Call for Teamsters solidarity with Palestinian trade unions and people (Teamsters Mobilize for Palestine)

Original online here.

Call for Teamsters solidarity with Palestinian trade unions and people

Teamsters and community members can sign onto this letter here or below. If you are a Teamster, we encourage you to ask your coworkers to sign this letter, and to put it forward this as a resolution at your local. Please reach out to us for materials and to coordinate on this campaign.

On October 16th, 2023, Palestinian trade unions issued an appeal and call to action asking their brothers and sisters in the international trade union movement to take action to stop Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, occupation of the West Bank, and racist apartheid system. We should respect this picket line that they’ve established, and stand in solidarity with the Palestinians because our interests as workers include struggling against all forms of oppression. None of us are truly free while others are facing genocide. But more than that, the fight against the atrocities Israel is committing in Gaza and the West Bank concerns the US working class in particular because this is a fight against our own exploiters and oppressors: the United States government, corporations, and capitalists who have been the state of Israel’s most powerful supporters since its founding in 1948. To be clear, we don’t oppose the Israeli people, but the Israeli government and military, which, much like in this country, serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

The unfortunate reality is that some national and local Teamsters leaders have played a key role in drumming up financial and political support for the Israeli state in the past. Not only did IBT leaders loan tens of millions of dollars to the state of Israel through purchasing its government bonds in the 1970s, but they also have historically widely publicized their support for the Israeli government, and implicitly its apartheid policies. But it is still possible for us to choose a different course.

American unions played a key role in opposing South Africa’s apartheid regime decades ago and called for freedom for Nelson Mandela. Today, the United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union, Starbucks Workers United, Amazon Labor Union, the ILWU, UE, IUPAT, CTU, American Postal Workers Union, and numerous other local unions have taken stands for a ceasefire and more in Palestine. We, the Teamsters, are one of the strongest unions in North America, and we can take a real leading role for all of our brothers and sisters nationally on this issue.

As Teamsters rank-and-file, families, staff, officers, and supportive community members, we call on all levels of IBT leadership, including General President Sean O’Brien to release a statement which:

1) opposes the U.S. government sending any more weapons or military aid to Israel

2) calls on the U.S. government to condemn Israel’s genocide in Gaza and occupation of the West Bank; immediately issue a call for a permanent ceasefire and an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza

Lastly, we call on the IBT leadership to release information on all IBT relationships with and funding of the Israeli government and military, and divest all holdings of any Israeli entities (e.g. government bonds, corporate stock, etc.) which profit from the oppression of Palestinians.

More information:

Starting October 7th, and as of February 1st, Israel has bombed residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps in Gaza, destroying 60% of all homes and killing at least 26,900 Palestinians – more than 1 in every 100 people of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million. Israel has also increased its attacks on Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, killing at least 370 people. Top Israeli officials have made their intentions in Gaza clear. Prime Minister Netanyahu said his goal is to “thin” the population of Palestinians in Gaza “to a minimum.”  On January 18 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “in the future, the state of Israel has to control the entire area from the river to the sea,” Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, called Palestinians in Gaza “human animals”. Israeli army Major General Ghassan Alian said that: “There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.” Israel has continued its siege of Gaza, refusing to allow food, medical supplies, and aid into the area, as Palestinians face widespread famine and disease.

These are among the many points of evidence the South African government is using to charge Israel with the crime of genocide at The Hague. Genocide is defined by the United Nations as: “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The United States government has continued to stand unwaveringly by Israel and defend its atrocities, and has supplied many of the bombs which Israel is using to kill Palestinians. The US state policy has been to economically, politically, and militarily support Israel since its founding in 1948 (which was only possible by displacing 750,000 Palestinians in 1948) because Israel is a key pillar supporting US government and corporate interests in the Middle East. Large chunks of our paychecks get sent to the federal government every week to fund war & weaponry instead of funding community needs here at home. We echo the sentiment of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who said a year before his assassination: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” By opposing Israel’s genocidal campaign and supporting the Palestinian struggle, we are also fighting against the enemies of the workers here, the US capitalists and their allies.

This is a moment to strengthen the independence of the labor movement and its politics that we should embrace and not ignore. Across the world, unions have recognized this as an issue that concerns labor, including the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) which SOB addressed in Johannesburg, South Africa to gain international solidarity in the UPS 2023 Contract Campaign. We are stronger as a union and more united as an international labor movement if we take a stand.

The IBT leadership has been silent so far on the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and the US government’s support for this. We denounce this silence. There is no neutral position to take in the face of genocide and the decades-long oppression of Palestinians by Israel. We call on the IBT leadership to take a firm and resolute stand against genocide. Let us act now, before it is too late.

Sign here:

Previous statement calling on Teamsters leadership to condemn US support and military funding for Israel’s war on Palestine, and call for a ceasefire
(December 11th, 2023 – originally written for the Teamsters for a Democratic Union 2023 convention)

Palestinian trade unions have issued an appeal and call to action asking their brothers and sisters in the international trade union movement to take immediate action to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s war on Gaza and occupation of Palestine. This is especially important for unions in the U.S. given the U.S. is the biggest economic, military, and political supporter of Israel.

Since October 7th, 2023 Israel has bombed residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps in Gaza, an area which Israel has blockaded by land, air, and sea since 2007, and Israel has begun a ground invasion of Gaza.

Between October 7th and December 11th, the Israeli military has killed at least 17,997 Palestinians in Gaza (at least 7,729 of them children), and at least 275 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank have been killed by the Israeli military or settlers. In the first 6 days after October 7th, Israel dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza, nearly as many that the U.S. dropped on Afghanistan in 2019. The hospitals in Gaza are running out of fuel, threatening the lives of thousands of patients; there is no clean running water in most of Gaza; food is scarce.

Many of these bombs, and other weapons that Israel is using, have been supplied by the U.S. government. The United States government is and has been the biggest economic, political, and military supporter of Israel since its founding in 1948, and has sent over $225 billion to Israel since 1951. Today, the United States funds 16% of Israel’s defense budget.

And now, the Biden administration is proposing giving another $14.3 billion to Israel to fund the continued war on Gaza, much of which will be taken from our paychecks in taxes.

Irrespective of where our Teamster brothers and sisters may stand on how the decades-long Israel/Palestine conflict started and how it should end, we have a duty to stand for the working people internationally and stand in opposition to attacks waged against them. While the Biden administration has not called for a ceasefire, and instead continues to push for more funding of Israel’s forces, we must stand firmly on the side of ending the war in Gaza.

As Teamsters members, we call on all levels of IBT leadership, including General President Sean O’Brien to 1) oppose the Biden administration’s proposal to send billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, and 2) call on the U.S. government to immediately issue a call for a ceasefire and condemn Israel’s bombing and ground invasion in Gaza and attacks on the West Bank.

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