House Republicans Now Somehow Involved in NY Public Defenders Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza (Hell Gate)

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House Republicans Now Somehow Involved in NY Public Defenders Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza

Order in the court, and more news for your Tuesday.

9:42 AM EDT on March 26, 2024

Pro-Palestine protest in Bay Ridge.
(Hell Gate)

By Hell Gate

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys is once again on the defensive over their resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza—and this time, the union is up against the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Education and the Workforce. That’s the same House committee that hounded Claudine Gay and Liz Magill out of their Ivy League presidencies over what committee members described as their insufficient support for Israel. 

Earlier this month, the House committee issued a subpoena to the union, demanding  the union turn over internal communications related to the vote on the December resolution that called for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which passed in December with a 1067-570 vote. The union has refused to fully comply.

Per a press release issued by the ALAA, plus their representatives at the New York Civil Liberties Union and labor and employment law firm Levy Ratner, the union—which represents around 3,000 public interest lawyers and legal workers in the New York metro area, including staff at the Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Legal Aid Society of New York City, and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York—doesn’t plan on backing down in court or in the media. 

“We are proud to be part of the growing movement of unions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” Leah Duncan, ALAA UAW Local 2325 Financial Secretary-Treasurer, said in a statement. “Our membership will not be intimidated into abandoning our core principles, including advancing the interests of working people worldwide, by this blatant attack on organized labor.”

The ALAA vote approving the resolution didn’t come to pass without internal turmoil. Back in November, when the ceasefire resolution was still under consideration, the Intercept reported that Legal Aid Society CEO Twyla Carter said it contained “dog whistles for antisemitism” in an all-staff meeting, and four ALAA members from the Nassau County Legal Aid Society sued the union to prevent members from voting on the resolution. That lawsuit resulted in a temporary restraining order that was dissolved by a judge once the case reached federal court. When members were allowed to vote, the resolution passed. 

Then, in January, the chair of the House committee, Virginia Foxx, sent a letter to ALAA President Lisa Ohta, along with a request for information like meeting notes leading up to the resolution vote and statements from union leaders during the voting process, as part of the committee’s “investigations into antisemitism across its jurisdiction.” In the letter, Foxx called the resolution’s choice not to specifically condemn Hamas “deplorable” (the resolution calls Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel a “violent tragedy”). When the union didn’t comply with the request, the committee sent the union the subpoena on March 11.

In February, 120 Jewish ALAA members signed an open letter underlining their solidarity for Palestinians and rejecting the equation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism. “We will not cower in the face of a new McCarthyism that attacks all who speak out against the current atrocity in Gaza and throughout historic Palestine. We proudly stand by the ALAA-UAW 2325 Ceasefire Resolution which was passed by a membership vote of 1067-570. Despite attacks on our union from bosses, right-wing press, and US Congressional Representative Virginia Foxx, Jews and our allies will not remain silent for fear of name-calling and doxing,” the letter reads. “As Jewish people, we have faced far worse, and we do not scare so easily. Our numbers are only growing.”

Ron Kuby, legendary ponytailed lawyer and special counsel to ALAA President Ohta, called the committee’s claims that the ALAA vote and resolution were antisemitic “deeply offensive and completely untruthful,” and said the House committee was “abusing their legislative power.”

“Buoyed by its successful attacks on higher education, the Standing Committee has turned its attention to labor unions…The resolution passed by a vote of 65% to 35%; something that the House of Representatives cannot even achieve to keep the Government running,” Kuby said in a statement. “The ALAA has long stood with workers and unions around the world, going back to the South African anti-apartheid struggles, and will continue to stand with the people of Palestine as they face daily slaughter, the use of hunger and thirst as weapons, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, without an end in sight, except to make Gaza uninhabitable.”

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