boycotts, while mirroring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous condemnation of the Vietnam War, and his declaration that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

As Richard Trumka, now head of the AFL-CIO, said in 1987: “Sanctions alone cannot eradicate apartheid; that task is ultimately left to the people of South Africa themselves. But economic pressure and political isolation of the South African government can hasten the day when justice and freedom reign in that troubled land.”

UAW 2865’s BDS resolution also builds on Students for Justice in Palestine’s BDS victories at six of nine UC campuses, and is deeply connected to ongoing battles now being waged by UC students and workers against attacks on public higher education, and protests against institutional racism and state violence.

As the UAW 2865 Joint Council pointed out: “Working people everywhere have a common interest in opposing oppression and exploitation wherever they are found. Working together as a global labor movement to oppose injustice around the world strengthens us all in our individual struggles against anti-labor employers and states and in our collective efforts to build the world that working people deserve. An Injury to One Is an Injury to All.”

“Labor solidarity means speaking truth to power — from Ferguson, to New York City to Palestine,” said Michael Letwin, former president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325, and co-founder of Labor for Palestine. “And UAW 2865’s courage will inspire other unions in this country to stand up for justice.”

Contact: Michael Letwin



Historic: UAW 2865 Becomes First Major US Labor Union to Support Divestment From Israel (UAW 2865)

uaw local 2865

For Immediate Release – December 10th, 2014




52% pledged to support academic boycott

Press Contacts:  Union Contact: Katy Fox-Hodess (UAW 2865 Executive Board),, 510-705-3144

“This is a decisive victory for justice for Palestinians. After months of campaigning, we are inspired that so many members participated in this vote and made their voices heard. This is a testament to our membership’s engagement with matters of social justice. This vote was a first step in our commitment to solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and facing discriminatory laws, and we will continue to take steps to make that solidarity concrete as part of our involvement in anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles broadly.” –Kumars Salehi, member

“We are committed to linking student and labor movements in the United States to student and labor movements in other parts of the world, including Palestine. As student-workers fighting the attacks on education here in California as well as the decades-long crackdown on labor in the U.S. generally, we know that international labor solidarity makes us stronger and we support Palestinian students, workers and broader society in their decades-long struggle against dispossession, occupation and apartheid.” –Loubna Qutami, member

UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65% (almost 2/3) of voting members in support. Over 2100 members voted, a testament to union democracy.

The measure calls on

  1. the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid;
  2. the UAW International to divest from these same entities;
  3. the US government to end military aid to Israel.
  4. 52 % of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.

1136 members pledged to observe the academic boycott, a reflection of the ways student laborers are taking concrete actions to practice solidarity.

In July, the union’s Joint Council, comprised of 83 elected officers across nine UC campuses, published an open letter outlining support for the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) “against public institutions and corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestinians.” This open letter announced it would seek a membership vote on the matter in the coming academic year. The UAW 2865 Joint Council took these steps in response to a call for solidarity from all major Palestinian trade unions, including the Palestinian University Teachers’ Association, The Joint Council’s open letter was followed by four months of internal debate prior to the election and deep engagement by members statewide.

The goal of the non-violent global BDS strategy is that Israel will end land confiscation and human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, recognize rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel as over 50 Israeli laws currently discriminate against them, and respect the right under international law of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

UAW 2865 joins several labor unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, UNITE New Zealand, CUPE in Canada, COSATU in South Africa and many dockworker unions around the world. It also joins growing grassroots voices in the U.S. labor movement including rank and file members of the International Longshore Workers’ Union Local 10 that supported community pickets and successfully blocked Israeli ships from unloading goods similar to their historic involvement in the anti-South African apartheid movement, and hundreds of labor organizers who signed onto the Labor for Palestine statement. Within the UAW itself, Local 2865 follows the precedent of Arab-American auto workers in Detroit in 1973 who protested the union’s purchase of Israeli bonds financing the seizure of Palestinian lands. Just as black workers at Polaroid in the U.S. launched a boycott of their company for helping make apartheid passbooks for South Africans, we support workers in other UAW-unionized industries in pressuring their employers to commit to socially responsible business practices so that the illegal occupation of Palestinians comes to an end.

The mostly graduate student worker union joins the undergraduate student governments of UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UCLA which have passed resolutions in support of divestment.

We are immensely grateful for the tremendous support from numerous individuals and organizations, including letters of support from over 700 supporters from Jewish communities, feminist and queer workers linking the campaign to repression against Palestinian-American feminist activist Rasmea Odeh, among letters from many other groups which were posted on a Facebook page in support of the measure.

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