Category Archives: AFL-CIO

Testimonies of the popular rebellion in USA; interview with Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine New York (La Prensa Obrera, Argentina, June 7, 2020)

La Prensa Obrera, 7 de junio de 2020

“The demands of the movement will clash with the Democratic Party”

Testimonies of the popular rebellion in USA; interview with Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine New York

Por Redacción

-What has the conflict been like this week in your area?

-In New York there’s been, as throughout this country, a mass revolt. Tens of thousands of people in the street, multiracial, significantly and confronting extreme police violent as are people throughout this country and throughout the world. On the one hand the terrible brutality of George Floyd’s murder and the murder of so many other black and brown people is almost insufferable to watch. But at the same time, this rebellion that’s happening now is so inspiring. The courage and the militancy that’s out on the streets and the understanding that this is not a question of a few bad police apples or something that is unordinary, but rather something that is quite common and relates to the legacy of slavery and of capitalism in this country.

The militancy and the radicalism of the demands that have come out of the movement. To defund the police, dismantle police, abolish prisons. Not that everybody has those positions. But nonetheless the widespread demand for those changes to the system itself. And not just changes, but an end to the system in many cases. Whatever people mean by that, it’s impressive and striking.

-What reaction have you seen in the movement to Trump’s announcement of the army being on call as a means to upscale the repression?

-It’s interesting I think that there hasn’t been a retreat of the protesters in the face of that threat or of the existing mass violence that’s coming from the state. Thousands and thousands of people are out in the street. They may be more than before. The police have been able to inflict tremendous brutality on the movement, but they have not been able to back the movement down at all. If anything, the brutality that the state has inflicted against the protesters has only reinforces people’s determination to be out and to resist martial law, to resist the curfews, to resist the ongoing daily violence, and the specific violence that’s being launched against them by the police.

And, also I think it’s interesting that despite the lipservice that liberal politicians have given to the movement, they in fact are the ones who are helping to orchestrate the mass violence. So, in New York City, for example, which has a liberal democratic mayor, the violence that is being rained down on the protest is coming directly from that administration. I think that deepens everyone’s understanding, if they didn’t already know, that despite differences in rhetoric from Trump, from Biden, to in our case, mayor Di Blasio in New York City, and across the political spectrum, whatever politicians may be saying, their deeds speak for themselves.

When they send out police to brutalize protestors, as happened in New York City repeatedly, including last night (Wednesday June 3rd), that is not an aberration, that comes from the top. Those are orders that go out from the administration. Whether that’s Trump, or the governors, or mayors. This kind of violence is systemic, and it’s organized and it’s coordinated. We saw this with Occupy Wall Street almost ten years ago, when the mayors were given the order by the Obama administration to shut down Occupy. That happened everywhere, very systemically, across all political lines. And we’re seeing the same thing now in regards to repression against the movement.

The strength of the movement is also clear from the fact that the politicians, and even the former defense secretary, has to give lipservice to the movement. You see these pictures of police taking the knee. Now, that’s obviously disingenuous. That’s completely ridiculous. I mean, there may be a few police officers who actually feel that way, but when the top uniformed police chief in New York City takes the knee as he did the other day, that’s simply an attempt to confuse people about the role of the police. It’s also interesting that the former Defense Secretary James Mattis, has been criticizing Trump for calling out the troops. It’s significant because he’s thinking “are the troops going to, in fact, obey orders to attack and, if necessary, fire on the protestors?”. Because, unlike the police, the army and the national guard come from the same working class communities as the protestors do. The number of people of color in the military is over 40%. And, if you go back to the 1960’s you see that there were examples where black troops called out to repress protests in the cities refused to deploy, most notably in the case of the Fort Hood 43, a group of black troops who refused to go to  Chicago in 1968 to shoot and brutalize protestors.

I think that the ruling class is very aware that this is a concern, that the military will have absolutely no credibility with anyone if they engage in that kind of behavior. Which is not to say that they won’t. But it shows the power of the movement that they have to pay lipservice to those kinds of concerns.

-What are the most important social and political sectors that make up the demonstrations?

-I think it’s a confluence of different forces. At the heart are black youth in particular, who everywhere have been at the forefront of the rebellion, as has been the case going back to the 1960’s and even beyond.  What is different about this particular time, say from 1968 (this is the biggest mass rebellion in the states since 1968), is that though there was a large movement of radicalized whites and other sectors, against racism and against the war, black people in the rebellion were largely segregated and kept separate from the rest of society.

I think a major difference in this rebellion is that though it’s in the same scale and echoes that rebellion in 1968 following the murder of Martin Luther King, it’s drawing out huge numbers of white people, many of whom have been involved in other protests in the past, for Black Lives or Occupy, or against Trump, or any number of things that have been going on.

So when you see the images of these protests you are struck by all these forces coming together to support black people, to oppose the system, to call for radical change. Sometimes openly, explicitly anticapitalist in its expressions, and certainly against the institutional racism that the George Floyd murder reflects.

And, that’s quite a different thing than you would have seen in 1968. I remember the rebellion in 1968. I was 12 years old, I had been marching all my life with my parents.  We had seen police violence. But if you look at the newsreels from 1968 you will see a much more segmented society. And even though today’s society is totally segregated in many ways, these protests have somehow overcome that to come together on a multiracial basis against the system itself. And every time the police attack and every time the military is brought out and threatened with it only deepens the radicalization and the understanding in the movement, that these are not aberrations, this is not simply a problem of retraining police or anything like that, which we’ve heard talked of in the past sometimes. Rather there is a call to demolish and deconstruct the police, to end the police, to abolish prisons. Again, I’m not talking about everyone, but these ideas are widely circulated. They’re even reflected in the corporate media. Which is a tribute to the power of the movement. So I think there’s a growing awareness among protestors of the power of mass mobilization. And how that has immediately changed the political terrain, overnight, throughout this country. Of course that coincides and overlaps with Covid-19. The tremendous impact of Covid-19, especially on poor and working class people. Black victims of Covid-19 are grossly disproportionate to the proportion of black people in society. So on every level this is bringing together these concerns and awareness.

-What are the main slogans and demands that the movement is calling for?

-Defund police I think has become one of the most prominent single demands. Together of course, with the demands to prosecute police and to convict police. Not just these police, but all police who are committing brutality, which is to say, police as an institution. But, as far as a program, we’re seeing defund the police emerge. This is a movement where so much is decentralized, this doesn’t reflect a high level of organization and structure, the movement for Black Lives is the closest thing to a centralized voice. If you look at their website and the things they are putting up “defund the police” is the major demand that they have put out. Now, the question is, what does that mean? People have different views. Does it mean reduce funding to the police but keep the police as an institution? There are a wide range of opinions. Certainly many poor people and black people are fearful that if we abolish police they will be unprotected from daily violence within the community, or whatever. I don’t want to overstate. I’m sure many people feel that way. However, it’s significant that if we look back to before Black Lives Matter emerging out of Ferguson in 2014, and you look back to earlier movements against police abuse, even in the last 20 years. For example during the protests that took place after the murder of Amadou Diallo in 1999,a young black man who was unarmed, shot at 41 times by the police. He was killed, outright. And many of the demands in those protests were for much more limited things, for most people. Arrest, prosecute, more training for police not to be violent and things along those lines. You don’t hear any of that now. You don’t hear about training police or more community based policing, that’s all gone. And I think that’s a good thing, because even in 1999 these were not going to be meaningful demands. You were not hearing these demands to abolish or defund police in the movement as a whole.  Now you’re hearing it across the board.

It’s opened the door to a discussion. What does this really reflect? What is the point of the police as an institution? There is a widespread understanding that the police as an institution is a criminal enterprise, that it is a source of violence in our society. If the military comes out and does the same thing, the same will apply to them. That’s why the former defense secretary says “let’s not go down this road”. That’s why the current defense secretary is saying “we’re not going to mobilize troops right now, because we don’t need to do that yet”. It’s an attempt to insulate the military from being viewed also as an institution of repression and oppression, both at home and abroad. And it’s also an attempt to make sure that there’s not a breakdown in the military in the rank and file as happened during the Vietnam  years, both in Vietnam among black and other poor troops, with mass mutiny that took place and helped bring down the American war machine during the war, and made it impossible to deploy troops in the cities against urban rebellion on an ongoing basis.

-The rebellion is evidently centered on racism and police brutality, how big a role do you think the social and economic catastrophe being lived plays in it?

There is an intimate connection. Some people have called it a perfect storm. In 1968 of course there was the war, there was mass violence against black people, there was very high unemployment in black and brown communities. But there wasn’t a pandemic. So this pandemic of Covid-19, together with the underlying, ongoing pandemic of racism and anti-blackness has created the grounds for this kind of radical analysis that people are bringing to these protests, and to what they’re saying about this country.

The fact that the system has proven itself so clearly to be unable and unwilling to deal with any of these things. What Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism”. Even at the height of this pandemic, there is no pretense that the state is able or even trying to do anything meaningful to protect people. Especially in the most vulnerable sections of society. Particularly black people, who are just viewed as expendable.

It’s not hard to imagine what Trump and mucho of the ruling class are thinking. In regards to Covid-19. Something like “that’s fine, if this helps us get rid of large numbers of black and brown people, and old people of all colors and “baby boomers”  who we would have to have on social security, and so on”. So, it makes a lot of sense that they’re not terribly concerned about Covid-19. You see as much being said by the white supremacist right and that’s what’s being discussed. This reflects the same dynamics that went on during Katrina or any other natural disaster that you can think of, regarding the unwillingness and inability of the state to provide the most fundamental public health.

Of course public health in this country almost doesn’t exist. There’s not even the pretense of a national health system. So what you have is privatized, defunded healthcare, save for that which only a few have access to. So that’s part of the context in which this is happening.

And, even before these protests, there’s been growing worker activism especially among the unorganized, like in Amazon, with walkouts over lack of safety conditions regarding Covid-19. I don’t think that’s connected yet in terms of the demands of the movements. But, clearly people are bringing all that awareness, that whether it’s Covid-19 or its institutional racism and police violence, this system breeds these things. This system is not broken, it’s working just the way it’s supposed to.

Capitalism is being shown, perhaps more now than in any moment in living memory, to be completely unable and unwilling to protect even the most fundamental aspects of life, for most people.

-Are you aware of any initiatives to try to coordinate protests or discuss a common platform across the country? 

-I am not aware of a unified attempt to do that. Of course, it’s going on. There are discussions happening everywhere, from the protests, to online. Again, the movement for Black Lives is an attempt to do that, and a couple of years ago they issued a platform which is wide-ranging and essentially comes across as anti-capitalist. It includes things ranging from “abolish prisons” to  the need for healthcare and housing and employment.

Interestingly one of the key things that came out of Ferguson and the previous Black Lives Matter movement was a growing identification and solidarity with Palestine. Of course there’s solidarity in many directions and it’s not the only example.  The Black-Palestine connection has grown, it’s increasingly seen as critical, because of the great similarities of their oppression, and the fact that the perpetrators of that oppression are the same governments and the same system.

It reclaims a tradition that goes back at least to the 1960’s of black support for Palestine in this country coming from Malcolm X, coming from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, coming from the Black Panther Party, coming from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit, who made those connections and who insisted that that connection had to be stressed. That in turn has been reflected in Palestinian support for black uprisings in this country, particularly in regards to Ferguson and the current uprisings. There’s been strong support from Palestine. The understanding is that although this country didn’t need the Israelis to teach them brutality, racism and oppression, the ties between the American and Israeli regimes are particularly clear in things like coordination between police forces in Israel and US, the increased militarization of police in US and of course the 3.2 billion dollars a year that the US government gives to the Israeli apartheid regime every year.

So there’s the intifada in Palestine and what is essentially a domestic intifada in this country now, though it’s usually not called by that name; and there’s a growing understanding that these resistances are connected, and that the right to resist is connected.

-What do you think is the perspective for this movement to defeat the Trump government and its repressive onslaught?

-Well, that remains to be seen. I’ve lived through the last six decades and have seen many movements rise and fall. Under repression and also internal divisions and the combination of the two. I don’t pretend to know where things are going to go. I do take heart from the tremendous resistance that’s going on. The fact that the police and the military are not able to put this back in the bottle, at least so far. If anything it’s causing some cracks in the ruling class’s rhetoric and that shows the power of the movement. I believe the key is to build alliances across all sections of the oppressed, of the working class.

Unions in this country are very weak, not just in their numbers but in the politics of their leadership. Although some unions have issued statements against the murder of George Floyd and against broader institutional racism and violence, you don’t see the unions as institutions or their leaders in the front of this. To the extent that they have been visible, they have not articulated radical visions of what needs to be done.

Union members are out on the streets, just by virtue of the sheer number of people out resisting. But not the unions as institutions and this will not happen from the top, it has to happen from below just like everything else. Because union leaderships are compromised.

One of the issues that comes up is the unions relationship to police unions. Police unions are among the most racist institutions in this country. The debate of whether police are simply workers and should be unionized versus those of us who feel that police are not workers, police are simply agents of the ruling class. They’ve always been that and they have their roots in the slave patrols of the 19th century and are inherently racist and violent towards the population. Nonetheless within the AFL-CIO, the main union in our country, there are unionized police officers who have been allowed to be a part of the labor movement, even if just in name. That has to end.

Police do not belong in labor. Police are not workers. They are an inherently oppressive institution. Unions need to make that clear. I think that that’s one of the demands that union members who are involved in these protests will be bringing to their unions.

-Do you see any debates regarding advancing towards independent organizations of the working class, outside the traditional bipartisan system?

-I haven’t seen much organized discussion about that. Discussion on trying to set up a Labor Party again or whatever you want to call it. An independent third party of the working class and the oppressed.

One of the big debates will be how to respond to the neoliberal leadership of the Democratic Party’s attempt to coopt the movement into the Biden campaign. Biden who on the one hand is saying he opposes the murder of George Floyd and on the other suggests police should be shooting people in the legs. Exactly what Israeli police do to cripple Palestinians protestors in Gaza, every day.

So, the major political question that’s going to arise is, should the movement essentially fold into the democrats’ campaign against Trump? That’s obviously what Biden and Hillary Clinton and so on are trying to do.

Hillary Clinton issued a great tweet the other day. “Trump has called on troops to repress peaceful protests in this country for a photo op.” It sounded great. But it ended with “Vote”.  For Biden, obviously. Last night Barack Obama was on TV and sent a similar message. These are all people who have reserved their greatest criticisms for the left, for black youths, for the Black Lives Matter movement for “not being willing to work within the system”.

There’s nothing new about these debates. This goes back in this country to the 1930’s and earlier. What relationship should mass movements have to the Democratic Party. There will be different views in the mass movement about that. There will be some who are susceptible to those arguments, who will think that it’s great that they are coming out and saying this. And I think it’s great because they’re being forced to come out and say these things in support of Black Lives.

However, it’s a two-edged sword, because they will attempt to demobilize the movement into voting. And whether people vote or not is less important than whether they demobilize the movement. Clearly some people are going to vote as a protest for anyone who is going against Trump. That’s sort of inevitable. But the real question is if the movement can give rise to new institutions, anti-capitalist institutions, independent and opposed to the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party.

I don’t see a lot of that being discussed in the protests right now. But the demands that the movement is giving rise to clearly are going to clash what the neoliberal Democratic Party wants to do. Cornell West has been talking a lot about this in his interviews about the rebellion. About the attempts by the neoliberal Democrats to coopt and demobilize the movement. That’s the discussion going forward.  

Urgent Call on the AFL-CIO: Reverse Support for the Dakota Access Pipeline

[To sign the statement below, please click here, including your trade trade union and/or other affiliation in the comment box]


Urgent Call on the AFL-CIO: Reverse Support for the Dakota Access Pipeline
Labor for Palestine, September 17, 2016

As trade unionists and social justice activists, we urgently call on the AFL-CIO to reverse its disgraceful support for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

DAPL continues more than 500 years of settler-colonialism, dispossession, and genocide against indigenous people in the Americas, who are defending the Earth’s vital resources against the same corporate greed, state violence, and repression that violate workers’ rights on a daily basis.

Like the Black and Brown Lives, Immigrant Rights, Palestinian, and other freedom struggles, the courageous Sioux resistance at Standing Rock has become a worldwide beacon for all who fight injustice.

In solidarity, numerous trade union bodies — including the Amalgamated Transit UnionCalifornia Faculty AssociationCommunications Workers of AmericaIndustrial Workers of the WorldIWW Environmental Unionism CaucusNational Nurses UnitedNew York State Nurses AssociationNational Writers Union/UAW Local 1981United Electrical WorkersSEIU 503 OPEUBorder Agricultural Workers; and the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work — #StandWithStandingRock.

Workers’ rights are inseparable from indigenous rights. We need decent union jobs that protect, rather than destroy, the Earth — there are no jobs on a dead planet.

An injury to one is an injury to all: #NoDAPL!


Labor for Palestine Co-Conveners:

Suzanne Adely, U.S.-MENA Global Labor Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW

Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired)

Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union Local 100, NYC (retired)


See also:

From Standing Rock to Occupied Jerusalem: We Resist Desecration of our Burial Sites and Colonizing our Indigenous Lands (Palestinian BDS National Committee, September 9, 2016)

Open Letter from U.S. Trade Unionists to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Boycott Apartheid Israel (Labor for Palestine, December 4, 2009)




This petition will be delivered to:

  • AFL-CIO President
    Richard Trumka

Michael Letwin, Is Israel an Apartheid State? (Socialism Conference 2009)

Is Israel an Apartheid State? 
Dennis Brutus, Michael Letwin and Toufic Haddad
Socialism Conference
Chicago, June 19, 2009

Presentation of Michael Letwin:


By way of introduction, I became a radical activist in the late 1960s. From 1971-1976 was a leader of Red Tide, a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and later youth organization of the International Socialists. In 1977, I was a founding member of the ISO. From 1978-1981 I was a student and antiwar activist at UMB. Since 1985, I have been a public defender in Brooklyn. From 1990-2002, I was President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325. I am a co-convener of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) and a founding member of Labor for Palestine.

And during those forty years and more, I have been a supporter of the Palestinian national movement.

Changing Mood

The last six months have seen a remarkable shift in popular perceptions of Palestine. Following September 11, 2001, the U.S. government, the Israeli regime and the media were more successful than ever before in portraying Palestinian resistance as “terrorism.” At home, the Zionist Lobby had a relatively free hand in witch-hunting those who spoke out against Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

This lockstep picture first began to crack in July 2006, when Israel slaughtered thousands of people in Lebanon. But it was the Israeli massacres in Gaza, which began on December 27, 2008, that marked the greatest change. Despite the usual media disinformation, many were appalled at the high-tech slaughter of more than 1400 people — hundreds of them children; the thousands of maimed and wounded; and the utter devastation of Gaza’s infrastructure. Several writers have identified Gaza as the Palestinian Sharpeville.

In this country, the Arab-Muslim community responded to the Gaza massacre with the largest protests since the massive March 20, 2002 DC protest against the Israeli slaughter in Jenin. In New York City, for example, the Break the Siege on Gaza Coalition, led by Al Awda NY, organized several demonstrations in which thousands of people participated. Similar action was held in several other cities.

Perhaps more than ever before, the Zionist regime emerged from the Gaza Ghetto Massacre with, in its words, a serious “PR problem.” Indeed, during the massacre, “Sixty Minutes” broadcast a chilling report on Israeli settlers that ended by warning of the imminent demise of the “two-state solution.” Since the massacre, polls in the U.S. show that favorable opinion of Israel dropped, even among Jews.

One consequence of this post-Gaza “problem” for Zionism is renewed momentum behind the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In February, dockers in South Africa and Western Australia refused to handle Israeli cargo. In March, students in the UK occupying more than twenty universities demanded aid to students in Gaza and/or divestment from Israel; they were soon emulated by U.S. students at RIT, Hampshire and NYU. Numerous BDS activities too place elsewhere.

Conversely, efforts to break the Israeli siege of Gaza have escalated. These include Viva Palestina, a series of aid convoys led by British MP George Galloway. On July 4, the first Viva Palestina US convoy will depart NYC with the goal of delivering $10 million in medicine to Gaza.

The extent of these developments should not be overstated. The response of “mainstream” antiwar formations, such as United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and US Labor Against the War (USLAW), was tepid, at best. The Zionist lobby is still witch-hunting academics such as William Robinson at UCSB. Yet, there are clearly greater opportunities for opponents of Israeli apartheid. This changing climate make it necessary for Palestine activists to wrestle with a variety of longstanding political issues, several of which I would like to address here.

Ultimate Goals: Two States, One State, and Binationalism

Israel’s blatant brutality, combined with the resilience of Palestinian resistance — much of it nonviolent — together with the need to rebrand increasingly unpopular U.S./Israeli wars and occupation throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, explains why Barack Obama felt it necessary to make a June 2009 speech in Cairo, the tone of which seemed to go further than prior U.S. pronouncements in recognizing Palestinian grievances. Specifically, he called for limiting Israeli settlements in the West Bank and establishing a Palestinian state — the “two-state solution.”

Of course, Obama’s speech overflowed with absurdity and hypocrisy: the assertion that the Nazi holocaust in Europe somehow excuses ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians; the pretense of U.S. “evenhandedness,” when, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is U.S. aircraft, white phosphorous, bombs and bullets that kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers; omission of the fact that Israel receives this support in consideration of its role as outpost and watchdog for U.S. domination of the Middle East; preaching nonviolence to an oppressed people when, as Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, “the world’s greatest purveyor of violence is my own government”;  claiming to support “democracy,” while backing the corrupt, unelected Quisling regime in Vichy Palestine and refusing to recognize the democratically-elected Hamas government in Gaza; and the obvious fact that the U.S. could end the settlements tomorrow by just threatening to cut-off U.S. aid to Israel.

But even leftwing commentators often ignore the most fundamental problem with Obama’s pronouncements on Palestine: that, even if implemented, two-states would not — and could not — achieve justice for Palestinians as a whole, or for even any branch: those in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” those in ’48 Palestine (“Israel” within the Green Line), or those in Diaspora.

While the BDS movement does not take an explicit position on how many states should exist in historic Palestine, the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of July 9, 2005 articulates the minimum terms for “the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination,” including:

1. Ending [the Israeli] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

First and most obviously, implantation of half a million Zionist settlers has undermined any prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Second, even if the settlers were uprooted, any “Palestinian state” would be a non-contiguous Bantustan consisting, at most, of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Under any scenario, this would remain a defenseless Vichy Palestine, ruled by the Quisling Palestinian Authority.

Third, maintaining 78% of historic Palestine as a “Jewish state” would be possible only if Palestinians — who already make up 20% of the population in 1948 Palestine (AKA “Israel”) — accept permanent inequality and/or expulsion. To survive on the basis of such ongoing ethnic cleansing and apartheid, the “Jewish state” would, by necessity, remain a highly-militarized outpost and watchdog for U.S. imperialism.

Fourth, recognition of a “Jewish state” means surrender of the Palestinian Right to Return to areas within 1948 Palestine, in which 70% of the Palestinian population was ethnically cleansed during and since the Nakba. For example, where did Gazans come from, why did they leave, and why can’ t they return?

This ugly reality is only confirmed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech of June 15, which lays out Zionist terms for a “Palestinian state.” But it is no less true of Obama’s “two-state” vision.

In other words, continued existence of any “Jewish state” in Palestine would only further institutionalize and perpetuate ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinians. It is inherently inconsistent with Palestinian national self-determination and democratic rights.

It is for these reasons that a growing number of both Palestinian activists and Jewish anti-Zionists have embraced the call for one secular democratic state throughout historic Palestine. For only such a state offers true self-determination for Palestinians: an end to military occupation, the right of return, and equal rights.

The OSS should not be confused with a “binational” state, an anti-democratic concept first formulated in the 1930s by “left wing” Zionists of the Hashomer Hatzair, and apparently advocated by Israeli Marxist Moshe Machover. In this context, binationalism would mean that, regardless relative population size, Jews *as a group* would have equal weight to the indigenous Palestinian population, and the right to a separate, apartheid state. This, in turn, is based on the false premise that all Jews, like all Palestinians, constitute a distinct oppressed “people” or “nation.”

Whatever legitimacy the idea of Jews as an oppressed nationality might or might not have had in Eastern Europe prior to the Nazi Holocaust, it is clearly inapplicable elsewhere. As recently documented by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, there is no evidence for the existence of a Jewish “nation” expelled from ancient Palestine. The myth of Jewish “peoplehood” was born in the late 19th century to justify the Zionist colonization of Palestine. And since that time, the relationship of most Jews to Palestine is not as the oppressed, but as oppressors in a colonial settler-state. Thus, Jewish and Palestinian workers in historic Palestine share no more of a common class interest than did white and Black workers during South African apartheid.

Thus, while the Palestinian national movement has long agreed to one democratic state with minority rights, it has always rejected a “binational” state as anti-democratic, just as Black South Africans never agreed to national self-determination and separation for the Boers. For the same reasons, Jews living in other countries have no special right to settle in Palestine.

In light of the BDS campaign’s goals, and the speeches by Obama and Netanyahu, “two states” will become increasingly discredited as another front for apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Its main Palestinian proponent, the Abbas regime, has already been largely exposed as a US/Israeli puppet. And notwithstanding continued support for two states from Noam Chomsky and others, one-state is increasingly the default position amongst Jewish leftists.

Answering those (like Chomsky or Avneri) who argue that one state is “unrealistic” because Jewish Israelis “will never agree,” journalist Jonathan Cook rightly points out that the Zionist state will never “agree” to any type of “solution.” It is also important to remember that the fall of South African apartheid only looked inevitable in hindsight. Our job is to support those Palestinians who are unwilling to accept anything less than justice.

Labor and the BDS Movement

Since 1920s, labor officialdom has been a key supporter of Zionism. But labor also has the potential to play a very different role. In the wake of Gaza, BDS has been reaffirmed or newly endorsed by numerous labor bodies, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), UNISON (UK), Transport and General Workers’ Union (UK), Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, six Norwegian trade unions, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Intersindical Alternativa de Catallunya. The strongest response was made by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union in Durban, and the Western Australia Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, both of which refused to handle Israeli cargo.

This has generated a Labor-Zionist backlash from Stuart Appelbaum, who heads the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC).

The JLC smears BDS supporters with accusations of “anti-Semitism,” just as the Israel Lobby routinely attacks Archbishop Desmond Tutu and numerous other critics of Israeli apartheid — many of whom are Jewish.

This is standard JLC operating procedure. For decades, it has served as “progressive” mouthpiece for the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation that has spearheaded — and whitewashed — apartheid, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians since the 1920s. Meanwhile, U.S. labor leaders have plowed at least $5 billion of our union pension funds and retirement plans into State of Israel Bonds.

In 2007, Appelbaum and the JLC recruited top AFL-CIO and Change to Win officials to sign a statement condemning British unions for supporting the BDS campaign. Now, to deflect international outrage over Gaza, they have launched “Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP),” a benign-sounding name for a project whose sole purpose is to target labor BDS supporters.

Their shameful complicity with Israeli apartheid echoes “AFL-CIA” support for U.S. war and dictatorship in Vietnam, Latin America, Gulf War I, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Palestine and the Antiwar Movement

In January 2004, Arab-Muslim activists issued an open letter demanding full inclusion of the Palestinian struggle — including the right to return — in the antiwar movement. Palestine has been taken seriously by ANSWER, the Campus Antiwar Network, the Troops Out Now Coalition, and others. But much of the antiwar movement, including UFPJ and USLAW, remain relatively deliberately clueless about Palestine.

Under pressure from the Arab-Muslim community and parts of the left, UFPJ has finally felt compelled to say something about Palestine, an example of which was its June 10, 2007 event in D.C. But it the issue completely segregated its opposition to the Iraq war, and was virtually MIA during the Gaza massacres. It defines the “Israeli occupation” solely in terms of the 1967 occupation, while ignoring the overall Zionist occupation of Palestine launched by the Nakba and creation of the Israeli apartheid state in 1948.

In contrast, it is critical for the antiwar movement to build strong relationships with the grassroots Arab-Muslim community, including GUPS, Palestine Popular Conference, and Awda-NY.