- Testimonies of the popular rebellion in USA; interview with Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine New York (La Prensa Obrera, Argentina, June 7, 2020) June 11, 2020
- Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign webinar on Uniformed Killers with Shahd Abusalama and Michael Letwin May 29, 2020
- “Between the rock of the occupation, and the hammer of coronavirus” April 24, 2020
- Labor for Palestine Statement at NYC May Day 2019 May 1, 2019
- 30+ NYU Student Groups Pledge Non-cooperation with NYU Tel Aviv (Mondoweiss) October 23, 2018
- Letter to the University of Michigan President Regarding John Cheney-Lippold (AAUP) October 16, 2018
- AAUP, AFT, Rutgers Faculty Union Oppose DOE Investigation October 12, 2018
- UK Labour Party must reject biased antisemitism definition that stifles advocacy for Palestinian rights (Palestinian Unions) August 28, 2018
- Who Built Zion? Palestinian Labor and the Case for Political Rights (New Labor Forum) August 1, 2018
- A Call to Action from Gaza: Cover your city with posters of the Great March of Return heroes June 25, 2018
- Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (Vancouver & District Labour Council) June 19, 2018
- GEO Calls for AFT/IFT Solidarity with Palestine June 19, 2018
- Extremist targets two members at Brooklyn (The Clarion, PSC-CUNY) November 1, 2017
- CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS ENDORSES “PEACE IN PALESTINE” CAMPAIGN (CJPME) October 5, 2017
- Canadian teacher Nadia Shoufani defeats silencing campaign against her advocacy for Palestinian freedom (Samidoun) September 13, 2017
- The Arab American radicals who paved way for BDS (Electronic Intifada) September 5, 2017
- Stop Fascism & White Supremacy: National Day of Action in Solidarity with Berkeley August 27, 2017
- White Supremacist Rally in San Francisco Canceled at Last Minute by Smorgasbord of Counter-Protests and Anti-Hate Rallies August 25, 2017
- Unifor Canadian Council passes BDS motion at Winnipeg convention August 18, 2017
- Updated: 100 Groups Call on Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act August 9, 2017
- Why the Democratic Socialists of America Vote for BDS Is a Turning Point in American Left Politics (Alternet) August 9, 2017
- DSA BDS Resolution August 6, 2017
- Will Labor Stand for More Limits to Boycott Rights? | Stanley Heller July 31, 2017
- Sally Howell, Southend Struggles: Converging Narratives of an Arab/Muslim American Enclave July 24, 2017
- Israel’s other “demographic threat” (Electronic Intifada) July 18, 2017
- Socialist Zionism Panel at Socialism 2017 Conference July 7, 2017
- Investigate groups with “Jewish-sounding” names, says Nevada lawmaker (Electronic Intifada) June 29, 2017
- Video: Checkpoint 300 (Electronic Intifada) June 8, 2017
- Self-organization in the 2016 Palestinian Teachers Strike (New Politics) June 1, 2017
- Black4Palestine was proud to sign Labor for Palestine’s petition May 29, 2017
- UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism (Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP) May 29, 2017
- Victory! We salute the striking Palestinian prisoners (Labor for Palestine) May 28, 2017
- Palestinian Workers Campaign for Social Justice (MERIP) May 27, 2017
- New Brazilian campaign brings together mass movements, labor organizations to support Palestinian prisoners (Samidoun) May 26, 2017
- An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine) May 21, 2017
- Defying leaders, Norway trade unionists endorse Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada) May 18, 2017
- Canadian Labour Congress resolution of support for prisoners’ strike joins growing labor solidarity for Palestinian freedom (Samidoun) May 14, 2017
- Norway’s Largest Trade Union Federation Endorses Full Boycott of Israel to Advance Palestinian Human Rights (BNC) May 12, 2017
- UK teachers’ union now “HP free zone” due to Israel ties (Electronic Intifada) May 10, 2017
- European trade unions statement in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers May 5, 2017
- May Day Speech NYC May 1, 2017
- May Day: Palestinian trade unions call for intensifying BDS April 28, 2017
- The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine March 25, 2017
- LIVESTREAM: From PALESTINE to MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS have got to go! March 22, 2017
- ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!” March 22, 2017
- Labor and Women’s Rights Movement Plan Ambitious Mass Protests to Fight Trumpism (Alternet) March 3, 2017
- Labor for Palestine Bulletin: Important Events Thurs., Feb. 2 February 1, 2017
- Are US labor unions finally speaking out on Palestine? (Electronic Intifada) January 19, 2017
- SAN FRANCISCO LABOR COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON HATE FLIERS AT SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY (SF Labor Council) December 13, 2016
- European Trade Union Initiative for Justice in Palestine December 5, 2016
- Irish Trade Union Open Letter to German Union in Support of Teacher Christoph Glanz November 9, 2016
- Labor for Standing Rock Pamphlet October 26, 2016
- Support Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi From Zionist Attacks October 16, 2016
- Labor for Palestine endorses Oct. 29-30 Labor for Standing Rock mobilization October 14, 2016
- Resolution on the Freedom of Speech and Assembly for All Faculty, Staff and Students at the City University of New York (PSC-CUNY) October 13, 2016
- Please sign: We Stand With Palestinian Rights Activist Christoph Glanz Against Zionist Witch-Hunt October 13, 2016
- Urgent Call on the AFL-CIO: Reverse Support for the Dakota Access Pipeline September 17, 2016
- NLRB Upholds Union’s Right To Endorse BDS Against Israel (In These Times) July 27, 2016
- US labor board affirms union’s right to boycott Israel (Electronic Intifada) July 25, 2016
- NLRB Confirms Legality of Union Support for Boycott of Israel; Union Condemns Political Attacks on BDS (UE) July 22, 2016
- Friday in NYC — Imprisoned Resistance: Politics of Incarceration in Palestine & the U.S. July 12, 2016
- 5 WAYS to support Palestinian Liberation within the Bay Area July 8, 2016
- LFP Bulletin: Labor for Palestine Testifies at NY Transit Board Against Cuomo’s Anti-BDS Blacklist — and more July 3, 2016
- Les luttes de la classe ouvrière palestinienne et le mouvement mondial de solidarité pour la Palestine July 2, 2016
- Labor for Palestine: Against Apartheid, For International Solidarity (Western Mass Labor for Palestine brochure) June 29, 2016
- Emad Khalil’s story as a Gazan worker in Israel (Mondoweiss) June 23, 2016
- Intersecting Picket Lines: Free Speech, Palestine, and the CUNY Contract (Viewpoint Magazine) June 23, 2016
- Labor for Palestine Opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s Anti-BDS Blacklist, NY MTA Board Meeting June 22, 2016
- 21 Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons (Electronic Intifada) June 20, 2016
- About Labor for Palestine June 5, 2016
- UK academic union of over 100,000 members urges freedom for Imad Barghouthi, defense of Palestinians under attack (Samidoun) June 5, 2016
- LFP Bulletin: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution May 27, 2016
- Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification May 26, 2016
- Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada) May 26, 2016
- Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’ How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post) May 25, 2016
- Union officials suppress member support for BDS (Palestine Legal) May 25, 2016
- UW-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board Defends Union’s Democratic Process (TAA/AFT Local 3220) May 25, 2016
- Poster: Salute to the UW-Madison graduate student workers of TAA/AFT Local 3220 for respecting the BDS picket line for Palestinian Rights! May 21, 2016
- EXTRA! EXTRA! Madison Grad Students Are First AFT Local to Adopt BDS! — and more from Labor for Palestine May 19, 2016
- 354 European human rights organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties call on the EU to support their right to boycott (Mondoweiss) May 19, 2016
- Gaza laborers suffer few rights, little pay (Electronic Intifada) May 19, 2016
- UW-Madison Union of Graduate Student Workers (TAA) Endorses BDS Movement (TAA/AFT Local 3220) May 19, 2016
- Resolution: Standing in Solidarity with the Palestinian Civil Society and Joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (TAA/AFT Local 3220) May 18, 2016
- Palestinian labour movement welcomes Fuecys union in Uruguay support for Israel boycott (Palestinian Trade Unions) May 17, 2016
- UK unions urge G4S to end Israel occupation role now (Electronic Intifada) May 17, 2016
- Urgent Action: Sign appeal to the UN about Israel’s war of repression on BDS — and other news from Labor for Palestine May 17, 2016
- May 21, 2016: Labor for Palestine at the NYC Left Forum: Building the BDS Picket Line Against Racism, Zionism, and Injustice May 17, 2016
- FSJP-UMB Supports UMA Union’s Boycott Resolution May 16, 2016
- New Yorkers march for justice and liberation for workers in Palestine and around the world (Samidoun) May 5, 2016
- Response to President Hamilton, NYU (GSOC Members for BDS) May 3, 2016
- UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism May 2, 2016
- May 1 message by the New Unions (PFNTU) May 1, 2016
- Two Posters Salute graduate employee members of UAW 2110, 2322, and 2865 for respecting the BDS picket line April 30, 2016
- May Day 2016: Work under colonialism and the politics of solidarity in Palestine & USA April 27, 2016
- Letter: Resolution affirms human rights (Daily Collegian) April 27, 2016
- NYU grad workers vote yes on BDS (Socialist Worker) April 26, 2016
- Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS! April 26, 2016
- National Wave of Labor Support for Justice for Palestinians as Unions Vote to Divest from Israeli Apartheid: GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment (GSOC-UAW 2110, GEO-UAW 2322, UAW 2865) April 25, 2016
- Attempts to Stifle BDS Support Within UAW Local Backfires (Shadow Proof) April 24, 2016
- Election and Referendum Results (GSOC-UAW 2110) April 22, 2016
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Category Archives: LFP Statements
Poster: Salute to the UW-Madison graduate student workers of TAA/AFT Local 3220 for respecting the BDS picket line for Palestinian Rights!
Two Posters Salute graduate employee members of UAW 2110, 2322, and 2865 for respecting the BDS picket line
Joint Statement GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment
This past week the NYU Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), both representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. . . . In December 2014, the 14,000 student-worker union at the University of California (UAW Local 2865) system passed a similar resolution supporting BDS with 65% in favor.
Context: America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)
Following a well-attended panel hosted by Western Mass Labor for Palestine at the April 16 Jobs With Justice Conference in Springfield, MA, author Vijay Prashad extensively reviews the rise of Labor for Palestine and U.S. trade union support for BDS. Panelists included Prashad, LFP Co-Conveners Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin, Carol Lambiase (United Electrical Workers), Bill Shortell (International Association of Machinists), and was moderated by WMLFP members Jordy Rosenberg and Ruth Jennison. Prashad’s article concludes by quoting Adely: “Ultimately, building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”
Labor to Palestine: We Stand with Palestine in the Spirit of “Sumud”: The U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
On April 16, the nineteen-member March 2016 delegation to Palestine, which included LFP Co-convener Jaime Veve and several other trade unionists, issued a powerful report stating, in part: “We join hands with our comrades in the Palestinian labor movement and salute the struggle of striking teachers, labor organizers and workers demanding economic justice, independence and national self-determination from colonial structures. We further pledge to campaign in the ranks of U.S. labor to divest from Israeli bonds and sever ties between the AFL-CIO and the Histadrut.” To host a local event with delegation members, contact email@example.com
Labor in Palestine: Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law (IMEMC)
Thousands of Palestinians, on Tuesday, demonstrated outside of a government building, in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, against the Palestinian Authority’s approval of a new law many believe fails to provide adequate protection for workers. . . . Weeks earlier, a teachers’ strike brought the largest public demonstrations against the PA in years.
Analysis: Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’
In a new article, British BDS activists Peter Waterman discusses the hypocrisy of Zionist anti-BDS spokesperson Eric Lee, owner of the widely-read website, LabourStart.
Download: New Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.
Building a Labor Movement Against Apartheid: Union Solidarity with Palestine
A workshop at the Jobs With Justice Annual Conference, April 16, 2016
Springfield, MA Trinity United Methodist Church
Presentation by Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine
Many thanks to Jobs with Justice and Western Mass Labor for Palestine for hosting this panel, and a special shout-out to GEO-UAW 2322, which adopted a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution this week by a margin of 95%-5%. You are at the cutting edge of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, and it is an honor to be with you today.
We are often asked, “Why Palestine?” Because colonialism in Palestine is at the heart of U.S. imperial project, and for more than a century, Palestinians have resisted. This has broad implications: Israel has been at the forefront of U.S. wars throughout the region and beyond. Conversely, without Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring there would have been no Occupy Wall Street – without Palestinian Intifada, there would have been no Tahrir and Arab Spring. This is a perfect example of “intersectionality.”
This nexus has its origins in the Nakba (Catastrophe) of Nakba of 1947-1949, when Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestine by massacring the indigenous population in places like Deir Yassin, erasing 531 towns and village, emptying 11 urban neighborhoods, and expelling more than 750,000 (85 percent) of the Palestinians from 78 percent of their country.
Today, at least 70 percent of 10 million Palestinians remain refugees – the largest such population in the world. Despite other UN resolutions, Israel vows that it will never allow them to return.
In Gaza today, Palestinian workers and the families are being killed and maimed by naval vessels, jet fighters, Apache helicopters, white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the U.S. and its allies. In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid to Israel was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be another $30 billion.
As in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Syria, both Democratic and Republican politicians condone the slaughter to ensure Israel’s role as watchdog for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East. It is the same system of police violence, racism, injustice, neoliberal capitalism that we face in this country.
Because Israeli apartheid is systemic, so is the BDS movement, which – like the movement against apartheid South Africa — includes an academic and cultural boycott. It demands full Palestinian rights and self-determination not only in 1967 Occupied Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem), but also in 1948 Occupied Palestine (“Israel”): (1) An end to Israeli military occupation of 1967 areas; (2) The right of Palestinian refugees to return; (3) Elimination of apartheid throughout historic Palestine.
In other words, BDS applies not only to companies in the 1967 settlements, but from all institutions complicit with the entire regime of oppression of Palestine. Thus, BDS is inherently anti-Zionist, because these demands are incompatible with a “Jewish state” in Palestine, just as humanity and democratic rights could not co-exist with a “white Afrikaner state” in South Africa, or a “white Christian state” in the U.S.
Moreover, BDS is a picket line. Trade unionists believe that “an injury to one is an injury to all,” or as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” That kind of solidarity is what it takes to makes labor a fighting, effective movement. And like all solidarity, supporting BDS is a matter of our common class interest, because:
1. Amidst deepening economic crisis, workers in this country pay a staggering human and financial price for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation throughout the region.
2. Without the knowledge or approval of union members, top labor officials, organized by JLC, have invested some $5 billion of our money in State of Israel Bonds, as exposed by Stan Heller’s “Dump Israel Bonds” campaign. Meanwhile, they have also encouraged the U.S. to provide the money and weapons that kill Palestinian workers. This reflects a toxic mixture of racism and undemocratic business unionism.
3. Standing against injustice anywhere energizes and empowers unions to win immediate demands.
That is why there has been resistance in the past, as Suzanne Adely will discuss. That’s why Labor for Palestine was co-founded twelve years ago by NYCLAW and Al Awda New York to reclaim this tradition. From the beginning, LFP has called for:
• The U.S. and other governments to end all aid to Israel.
• Workers to emulate dockers in South Africa, India, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, the U.S. west coast, and elsewhere, by refusing to handle military or any other cargo destined for Israel.
• Labor bodies to divest from Israel Bonds, and cut ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation.
In just the past two years, as relentless Israeli brutality has energized the BDS movement, this edifice of Labor Zionism has begun to crack.
In July 2014, hundreds of trade unionists signed LFP’s statement Stop the War on Gaza: No Arms for Apartheid Israel — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
On December 4, 2014, 13,000 graduate student members of UAW 2865 across the University of California overwhelmingly became the first major U.S. union body to endorse BDS. This was no accident: it was built on the work of Students for Justice in Palestine, and the national reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union.
Meanwhile, starting in August 2014, members of ILWU Local 10 in Oakland repeatedly refused to unload Israeli Zim Line ships. This too was no accident: it reflected a campaign by communities of color, and workers of color with a long history of blockading injustice, including apartheid South Africa in 1984 and Israel in 2010.
As Block the Boat put it: “Do not stand in solidarity with Palestine simply to stand in solidarity with Palestine. Stand in solidarity with Palestine to bring down state violence everywhere.” These same connections are reflected in projects like Black for Palestine.
In 2015, BDS resolutions were also adopted by the United Electrical Workers and Connecticut AFL-CIO. This month, for the first time, Palestine was a major topic at Labor Notes in Chicago. Despite (or even because of) the International UAW’s “nullification” of UAW 2865 resolution, similar BDS resolutions are being adopted by GEO-UAW 2322 at UMass-Amherst and GSOC-UAW 2110 at NYU.
What can you do?
• Join Western Mass Labor for Palestine – our first local chapter – and bring a BDS resolution in your own labor body.
• Access our website, newsletter, and other materials.
• Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for support to organize LFP meetings, chapters, resolutions, and/or other events in your local area.
On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, Anti-Prison, Labor, Academic Delegation Takes Stand against Israeli State Violence, Affirms Solidarity with Palestinian People (Samidoun)
Recently returned from a ten-day trip to the Israeli-colonized Palestine, a US delegation of anti-prison, labor, and scholar-activists has issued the following statement to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day 2016. The delegation included three former US-held political prisoners, and a formerly incarcerated activist, two former Black Panther Party members, university professors, prison abolition organizers, and trade unionists. This was the first US delegation to Palestine to focus specifically on political imprisonment and solidarity between Palestinian and US prisoners. The delegation also paid special attention to the recent labor organizing in the West Bank and the efforts of Palestinian scholars and activists to reclaim the history, political identity and culture of the Palestinian people.
In recognition of International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners, the US Anti-Prison, Labor, and Academic Delegation is demanding freedom for the 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners currently held in Israeli jails and all those fighting for justice everywhere, including political prisoners in U.S. prisons.
Reflecting information, analysis, and testimony gathered from meetings with close to 100 Palestinian activists, advocates, organizers, and former political prisoners from many social justice, human rights, labor, education, and political organizations and institutions, the US delegation’s statement concluded:
We feel an urgent sense of responsibility to pressure the United States to stop funding Israeli crimes against humanity. We express our support for the struggle for a free Palestine as a central struggle in the worldwide movement against U.S. imperialism. We are committed to employing a variety of tactics in solidarity with Palestine, including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and we condemn Israeli and Zionist attacks against advocates for justice for/in Palestine in our communities and on our campuses. We connect prisoner and labor movements across the borders; and apply the spirit of sumud to all our struggles for liberation within the United States.
Photo: Delegation Images/Freedom Archives. US Prisoner, Labor and Academic Delegation with colleagues from the Institute for Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, Birzeit, Palestine, March 29, 2016. To contact the delegation: palestine.prison.delegation16@
Full statement follows:
We Stand with Palestine in the Spirit of “Sumud”
The U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
March 24 to April 2, 2016
At a moment of growing resistance to state violence and injustice the world over, a delegation of nineteen anti-prison, labor and scholar-activists from the United States traveled to Palestine in March 2016. Our delegation included former U.S.-held political prisoners and social prisoners, former Black Panther Party members, prison abolitionists, trade unionists and university professors. We are the first U.S. delegation to Palestine to focus specifically on political imprisonment and solidarity between Palestinian and U.S. prisoners. Our delegation also focused on recent labor struggles in Palestine for bread and dignity, and on the struggles of Palestinian intellectuals to assert the rightful claims of Indigenous Palestinians to their land, culture and history.
On this April 17, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners, we demand freedom for the 7,000 Palestinian political prisonerscurrently held in Israeli jails and all those fighting for justice everywhere, including political prisoners in U.S. prisons.
During our ten-day trip, we heard from diverse groups of Palestinians who daily resist summary executions, mass imprisonment, land confiscation, house demolitions, restrictions to water access and restriction of movement. In the face of Israel’s system of racialized terror, Palestinians uphold their commitment to “sumud.” This Arabic word has historical ties to the Palestinian anti-colonial liberation movement and is defined as “steadfastness,” or standing one’s ground with dignity—a form of resistance. We saw this resistance, and were inspired by it, over and over during our visit.
Having witnessed sumud firsthand, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle and with the liberation of Palestine, including the right to return, the rights of self-determination, justice and peace. We condemn the shocking and continuing human rights violations carried out with impunity by Israel with the full strategic support of the U.S. government. We stand with the growing worldwide movement forBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. We learned from the Palestinian movement that steadfastness is not only possible but necessary, especially under the most oppressive conditions.
Our travels took us to lands colonized by Israel in 1948 and occupied in 1967: from Jericho and the Jordan Valley to the Naqab, Haifa, Yafa, Jerusalem and Nablus; from Ramallah and Bethlehem to Lydd and Nazareth; and from Dheisheh to Ayn Hawd. We met with dozens of former political prisoners, prisoner support organizations and human rights advocates, professors and public intellectuals, political leaders, members of Bedouin and peasant communities threatened with displacement, women leaders, organizers for gender and sexual justice, cultural workers, and trade unionists struggling for dignified work conditions.
Our hosts insisted that we examine the harrowing conditions of Palestinian life not just in the context of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, but as the consequence of the Zionist invasion and seizure of 1948. The 1948 Nakba, or “catastrophe,” displaced 85% of Palestinians from their lands to the West Bank, Gaza and nearby Arab countries of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Subjected to Israeli military rule from 1948 to 1966, Palestinians who remained were internally displaced in their own country, confined to its poorest regions, forbidden from moving freely, stripped of land rights and subjected to a brutal system of racial apartheid.
Palestinian residents in territories colonized by Israel in 1948 continue to live with many of the same forms of state terrorism that are commonly associated with the military occupation of the 1967 Palestinian territories—an Orwellian system of laws and regulations including racialized arrest, segregation, settler violence, land confiscation, forced relocation, home demolitions and civil rights violations of all kinds. We witnessed the wholesale project of Zionist colonization—the greatest threat to the life, security and human rights of the Palestinian people.
The aim of the Zionist project was—and remains—the creation of an exclusively Jewish state through the violent displacement of Palestinians and their replacement by Jewish immigrants. After 1948, Jews who had been a numeric minority became the majority through the calculated process of massacres, forced expulsion, Jewish immigration from Europe and land confiscations by Zionist settlers. For these reasons, Palestinians we spoke to insisted on framing the roots of current-day problems in the historical context of Israel’s settler-colonial apartheid regime.
Time and again, Palestinians made clear the distinction between Zionism as a racist and colonial movement and Jewish people. They emphasized that a free Palestine will be a land of religious pluralism and respect of diverse spiritualities, according to the Palestinian National Charter of 1969 and the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Palestinians also stressed that historically and contemporarily there has not been a homogenous stand of Jews on Israel or Zionism. In fact, the intensification of Israeli violence and racism is leading a growing number of Holocaust survivors as well as younger Jews to invoke “never again for anyone” and “not in my name” to dissociate themselves from the Zionist state and its racist and genocidal policies.
As strongly as we were compelled to examine the shameful and brutal history of Zionist colonialism in Palestine and the harrowing conditions of Palestinian life, we were in turn compelled to learn about the continuous resistance of the Palestinian people. Time and again, people expressed their commitment to ensuring that Palestine will be free.
Israel: A Colonial Carceral State
Aware that Israel is the only country in the world that prosecutes children in military courts, our delegation observed the proceedings of three Israeli military tribunals against Palestinian youth. We witnessed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy tried as an adult and accused of running an Israeli over in a vehicle. The boy faced two life sentences in an Israeli adult prison, and was being tried with evidence presented in the form of a video reenactment, constructed from the prosecution’s theory of the act and with details likely coerced through torture, a routine practice of Israeli military prison administrators. More than 99 percent of all cases tried in the military courts end in conviction.
Legalized since 1987 by the Israeli Supreme Court as “moderate physical pressure,” Israeli torture tactics can include lengthy interrogation sessions, beatings, the tying of prisoners in “stress positions,” sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse such as threats to harm or kill prisoners’ family members. Former prisoners with whom we met recounted mock execution, torture lasting up to three months, subsequent sexual abuse, medical neglect and solitary confinement
The case of child prisoners is particularly harrowing. Human rights lawyers with whom we spoke shared the findings of international reports on the treatment by Israeli courts of Palestinian children, compared to the treatment of Israeli children. Israel’s racist double standard exempts Israeli children from prosecution as adults until the age of 18, while Palestinian children as young as 12 are tried as adults. Often charged with stone throwing, Palestinian children are subjected to lengthy sentences in adult prisons. Legal aid organizations Addameer and Defense for Children International (DCI) informed us that children are often taken from their families in the middle of the night, then handcuffed and blindfolded during their transport to torture sites, where they are denied legal representation or access to their parents for months. A former political prisoner told us that his own experience of torture behind bars was amplified when he heard, in a nearby cell, the voice of a child crying out for his mother.
For Palestinians of any age, the price of resisting the colonial apartheid order is often death. Between October 2015 and March 2016, approximately 200 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been extra-judicially murdered at the hands of Israeli military forces. We met Palestinian parents whose homes were demolished and who were levied heavy fines for their children’s alleged actions. In blatant violation of international law and human decency, the Israeli military has refused to release their children’s bodies, which they continue to hold in a state of suspension—literally frozen—for over 6 months.
A Palestinian adult we met in the old city of Hebron witnessed and video-recorded, in late March, the execution, by an Israeli military officer, of a wounded and incapacitated youth. This witness was subsequently harassed by settlers and investigated by the Israeli military while we were still in Palestine, a chilling reminder of the repeated arrests in the United States of Ramsey Orta after he recorded the 2014 strangulation of Eric Garner at the hands of the police in Staten Island, New York.
Our visit to Palestine made clear that incarceration is a central feature of the ongoing Zionist settler-colonial project. In meetings with former prisoners and legal aid organizations including Adalah, Addameer and the Arab Association for Human Rights, we learned that Palestinians face one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world: one in fivePalestinians has been imprisoned at some point in his or her life, including 40 percent of the Palestinian male population. Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned approximately 800,000 Palestinian political prisoners.
As in the United States, incarceration imposes collective punishment on communities. The families of the incarcerated in Palestine are forced to travel long journeys of up to 15 hours to visit their loved ones. At the prisons, visitors are routinely subjected to humiliating, full-body searches and sexual harassment by Israeli prison guards, a humiliation that has led some women to discontinue their visits. Once inside, relatives are allowed only a 30- to 45-minute visit: no contact, separated from the prisoner by Plexiglas walls.
In the face of repression, Palestinian prisoners have successfully employedhunger strikes to improve prison conditions and win the release of prisoners, including those held under administrative detention–prisoners held without charges, trial, or conviction.
Inspired by the Palestinian people’s respect for their political prisoners and fallen martyrs—reflected in images on public walls, in moments of silence, in daily conversations—our delegation is even more committed to making known the existence of dozens of U.S. political prisoners. Many U.S. political prisoners were given draconian sentences for their political activism in the anti-imperialist struggles and liberation movements of racially oppressed groups during the 1960s and 1970s. Dispensing with them as “criminals,” the U.S. government refuses to acknowledge the political nature of their incarceration.
Our delegation builds on the long history of solidarity between anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements in the United States and Palestine, expressed most recently in 2013 when thousands of prisoners in Pelican Bay, Guantanamo and Palestine, all on hunger strike at the time, issued solidarity statements with one another. The presence and the histories of two former Black Panther Party members on our delegation served as a constant reminder of the years of solidarity between the Black liberation movement and Palestine.
Colonial Violence and Indigenous Resistance
Israel, which presents itself to the world as a nation of laws, views civil society organizers who bring attention to its crimes as a threat. We were reminded during our visit to the offices of DCI that one of theorganization’s lead coordinators was shot and killed, execution-style, by an Israeli military sniper, as he observed a Palestinian protest against the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. We witnessed firsthand the escalating Israeli terror against the Palestinian people when we heard on the news—and discussed with the Boycott National Committee—the calls by Israeli Ministers for the “civic” assassination of BDS leaders. This is an escalation of state-sanctioned terror that includes the 2014 assault on Gaza; the burning alive of Palestinian youth Mohammad Abu Khdair at the hands of settlers; the burning alive of the Dawabsheh family in Duma Village by settlers; and the intensification of detentions, land confiscation, displacement and deportations. These conditions have driven Palestinian youth to take matters into their own hands and engage in acts of resistance, which many call a third intifada. Reacting to this resistance, Israel has used the uprisings as pretext for intensifying violence against Palestinian youth.
During our visit, we heard the same message from a cross section of organized forces: that the 1993 Oslo Accords have 1) legitimized continued state violence and re-created a colonial structure—camouflaged as a model of Palestinian autonomy; and 2) weakened the Palestinian anti-colonial liberation movement. Twenty-three years after the failure of Oslo, social, cultural and grassroots organizations, as well as representatives of a wide array of Palestinian political parties, including those of the mass institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, emphasized the need to end political divisions in order to rebuild the movement to free Palestine.
While we focused primarily on the experiences of those held in official prisons, our visits to cities in lands taken by the Zionists in both 1967 and 1948 made clear that—as in the Gaza Strip, where nearly two million people are currently held under siege—much of post-Nakba Palestine is tantamount to an open-air prison. In cities like Jerusalem (Al-Quds), Lydd and Hebron (Al-Khalil), Palestinians encounter checkpoints, omnipresent surveillance, with watchtowers on virtually every corner, a wall choking off the daily life of Palestinians, racial apartheid and vulnerability to extrajudicial execution on a daily basis. The old city of Al-Khalil is the epitome of an open-air prison. How else can one describe a situation in which children must walk through barbed wire-lined streets with soldiers training machine guns on them from watchtowers—or in which the Indigenous residents of that city have been forced to erect mesh screens over their marketplace to protect themselves from the trash, urine and feces that Zionist settlers throw at them from the windows of their stolen apartments above? We were equally mortified to see that a section of the Israeli apartheid wall has literally cut this historic Palestinian neighborhood in half. Consequently, family members in Al-Khalil are now unable to see one another without going through a military checkpoint. Severe travel restrictions and street closures have turned the formerly vibrant marketplace into a ghost town, as people are unable to travel to the market or even have access to their own homes.
Poverty, Economy and Palestinian Workers’ Rights
Settler colonialism in Palestine aims at the destruction of Palestinian life through a complex colonial network that includes refugee camps, the siege and blockade of Gaza, imprisonment and exile, and the caging of communities on all sides by the “Israeli West Bank barrier”—more realistically, the apartheid wall—that snakes 280 miles through the occupied West Bank and confiscates Palestinian residential and agricultural lands in its path. This attempt at destroying the social and economic fabric of the Indigenous population is the modus operandi of a Zionist state whose goal is to maintain a demographic Jewish majority.
The exploitation of Palestinian labor is part and parcel of the ongoing colonization project. Palestinian trade unionists detailed this exploitation to our delegation historically and contemporarily. They explained that the Histadrut—the Israeli labor federation that enjoys a fraternal relationship with the AFL-CIO—has been an integral part of the Zionist movement and the colonization of Palestine even before the creation of the state of Israel. The Histadrut exploits Palestinian workers in Israel by deducting a portion of their salaries for benefits they never receive.
Palestinian labor leaders also shared the findings of a draft report on the horrifying conditions of Palestinian women workers, including those who are employed in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and are subjected to long work hours, reduced pay, and sexual harassment at checkpoints. None of the Palestinian workers employed by Israeli businesses enjoy the protection of the Israeli labor federation or Israeli labor laws. Palestinian trade unionists called on us to wage a campaign among U.S. trade unionists to divest U.S. workers’ pension funds from Israeli bonds.
Palestinian trade unionists also told us about the devastating socio-economic conditions that have been steadily worsening since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords. Oslo legislated and legitimized the increasing dependency of the Palestinian colonized economy on the Israeli colonizing power, and has threatened any potential for the emergence of an independent Palestinian economy. The continuing blockade of Gaza and the restrictions placed on Palestinian farmers and small industries have strangled the Palestinian economy and led to the degradation of living conditions, leading to alarming levels of poverty in the 1967 occupied Palestinian areas, as well as among Palestinians in the areas seized by Israel in 1948.
Palestinian labor organizers told us about the crisis in Palestinian refugee camps produced by cuts in the services of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Cuts in UNRWA services in education and health, combined with institutionalized discrimination in healthcare, education and employment, have created shocking disparities. Life expectancy for Palestinians is, on average, 10 years lower than the Israeli rate; infant deaths are 18.8 compared to 3.7 per 1000 births; and the death of Palestinian mothers due to complications of pregnancy or labor is 28 per 100,000 births compared to 7 for Israelis. These conditions have led to widespread strikes by Palestinian employees who demand equitable pay scale and the restoration of health and education services.
Palestinian trade union leaders also expressed grave concerns over the diminishing conditions of public education in Palestinian Authority areas. They echoed the sentiments of Palestinian teachers, administrators and parents who protested the worsening work conditions for Palestinian teachers and insisted on joining local and national marches for a whole month, despite attempts by Palestinian security forces to suppress their rallies.
Trade union leaders also highlighted the apartheid conditions in Israel, where schools are segregated. The ratio of spending on education in these schools is 1:9, and Palestinian students living in Israel are forced to learn a curriculum that denies their own history and exalts the misleading history of the colonizers.
We join hands with our comrades in the Palestinian labor movement and salute the struggle of striking teachers, labor organizers and workers demanding economic justice, independence and national self-determination from colonial structures. We further pledge to campaign in the ranks of U.S. labor to divest from Israeli bonds and sever ties between the AFL-CIO and the Histadrut.
Dispossession and Struggle for Land and Return
A university professor with whom we met explained how the system of Zionist colonization is one of the most intensely territorialized systems of spatial control the world has seen. In 1948, Israel destroyed at least 531 Palestinian towns and villages, and within five years, established 370 new Jewish settlement towns, 95% of which were built on seized Palestinian land. The state of Israel now controls 93% of the land captured in 1948.
Today, eight million Palestinian refugees are forbidden from returning to their homeland. Those in the West Bank are subject to the ubiquitous system of checkpoints that severely restrict their ability to travel to work, school, mosques and churches, and to hospitals for medical treatment. Under the Absentee Property Law, Palestinians can lose their rights as homeowners for any number of reasons, including renovating or expanding their homes to accommodate a growing family. The Israeli state rarely grants Palestinians permission to build or expand homes, forcing them into “illegal” construction of houses, which are then subject to demolition orders.
In the village of Ayn Hawd, near Haifa, an elder explained how Israel confiscated the homes of the Palestinians and turned the village into a park and an artists’ colony, replaced the mosque with a restaurant, and protected the settlement of Zionists living in stolen Palestinian homes. We saw how those settlers have repeatedly trashed and destroyed the old Palestinian cemetery. There, as elsewhere, we witnessed the central role of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the ongoing destruction of Palestine.
The sight of bulldozers on top of a hill signaled the looming destruction of the village of Um El Heran in the Al-Naqab desert, a territory colonized in 1948. Um El Heran is one of 46 “unrecognized villages” that do not exist on Israeli official government maps and are therefore denied electricity, water, roads, schools and all essential services extended by the state to nearby “recognized” Israeli towns of Jewish settlers. Throughout Palestine, we observed water tanks and solar panels fastened to rooftops to compensate for Israeli restriction of water and electricity, while the homes of Jewish settlers enjoy full state-sponsored services including swimming pools.
Public Intellectuals and Anti-Colonial Cultures of Resistance
Everywhere we went in Palestine we witnessed signs of a culture of resistance. Youth activists in the Naqab told us about their use of poetry to resist Zionist attempts to uproot them from their lands. In the 1948 urban areas of Yafa, Lydd, Haifa and Nazareth we heard about oral history projects to counter the systematic program of cultural and historical erasure deployed by Israel through the outright destruction of sites and signs of Palestinian life, their replacement with invented maps and road signs, and the elimination of the word “Palestinian” from school textbooks and curricula. We also heard from grassroots organizations and activists about campaigns to defy Israel’s ban on the commemoration of the Nakba, about projects, that bring Palestinian children to the sites of their families’ destroyed villages, and about others that use oral history to pass on the collective memories of a people who refuse to submit to a settler-colonial project aimed at negating their existence on their land.
We visited the Ibdaa Arts Center in the Dheisheh refugee camp and the Popular Arts Center in El Bireh and saw, painted on interior walls, murals that defied the Israeli occupation ban on resistance art on public walls. Palestinian cultural figures told us that Israel continues to shut down theater, dance and music performances that challenge its colonial rule. We learned that, in an attempt to end the wave of protests currently engulfing Palestine, the Israeli Prime Minister demanded that the Palestinian Authority prohibit taxi drivers from playing Palestinian music on their radios.
We participated in two conferences hosted by the Institute for Women’s Studies at Birzeit University and the An-Najah National University, both co-sponsored with the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University. We shared the platform with Palestinian academics who are engaged in the daily struggles of their people and who insisted on defining the academy as a site of struggle for the dignity of all Palestinians. We compared our respective analysis of the United States and Israel as settler-colonial regimes intent on destroying Indigenous life and the Third World movements that have arisen to challenge colonialism and imperialism.
Solidarity was forged as former political prisoners in Palestine and former US-held political prisoners in our delegation discussed parallel experiences. Palestinian audiences at both conferences were moved by the messages we brought with us in a collection of letters from currently incarcerated U.S. political prisoners—some of whom have already served 40 years and more—to their Palestinian sisters and brothers. Our colleagues at Birzeit University’s Institute for Women’s Studies translated the letters into Arabic. The solidarity was palpable during the final plenary of Birzeit’s conference, when the phone rang and we heard the voice of U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal. Mumia was calling from State Correctional Institution Mahanoy in Pennsylvania to express solidarity with and love for the people of Palestine.
We learned that Palestinian universities offer free tuition to former Palestinian prisoners and that every graduation ceremony honors Palestinian students, faculty and staff martyred or imprisoned by Israel during the academic year. In contrast, Israel has banned access to education for Palestinian prisoners, even denying some the possession of a pencil and paper.
Speaking alongside members of both campus communities who were imprisoned by the Israeli colonial state, and witnessing how Palestinian universities honor those who sacrificed their lives for their people heightened our commitment to insist that our own academic institutions resist the neoliberal university, reclaim the mission of public education, and restore the gains for which earlier generations of students—including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Black Student Unions; the Third World Liberation Front at San Francisco State University; Ocean Hill-Brownsville; the Open Admission Strike of 1969 at the City University of New York—fought. This struggle continues today on our campuses and community spaces. We also reject Israel’s and the Zionist movement’s attempts to employ McCarthyite tactics to intimidate, harass and silence advocates for justice in and outside Palestine, and activists and scholars who stand for justice on university campuses, public schools and in public life the world over.
We were asked repeatedly to bring these Palestinian stories of dispossession and steadfast resistance back to the United States. Much of what we saw in Palestine called up images of life in the United States. Like Israel, the United States is a settler colony—built on the genocide and denial of Indigenous peoples’ rights; the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans; the colonization of Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Hawaii and Guam; the exclusion of Chinese people; the incarceration of Japanese people in concentration camps; and the rising vilification and criminalization of immigrants from Latin America and of Arabs, Muslims and Mediterranean and South and Central Asian people. Like Israel, the United States suppresses resistance using the cover of law. The United States continues to engage in imperialist wars and interventions in the Third World, while 2.3 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons, young Black, Latina/o, and Indigenous people are executed and targeted while educational institutions become increasingly privatized and corporatized. The 99% are getting more impoverished while the 1% is getting richer. Significantly, the United States funds Israel to the tune of $4 billion annually and supports the distorted ideology of Zionism.
We therefore feel an urgent sense of responsibility to pressure the United States to stop funding Israeli crimes against humanity. We express our support for the struggle for a free Palestine as a central struggle in the worldwide movement against U.S. imperialism. We are committed to employing a variety of tactics in solidarity with Palestine, including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and we condemn Israeli and Zionist attacks against advocates for justice for/in Palestine in our communities and on our campuses. We connect prisoner and labor movements across the borders; and apply the spirit of sumud to all our struggles for liberation within the United States.
- Support Palestinian people’s just struggle for self-determination, return and sovereignty, and the struggle against settler colonialism in the United States, Israel and elsewhere
- Release Palestinian and all political prisoners, including those in the United States
- End all U.S. military and financial support of Israel
- Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel
- Reject the new Israeli and Zionist McCarthyism that seeks to intimidate, harass and silence advocacy for justice in Palestine
In Joint Struggle,
- Rabab Abdulhadi, author and professor, San Francisco State University*, California
- Diana Block, author and activist, California Coalition for Women Prisoners*, San Francisco, California
- Susan Chen, counselor faculty, member California Faculty Association – SFSU chapter Affirmative Action Rep, San Francisco State University*, California
- Dennis Childs, author and professor, University of California*, San Diego
- Susie Day, writer, Monthly Review Press*, New York City, New York
- Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party, 1967-1982
- Johanna Fernández, author and professor, City University of New York-Baruch College*; Organizer, Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
- Diane Fujino, author and professor, University of California*, Santa Barbara
- Alborz Ghandehari, member of BDS Caucus of UAW 2865, University of California Student-Workers Union*
- Anna Henry, activist and member, California Coalition for Women Prisoners*, San Francisco
- Rachel Herzing, independent scholar and co-founder, Critical Resistance*, Oakland, California
- Hank Jones, activist, former US-Held political prisoner and member, Black Panther Party, Los Angeles, California
- manuel la fontaine, former US-held prisoner and member, All of Us or None*, San Francisco, California
- Claude Marks, Former US-held political prisoner, Freedom Archives*, San Francisco, California
- Nathaniel Moore, archivist, Freedom Archives*, San Francisco, California
- Isaac Ontiveros, member, Critical Resistance*, Oakland, California
- Michael Ritter, counselor faculty; member CSU Academic Senate & CFA Board of Directors, San Francisco State University*, California
- Jaime Veve, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine*, New York City, New York
- Laura Whitehorn, Former US-held political prisoner, New York City, New York
*All institutional and organizational affiliations are for identification purposes only
Dear fellow trade unionist,
As reported below, trade union solidarity with Palestine continues to grow.
Labor Notes Conference
In two well-attended sessions at the 2016 Labor Notes conference in Chicago, Manawel Abdel-Al, of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, explained the condition of Palestinian workers (including the recent West Bank teachers’ strike), and his personal support for one democratic state with equal rights for all throughout historic Palestine, coupled with refugees’ full right of return.
He also discussed the need for solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This was followed by discussion of recent BDS work in North America, including Labor for Palestine (LFP) campaigns; ILWU Local 10 members’ refusal to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo; and historic BDS resolutions from UAW 2865, CNS (Quebec), United Electrical Workers, and Connecticut AFL-CIO.
LFP Delegation to Palestine
An LFP delegation has just returned from Palestine, a report of which is forthcoming.
LFP at Western Mass Jobs With Justice
This Saturday, April 16, LFP and other BDS supporters will be speaking at a Jobs With Justice conference in Springfield, MA.
To build on this momentum, please:
*Read and distribute Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly, December 2015), which provides historic and current overview.
*Sign and share Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)
*Tell us how we can support efforts to organize LFP meetings, chapters, resolutions, and/or other events in your local area.
*Let us know if you are interested in joining a future LFP delegation to Palestine.
*Like the LFP Facebook page.
Labor for Palestine Conveners
*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW
*Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU L. 10 (retired)
*Jaime Veve, TWU L. 100 (retired)
19-page color, in PDF format: LFP Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.
- Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (December 2015)
- Labor for Palestine Founding Statement (December 4, 2004)
- Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line (January 28, 2016)
- Stop the War on Gaza: No Arms for Apartheid Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions! (July 28, 2014)
- Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS): Statement of Principles & Call for International Trade Union Support for BDS (May 4, 2011)
- Briefing: The Jewish Labor Committee and Apartheid Israel (April 13, 2010)
- The Histadrut: Its History and Role in Occupation, Colonisation and Apartheid (October 11, 2012)
- Briefing: Labor Zionism and the Histadrut (September 1, 2011)
- Palestinian teachers’ strike marks major rift between public and PA (Maan, March 11, 2016)
- UAW 2865 Letter of Solidarity with Teachers in Palestine (March 14, 2016)
Open Letter to UAW Leadership: Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity, and the BDS Picket Line
Labor for Palestine
January 28, 2016
As workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists, we call on the United Auto Workers International Executive Board to rescind its undemocratic and arbitrary “nullification” of UAW 2865’s respect for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) picket line, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the 13,000 teaching assistants and student-workers at the University of California in 2014.
The IEB concedes that it could “find no evidence that the local union engaged in any improper actions that may have prohibited a fair and democratic vote.”
Nonetheless, it sides with anti-labor corporate lawyers to defend the profits of military contractors who arm apartheid Israel. Enlisting in a well-funded witch-hunt designed to silence those who speak up for Palestinian rights, it falsely calls BDS “anti-Semitic.”
In doing so, the IEB disregards more than a century of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, including Israel’s establishment through the dispossession of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), a regime that veteran South African freedom fighters call “worse than apartheid.”
It turns a blind eye to $3.1 billion a year in U.S. military aid, with which Israel massacred 2200 Palestinians (including 500 children) in Gaza in 2014, and inflicted a 10-year high in Palestinian casualties in the West Bank in 2015.
It refuses to acknowledge more than fifty laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.
It is deaf to urgent Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity in the form of support for BDS.
It omits the stated goals of BDS, which demands an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Lacking any semblance of fairness, the IEB’s decision has been appealed to the UAW’s Public Review Board.
UAW Leaders’ Complicity with Apartheid
In contrast to UAW 2865’s highly-transparent support for BDS, the IEB’s biased ruling reflects UAW top leaders’ longstanding and unaccountable complicity with the racist ideology of Labor Zionism.
In the 1940s, UAW and other top U.S. labor leaders actively supported the Nakba. UAW president Walter Reuther was closely allied with future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who later infamously pronounced, “[t]here were no such things as Palestinians.”
In the 1950s, UAW conventions passed pro-Israel resolutions and raised funds for the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation. Reuther’s brother, Victor, served as U.S. spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund, which remains at the forefront of seizing Palestinian lands. In subsequent years, “the UAW may have been the largest institutional purchaser of Israel Bonds,” which fund dispossession of the Palestinian people.
Now they seek to disenfranchise UAW 2865 members, muzzle free speech, and demonize the surging BDS movement.
Rank-and-file UAW members have a history of challenging this pro-apartheid stance.
In January 1969, the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers publicly condemned Israeli colonialism. On October 14, 1973, three thousand Arab autoworkers in Detroit held a wildcat strike to protest UAW Local 600’s purchase—without membership approval—of $300,000 in Israel Bonds. On November 28, 1973, Arab, Black and other autoworkers struck to protest UAW International President Leonard Woodcock’ acceptance of the B’nai B’rith’s “Humanitarian Award.”
UAW 2865’s BDS resolution reclaims and revives this proud tradition of solidarity and social justice. When Palestinian trade unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and Labor for Palestine issued renewed BDS calls in response to Israel’s 2014 Gaza massacre, UAW 2865’s Joint Council openly informed the entire membership:
“We intend to throw our weight behind the BDS movement to add to the international pressure against Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinian people. As workers, students, and as a labor union, we stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination from a settler-colonial power.”
On December 4, 2014, UAW 2865 members adopted this non-binding resolution by a landslide sixty-five percent, thereby becoming the first major U.S. union to endorse BDS.
Growing U.S. Labor Support for BDS
UAW 2865’s courageous vote was paralleled by ILWU Local 10 members who refused to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014, and has been followed by adoption of BDS resolutions by the United Electrical Workers and Connecticut AFL-CIO in 2015.
Attempts to silence this growing solidarity movement are doomed to failure, as reflected in the National Labor Relations Board’s recent dismissal of a challenge to the UE’s BDS resolution.
As the 2865 BDS Caucus explains:
“No letter from the IEB can erase the educational and organizational work we have done over the past year, work we will continue to do, energized no doubt by the IEB’s undemocratic, business-friendly attempt to nullify this vote. . . .
“We are part of a growing movement for union solidarity with the people of Palestine and for a democratic and visionary U.S. labor movement. As workers, educators, and students, we know together we can prevail over these forms of repression and continue striving for justice for all peoples.”
Sharing that vision, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with UAW 2865 in respecting the BDS picket line.
INITIAL SIGNERS (List in formation)
(Affiliation shown for identification only // *Labor for Palestine co-conveners)
*Suzanne Adely, Global Workers Solidarity Network; Former Staff, Global Organizing Institute, UAW (NYC)
*Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)
*Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; ILWU L. 10 (retired)(Oakland CA)
*Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union L. 100 (retired)(NYC)
Rabab Abdulhadi, California Faculty Association-San Francisco State University
Judith Ackerman, 1199SEIU, AFT, UFT, AFTRA, SAG (NYC)
Larry Adams, Former President, NPMHU L. 300; People’s Organization for Progress (NJ)
Bina Ahmad, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)
Sameerah Ahmad, Former Diversity Coordinator, GEO/UAW L. 2322 (Chicago, IL)
Tanya Akel, Regional Director, IBT L. 2010
Greg Albo, YUFA, York University (Toronto, ON)
Tania Aparicio, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Noha Arafa, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
B. Ross Ashley, Former Shop Steward and Executive Council member, SEIU L. 204, then L. 1 (Toronto, ON)
Shahar Azoulay, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)
Lejla Bajrami, 1199SEIU (Brooklyn, NY)
John Becker, IBT L. 814 (Detroit, MI)
Marie Bellavia, NEA/Portland Association of Teachers (OR)
Zarina Bhatia, GMB, TUC (retired) (Birmingham, UK)
Michael Billeaux, Recording Secretary, WITAA-AFT 3220 (Madison, WI)
Walter Birdwell, Retired Shop Steward, NALC Br. 283 (Laguna Vista, TX)
Dana Blanchard, Executive Board, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT L. 1078
Dave Bleakney, 2nd National VP, CUPW (Ottawa, ON)
Donna Blythe-McColgan, Staff Rep., USW (Boston, MA)
Deena Brazy, AFSCME L. 6000 (Madison, WI)
Richard Blum, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Ray Bush, UCU Leeds Branch (UK)
Claudia Carrera, Shop Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Joshua Carrin, Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Sara Catalinotto, Former Delegate, UFT/AFT L. 2 (NYC)
Joe Catron, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (NYC)
Nora Carroll, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Jan Clausen, President, Goddard College Faculty Union, UAW L. 2322
Frank Couget, NALC Br. 36 (NYC)
CUNY Law School Labor Coalition (NYC)
Amy Cross, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Mike Cushman, Former Secretary, LSE Branch, UCU (London, UK)
Denise D’Anne, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
Ziad Dallal, Steward, UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Buzz Davis, Executive Board, AFT-W Retiree Council (Stoughton, WI)
Dominic DeSiata, IBEW L. 103 (Boston, MA)
John Dudley, SEIU-CT State Retirees Chapter
Lisa Edwards, Alternate Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)
Arla S. Ertz, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
John Estes, NALC (Birmingham, AL)
Shelley Ettinger, AFT L. 3882 (NYC)
Jessica Feldman, Shop Steward, UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Sarah S. Forth, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Los Angeles, CA)
Josh Fraidstern, TWU L. 100 (Brooklyn, NY)
Cynthia Franklin, UHPA (Honolulu, HI)
Jeremy Fredericksen, Alternate VP and Delegate, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council
Nick Giannone, Trustee, Boilermakers L. 29 (Weymouth, MA)
Steve Gillis, Financial Secretary, USWA L. 8751 (Boston School Bus Drivers’ Union)
Mike Gimbel, Executive Board, AFSCME L. 375 AFSCME (retired)(NYC)
Brian Glennie, IUEC L. 82 (Parkville, BC)
Sherna Gluck, Former VP, CFA/SEIU L. 1983
Sam Grainger, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Martha Grevatt, Civil and Human Rights Committee, UAW L. 869 (Ferndale, MI)
Ira Grupper, Delegate (retired), Greater Louisville (KY) Central Labor Council, BCTGM L. 16T
Gabriel Haaland, Steward, CWA L. 9404 (Vallejo, CA)
Jesse Hagopian, Association Rep., Seattle Education Association/NEA
Frank Hammer, UAW-GM international Rep.; UAW L. 909 (retired)(Detroit, MI)
Denise N. Hammond, Unifor 591g (Toronto, ON)
Lenora Hanson, Member, Executive Board, AFT L. 3220, Teaching Assistants’ Association (Madison, WI)
Abdul-Basit Haqq, Staff Rep., CWA L. 1037 (Piscataway, NJ)
Janet Harmon, Local Trustee, AFSCME DC 37 L. 436 (NYC)
Shafeka Hashash, Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
David Heap, University of Western Ontario Faculty Association
Win Heimer, VP, Greater Hartford Central Labor Council; AFT L. 4200R and CSEA Council 400, L. 2001, SEIU, CTW
Lucy Herschel, Delegate, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)
Monadel Herzallah, SEIU (San Francisco, CA)
Jack Heyman, ILWU L. 10 (retired); Chair, TWSC; Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (Oakland, CA)
Molly Hogan, ILWU/IBU (retired)(CA)
Jey Iyadurai, Human Rights Rep., CUPW 626 (Toronto, ON)
Ruth Jennison, Departmental Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA
Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary, San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers-AFT L. 1493
Daniel J. Kelly, Shop Steward and Albany Labor Council Delegate, CSEA L. 1000 and L. 690
Ed Kinchley, SEIU L. 1021 Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
John Kirkland, Carpenters L. 1462 (Bucks County, PA)
David Klein, California Faculty Association (Los Angeles, CA)
Jeff Klein, Retired President, NAGE/SEIU L. R1-168 (Boston, MA)
Cindy Klumb, Chief Shop Steward, OPEIU L. 153 (Brooklyn, NY)
Dennis Kortheuer, California Faculty Association
Daniella Korotzer, Former VP and former Health and Safety Officer, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Dennis Kosuth, Steward, NNU (Chicago, IL)
Pooja Kothari, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Rebecca Kurti, 1199SEIU (Queens, NY)
David Laibman, PSC-CUNY/AFT L. 2334 retirees’ chapter (NYC)
Carol Lang, AFSCME DC 37 and PSC-CUNY/AFT L. 2334 (Bronx, NY)
Patrick Langhenry, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Queens, NY)
Angaza Laughinghouse, VP, NC Public Service Workers Union-UE L. 150
Raymond Leduc, Boilermakers L. 29 (retired)(Orleans, MA)
David Letwin, AAUP (Brooklyn, NY)
Eli Lichtenstein, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Michael Louw, Organizer/Educator, Congress of South African Trade Unions
Eamon McMahon, Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA); UNISON; Secretary, Trade Union Friends of Palestine
Ying-Ying Ma, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Mone Makkawi, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Leah Martin, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Mark S. Mendoza, Cincinnati Worker Center
Kevin Moloney, CUPE 3903 (ON)
Susan Morris, Former Alternate VP, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Roslyn R. Morrison, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Eli Nadeau, Organizing Committee, SENS-UAW (NYC)
Yasaman Naraghi, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WI)
Chris Nickell, Shop Steward and Unit Rep., GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Michelle O’Brien, Steward, GSOC/UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Jose A. Ortega, IBEW L. 145 (Rock Island, IL)
Rod Palmquist, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Anne Pasek, Steward, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Joe Piette, NALC Br 157 (retired)(Philadelphia, PA)
Daniel Pines, CSEA L. 0828 (Rochester, NY)
Kristin Plys, GESO/Yale (Göttingen, Germany)
Andrew Pollack, Former Shop Steward, District 65-UAW (Brooklyn, NY)
Stephanie Pope, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Staten Island, NY)
Tom Potter, AFSCME L. 3650, HUCTW; Socialist Alternative (Cambridge, MA)
Minnie Bruce Pratt, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Syracuse, NY)
Nathaniel Preus, GSOC-UAW L. 2110, (NYC)
James Prothero, IBT L. 155 (Mission, BC)
Linda Ray, Co-chair, Peace & Solidarity Committee, SEIU L. 1021 (San Francisco, CA)
Eric Robson, Steward and Trustee, AFSCME L. 171 (Madison, WI)
Laurence S. Romsted, AAUP-AFT Rutgers University (Highland Park, NJ)
Marco Antonio Rosales, UAW L. 2865 Unit Chair (Davis, CA)
Sandra Rosen, Former Solidarity Committee Co-chair, HUCTW/AFSCME (retired), (Cambridge, MA)
Mimi Rosenberg, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Susan Rosenthal, NWU/UAW L. 1981 (Canada)
Andrew Ross, President, NYU-AAUP (NYC)
Gillian Russom, Area Chair, Board of Directors, UTLA/AFT L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
James W. Ryder, Collective Bargaining Director (retired), CNA/NNU (Oakland, CA)
Carl Sack, Membership Secretary, AFT L. 3220 (UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association)
Rodrigo Santelices, ALAA/UAW 2325 (NYC)
Heike Schotten, Faculty Staff Union at University of Massachusetts Boston; Executive Committee, MTA
Gerry Scoppettuol, Co-founder, Pride at Work, Boston AFL-CIO; past member, District 65/UAW
Mary Scully, Women’s, Safety, and Education committees, IUE-CWA L. 201 (retired), (McAllen, TX)
Richard Seaford, UCU (Exeter, UK)
Kim Scipes, Former Chair, Chicago Chapter, NWU/UAW L. 1981
Snehal Shingavi, TSEU/CWA L. 6186 (Austin, TX)
Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 (Toronto, ON)
Sid Shniad, Research Director, Telecommunications Workers Union (retired)(Vancouver, BC)
Alexandra Smith, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Linda Sneed, Campus Rep., AFT 2279 (Sacramento, CA)
Nancy Snyder, Recording Secretary Emeritus, SEIU L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
Edward Stiel, IBEW L. 302 (San Francisco, CA)
Susan Stout, Retirees Secretary, Unifor L. 2002 (N. Vancouver, BC)
Garrett Strain, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Uri Strauss, Steward, UAW L. 2320 (Springfield, MA)
Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707, Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement (Brooklyn, NY)
Cynthia Taylor, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (NYC)
Steve Terry, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Will Thomas, NEA (NH)
Miriam Thompson, UAW L. 259 (retired)(Chapel Hill, NC)
Joanne Tien, Steward, UAW L. 2865 (Oakland, CA)
Azalia Torres, ALAA/UAW L. 2325 (Brooklyn, NY)
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (Oakland, CA)
Burnis E. Tuck, AFGE L. 3172 (retired); IWW (Fresno, CA)
Mar Velez, Former President, UAW 2865 (Oakland, CA)
Karen Walker, Postings Officer, CUPE 3903 (ON)
Dr. Peter Waterman, ABVA-KABO, FNV (retired)(The Hague, Netherlands)
Barry Weisleder, OSSTF (Toronto, ON)
Dave Welsh, NALC Br. 214; Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
Nancy Welch, United Academics, VTAFT/AAUP (Burlington, VT)
Paul Werner, Former member, ACT-UAW L. 7902 (Vienna, Austria)
Edwina White, SEIU L. 1000 (retired)(Sacramento, CA)
Rand Wilson, SEIU L. 888 (Somerville, MA)
Ella Wind, Unit Rep., NYU GSOC-UAW L. 2110; Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
Sherry Wolf, Lead Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT; CWA L. 1032
Marc Wutschke, House of Rep.s, AFT L. 1021 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nantina Vgontzas, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Sabina Virgo, Past and Founding President, AFSCME L. 2620 (retired)(Los Angeles, CA)
John Yanno, Delegate, UFT/AFT L. 2 (Brooklyn, NY)
Mark Matthews, CAW (retired)(Vancouver, BC), Canada
Max Rosen-Long, Bldg. rep., PFT L. 3 (Philadelphia, PA), and a building representative
Chris Butters, Chapter Chair, L. 1070, DC 37, AFSCME (retired)(NYC)
Brooks Ballenger, Organizer/Representative, UAW L. 2322 (Amherst, MA)
Larry Hendel, CFA (Berkeley, CA)
Catherine Orozco, NOLSW/UAW (retired)(San Francisco, CA)
George McAnanama, TWU L. 100 (retired)(Bronx, NY)
Russell Weiss-Irwin, SEIU L. 175 (NYC)
Robert Kosuth, MEA (retired)(Duluth, MN)
David Riehle, Chairman Emeritus, UTU L. 650 (St. Paul, MN)
Robert Pfefferman, DC 37, AFSCME retirees (NYC)
Vincent Calvetti, UAW L. 4121 (Seattle, WA)
Mercedes Martinez, President, FMPR (Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico)
Julia Wallace, SEIU L. 721 (Los Angeles, CA)
Aaron Amaral, Esq., DC 37, AFSCME (Jackson Heights, NY)
Michael Haire, 1199SEIU East (Saten Island, NY)
Adrienne Pine Washington, Former Recording Secretary and and statewide bargaining team member, UAW 2865 (UC Berkeley)
Hannah Roditi, CWA (Bloomfield, CT)
Nathan Pensler, Unit Representative, GSOC-UAW L. 2110 (NYC)
Elisabeth Fiekowsky, former member UAW; Labor rep., IFPTE, ESC L. 20 (Sebastopol, CA)
Frances Agnew Crieff, National Federation of Post Office and British Telecom Pensioners, (UK)
Peter King Churchill, UCU (Oxford, UK)
Blair Bertaccini, AFSCME retirees Chapter 4; AFSCME Council 4 PEOPLE Committee (Waterbury, CT)
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine
Fragments of Empire After the American Century – 2016
American University of Beirut, January 15, 2016
(Companion presenters below*)
As you have heard, mainstream US labor institutions have a long history of complicity with Zionism. This is not only, or even primarily, an issue of ethnicity, i.e., pro-Zionist Jewish trade union leaders. Regardless of ethnicity, it is rooted the dominant anti-communism, business unionism, and racism of the labor bureaucracy. Moreover, even “progressive” labor leaders typically supported and identified with the Israeli state.
This reflects not only political disorientation brought out by the Nazi Holocaust, but also the Soviet Union’s indispensable role in supporting partition and arming Zionist militias that carried out the Nakba. More recently, it also reflects an unwillingness to rock the boat, arguing for example, that the post-9/11 antiwar movement should exclude Palestine because otherwise “labor will walk,” which is to say, a loss of funding for antiwar NGOs.
But today, the pro-Israel stranglehold in U.S. labor is beginning to fray at the edges, as reflected in ILWU Local 10 dockers’ refusal to handle Israeli cargo in 2010 and 2014, and BDS resolutions adopted over the past year by UAW 2865 at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO. This is significant because trade unions are not just another venue for BDS resolutions. Rather, they have unparalleled potential to actually implement BDS job actions.
This growing trade union support for BDS in the U.S. reclaims and reaffirms earlier traditions. In particular, it reflects past Black solidarity with Palestine, going back to Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Black Panther Party, as discussed by other panelists at this conference.
That, in turn, reflects more than two centuries of Black internationalism, dating back to the Haitian revolution at turn of 19th century, Seminole and other Native American resistance, and indigenous resistance to US occupation of Caribbean and Philippines in early 20th century. It is reflected in cutting-edge Black leadership of the Vietnam antiwar movement — including early draft resistance and the GI revolt — and in the South Africa anti-apartheid movement.
Similarly, the earliest trade union anti-Zionism in the U.S. began with Black-Arab worker alliances in Detroit from 1969-1973. It is that history I want to focus on today.
The first postwar challenge to Labor Zionism in the United States came from the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers in January 1969, which recognized Palestinian oppression as a reflection of the same system of racism and colonialism suffered by black South Africans, Vietnamese, Latin Americans, and African Americans.
On October 14, 1973, Detroit was the site of the first industrial action against US labor officials’ support for Israel, when three thousand Arab autoworkers joined a wildcat strike to protest UAW Local 600’s purchase (without membership approval) of $300,000 in Israel Bonds. On November 28, 1973, Arab and other autoworkers struck to protest bestowal of B’nai B’rith’s “Humanitarian Award” on International UAW president Leonard Woodcock. To give you a flavor of what this actually looked like, read this article from Workers’ Power of December 7, 1973.
After three decades, the next visible labor opposition to Zionism came in the wake of September 11, 2001. On April 18, 2002, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a largely African American union with a long social justice history, condemned Israel’s attacks on the West Bank and “call[ed] for the halt of all military aid to the State of Israel.”
That same day, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), a grassroots, interracial organization formed immediately after 9/11, linked its overall opposition to the “War Against Terror” by calling for an end to US military aid to Israel, Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and support for the Palestinian right of return. NYCLAW also spearheaded unity between two separate coalitions behind a march in DC on April 20, 2002, the first post-9/11 national antiwar protest, in which 150,000 marched with the largest Palestinian contingent in US history.
In April 2004, the Second National Convention of Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, adopted NYCLAW’s proposal for a campaign against US labor complicity with Israel. Toward that end, in October 2004, NYCLAW and Al-Awda New York jointly established Labor for Palestine, whose founding statement called on trade unionists to (1) fully support Palestinian national, democratic, and labor rights throughout historical Palestine, including the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land; (2) demand an end to US military and economic support for Israeli apartheid; and (3) divest all labor investments in Israeli apartheid.
Like other Palestine solidarity in recent years, Israeli war on Gaza has been the spark for growing trade union BDS.
In response to “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-2009, NYCLAW echoed the Congress of South African Trade Unions and other international labor bodies to reaffirm “support for the international Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestment campaign, including an immediate end to all support for Israel—including that provided by US labor leaders.” On December 4, 2009, Labor for Palestine issued an open letter challenging AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka’s opposition to BDS.
Trade union BDS further escalated in the wake of Israel’s May 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara, an unarmed Turkish merchant vessel carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza.
On June 8, 2010, the ILWU Local 10 executive board unanimously condemned the massacre and issued a “call for unions to protest by any action they choose to take.” This statement was particularly significant, because ILWU members had refused to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934), fascist Italy (1935), Chile (1978), apartheid South Africa (1984), and US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008). On June 9, 2010, 133 US trade unionists signed Labor for Palestine’s response, which reaffirmed the BDS call.
Most importantly, on June 20, 2010, members of ILWU locals 10 and 34 in Oakland honored an eight-hundred-strong picket line against the Israeli-owned Zim Shenzhen ship—the first US labor-based BDS action.
The next major spark was Israel’s renewed war on Gaza in July 2014. Hundreds of trade unionists signed Labor for Palestine’s statement reiterating calls for an end to aid for Israel; for “workers to emulate dockers in South Africa, India, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, the US west coast, and elsewhere, by refusing to handle military or any other cargo destined for Israel”; and for “labor bodies to divest from Israel Bonds, and cut ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation.”
On July 29, 2014, the eighty-three member Joint Council of UAW Local 2865, representing thirteen thousand graduate student workers throughout the University of California, responded to Palestinian trade union and Labor for Palestine appeals by submitting a BDS resolution for a full membership vote.
Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza also set off an unprecedented community-labor campaign against Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s largest cargo shipping company. On August 16, 2014, a coalition of seventy San Francisco Bay Area organizations led by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) responded to a call from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions by mobilizing a mass community picket under the banner of Block the Boat for Gaza to prevent unloading of the Israeli vessel Zim Piraeus. Countering Zim’s attempts to evade the picket, over three thousand people marched to the docks, chanting “When people are occupied, resistance is justified” and “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime.”
When the ship finally docked, ILWU Local 10 members responded to various pickets, some organized independently of AROC, by refusing to unload it for four consecutive days. Due to these and subsequent pickets, Zim line lost millions of dollars, and has abandoned attempts to return to Oakland or Los Angeles.
On December 4, 2014, in the wake of these events, UAW 2865 members voted by 65 percent to adopt their leadership’s BDS proposal. Thus, the union had “become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination.”
Nine months later, the United Electrical Workers, a leftwing union with thirty-five thousand members, endorsed BDS. Significantly, both of these resolutions embraced the full BDS call, which demands not only an end to the 1967 occupation, but equality for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and refugees’ right of return. And this was followed shortly thereafter by the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s adoption of a BDS resolution.
As on campuses and elsewhere, Zionists have sought to intimidate, reverse and silence trade union support for Palestine. Just last month, the UAW’s International Executive Board “nullified” UAW 2865 members’ BDS resolution. In response, the 2865 BDS Caucus wrote: “We are part of a growing movement for union solidarity with the people of Palestine and for a democratic and visionary U.S. labor movement. As workers, educators, and students, we know together we can prevail over these forms of repression and continue striving for justice for all peoples.”
For more information about these issues, you are invited to visit LaborforPalestine.net, particularly our new article in American Quarterly, which is posted online at the above site.
Panel 18: Shifting Geographies of Knowledge and Power: Palestine and American Studies
Chair : Elie Haddad, Asfari Institute, AUB
Download full text PDF: Labor for Palestine — Challenging US Labor Zionism
Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
Recent years have seen rapidly growing momentum behind the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), particularly in the wake of repeated Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008–9 that have left thousands dead, maimed, and homeless. In February 2007, as part of this campaign, Palestinian trade union bodies appealed directly for support, including a request for international labor to cut ties with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation. Although these calls have received wide-ranging support from trade unionists in South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Norway, and elsewhere, Labor Zionism remains ubiquitous in the United States. This first dates to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and establishment of the Histadrut in 1920. Such US Labor Zionism grew rapidly in the 1940s, as a combined result of the Nazi Holocaust, the Cold War, neocolonialism, and the USSR’s pivotal support for establishment of the Israel state. Even then, however, it has never had significant working-class roots. Since the Nakba of 1947–49, Labor Zionism in the United States has been promoted by the Histadrut’s US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC). Through such efforts, closely coordinated with Israeli officials, the JLC has organized trade union leaders’ support for Zionism.
Notable challenges to this dominant Labor Zionism began in the late 1960s. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1967 and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. Since September 11, 2001, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), Labor for Palestine, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and others. Increasingly, such efforts have made common cause with racial justice and other movements, and—at the margins—have begun to crack Labor Zionism’s seemingly impregnable hold in the United States. These recent developments run parallel to, and draw inspiration from, the American Studies Association’s own endorsement of BDS on December 13, 2013.
Zionist Roots in US Labor
Through the 1930s Jewish workers in the United States were adamantly anti-Zionist. Jewish Bundists viewed Zionism as a “sinister deviation from the true path … a mirage, compounded of religious romanticism and chauvinism,” and after the Nazis took power in 1933, “many Jews within American labor vehemently opposed Zionist efforts.” For example, the JLC, founded in 1934 to oppose the rise of Nazism, noted that
the great bulk of Jewish labor in the United States are … of the opinion that the Jewish question must be solved in the countries in which Jews live and therefore must be solved as part of the more general question of re-adjusting the economic, political, social and cultural life of our country to the needs of a new day.
In the 1940s, however, US labor leaders enlisted in the Histadrut’s well-orchestrated campaign for a Jewish state in Palestine, and finally won support of the previously anti-Zionist JLC. These efforts helped enable the impending Nakba (Catastrophe). Labor leaders established the National Trade Union Emergency Conference on Labor Palestine, which won over Jewish Bundists; silenced anti-Zionist holdouts; exploited rank-and-file workers’ sympathy for Holocaust victims; and helped convince Truman to support partition and lift the US arms embargo against the Zionist militias.
The Zionism of these labor officials was closely linked to their support for US imperialism, anticommunism, and racism against workers of color in the United States. This was consistent with Israel’s self-proclaimed role as “watchdog” for US imperial interests. Meanwhile, nearly all of the US labor Left mirrored the USSR’s indispensable support for establishment of the Israeli state.
In the subsequent decades, US trade union leaders across the political spectrum supported Israeli wars, charged “anti-Semitism” against those who criticized Israel’s close alliance with apartheid South Africa,” and bought huge quantities of State of Israel Bonds, which paralleled overall US government economic and military support for the Israeli state.