Monthly Archives: March 2016

Palestinian Rights Campaign Spreads to NYU (Alternet)

Palestinian Rights Campaign Spreads to NYU

A proposed resolution by New York University’s graduate school workers would make it the first union from a private university to join the BDS movement.


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

On Wednesday, March 9, members of New York University’s Graduate School Organizing Committee (GSOC, a union for graduate employees) met to discuss a drafted referendum being put forward in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel. GSOC’s 1,200 graduate workers will vote on this matter come mid-April.

If passed, the resolution will mark a historic moment as NYU’s graduate workers becomes the first union from a private university to join the BDS movement. In so doing, they’ll join an international network of unionized students from public colleges, including groups from eight other public United States universities, who have endorsed BDS.

“NYU took a stand to divest from apartheid and stand for racial justice in 1985,” reads “The Case for BDS,” an information booklet handed out by GSOC members at the March 9 town hall meeting. “It is time for us to do so again in ending the apartheid regime of our time.”

In adopting the BDS resolution, GSOC will be calling to:

  • Withdraw all investments, which include “pension funds from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in the ongoing violation of Palestinian human and civil rights.”
  • Decline conducting any “business with these institutions in the future.”
  • Get NYU to close its campus in Tel Aviv.

“I believe that the BDS movement is clearly the most effective Palestinian movement right now in creating change and advancing the Palestinian cause,” said Maya Wind, an Israeli GSOC member and co-organizer of the referendum. With more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in support of the call for BDS, the movement represents one of the major — if not only — international movements representative of both Palestinian people and a broader activist network inside Israel and across the world, united in a call to bring an end to Israeli occupation.

Under the broad banner of the BDS movement, Israel has been asked to end its military occupation of Palestinian land by dismantling the wall, formally recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respect the rights of Palestinian refugees, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

In the booklet’s section “Why Divestment?,” the issue of NYU’s foreign investment portfolios are brought into question. A recent article in The Nation, for instance, “Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached,” estimates that “$100 billion of educational endowment money nationwide is invested in hedge funds.” Among the numerous corporations profiteering off Israel’s occupation, the booklet goes on to list Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard as some of the likely recipients of NYU investment. In divesting from these and other such corporations, NYU would potentially lead the way for other elite private colleges to follow suit.

Beyond the merits of financial pressure exerted through BDS, though, many critics (outside of Zionists) argue that the implementation of such measures will only harden the country’s political right and promote a foreign policy of isolationism.

“As Israelis, we have become complacent, having grown too comfortable with the occupation,” said Wind, arguing against this criticism and the need for international pressure. “Now, thanks only to the global traction of the BDS movement, we are seeing a discourse within Israel about negotiations and concessions … it is the only way [Israelis] will be compelled to change the status quo that benefits too many of them. It is indeed intensifying some of the voices on the Israeli right, but ultimately I believe it will lead to the disintegration of the regime.”

At the same meeting, GSOC members against adopting BDS questioned why their union should take part.

“BDS is a tactic to exert international grassroots pressure upon Israel, and unions should therefore be at the forefront of this effort,” said Shafeka Hashash, a Palestinian American NYU graduate student. “Graduate student unions, in particular, are a crucial component of the Palestine solidarity movement on college campuses, and form a significant source of pressure on university administrations to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.”

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

The announcement of the establishment of the new Palestinian trade Unions

View in PDF format: The announcement of the establishment of the new Palestinian trade Unions

Screenshot 2016-07-24 17.47.33
The announcement of the establishment of the new Palestinian trade Unions

On Saturday, 19.03.2016 it was announced the establishment of the new Palestinian trade unions in Ramallah by the presence of Mr. Nasser Kitami, Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Labor and Bassam Salhi, secretary-general of the Palestinian People’s Party and Omar Shehadeh, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and representatives for the Palestine Committee Trade Union Section Norway, and with the participation of representatives of civil society organizations, trade unionists and a large representatives from the members of the New Unions.

Mohammad Jawabrah opened the trade union congress and he announced the birth of the organization of new Palestinian trade union that its responsibility is to defend the rights of the Palestinian people to live in justice, democracy society in order to get the freedom. Mr. Nasser Kitami, undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Labor congratulated the participants because of their success conference and he wished to them the success and he expressed the readiness of the Ministry of Labour for cooperation in all areas of trade union work and social partnership that providing the possibilities for the success of trade union work enable them to defend workers’ rights. He emphasized on the importance of trade union pluralism in the work in order to support the national and social project and support our Palestinian people.

Bassam Salhi, secretary-general of the Palestinian People’s Party emphasized on the development and support of the union work to strengthen its role in defending of the interests of workers and to improve their living conditions and the achievement the social justice. He also talked about the trade union pluralism which does not contradict with the unity of the union work.

Salhi talked about the Struggle experience for the teachers and he called for learning from this experience and the importance of equal the rights between all professional sectors.

Omar Shehadeh, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine conveying the greetings of Secretary General Ahmad Saadat and his deputy, Abu Ahmed Fouad to conferences and he support this Union in the hope that defending the rights of Palestinian workers and to promote the international solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Shehadeh emphasized on the importance of the Palestinian uprising and its goal and it still until the end of occupation and settlement and he praised on the movement of the teachers, and they should take all their rights in all the fields.

From the Palestine Committee of Norway, and trade unions in Norway, Mr. Thomas emphasized on his support to NU and support the struggle of the Palestinian people through resistance to the occupation and the settlements, and the parole of breaking connections with Histadrut in the Norwegian trade unions.

From the old unionists, Adnan Dagher talked about his experience of struggle and the trade union and the role that played by the trade union movement in the national and social field, and he called the members of NU to learn and rework union work to achieve the rights of the workers.

Finally Mohammad Bladi, the President of the Constituent Committee of the NU thanked the audience and the participants and all those who provided support to NU until this conference.

Thomas greeting the Congress on behalf of the Norwegians

Bladi talked about the stages of the establishment by adopting the workers’ issues who abandoned them by frameworks Official unions, which pushed for the need to build a new trade union organization depends on associative class, voluntary, democracy and independence and enable the workers to struggle in order to stop the violation of their dignity and disregard their rights and stop rebates unwarranted for those who working in Israel and retrieve the organize fees that are shared between the Histadrut and the number of trade unions, Bladi emphasized that they want unions that can struggle in order to apply the labor law and the minimum wage and the reduction of fatal work injuries and the creation of a labor court and social security should be fair and just.

After the end of the party opening, the conference started working through the verification of the quorum law of the Conference, which was attended by a large number of its members, and there was serious discussions about the rules of procedure for the union which was approved unanimously.

Last was elected the union council, consisting of 31 members of the Federation, who elected an executive committee composed of 17 members who are:-

1. Fadwa Qasmia
2. Nahla Othman
3. Wafaa Nassif
4. Salwa Odeh
5. Ali Rezqallah
6. Faed Ibdah
7. Zahi Zalmout
8. Fahd Mulaitat
9. Mohammed Wajih
10. Jaber Tmezi
11. Mustafa Shata
12. Rebhi Bakr
13. Hussein Barghouti
14. Jamal Juma
15. Mahmoud Abdel Razek Mohsen
16. Mohammad Bladi
17. Mohammad Jawabra

With our best regards Mohammad Blidi NU


Workmates International invitation
Trade Union Call

Response to Report of the UC Regents’ Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance (UAW 2865)


View in PDF format: UAW2865RegentsIntolerance031816

Response to Report of the UC Regents’ Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance (UAW 2865)

2030 Addison Street, Suite 640A
Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: 510-549-3863 Fax: 510-549-2514

March 18th, 2016

To: Janet Napolitano, University of California President
The University of California Board of Regents
Professor Kathleen Montgomery, Chair UC Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor Dan Hare, Chair, University-wide Academic Senate
Anne L. Shaw, Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents

The UAW 2865 Joint Council strongly opposes the Report of the UC Regents’ Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance. While the actual text of the “Principles Against Intolerance” policy (found here[1], beginning on page 8) is relatively uncontroversial, the introductory report reads “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California,” thus directly conflating anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish bigotry) with anti-Zionism (a political ideology embraced by many, including large numbers of Jews) and labeling both as equivalently intolerant positions. While anti-Semitism is indisputably a form of discrimination, one which our union staunchly and vocally opposes, equating it with anti-Zionism is incredibly dangerous. It creates a clear chilling effect on free speech that could affect not only campus political activity, but the scholarship of many graduate students and faculty.

In addition, the introductory report makes it seem that anti-Semitism is the primary form of bigotry occurring on UC campuses, even as their own campus climate survey[2] shows Jewish students reporting the highest levels of comfort with campus climate (pg. 58-59). Only a few sentences in the Report are dedicated to all other groups facing discrimination, many of whom reported much higher levels of discomfort with campus climate in that same survey. Though it is paramount for all forms of bigotry and intolerance to be opposed, the Regent’s Report demonstrates a clear lack of awareness of the issues faced by many communities on campus.

Disturbingly, Julia Friedlander, Deputy General Counsel for the University of California Office of the President, has told the union that even the University’s lawyers have “conflicting opinions” as to whether the introduction is enforceable. The UC Regents will vote on whether to adopt this statement in less than five days, and they don’t even know what the statement means.

For these reasons, the UAW 2865 Joint Council expresses our unwavering opposition to the Working Group Report on Principles Against Intolerance as currently written and call on the Regents to start a new, transparent, and inclusive process[3]. Short of that, we call on the Regents to amend the document, removing the problematic introduction that, in addition to improperly conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, minimizes or ignores intolerance experienced by many campus communities.


The UAW Local 2865 Joint Council


UAW Local 2865 Call to Action [“Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.”]


View in PDF format: UAW2865RegentsCalltoAction031816


2030 Addison Street, Suite 640A
Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: 510-549-3863 Fax: 510-549-2514

March 18th, 2016


This Wednesday, March 23rd, the UC Regents are set to vote on the latest draft of the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.” While the actual text of the Principles is relatively uncontroversial, it is preceded by a 7 page Report that conflates anti-Semitism (bigotry against Jews) with anti-Zionism (a political ideology embraced by many, including large numbers of Jews). As expressed in a letter circulated by Jewish Voice for Peace and signed by over 250 UC faculty members, this conflation will constitute a severe chilling effect on free speech that could negatively affect not only campus activism, but vital lines of scholarly research.

Furthermore, the introductory report makes it seem that anti-Semitism is the primary form of bigotry occurring on UC campuses, even as their own campus climate survey shows Jewish students reporting the highest levels of comfort with campus climate (pg. 58-59). Only a few sentences in the Report are dedicated to all other groups facing discrimination, many of whom reported much higher levels of discomfort with campus climate. While it is paramount for all forms of bigotry and intolerance to be opposed, the Regent’s Report demonstrates a clear lack of awareness of the issues faced by many communities on campus. Therefore, the ideal outcome would be for the Regents to discard the problematic introductory Report from the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.” Barring this, we demand that the statement be rejected in its entirety and a new, transparent, and inclusive process be initiated.

What you can do:

There are many ways for UAW 2865 members to voice their concerns about this issue to the UC Regents. We highly encourage individuals to attend the upcoming Regents meeting at University of California, San Francisco (1675 Owens St.) on Wednesday, March 23rd to voice their criticisms during public comment at 8:30 am. Sign up to speak at public comment by calling (510) 987-9220 as soon as possible. If you don’t want to speak, still sign up because you can cede your time to others. Even if you are unable to sign up, please still attend the meeting to show your support for other speakers.

Furthermore, members are encouraged to send in their concerns to the UC Regents via email to:

In addition, we highly encourage members to submit op-eds opposing the conflation of antiSemitism and anti-Zionism to campus and local media outlets.

We urge our members to take as many of these actions as possible and call on the Regents not to conflate political critique with bigotry, and drop the introductory Report from the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.”

In solidarity, UAW 2865 Joint Council

Building BDS and the union at NYU (Socialist Worker)

Building BDS and the union at NYU


Sean Larson
argues that a solidarity campaign of NYU grad student workers with Palestine is important both for academic freedom and building a stronger union.


Members of GSOC-UAW Local 2110 at a general assembly meeting

NEXT MONTH, graduate student workers at New York University (NYU) will vote on whether their union, GSOC-UAW 2110, will endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestine.

The referendum calls on both NYU and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to divest from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in violating Palestinian human and civil rights until Israel complies with international law. It further calls on NYU to close its study abroad program at Tel Aviv University. Graduate workers will also have the option to make a voluntary and non-binding commitment to adhere to the academic boycott of Israeli government and academic institutions.

If the resolution passes, GSOC would be among the first labor unions in the U.S. to come out for BDS through a referendum of the membership. The upcoming vote at NYU follows the success of a similar resolution passed by the graduate workers of UAW Local 2865 in the University of California system at the end of 2014.

The referendum in California inspired GSOC activists, but it also provoked several members of GSOC’s larger amalgamated Local 2110 to send a letter protesting BDS to UAW President Dennis Williams. One year after BDS passed in Local 2865, the UAW International Executive Board showed its business-unionist colors by nullifying the open and democratic vote of its members on the grounds that BDS interferes with the “flow of commerce.”

But as a Labor for Palestine open letter points out, BDS is entirely consistent with past UAW support for boycotts organized by the civil rights movement, United Farm Workers and South African anti-apartheid movement. Graduate student workers at NYU are driving forward that legacy of a labor movement built on solidarity.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AFTER A decade without a union, NYU graduate student workers finally won a contractone year ago after a huge mobilization, a strike authorization vote and a long night of open, collective bargaining. The contract was a big victory for all the graduate workers at NYU, winning wage gains, free basic dental care, health care and child care funds, and doubling the hourly wages of workers at the Tandon School of Engineering, among other things.

Shortly after this contract was won, some members of the union’s leading reform caucus,Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, began seeking ways to continue the mobilization of the rank-and-file in the union. After learning of the surge in membership involvement in Local 2865 over the BDS referendum, a working group was founded over the summer of 2015 with the help of graduate union members in Students for Justice in Palestine.

The goals of this group, later named the GSOC for BDS Caucus, were to educate the union membership on the injustices faced by Palestinians, but also to motivate union members to politically invest in their union regardless of their stance. Since then, members of the BDS caucus have been hosting educational events and panels, including one in November titled “UAW: Time to Stand Up to Israeli Apartheid.”

GSOC has two mechanisms to trigger a referendum: either the executive body of the union can, by majority vote, call for a referendum, or any union member can gather the signatures of 10 percent of the membership and submit them to set the process in motion.

Opting for a bottom-up approach, the BDS caucus decided to pursue the latter option. Discussing BDS with graduate students in their workplaces, offices, and labs proved spectacularly effective, and over 300 NYU grads eventually signed on to the petition in favor of the BDS referendum.

The labor movement, especially in recent decades, has often shrunk from the kind of mobilizing strategy behind this campaign. This is why the BDS campaign is part of the battle for the soul of the union. While the UAW International Executive Board nullifies the democratic decisions of its rank and file, the BDS campaign is moving and shaking at the base.

As a relatively new union, GSOC is still in its organizing phase of signing up its membership. In order for petition signatures to count toward the BDS referendum, signees need to be card-carrying members of the union, and the same goes for voting in the referendum.

By signing up members over the past five months of the campaign, BDS has been building the union itself, and providing an avenue for dedicated activists to organize their fellow workers and play a role in determining the direction of their union.

Encouraging rank-and-file engagement, making serious efforts to inform the membership about the vote, and putting solidarity at the center of union politics–that is how to revitalize a union and the labor movement as a whole. By taking a bold stance in solidarity with the workers and oppressed of the world, GSOC can exemplify what a union should be.

In the coming weeks, the BDS caucus plans to continue organizing amongst graduate workers, help publicize the town halls, and prepare members to get out the vote on the day of the referendum.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AT THE first Town Hall meeting on the referendum at NYU, opponents of BDS were noticeably weak, both in number and in argument. Attempts to portray the occupation of Palestine as two equal sides in need of dialogue fell flat, with one union member Nathan Pensler illustrating the situation in Palestine by reference to the power imbalance at the bargaining table:

Our opponents think dialogue alone can achieve justice in Palestine. But as we know from our recent contract campaign, when one side can deploy overwhelming power and force, you’re not negotiating as equals. We had to mobilize our membership and threaten to strike in order to have any real power at the bargaining table. BDS is doing the same thing: it’s correcting a massive power imbalance that prevents dialogue from being effective. So even if you think dialogue or negotiation might help, BDS is necessary to give Palestinians a meaningful voice.

Updated Zionist talking points pay lip service to the desperate plight of Palestinians living under the Israeli jackboot, but take issue with BDS as a means to achieve peace. The fact that Israel’s propagandists have already conceded this much ground confirms the longer-term and ongoing shift in public opinion toward a new common sense in support of Palestinian human rights and dignity.

We should be clear: the BDS movement is the motor driving this visible shift in public opinion, the more so as it continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Over the last couple years, the BDS movement has gathered significant momentum, with several U.S. academic institutions joining in, including the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association and the National Women’s Studies Association, along with dozens of student government resolutions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE ACADEMIC boycott of Israel stands in the proud tradition of the academic boycotts of apartheid South Africa in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In 1985, NYU divested fromcompanies complicit in apartheid South Africa.

Twenty-eight years later, in 2013, NYU president John Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin trampled on this legacy of solidarity by condemning the American Studies Association endorsement of BDS, calling it “a disavowal of the free exchange of ideas and the free association of scholars that undergird academic freedom.”

In reality, ongoing support for the Israeli military state is undermining academic freedom in Palestine every day. Israeli universities discriminate against Palestinian scholars in their admission policies, scholarships, and dorm applications–not to mention the bombing of Palestinian academic institutions or the frequent calls to violence against Palestinian students who speak out.

Palestinian organizers are routinely targeted for repression as well. Just as the international academic community recognized that an academic boycott of apartheid South Africa was justified and necessary to open the way to academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, so today academics are acting on the academic boycott specifically as an integral component of the BDS call. Supporting BDS is essential to restoring and securing academic freedom all over the world, today and for future generations.

Academic workers have proven to be an auspicious conduit for BDS to enter the U.S. labor movement, where it can exponentially increase its power and influence. For academic laborers, free speech and academic freedom are workplace conditions to be defended. Autonomy in the classroom and unrestricted research programs are a prerequisite for workers’ rights and workplace autonomy at universities.

That means labor unions organizing (usually precarious or contingent) academic workers have a duty to defend the right to free speech. Today, when BDS activists and scholars are subject to increased and disproportionate censorship and repression, we cannot allow our unions to simply tolerate sympathy with Palestine. Unions must become champions of Palestinian liberation and the BDS movement in the interests of the workers they defend.

With their potential social and economic weight, labor unions particularly can make a contribution to the global BDS movement. Around the world, numerous labor unions and union federations have complied with the call of Palestinian trade unions to endorse BDS.

In the U.S., the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention passed a resolution in favor of BDS last October, the United Electrical Workers adopted a resolution endorsing BDS in September, and the graduate student workers in UAW Local 2865 backed the campaign at the end of 2014.

Several Palestinian trade unions have now issued a letter directly to NYU graduate workersin GSOC-UAW 2110, calling on them to endorse BDS and stand up against Israeli human rights violations. As they say in their letter, “BDS has raised the price of these violations and given our people, including our workers, hope that one day we can live in freedom and dignity.”

Palestinians have gone long enough without justice. It is time to heed their call.

West Bank teachers’ strike fuels a deep crisis for Palestinian Authority (Socialist Worker U.K.)

Socialist Worker (U.K.)

West Bank teachers’ strike fuels a deep crisis for Palestinian Authority

by Nick Clark

PA president Mahmoud Abbas

PA president Mahmoud Abbas (Pic: United Nations)

A month-long teachers’ strike in the West Bank has exposed growing dissatisfaction among Palestinians with the governing Palestinian Authority (PA).

Around 35,000 teachers had been on indefinite strike since the middle of February when they agreed to suspend the action for one week last Sunday.

Strikers want the PA to give them a pay increase originally promised in 2013.

But the strike has taken on a wider significance after growing larger and becoming more militant.

Leaders of the teachers’ union resigned last month after strikers rejected a deal cut with the PA to end the strike.

The strikers elected their own representatives, criticising the union leaders for being too close to the PA.

They have staged mass protests including a 20,000-strong demonstration outside the PA’s cabinet headquarters in the city of Ramallah.

The protests defied roadblocks set up by PA forces. Some strikers have been arrested by PA forces in night-time raids.

Strikers are also demanding that women teachers get the same benefits as men.

The strike’s slogan, dignity for the teachers, has come to embody resistance to the poverty which many Palestinians suffer.

The PA has pointed to the Israeli occupation and a fall in international aid as reasons for not paying the increase.

But the PA has implemented economic reforms that benefit Israeli and Western businesses and the Palestinian ruling class, but leave the majority of Palestinians impoverished.

And its leaders try to contain or suppress resistance to the Israeli occupation in the hope that Israel will let them establish a Palestinian state.

Figures revealed earlier this year show that the PA spends as much on its security forces as it does on health and education combined.

It has used these security forces to suppress the strike.

Now the PA faces a growing crisis as it has failed to contain recent resistance. Teachers suspended their strike after PA president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to some of their demands.

But the strike could resume if teachers are not given their full pay increase—deepening the PA’s crisis.

Over 60 Massachusetts organizations protest ‘anti BDS’ legislation (Mondoweiss)


Over 60 Massachusetts organizations protest ‘anti BDS’ legislation

and on

Defenders of BDS do not often see eye to eye with Abraham Foxman, who wrote these lines shortly before stepping down last year as the national director of the Anti Defamation League.

But this is the message that the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition will be taking to the halls of the State House on March 15 when they hand deliver to each legislative office a copy of a statement opposing anti-BDS legislation that has been signed by 61 organizations from across the Commonwealth.

The Coalition rapidly came together in response to a report that a new ‘anti BDS’ bill was being drafted with the assistance of the JCRC.

Religious organizations, solidarity, peace and justice groups, academics and advocates for human rights, housing, criminal justice reform, corporate accountability, environmental issues, anti-racism, LGBTQ rights and civil liberties all signed on in the space of a week.

They see this effort to proscribe the kind of non-violent boycott movement that played such a fundamental role in the US Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against the South African Apartheid system as not just potentially unconstitutional, but inherently undemocratic.

Massachusetts legislators would do well to heed their constituents – and the former ADL head – and tell the JCRC they intend to keep their focus on the Commonwealth’s more pressing business.

An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State House

From the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition

“Non violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding…It is a sword that heals.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Why We Can’t Wait,’ 1963

The Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition asks the Massachusetts legislature to heed Dr. King’s words as they considerupcoming anti-boycott legislation.  While the bill’s text is not yet available, its intention is similar to that of dozens of other anti-boycott bills introduced into state legislatures across the country: to curb Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a peaceful and legitimate strategy for leveraging consumer and constituent power to persuade Israel to comply with international law and to respect Palestinian human rights.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. that boycotts intended to effect political, social or economic change are protected by the First Amendment.  Such boycotts have been essential tools in US movements for civil rights, labor, the environment, and the struggle against South African Apartheid. As grassroots groups building stronger Massachusetts communities, we are concerned that anti-boycott legislation is not only an unconstitutional violation of free speech, but a threat to our right to organize.

We urge Massachusetts lawmakers to respect constituents who – like growing numbers of Americans across the country – recognize the capacity of boycotts to bring about positive change in Palestine/Israel and the rest of the world as it is forged into Dr. King’s healing sword.

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

American Friends Service Committee – Cambridge

Arlington Street Church – Social Action Committee

Better Future Project

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Black and Pink

Boston Alliance for Water Justice

Boston Climate Action Network

Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights

Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine

Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine

Cambridge to Bethlehem People to People Project

Cambridge United for Justice with Peace

City Life/Vida Urbana

Code Pink – Greater Boston

Code Pink – Western Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Defending Dissent Foundation

Dorchester People for Peace

Executive Board & Members of United Steelworkers of America Local 8751

Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine at UMass Boston

Families for Justice as Healing

First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain

Friends of Sabeel – New England

Grassroots International

Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine

Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee

Intelligent Mischief

Islamic Society of Northeastern University

Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston

Jewish Voice for Peace – Western Massachusetts

Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine

Justice for Palestine at Harvard Law School

Kairos/Franklin County Justice for Palestine

Make Shift Boston

Massachusetts Global Action/Encuentro 5

Massachusetts Peace Action

Muslim Justice League

National Lawyers Guild – Massachusetts Chapter

No More Guantanamos

North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice

Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine

Palestine Advocacy Project

Palestine Israel Task Team of First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, UCC

Peace & Justice Committee of First Church in Bedford, MA Unitarian-Universalist

Project Voice, American Friends Service Committee, Massachusetts

Showing Up for Racial Justice

St. Francis and St. Theresa Catholic Worker of Worcester

Tree of Life Educational Fund

Tufts Jewish Voice for Peace

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine

UMass Amherst Students for Justice in Palestine

United American Indians of New England

United for Justice with Peace

UUs for Justice in the Mid-East MA

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment

Wellesley College Students for Justice in Palestine

Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine

Western Massachusetts Labor for Palestine

Youth Against Mass Incarceration

– See more at:

UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine

March 14, 2016

UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine

Whereas we believe that all teachers deserve a living wage and merit pay increases, as well as to have a democratic union whose leadership is elected by its members, and

Whereas teachers’ labor has been historically undervalued and current global trends around the privatization of education have only further devalued this labor, and whereas the UAW 2865 is committed to the defense of quality public education in the United States but also all over the world, and

Whereas the BDS Caucus of UAW 2865 affirms and stands in solidarity with the rights and wellbeing of Palestinian workers, including Palestinian teachers, and

Whereas thousands of Palestinian teachers have entered their 4th week of a heroic and exemplary strike initiated on February 10th 2016, with the demands of a) Granting an occupational allowance of 2.5%; b) Granting a 5% increase of wages, which should be implemented retroactively from 1/1/2014 until 31/12/2015; c) Enabling teachers to progress on the salary scale as is the case for other categories of governmental workers; d) Paying a cost of living allowance for 2014 and 2015; and e) the Organization of free and democratic elections in the Palestinian Teachers’ Union and accountable leadership that represents rank-and file interests, and

Whereas the striking teachers, which provide primary and secondary instruction to 700,000 students in the West Bank, have managed to organize an overwhelming support of students, principals, parents and other fellow workers for their strike and demands, and

Whereas the crucial frontline educational work of these primary and secondary teachers in grossly undervalued, given that their demands for a living wage go ignored while other unions representing university teachers, engineers, and doctors have all won pay increases, and

Whereas the Palestinian Authority is interrupting and obstructing the right to strike in multiple ways and has begun to attack the striking teachers as “anti-government agents,” thereby intensifying repression for Palestinian teachers who already are denied basic rights and freedom because of Israeli occupation, and

Whereas Palestinian labor unions, including teachers, have initiated calls for international labor solidarity against Israel’s historic and ongoing colonial dispossession and occupation of all Palestinians, most recently witnessed during the July 2014 massacre in Gaza;

Let it be resolved that, we, UAW Local 2865, the UC Student-Workers Union representing 14,000 teaching assistants, readers and tutors of 9 campuses of the University of California in the United States, stand in full solidarity with the striking teachers until their demands are met, and demand the Palestinian Authority to respect labor rights and accept all the demands of the union.

Finally, we recognize that demands of dignity through social justice reforms can only be achieved so long as all Palestinians attain universal freedom including an end to occupation, dispossession and life as second-class citizens

In Solidarity,

UAW 2865 Joint Council

(UAW 2865 Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine)

Palestine: A new Union is born (PFNTU)

cropped-ny-nu-logoView in PDF format: new-unions-recognized-as-general-trade-union

Palestine: A new Union is born.

The New Unions are officially recognized as trade union confederation

Saturday, March 19, the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions (New Unions) celebrated their official recognition as trade union federation by the Palestinian Authorities, and at the same time held their annual congress, voting for a new union council and executive committee. There are a number of requirements in Palestine to be met to be recognized as a nationwide union. The Union must cover several geographic areas and branches, and include a sufficient number of local unions. New Unions has been working for several years to be registered. Today the confederation is uniting 26 local unions in all of the 10 West Bank districts and represent around 10 000 workers from all sectors. The founding congress event was packed with a large number of representatives from the members of the New Unions, and representatives from a large spectrum of political and social forces addressed the New Unions with their messages of support. There were between 200-250 people present, of them about 25% were women, and many were youth. The Palestine Committee of Norway, the Trade Union Section/Workmates, participated with seven guests, representing also three big Norwegian Trade Unions. After hard work, a lot of toil and many obstacles, the New Unions finally reached an important goal. The recognition gives them a completely different voice and greater influence in the trade union discussions now taking place in Palestine, where the struggle for Palestine’s social legislation, the Social Security Act, is one of the central issues. Everybody stressed the hope that the New Unions will bring new force to the class struggle in Palestine and strengthen the national struggle for self-determination. A short background The origins of New Unions dates back to the land workers’ Union, the General Union of Workers Associations in the Food Industries and Agriculture, in Tulkarem. This is a union with a long tradition, from back in the 50’s. In 1990, an agreement was signed between the different political parties, stating that the various labor movements should unite in Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) under PLO frames. The management of this unified trade union movement was put together with a representation divided between the political parties, according to strength. This coordination did not go so well, partly because it did not take into account the democratic life of the various unions’. The Land Workers Union in Tulkarem was appointed a new leadership from the party Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). It was PGFTU who was selecting the leaders, without considering the leadership which the Land Workers Union had elected themselves. The strategy of PGFTU’s was to appoint leaders from any political party in the PLO that managed to handle the union and have control. This undemocratic method did not fall well with agricultural workers. Union activists with desire for a democratic and member-controlled grass root organization had enough of this political dictation. Therefore they summoned a meeting in Tulkarem in 2006, where they established the first union in New Unions. The Palestinian labor movement has a long and proud history. From its inception in the early 1920s, and until the Nakba I1948 it grew in strength. Palestinian unions fought both for the rights of Palestinian workers and against the Zionist discrimination. During the great rebellion in 1936, “the longest strike in history”, and during the different phases in the later occupation, the Palestinian trade union movement played a leading and vital role in the popular resistance against the occupiers. New Union considers itself as bearers of this tradition, and they raise the critically important question whether it is possible to rebuild struggling unions. The need for a union that is independent of the political parties in Palestine is certainly true. Today’s unions and workers need highly skilled, dedicated and determined trade unionists, with both a trade unionist and a national agenda. They need unions working against the occupation, not partyappointed bureaucrats who are dependent on the government. Reason for celebrating New Unions has so far succeeded. If we look at what they have achieved, in strikes, in reaching out to the working people in Palestine, we admire and congratulate the union workers with their new status as recognized player in Palestinian trade union struggle. The founding Congress was therefore held with fanfare and great atmosphere. Muhammad Jawabreh, a long standing unionist and one of the co-founders of the New Unions, gave the opening remarks of the congress and declared the birth of this new progressive trade union, which works to achieve the right to a free life with dignity for all workers and keeps committed to the legacy of the Palestinian national and class struggle for justice, democracy and freedom Nasser Qatami, deputy of the Ministry of Labour, congratulated the New Union for the official recognition as a trade union confederation. He wished them success and expressed the readiness of the Ministry to cooperate in all areas of trade union work, and facilitate the work of the union in order to achieve the goals they have been established. He emphasized the importance of trade union pluralism in order to support the national and social project and support the Palestinian people. Bassam al-Salhi, secretary-general of the Palestinian People’s Party, PPP, emphasized the development and support of the union work to strengthen its role in defending of the interests of workers and to improve their living conditions and the achievement of social justice. He underlined that there is no contradiction between a diversity of unions and confederations and unity in the class struggle. Omar Shehadeh, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP, conveying the greetings of Secretary General Ahmad Saadat and his deputy, Abu Ahmed Fouad. He underlined their full support to the New Unions and the establishment of the new confederation. This will form a concrete step towards bringing the trade union movement in Palestine back on the right track and to reinforce the international solidarity with the Palestinian people and working class. Shehadeh emphasized the importance of the Palestinian uprising and its goal, and that the struggle will continue till the end of occupation and settlements. Thomas Grønn from the Palestine Committee of Norway and the Trade Union Solidarity activists in Norwegian ‘Workmates’ addressed the congress reiterating their support for the New Unions. He promised and emphasized that the Workmates will continue to support the struggle of the Palestinian people and their resistance to the occupation and the settlements, through boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns. This includes efforts to build a boycott campaign in Norwegian Trade union movement of the Israeli trade union confederation Histadrut. This organization has historically and up to today played a key role in supporting and facilitating Israeli policies of discrimination and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and occupation and colonization of their land. Adnan Dagher, a veteran unionist, reminded the congress of the long history of the Palestinian labour movement and the role played by the trade union movement in the national and social field. He called the members of NU to learn and recover union work to achieve the rights of the workers. He expressed confidence that the New Unions may recover the leading role of the workers struggle and trade unionism within the national movement and may revive the class struggle within Palestine. Finally, Mohammad Bladi, the President of the Constituent Committee of the NU thanked the audience and the participants and everybody who has contributed to the establishment of the New Unions, and who provided support to NU until this conference, all those that over the years have dedicated their time and struggle and energies in the long process. He outlined the past and current work of the union to defend workers’ rights within the factories, at the Israeli workers crossings and in the court systems. Bladi, in his closing remarks, talked about the stages of the establishment by adopting the workers’ issues, how the official unions have abandoned them, which pushed for the need to build a new trade union organization. He stated the program of the new union, as depending on the working class, volunteerism, democracy and independence, which would enable the workers to struggle in order to stop the violation of their dignity and disregard their rights, and stop unwarranted fees for those who are working in Israel. New Unions will be set to retrieve the member fees collected by Histadrut and shared between the Histadrut and a number of Palestinian trade unions. Bladi emphasized that they want unions that can struggle in order to apply the labor law, the minimum wage, the reduction of fatal work injuries, the creation of a labor court and a Social Security Act which is fair and just. He reminded everybody of the mission of the union and to always keep in mind: Defend and achieve labour and national rights for the Palestinian working class and its principles of unity, class consciousness, democracy and autonomy. After the opening, a large number of its members held their annual Congress, and there was serious discussions about the statutes and rules of procedure for the union, which was approved unanimously. At the end of the congress, the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions elected their new Council comprised of 31 members and the new executive committee comprised of 17 members, of them four women. Muhammad Bladi was reconfirmed in the vote for the Secretary General of the union. New Unions, new life, new challenges. After the founding conference the life goes on, but at a higher level. Their status has changed, the tasks are the same, but their needs are growing. New Unions express their thanks to the trade unions and Workmates for their support in an email dated March 12th: “Dear comrades Your presence to witness the establishment of our conference is a great honor for us, and we know very well that you are going to do all your best for promotion of NU nationally and internationally. We also appreciate that you will increase and strengthen your support to continue the boycott of the Histadrut and all other Israeli products through the BDS Campaign. The new situation will be completely different from previous stages where NU will be represented officially the institutions Palestinian Authority. And we will continue our recruitment of new members. Coming up there will be a meeting with a group of Palestinian trade unionists to introduce NU for them. But you know that the next stage is a very serious for us, especially that all what has been achieved based on a voluntary work without providing any support, only pushed forwards with the possibilities that we have. So we look forward to start new relationships in order to provide the necessary support to build NU institutions and provide places for headquarters in other governorates in the West Bank, where there is only the headquarter of Tulkarem at present. So we need at this current stage to provide support for the logistics, such as offices, furniture and computers for the headquarters and part time jobs for some of trade unionists presence and the completion of the capacity building project where we are now in the second level. With best wishes Mohammad Bladi NU” The oppression of the occupation is depressing at present, with detainments, arrests, confrontations, shootings, blockades, checkpoints and destruction and house demolishings, and it is growing worse. In this situation we find it very positive, indeed, that there are people who want to fight for and build a future, with hope and belief in the Palestinian working people. They both need and deserve our solidarity and support. If you want to support New Unions – contact us! If you want to meet them in Palestine to get to know them – contact us! Norway March 13th 2016 In solidarity, Workmates International Harald Haukaa Fjørtoft

Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA (Ma’an News Agency)

Ma’an News Agency

Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA
MARCH 11, 2016 9:54 A.M. (UPDATED: MARCH 13, 2016 11:40 A.M.)
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By: Emily Mulder

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Now entering its fourth week, a strike launched by Palestinian teachers has morphed into a major crisis for the Palestinian Authority as frustrations towards the political body continue to mount.

The number of Palestinian teachers on strike has risen to at least 35,000, leaving over one million Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank out of school.

Teachers have slammed the PA’s failure to deliver on promises made following a 2013 strike, and head of the PLO teachers’ union Ahmad Suhweil submitted his resignation by popular demand as teachers called for new representation in negotiations.

The PA has said it is legally bound to negotiate solely with the union, and criticisms initially made by teachers in February have since mushroomed in reaction to the PA’s harsh response to strikers, with some informally calling for Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s resignation.

While Hamdallah said this week that “people have the right to express their opinion” as part of the democratic process, the PM threatened administrative and legal procedures against teachers if they did not resume work, and PA security forces have prevented teachers from demonstrating.

Rights organizations have denounced the PA and security forces for their efforts to prevent strikers from protesting, as well as for its detention of teachers.

The strike and subsequent fallout marks one of the largest challenges to the PA in recent years, and is exposing longstanding internal rifts between the PA and the public.

‘We only want to live in dignity’ 

Ayed al-Azzeh, a resident of the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, has taught in Palestinian schools for 10 years and now teaches mathematics in the Bedouin community of Raween. He joined the strike when it kicked off in February.

Al-Azzeh told Ma’an that the primary goal of teachers on strike was to receive wages that didn’t force them into poverty.

“We are not looking for a life of luxury, we only want to live in dignity,” al-Azzeh said.

Al-Azzeh said teachers have shown mounting dissatisfaction with the structure of the teachers’ union itself, which he said has failed to address their demands with the PA.

Teachers have appointed leaders in each occupied West Bank district to act as new representatives, but PA officials have refused to negotiate with these representatives on legal grounds.

PA Minister of Education Sabri Saidam did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

While official statements by PM Hamdallah and other PA leaders have extended gratitude towards teachers for their role in Palestinian society, al-Azzeh said the political body has neglected teachers’ demand for rights.

This perceived neglect has meanwhile been worsened by the use of Palestinian security forces to stifle the strike.

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Palestinian security forces stand in front of the Palestinian cabinet headquarters in Ramallah in anticipation of a teacher protest. (MaanImages)

PA security forces stop strikers

A Ramallah resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told Ma’an he believed PA leadership misstepped from day one.

“From the beginning, when over 4,000 teachers came on the first Monday of the strike to the prime minister’s’ office, he refused to talk to them. Why?” the resident asked. “Then you [Hamdallah] put security forces in the face of the teachers, how can you do this?”

When on Feb. 23, 20,000 were expected to turn out for a protest in the center of Ramallah city, outrage set in after strikers were met with armed members of the Palestinian security forces.

PA checkpoints were set up at the entrances to towns and cities across the occupied West Bank prior to demonstrations which forced teachers attempting to reach the protests in private vehicles to turn around or be held for questioning.

Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq told Ma’an they have been collecting affidavits from Palestinian teachers who have been detained or mistreated by PA forces, in addition to documenting closures preceding demonstrations.

Ibrahim Mohammed Azam Asafrah, who has taught history for some 18 years in the Hebron area, told Al-Haq he was taken from his home in the middle of the night by Palestinian security forces two days after he joined the strike.

Asafrah said the forces searched his home and confiscated his computer without a warrant before detaining him overnight in a nearby jail, where he was interrogated by a number of officers on his involvement in the strike.

Other testimonies gathered by Al-Haq reported similar accounts of detention, searches without warrant, and prevention of movement throughout the occupied West Bank.

Double-edged sword

When asked why it appeared that the PA has taken active steps to prevent teachers from organizing and carrying out the strike, al-Azzeh told Ma’an: “I think it’s fear. Teachers are like a marker for the public satisfaction with the performance of the government.”

“The worry for them [the PA] is the mounting anger and frustration with the performance of the PA. Since this current ‘uprising,’ the PA has been silent, and has not publicly said that Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against the Israeli occupation.”

He went on: “The government has detached itself from the people…and this intensifies the already existing feelings of frustrations among teachers.”

While criticism of the PA has risen since violence increased in the occupied Palestinian territory in October, such remarks have taken form only on social media or in the private sphere, and have yet to find footing in public discourse.

For Palestinians, criticizing the PA is holding a double-edged sword, and corruption within the governing body is self-enforced. For many — the PA is the largest employer in the occupied West Bank — such criticism means losing employment or facing economic repercussions, consequences most choose not to risk amid an economy crushed by the ongoing Israeli occupation.

Al-Azzeh told Ma’an he thinks mounting frustration with PA performance since violence increased six months ago has contributed to the snowballing growth of support for the teachers’ strike.

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An ‘opportunity’ to listen to the public 

When asked about rising public criticism of PA security forces in general, PA security spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told Ma’an late last month: “In every country in the world, people in that country love to say ‘F*** the police.’”

Dmeiri said above all, the main challenge facing the PA was the Israeli occupation, which hinders the PA and its security forces from carrying out their responsibilities as the governing body.

Al-Azzeh agreed that the decades-long Israeli military occupation and the creation of the PA in efforts to end the conflict is a major factor in determining the limited reach of the PA. Al-Azzeh also said this reasoning only goes so far, and is oft-used by the PA to sidestep accountability for mis-governance that takes place.

“They [PA] say: ‘We don’t have enough resources, we are under occupation.’ If living under occupation is a high price to pay, we should all pay that price equally, not only the teachers,” al-Azzeh told Ma’an, alluding to the large percentage of the PA budget allocated to the security sector.

Al-Azzeh also pointed to statements made by PA officials who he said were trying end the strike by “scaring people into thinking the teachers’ strike is a coup against the government,” spurred on by Hamas or rival Fatah leaders vouching to take over Mahmoud Abbas’ presidency.

Al-Azzeh sees the strike as an opportunity for the PA to put politics aside and to win back respect from the Palestinian public.

“If Hamdallah came out from his ministry office onto the balcony where we were protesting, and said ‘Okay, can anyone representing you come and give your demands, let’s sit and talk,’ this would break the tension.”

“They’ve neglected us. We want our dignity. Our dignity is not equal to 20 or 100 or 1,000 shekels. We just need to be addressed. To be told ‘we value you’ as having a significant role and responsibility in society, and ‘we want to listen to your demands,’ this would solve things.”