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Bottom-Up Labor Solidarity for Palestine Is Growing (Labor Notes)

Bottom-Up Labor Solidarity for Palestine Is Growing

August 26, 2021 / Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin

Block the Boat NY/NJ protesters with Palestinian flags at the port near Elizabeth, NJ.

The grassroots effort to Block the Boat which successfully prevented an Israeli ZIM Lines ship from docking anywhere on the West Coast in May and June. This photo was taken in the port at Elizabeth, New Jersey, at a protest in July. Photo: Block the Boat NY/NJ.

In May, Palestinian workers urgently appealed for international solidarity against a sharp escalation of Israeli violence. Their appeals have been met with an unprecedented response—even in the United States, where labor officialdom has long supported the world’s last remaining apartheid regime (see sidebar).

This dramatic shift is reflected in statements issued by U.S. labor bodies, and, above all, Block The Boat, which successfully prevented an Israeli ZIM Lines ship from docking anywhere on the West Coast in May and June.

More deeply, it echoes a longer history of U.S. working class resistance to Zionism—the settler-colonial ideology that underlies the Israeli regime—as well as solidarity from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and other grassroots social justice movements in the United States.

Ongoing Colonial Violence

Leading up the May attacks, Jewish settlers evicted Palestinians en masse in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Israeli forces then stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque and sponsored violence throughout the West Bank and within the “Green Line”—the territories of Palestine that the Israel regime first occupied in 1948 (see here). And it bombarded Gaza, killing and wounding hundreds of people, many of them children.

These events continue more than a century of violence against the Palestinian people.

During the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), Zionist militias massacred thousands of Palestinians, destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages, and expelled 750,000 people (or 85 percent of the Palestinian population) from 78 percent of their country. Millions of these refugees and their descendants still live in camps or otherwise remain in exile from their homeland.

Map: CJPME Foundation

The Nakba is not one event, but an ongoing campaign against the indigenous people of Palestine. In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent of Palestine—including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Under the banner of “Judaization,” the relentless ethnic cleansing continues today in both 1948 and 1967 occupied Palestinian lands.

As a result, millions of Palestinians live under a military occupation, while armed settlers from Europe and the U.S. continue to expand illegal settlements. Israel has built an apartheid wall in the West Bank and expanded other apartheid policies that legalize racist discrimination against all Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship. Israeli siege, massacres, and economic blockade have rendered Gaza—often referred to as an open-air prison—nearly uninhabitable.

Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States bears primary responsibility for Israel’s ongoing impunity—consistently vetoing UN resolutions criticizing Israel, while providing $3.8 billion in bipartisan military aid to Israel each year—a huge increase authorized by the outgoing Obama administration.

Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem have recently acknowledged this apartheid reality, not just in the 1967 occupied territories, but throughout historic Palestine. The International Criminal Court, after years of delay, announced it will open an investigation into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Since all of Israel is occupied Palestine, Palestinians demand decolonization and equal rights for all its inhabitants, “from the river to the sea.”


The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been endorsed by nearly the entire range of Palestinian society—including its trade unions—is inspired by the worldwide divestment campaign that helped topple apartheid South Africa, and builds on decades of Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonization.

It demands an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, dismantling of the apartheid wall in the West Bank, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

On May 13, in response to the latest Israeli offensive, two Palestinian union federations urgently appealed for solidarity, “calling on our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement internationally to stop handling goods imported from or exported to Israel.”

On May 18, Palestinian unions helped organize a general strike observed by hundreds of thousands throughout historic Palestine (see here and here). This act of mass resistance echoed the 1936 Palestinian general strike against Zionism and British colonialism that remains—at six months—the longest in world history.

That same day, the labor federation in Gaza issued an appeal urged U.S. unions to “boycott the Israeli occupation and its institutions, and refuse to deal in any way with them, including: not buying any of their products, refusing to unload their ships and goods from sea and airports, and pressure them to stop their racist practices.”


Answering such appeals, on May 14, Italian dockworkers refused to ship weapons to Israel, and soon after, dockworkers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload Israeli cargo. This echoed dockers in South Africa, India, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, and the U.S. who had in earlier years refused to handle Israeli cargo during Israel’s serial bombardments that have killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians.

On May 18, the International Dockworkers Council asked “all dockworkers to show the solidarity that has been demonstrated so many times in so many conflicts. We cannot allow ourselves to be complicit in this violence by working on ships that operate war merchandise destined to massacre civilians and children. Let us not allow this to stain our name or tarnish our consciences.”


In the U.S., top labor officials have long supported the Zionist project, starting with the Balfour Declaration 1917, which envisioned a minority “Jewish national home,” in hopes of diverting widespread Jewish support for the Russian Revolution, and to serve as a European colonial outpost in Palestine. Soon, they embraced the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation, which spearheaded anti-Palestinian apartheid, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing (see here and here), including the Nakba (Catastrophe) that established the Israeli state in 1948 (see sidebar).

In subsequent decades, U.S. union leaders across the political spectrum have supported Israeli wars; have branded as “anti-Semitic” those who criticized Israel’s close alliance with apartheid South Africa; and have bought huge quantities of State of Israel bonds, which paralleled overall U.S. economic and military support for the Israeli state.

This Labor Zionism has been coordinated by the Histadrut’s U.S. mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee. While painting itself as progressive, the JLC has a long history of promoting Israel, U.S. wars of empire, and racism—including the 1968 New York City teachers strike against community control of the schools, and backlash against anti-affirmative action. Led today by Retail Workers (RWDSU) president Stuart Appelbaum, the JLC mobilized late-AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and virtually all top U.S. union officials to attack BDS.


Despite this, the BDS movement has deep, if narrow, roots in labor anti-Zionism. In 1969 the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers championed the Palestinian struggle as part of worldwide resistance to oppression.

On October 14, 1973, 3,000 Arab auto workers in Detroit held a wildcat strike to protest Auto Workers (UAW) Local 600’s purchase of $300,000 in Israel bonds. On November 28, 1973, Arab and other auto workers protested bestowal of the Zionist organization B’nai B’rith’s “Humanitarian Award” on UAW President Leonard Woodcock.

This labor anti-Zionism began to reemerge soon after 9/11. On April 18, 2002, Local 10 of the Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which has a large Black membership and 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, a multiracial grassroots organization, called for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and support for the Palestinian right to return and for Israeli military resisters.

In 2004, to build on such solidarity, Al-Awda NY: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition and New York City Labor Against the War jointly founded Labor for Palestine, a cross-union network whose statements have been endorsed by thousands of trade unionists.

In both 2010 and 2014, responding to intensified Israeli attacks on Gaza, West Coast dockers of ILWU Locals 10 and 34 in Oakland refused to unload cargo from ZIM Lines, Israel’s leading maritime shipping company. This reflected a long ILWU tradition of refusing to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934), fascist Italy (1935), Chile (1978), South Africa (1984), and U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008).

Soon after, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the Electrical Workers (UE), and a small number of other labor bodies issued pro-BDS statements (although 2865’s resolution was unilaterally nullified by the UAW International), often with vocal support from Jewish members opposed to Zionism.

These developments also reflected growing solidarity between Black Lives and Palestinian struggles (see here and here).


In response to the May 2021 appeals from Palestinian unions, a new round of solidarity statements have been issued—not only by Labor for PalestineLabor Against Racism and War, the United Electrical Workers, and UAW 2865, but also by labor bodies that have never done so before.

These new voices include the NewsGuild-CWARoofers Local 36Teamsters Local 804, UNITE HERE Locals 23 and 17, United Educators of San Francisco (AFT Local 61), the Seattle Education Association, the Graduate Labor Organization at Brown University, the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees, the Vermont State Labor Council, the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the Part-Time Lecturer Chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT (Local 6324), and the Legal Services Staff Association (UAW Local 2320).

Above all, Block the Boat, a community-labor campaign first launched in 2014 by the Arab Resource and Organizing Centersuccessfully prevented the Israeli ZIM Lines ship Volans from docking anywhere on the West Coast in May and June, and has inspired Block the Boat campaigns in other U.S. and Canadian ports (see here and here).

While still at the margins, this unprecedented and rapidly-expanding worker-based Palestine solidarity has the potential to finally break Zionism’s century-long stranglehold on U.S. labor, and to organize workers’ unparalleled power—in their labor bodies and at the workplace—to help topple apartheid Israel.

Suzanne Adely is co-founder of the Arab Workers Resource Center, a member of U.S. Palestine Community Network, and President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild. Michael Letwin is a former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325, on the Organizing Collective of USACBI: The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, a co-founder of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, and a member of the DSA BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group. Both are members of Labor for Palestine, Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and Block The Boat NY/NJ.



June 2 – June 9, 2021


Block ZIM Everywhere! Profiteering from Israeli Apartheid is not

Welcome Anywhere!


In italiano

En español

For the last several days, the threat of our #BlockTheBoat protest has kept a cargo ship operated by ZIM – apartheid Israel’s largest and oldest shipping company – from docking at the Port of Oakland. We are winning! Our people power is working, and sending a clear message that Israel’s ongoing settler-colonialism, occupation, and violence against the Palestinian people will come with a heavy price. Every hour that ZIM cargo ships remain undocked and unloaded is a huge victory, as it means that the apartheid state of Israel is losing enormous amounts of money.

We are now calling on communities everywhere to organize solidarity actions with Oakland, and hold a community picket to block a ZIM-operated ship at your port during this week of action against the apartheid-profiteering ZIM shipping line! Take action to stand in solidarity with our victorious #BlockTheBoat effort in Oakland, and amplify the impacts against the Israeli ZIM company everywhere. Build with port workers in solidarity, and encourage them to heed the call from labor unions in Gaza asking workers everywhere not to handle Israeli cargo or engage with Israeli businesses. Together, let’s demonstrate that we will no longer watch as the U.S. and countries all over the world continue their business as usual to enable Israeli apartheid. Let’s make clear that ZIM’s apartheid-profiteering will not be welcome at ports anywhere! 

Just as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement helped turn the tide and bring down apartheid in South Africa, so too will our international solidarity and actions today help Palestinians bring about a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.

From Oakland To NYC: #BlockTheBoat International Week of Action

From Oakland To NYC: #BlockTheBoat International Week of Action

Join #BlockTheBoatNYC as we stand with workers and community organizers of #BlocktheBoatOakland, California who have blocked cargo ships operated by ZIM – apartheid Israel’s largest and oldest shipping company – from docking for over 11 days.

Here in the NYC-NJ area, the ZIM Tarragona is scheduled to dock in the Port of New York and New Jersey on Sunday, June 6th. This week, as part of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center’s International Week of Action to #BlockTheBoat, we are going to send a clear message: Israeli apartheid is NOT welcome in New York and New Jersey ports! The specific time and location is TBD. Join us and receive updates by texting your name to 833-320-1973.

To Endorse this Action:

After over a decade of grassroots organizing with dockworkers in the Port of Oakland in California, and multiple victories blocking container ships operated by the Israeli shipping company ZIM from unloading cargo , the Block the Boat campaign, led by Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) had stopped Zim from returning to Oakland since 2014.

Zim is trying to return to the Port of Oakland for the first time since 2014.

AROC is currently leading another #BlockTheBoat campaign targeting ZIM, and calling for a #BlockTheBoat International Week of Action from June 2 to June 9. 

Over the course of the past two weeks, the threat of AROC’s protest has kept a ZIM cargo ship from docking at the Port of Oakland. In AROC’s own words,

“We are winning! Our people power is working, and sending a clear message that Israel’s ongoing settler-colonialism, occupation, and violence against the Palestinian people will come with a heavy price. Every hour that ZIM cargo ships remain undocked and unloaded is a huge victory, as it means that the apartheid state of Israel is losing enormous amounts of money.”

AROC is now calling on communities everywhere to organize solidarity actions with Oakland and community picket lines to block ZIM-operated ships at your port during the week of action.

In the wake of the latest Israeli massacre in Gaza, this is a critical moment to build with port workers in solidarity, and encourage them to heed the call from labor unions in Gaza asking workers everywhere not to handle Israeli cargo or engage with Israeli businesses.

To Endorse this Action: 

Labor for Palestine with Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin (Empathy Media Lab Video Interview)

Labor for Palestine with Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin (Empathy Media Labor Video Interview)

Labor for Palestine was launched in April 2004 by New York City Labor Against the War and Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition to reclaim the legacy of working class solidarity with Palestine in the United States, as reflected in groundbreaking statements by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1969, and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973.

In this episode, we spoke with Labor For Palestine organizers Suzanne Adely who is the Co-Director for the Food Chain Workers Alliance and President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and Michael Letwin who is a public defender in New York City and former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • The recent general strike in Palestine and about work conditions for Palestinians;
  • What is Labor for Palestine and why is it misleading to frame the violence as between two conflicting parties;
  • What led to the recent violence; and
  • Why organized labor should get involved in this struggle.

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U.S. Labor Must Stand With Palestine! (Updated Endorsers)


U.S. Labor Must Stand With Palestine!
Labor for Palestine, Nakba Day, May 15, 2021

As workers, labor, and anti-apartheid activists, we join millions around the world to unequivocally condemn Israel’s genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people: mass evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, waves of state-sponsored violence throughout the West Bank and the ’48 areas (stolen from Palestine in 1948), and merciless bombardment of Gaza that has already killed and wounded hundreds of people, many of them children.

Recent reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch only belatedly acknowledge what Palestinians have always said: this is not an “Arab-Israeli conflict,” an “Israel-Hamas war,” “communal clashes,” or a “civil war,” but rather another chapter in more than a century of Zionist settler-colonialism — as symbolized by Israel’s very establishment through the uprooting and ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba (“Our Catastrophe”), whose 73rd anniversary is today, May 15, 2021.

These crimes are only possible because of $3.8 billion a year (or $10+ million *per day*) in bipartisan US military aid that gives Israel the guns, bullets, tanks, ships, jet fighters, missiles, helicopters, white phosphorus and other weapons to kill and maim the Palestinian people.

This is the same system of racist state violence that — with direct Israeli support — brutalizes BIPOC and working class people in the United States and around the world. With Israel’s knee on their neck, Palestinians can’t breathe since 1948, and we unconditionally stand with their resistance in all parts of Palestine, just as they have stood with our struggles for Black and Brown Lives, Standing Rock, migrant rights, and beyond. 

We urge workers and labor bodies in the US to join the growing mass protests against apartheid Israel, and to support the Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian Uprising and General Strike: Tuesday, May 18. We uplift the Italian dockworkers who refused to ship weapons to Israel on April 14, thereby answering the urgent May 13 appeal for international solidarity, signed by Palestinian trade unions, to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).

BDS is inspired by the worldwide divestment campaign that helped topple apartheid South Africa, and reflects decades of Palestinian boycott and mobilization against Israeli colonization. It requires not only an end to the 1967 Israeli occupation, but 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. 

On this 73rd anniversary of Nakba Day, as Palestinians courageously resist brutal Israeli attack, we urge the labor movement to respect the BDS picket line by:

• Endorsing BDS, along with UAW 2865, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, the United Electrical Workers, IWW, and other US labor bodies, and with labor organizations around the world, who have already done so.

• Ending, once and for all, US labor officialdom’s long and shameful complicity in Zionism by divesting labor bodies from Israel Bonds, and severing all ties with Israel’s racist labor federation, the Histadrut, and its US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee.

• Mobilizing our collective power at the workplace, as demonstrated by dockers in South Africa, India, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Italy, the ILWU on the West Coast of the United States who have refused to handle Israeli cargo, and AROC’s Block the Boat campaign against an upcoming Zim Lines arrival at the Oakland Port.


On behalf of Labor for Palestine
(organizational affiliations listed for identification only)

Suzanne Adely, Al-Awda-NY; Arab Workers Resource Center; Food Chain Workers Alliance (staff); President-Elect, National Lawyers Guild; 

Monadel Herzallah, Arab American Union Members Council

Ruth Jennison, Department Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA; Co-Chair, Labor Standing Committee Pioneer Valley DSA

Lara Kiswani, Executive Director, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Organizing Collective, USACBI: US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; DSA Palestine Solidarity Working Group

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

Endorsements (as of May 23, 2021)

Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
AFSCME 3800 – UMN Clerical Workers Union
ALAA/UAW Local 2325, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem Union, Family Defense Practice Unit
DSA AfroSocialist & Socialists of Color Caucus
DSA Palestine Solidarity Working Group
Black Attorneys of Legal Aid (BALA) Caucus, ALAA/UAW 2325
Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid (ACLA) Caucus, ALAA/UAW 2325
LGBTQ+ Caucus, ALAA/UAW 2325
CUNY Adjunct Project
Labor Against Racist Terror
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Central Jersey DSA
NYC DSA Labor Branch

Individuals (list in formation; organizational affiliations listed for identification only)

  1. Daniel Ashworth, ALAA/UAW 2325
  2. Ellyn Kessler, ALAA/UAW 2325
  3. David Klein, California Faculty Association (CFA)
  4. Steve Brier, PSC-CUNY, AFT Local 2334; School of Labor & Urban Studies, CUNY
  5. Susan Morris, Former Executive Board Member, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Retired)
  6. Lisa Edwards, ALAA/UAW 2325
  7. Jamila Hammami, Steward, Co-Organizer for Labor & External Relations, CUNY Graduate Center PhD Social Welfare Program, PSC-CUNY
  8. Ryan Kelly, National Writers Union
  9. Nora Carroll, ALAA/UAW 2325
  10. Lauren Restivo, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  11. Michael Shannon, ALAA/UAW 2325
  12. David Sole, Past President, UAW 2334 (Retired)
  13. Erin Tomlinson, ALAA/UAW 2325
  14. John King, UAW-ACT 7902
  15. Dennis Gallie, UAW 249 (Retired)
  16. Goetz Wolff, Board Member, UC-AFT 1474 (UCLA); LA County AFL-CIO
  17. Ed Kinchley, Delegate, SF Committee on Political Education (COPE), SEIU 1021; Delegate, SF Labor Council
  18. Win Heimer, A&R, AFT 4200R
  19. Azalia Torres, Former Executive Board Member, ALAA/UAW 2325 (Retired)
  20. Eli Nadeau, SENS UAW 7902
  21. Susan Stout, Unifor 2002 (Retired)
  22. David Walsh, NALC 214; Delegate, SF Labor Council
  23. Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary (retired), AFT 1493
  24. Dave King, Co-Chair, Climate Jobs PDX
  25. Lauren S. King, Climate Jobs PDX; Portland Jobs with Justice
  26. David Clennon, Convention Delegate, Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA
  27. Judith Ackerman, AFT and 1199SEIU
  28. Amy Muldoon, CWA 1106
  29. Val Sanfilippo, Retired Steward, SEIU 221
  30. Francis Cook, UFT, AFT Local 2; MORE Caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators in the UFT)
  31. Hayat Bearat, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  32. Milad Momeni, CLSWU
  33. David Laibman, PSC-CUNY (retiree chapter)
  34. Mike Gimbel, AFSCME 375, Retired Executive Board member
  35. Elizabeth-Ann Tierney, Alternate Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  36. Ayami Hatanaka, ALAA/UAW 2325
  37. David McKeown, IBEW Local 6 (retired)
  38. Greg Giorgio, Delegate and Secretary, IWW Upstate NY Regional
  39. Carol Elaine Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council; CWA retiree
  40. Alexander Hu, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  41. David Letwin, Executive Board Member, Rutgers AAUP-AFT Local 6324
  42. Alexandra Smith, ALAA/UAW 2325
  43. Joshua Strassman, Steward, Amherst Pelham Education Association, Massachusetts Teachers Association
  44. Aaron Goodwin, UAW 2865
  45. Diana Dooley, IBEW Local 6
  46. Gabriel Camacho, Political Director, UFCW Local 1445; LCLAA member at large
  47. Ron Jacobs, Steward, AFSCME 1343
  48. Naomi Sharlin, UFT, AFT Local 2
  49. Nicole Camera, UFT, AFT Local 2; MORE Caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators in the UFT)
  50. Mark D. Stansbery, Board Member and Chair of Organizing and Mobilization, CWA 4502; Ohio AFL-CIO and Central Ohio Labor Council
  51. Jane Rubio, UFT, AFT Local 2
  52. Joan Hwang, Organizer, Workers Assembly Against Racism
  53. Rebekah McAlister UFT, AFT Local 2
  54. Jennifer Kovacs, ALAA/UAW 2325
  55. Hollis Higgins, NALC Branch 442 (retired)
  56. Leah Martin, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  57. Danielle Bullock, UFT, AFT Local 2; MORE Caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators in the UFT)
  58. Brian Lewis, Steward and Delegate, AFSCME DC37, Local 375; DC37 Progressives; NYC-DSA Labor Branch
  59. Malcolm Sacks, UFT, AFT Local 2; MORE Caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators in the UFT)
  60. Aisha Lewis-McCoy, Alternate Representative, LGBTQ Caucus, ALAA/UAW 2325
  61. Sara Catalinotto, Retired Delegate, UFT, AFT Local 2; Labor Against Racist Terror
  62. Susan Moir, Massachusetts Teachers Association (retired)
  63. Leah Margulies, ALAA/UAW 2325
  64. Monica Shah, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  65. Andrea Alajbegovic, LSSA/UAW 2320
  66. Lucy Herschel, Delegate, 1199SEIU, UHWE
  67. Calypso Taylor, ALAA/UAW 2325
  68. Alex Jallot, Delegate, Pace High School, UFT, AFT Local 2
  69. Yessenia Mendez, LSSA/UAW 2320
  70. Ian Spiridigliozzi, ALAA/UAW 2325
  71. Hoda Mitwally, Delegate, LSSA/UAW 2320
  72. Royce Adams, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1291; CBTU/APRI
  73. Josh Komarovsky, LSSA/UAW 2320
  74. Will Chaney, GEO/UAW 2322 UMASS-Amherst
  75. Robert F. Williams, GEO/UAW 2322 MSCA Westfield State University
  76. Erik Mears, UFT/AFT Local 2
  77. Cherrene Horazuk, President, AFSCME 3800 – UMN Clerical Workers Union
  78. Annie Zirin, CTU/AFT Local 1
  79. Meaghan Whyte, Delegate, LSSA/UAW 2320
  80. Hector Agredano, Pasadena City College Faculty Association
  81. David McNally, Texas State Employees Union/CWA Local 6186
  82. Jessie Muldoon, Site Rep., Portland Education Association
  83. Brenda Stokely, Social Service Employees Union local 371 DC 37 AFSCME, AFL-CIO; Million Workers Movement NE Region co-organizer
  84. Camila Valle, UAW 2110
  85. Alejandro Coriat, NOLSW 2320; Legal Workers’ Rank and File
  86. Vish Soroushian, NOLSW/UAW 2320
  87. Hector Agredano, Pasadena City College Faculty Association
  88. Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Steward, CWA 1180; Labor Against Racism and War
  89. Sarah Soliman, Worker Advocate, Worker Justice Wisconsin
  90. Elly Wong, Steward, NPEU (IPFTE Local 70)
  91. Naib Mian, Unit Council, Bargaining Committee, New Yorker Union, News Guild NY Local 31003, CWA
  92. Lucas Koerner, Harvard Graduate Students Union – UAW 5118
  93. Martha Grevatt, Retired Executive Board Member, UAW 869
  94. Dianne Mathiowetz, UAW 10 (retired); Producer and Host, The Labor Forum, WRFG 89.3FM
  95. Stephen Terry, ALAA/UAW 2325 (retired)
  96. Gabriella Ferrara, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  97. Patricia Lavelle, ALAA/UAW 2325
  98. Spencer Eliot Smith, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  99. Meghna Philip, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  100. Kevin Duffy-Greaves, LSSA/UAW 2320
  101. Amanda Lipari, Civil Vice President, ALAA/UAW 2325
  102. Lindsay Cowen, Delegate, LSSA/UAW 2320
  103. Karen Sullivan, PSC-CUNY
  104. Mimi Rosenberg, ALAA/UAW 2325; Producer and Host, WBAI radio, 99.5 FM’s labor program Building Bridges
  105. Benjamin Bisaro, ALAA/UAW 2325
  106. Andrew Smith, Shop Steward, AFSCME, DC 37, Local 1503
  107. Shayan Mirzahaidar, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  108. Basir Mchawi, PSC-CUNY/AFT
  109. Emily Woo Yamasaki, LSSA/UAW 2320
  110. Susan Williams, MD, Former Delegate, Doctors Council, SEIU Local 10MD (retired)
  111. Hoang Gia Phan, Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP-UMass Amherst)
  112. Michael Novick, former steward and member, house of reps, former member of Human Rights Committee, United Teachers Los Angeles (joint NEA-CTA/AFT-CFT)
  113. Robin Strauss, PSC-CUNY/AFT
  114. Maria Amor, UAW 2320
  115. Estee Ward, Make the Road New York – NOLSW/UAW 2320
  116. Noha Arafa, ALAA/UAW 2325
  117. Terry Fitzgibbons, Building Rep., NJEA/Education Association of Passaic
  118. Sherry J. Wolf, CWA 1032
  119. Damon Fillman, Steward, CWA 1032; Rutgers AAUP-AFT
  120. Alan Maass, CWA 1032
  121. BJ Walker, CWA Local 1032
  122. Lauren Tomkinson, CWA Local 7799
  123. Alexandra Haridopolos, Delegate, UFT/AFT Local 2
  124. Marty Goodman, Former TWU Local 100 Executive Board (1997-2006)(retired)
  125. Caryn Schreiber, ALAA/UAW 2325
  126. Emma Goodman, Vice President, ALAA/UAW 2325
  127. Ray Siqueiros, AFT Local 8002
  128. Stephane Barile, Site Rep., New Haven Teachers Association, CTA
  129. Nora Christiani, ALAA/UAW 2325
  130. Gregory Butterfield, NOLSW/UAW 2320
  131. Kathleen Shannon, Staff Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT Local 6323; CWA local 1032
  132. Marie E. Kelly, At Large Member, National Nurses United
  133. Katherine Fitzer, ALAA/UAW 2325
  134. Pooja Patel, ALAA/UAW 2325
  135. Daniella Korotzer, ALAA/UAW 2325
  136. Angelica Barrios, 1199SEIU (Forensic Social Worker)
  137. Lauren Katzman, ALAA/UAW 2325
  138. Gloria Banasco, ALAA/UAW 2325
  139. Maureen Stutzman, ALAA/UAW 2325
  140. Omar Alam Rana, Alternate Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  141. Monica Bustos, 1199SEIU
  142. Matt Caldwell, ALAA/UAW 2325
  143. Michael Gibbons, Representative, LGBTQ+ Caucus, ALAA/UAW 2325
  144. Mirna Haidar, ALAA/UAW 2325
  145. Kip Bastedo, ALAA/UAW 2325
  146. Jonathan McCoy, ALAA/UAW 2325
  147. Joe Piette, NALC Branch 157
  148. Naila Siddiqui, Vice President, ALAA/UAW2325
  149. Hannah Deegan, ALAA/UAW 2325
  150. Mallory Harwood, ALAA/UAW 2325
  151. Titus Mathai, ALAA/UAW 2325
  152. Michael Pate, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  153. Rebecca Kurti, 1199/SEIU
  154. Kar Nowakowski, ALAA/UAW 2325
  155. Keith Malonis, 1199/SEIU
  156. Katharine Kuhl, ALAA/UAW 2325
  157. Angie Rodriguez, 1199/SEIU
  158. Mik Kinkead, ALAA/UAW 2325
  159. Sophie Cohen, ALAA/UAW 2325
  160. Neil Friedman, PSC-CUNY Retired Chapter
  161. Jordan Manalastas, ALAA/UAW 2325
  162. Leon Pulsinelle, NJEA
  163. Brianda Guzman, 1199/SEIU
  164. Larry Hales, 1199/SEIU
  165. Aissatou Barry, Delegate, ALAA/UAW 2325
  166. Benjamin Jarvis, Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1520
  167. Elena Landriscina, ALAA/UAW 2325
  168. Susan Kingsland, 1199/SEIU
  169. Alex Washington, ALAA/UAW 2325
  170. Grover Francis, ALAA/UAW 2325
  171. Taylor James, Former Executive Board Member, ALAA/UAW 2325
  172. Haley Pessin, Interim Delegate, 1199/SEIU; Legal Workers Rank and File
  173. Tarini Arogyaswamy, ALAA/UAW 2325
  174. Ferdinand Cesarano, 1199/SEIU
  175. Lori Masco, ALAA/UAW 2325
  176. Patrick Matutina, ALAA/UAW 2325
  177. Kathleen Wahl, ALAA/UAW 2325
  178. Hilary Dowling, ALAA/UAW 2325
  179. Raissa Carpenter, ALAA/UAW 2325
  180. Khouloud Ballout, 1199/SEIU
  181. Laurie Dick, ALAA/UAW 2325
  182. Samantha Plummer, UAW 4100; Central Brooklyn DSA
  183. Hannah Hussey, ALAA/UAW 2325
  184. Stephanie Hedgecoke, Recording Secretary, CWA 14156
  185. Bill Riggin, ALAA/UAW 2325
  186. Ivan Pantoja, Former Executive Board Member, ALAA/UAW 2325
  187. Marlen S. Bodden, ALAA/UAW 2325
  188. Candace Graff, ALAA/UAW 2325
  189. Jeff Schuhrke, Representative, UIC United Faculty, AFT Local 6456
  190. Norman Koerner, Alliance of Charter School Employees, AFT
  191. Whitney Powers, Steering Committee Member, CWA 7799
  192. Alex Wolf-Root, President, CWA 7799
  193. Bri Dobson, CWA 7799
  194. Hypatia Ostojic, Systemwide Chair, Peace and Justice Committee, UPTE CWA 9119
  195. Patrick Langhenry, ALAA/UAW 2325
  196. James Lauderdale, Lead Senior Civil Service Advocate (retired), SEIU Local 721
  197. Amanda Achin, Classified Staff Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association; Boston DSA Labor Working Group
  198. Darrin Hoop, Building Rep., Seattle Education Association; National Educators United
  199. Richard Blum, ALAA/UAW 2325
  200. Catherine Khella, Organizing Committee, NYC DSA Labor Branch
  201. David Guerrero, Delegate, 1199SEIU
  202. Asa Mendelsohn, UC-AFT 3299
  203. Helen Scott, Department Rep., United Academics: AAUP/AFT Local 3203; VT AFL-CIO State Labor Council
  204. Nancy Welch, UVM United Academics AAUP/AFT, Local 3203; Upper Valley Democratic Socialists of America
  205. Liz Medina, Executive Director, Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; UAW 2322
  206. Ron Jacobs, President, AFSCME 1343
  207. Heidi Fox, Vermont State Employees Association
  208. John Davy, Vermont State Employees Association
  209. Shannon Dufour-Martinez, AFSCME 1674
  210. Kit Andrews, Vermont State Employees Association
  211. Stephanie Higgins, union staff, GEO-UAW 2322
  212. Stanley Heller, AFT 1547, retired; Middle East Crisis Committee (Connecticut)
  213. Susan Klein, Unite HERE Local 34, Yale Unions Retirees Association
  214. Frank Panzarella, Former President, IAM Local 1990; New Haven Energy Task Force / Fight the Hike
  215. Martha London, Professional Staff Union/Massachusetts Teachers Association (Retired)
  216. Dylan Kupsh, UAW 2865; NSJP, UCSB SJP, UCLA Grad SJP
  217. Marsha Love, United Association of Labor Educators


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.  

“Between the rock of the occupation, and the hammer of coronavirus”

“Between the rock of the occupation, and the hammer of coronavirus”

ANTI-RACISM  •  April 19, 2020  •  G.N. Nithya

The Coronavirus and the Conditions of Palestinian Workers

“Colonialism is not a thinking machine,
nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties.
It is violence in its natural state…”

— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1963).

This past month Israeli soldiers dumped a Palestinian worker at a checkpoint on the border of the West Bank, shivering from fever and barely able to breathe. According to Middle East Eye, he “had been showing signs of the coronavirus over the past four days, and was recently tested for the virus. But before the man, allegedly a resident of Nablus, could receive his test results, his Israeli employer reportedly called the authorities, who picked him up and dropped him on the other side of the Beit Sira checkpoint, which connects central Israel and the occupied West Bank.” “It’s like we are slaves to them,” says a local Palestinian, “They use us when they need us, and when they are finished, they throw us away like trash.” Since the crisis began Israeli soldiers have actively obstructed the emergency response for Palestinians by shutting down multiple clinics and continuing their practice of arbitrary house demolitions.

Checkpoint in Bethlehem. [Photo: Anne Paq]

Praise for “battle-ready” Israel’s militarized response to the coronavirus pandemic has turned a blind eye to the manner in which it has also weaponized the coronavirus pandemonium against Palestinians. While Gaza has been strangled by a 13-year blockade and repeated military invasions, which renders its two million inhabitants vulnerable to pandemics, in the West Bank Palestinians struggle with a brutal occupation that seeks to deny them the most basic and necessary means to survive and care for themselves. As of April 9, 2020, the West Bank is reported to have 250 cases of the coronavirus. However, these numbers are set to increase significantly in the coming period due to the return of many Palestinian workers from Israel following Passover and for Ramadan. While people in Italy and UK take to their balconies applauding the “essential sector” workers, Palestinians who work in Israel’s “essential industries” find themselves crushed “between the rock of the occupation and the hammer of coronavirus.”1

Palestinian civil society organizations are calling for an immediate international intervention. Though the COVID crisis may be an “exceptional” moment in recent world history, the conditions to which Palestinians are subjected reminds us that the Nakba (النكبة) – the expulsion, dispossession, and dehumanization of Palestinians in 1948 – is not a fact of the past, but is ongoing. Palestinian workers bear the brunt of this violence. It is imperative that the international left recognize the exceptional setting of the pandemic confronting Palestinians, and take political actions in support of immediate relief to the medical emergency and an end to the Israeli occupation.

The Occupation and the Pandemic

Many Palestinians are denied access to basic health services by Israeli land confiscations and checkpoints. Palestinian communities in Area C, which comprises approximately 60 per cent of the West Bank, are particularly in jeopardy.2 In the area of the Naqab (Negev), for example, over 80,000 Palestinians have no access to emergency healthcare. Coronavirus cases are rapidly spreading in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians are subject to Israel’s discriminatory “residency” criteria and severe underfunding of public services.3 Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem only have 22 ventilators for nearly 350,000 people. Many working class and poor Palestinians’ access to health services in the West Bank has been on the decline because their public health infrastructure has been undermined by Israel’s withholding of clearance revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA), cuts in US funding under the Trump administration, as well as austerity measures imposed on the PA by the World Bank and IMF. In the West Bank, only 256 adult ventilators are available for a population of three million Palestinians, of which 90 per cent are already in use. Spread of the virus will have catastrophic consequences for Palestinians.

Yet efforts by Palestinians to develop communal systems of support are systematically sabotaged by the Israeli occupation. In March, Palestinians involved in disinfecting public spaces and distributing aid packages in the Old City of Jerusalem were arrested. In early April, the Israeli army arrested the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi Hidmi as he sought to assist Palestinians in Jerusalem with the COVID pandemic.4 On April 15, despite forty confirmed cases in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, the Israeli army raided the coronavirus testing clinic in the local mosque and arrested its organizers. Palestinian residents of Silwan have been repeatedly the target of evictions and expulsions, as have Palestinians throughout Area C. In the Jordan Valley hamlet of Khirbet Ibziq, similarly, the Israeli army is sabotaging coronavirus relief attempts by confiscating equipment for the construction of a field clinic and emergency housing for its residents, some of whom have been subject to house demolitions.5 Even as the United Nations has called for ceasefire in all conflict zones and populations world over are told to stay indoors, Israel throws Palestinians out of their homes.

On a daily basis, Palestinians confront institutionalized segregation through Israel’s control over their water, access to which is a basic necessity under this pandemic. Israel’s appropriation and exploitation of water in Palestine’s coastal and mountain aquifers and in the Jordan Valley has been one of its main weapons of war. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities issued military orders to consolidate their control over underground water basins and water-related infrastructure, a control which they safeguarded under the terms of the 1994 Oslo Accords. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are forced to purchase water (trucked or from the Israeli state-owned water company, Mekorot) at exorbitant prices. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 180 rural communities in the West Bank have no access to running water. In the “unrecognized” villages of the West Bank, over 56,000 people are in the same situation. According to Amnesty International, water expenses can amount to one-half of the family’s monthly income in some of the poorest communities. The outcome is a manifestly racialized discrimination; the average Israeli settler living in the West Bank consumes three to eight times the amount of water than Palestinians.6 This system of “water apartheid” makes it impossible for Palestinians, especially working class and poor, to maintain the most basic hygiene conditions that are necessary to survive this pandemic. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel as an occupying power must at a minimum ensure the basic conditions of health and hygiene, including conditions of water and sanitation.

This moment of the COVID pandemic is being exploited by the Israeli authorities to further intensify military actions, electronic and other mechanisms of surveillance, and to create new “facts on the ground” in a process of annexation of Palestinian land that has been normalized by the Trump administration, recent Israeli Knesset decisions, and the “unity deal” being negotiated between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.7 In the last month, major Israeli settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem are being expanded, further cutting the territorial contiguity of the West Bank.8 Apartheid road infrastructure for settlers only are being extended in major settlements like Ma’ale Adumim.9 While the Palestinian Authority has imposed lockdowns in the West Bank, the Israeli army has intensified night raids, arrests, home demolitions, and house evictions in the West Bank and Jerusalem.10 In a two week period during the pandemic in March alone, according to Mondoweiss, “Israeli forces injured 200 Palestinians, detained 100, demolished 16 structures.” Israeli violations in the West Bank have intensified meanwhile, with recent news reports that attacks by settlers have risen by 78 per cent with Palestinians being brutally assaulted,11 kidnapped, their olive trees uprooted, and their property spat on by Israeli soldiers and attacked by settler-youths who are under coronavirus quarantine.

Palestinians Crossing the Green Line and the Apartheid of Virus Containment

Palestinians who work in Israel and the settlements are particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. Having stripped Palestinians of their land, Israeli colonization has worked to transform them under military rule into dependent, subordinate, and exploitable wage-workers incorporated into the Israeli economy. A systematic policy of de-development suppressed Palestinian industrial development after 1967, and, accompanied by the expropriation of cultivable land and water in the Occupied Territories, forced many Palestinians to work as daily wage labourers in Israel and on the very settlements built on their confiscated lands. This policy remains in place today. Given the high levels of unemployment as a result of Israel’s strangulation of their economy, Palestinians now working in Israel and the settlements are estimated to number over 133,000,12 while their wages support a population of over half a million.13

Even before the pandemic, these thousands of workers were subject to multiple tools of racial discrimination by the Israeli authorities. These include subjection to the checkpoints’ permits system, which is a primary tool of blackmail to politically discipline Palestinians and force collaboration; inhumane conditions in the checkpoints as thousands cross in the early morning hours; humiliation and harassment by soldiers; and discrimination in law and exploitation in practice by Israeli employers. Palestinian workers have minimal to no legal protections, are paid far less than their Jewish Israeli co-workers, without the benefits of health insurance, and yet they are forced to pay social security contributions and union fees to the Israeli labour syndicate Histadrut without representation. They are exploited by Israeli and Palestinian intermediaries – mafias who force them to pay exorbitant fees (at over $800 (US) monthly) to acquire black market permits to simply cross the Green Line but without any guarantee of actual employment.

The Israelis have been lauded for their “military style” effectiveness in response to COVID, tightening internal lockdowns. However, in order to keep key sectors of the Israeli economy running in the midst of the pandemic, which stood to lose $1.8-billion a month from the cessation of construction alone,14 the Israeli government allowed continued entry of Palestinian workers into Israel. In doing so, Israeli authorities have used the pandemic to intensify surveillance and repression of these workers. Palestinians who require permits to stay in Israel are now “advised” to download a smartphone app called “Al Munasiq” (“The Coordinator”) which allows the Israeli military to track users’ location, and access their personal files as well as the phone’s camera.

The frontiers of Israeli apartheid not only segregate Palestinians from Jewish Israelis, but also the Palestinian bodies themselves. Israel has privileged able-bodied young Palestinian workers to the exclusion of older ones. On March 11, the Israeli authorities announced new regulations barring Palestinian workers over 50 years of age from crossing effective March 12; On March 17, they announced that effective March 18, those Palestinian workers under 50 were obliged to remain in Israel for a one- to two-month period if they wished to continue employment. It is estimated that between forty and fifty thousand Palestinian workers entered Israel in this scramble. However, on March 25, the Palestinian Prime Minister issued a call for Palestinian workers to return to the West Bank following public outcries over their racist and inhumane treatment. Workers are being forced to live in squalid conditions at their places of work in Israel, which are reportedly “not appropriate for humans” while Israel has failed to test workers for coronavirus. Rather than being cared for, workers who develop symptoms or who have been suspected of being sick have been have been dumped back into the West Bank at checkpoints along the Green Line, “like trash,” often without coordination with Palestinian authorities.

A potential uncontrolled spread of coronavirus is feared in the West Bank due to the return of over 40,000 workers after the start of Passover and Ramadan. Moreover, the Israeli government has announced that workers who return to the West Bank during this holiday period will be denied entry back into Israel for employment.15 These workers are highly reliant on their wages in Israel as the only source of income and many still owe debts for the permits they purchased to cross the checkpoints.16 Meanwhile they risk direct exposure to the virus in Israel and are simultaneously unable to access healthcare or testing. Upon their return to the West Bank, these workers are still unable to get tested and face backlash with the recent surge of cases.17

International Labour Solidarity with Palestinians

This moment of crisis offers a historical opportunity to galvanize solidarity movements with Palestinians and other indigenous people and workers around the world. On April 7, a coalition of Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations issued a new call for international solidarity, demanding that Israel allow access to critical civilian health infrastructure, and release Palestinian political prisoners who have been illegally detained and risk exposure to the virus in Israeli prisons. They have also called for the siege of Gaza to be broken with another Freedom Flotilla, and the escalation of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.18 Coalitions between civil society organizations have issued a Palestinian Civil Society Joint Statement on COVID. Regular systems of reporting have been established by Al-Haq, the long-time legal advocacy group, to monitor the violence to which Palestinians are being subject in the current pandemic, as well as, on basic conditions of water, health, and medical equipment. Most recently on April 14, 2020, a coalition of human rights organizations issued an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures. They are calling on the UN to denounce Israel’s systematic practices of racial discrimination and exploitation of Palestinian labour, who are forced to risk their health and life under this crisis. Beyond COVID, initiatives to bring Israel to trial on war crimes in the International Criminal Court have direct bearing on current realities.

One of the questions for the international left is how to urgently mobilize support for the campaigns and coalitions being advanced in/from Palestine. Nakba Day on May 15, 2020 will mark the 72nd year of the unconscionable injustices against which the Palestinian people continue to struggle. It is imperative for left forces to link the specific conditions of colonialism and apartheid facing Palestinians with neoliberal attacks on working classes the world over. The struggle of Palestinian workers cannot be interpreted only as a national struggle for self-determination. COVID-19 comes at a time of intensified capitalist crisis, in which the working class has been under systematic attack from decades of neoliberalism, commodification of most areas of social life, dispossession of land base, and indebtedness. Palestinian workers are fully incorporated in these processes of global finance capital, in the particular context of the ongoing Israeli settler-colonial rule. Thus, struggle of workers in Palestine with COVID-19 needs to be understood as a struggle also against capitalism. Calls for unified global action by labour have been made by the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle, among others, demanding solidarity with Palestinians and all colonized people in this pandemic.19 We need to urgently act in solidarity, understood, in the words of Mozambican revolutionary Samora Machel, not as “an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.”20 •


  1. Mahmoud Zawahreh, Palestinian activist, in “Coronavirus: Israeli settlers exploit lockdown to annex Palestinian land.”
  2. Joint statement, “Israeli Apartheid Undermines Palestinian Right to Health Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic,” 7 April 2020; World Health Organization, “Overcoming barriers to healthcare access in the West Bank with mobile clinics.”
  3. Nir Hasson, “After Weeks of Warning, Coronavirus Spreading Among Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” 14 April 2020; J. Ahmad, “Falling between the cracks in Jerusalem,” 30 March 2020.
  4. Daoud Kuttab, “Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him,” 4 April 2020; Dr. Ashrawi, “Israel deliberately undermining Palestinian efforts to combat COVID19 pandemic,” 3 April 2020.
  5. B’Tselem, “During the Coronavirus crisis, Israel confiscates tents designated for clinic in the Northern West Bank,” 26 March 2020; The New Arab, “Coronavirus under occupation: Israeli forces demolish emergency health clinic for Palestinians,” 27 March 2020.
  6. Adri Nieuwhof, “Israeli settlers use six times more water than Palestinians,” 8 April 2013; Al-Haq, “On World Water Day, Al-Haq Recalls Israeli Water-Apartheid Amidst a Global Pandemic,” 23 March 2020.
  7. Chaim Levinson, Jonathan Lis, “Netanyahu, Gantz Agree on West Bank Annexation Proposal as Unity Deal Nears,” 6 April 2020; Yaser Alashqar, “From Covid-19 to the ‘Deal of the Century’ – Palestine and international law,” 8 April 2020.
  8. Israel exploiting coronavirus for settlement expansion,” 12 March 2020; Akram Al-Waara, “Coronavirus: Israeli settlers exploit lockdown to annex Palestinian land,” 27 March 2020.
  9. Haaretz editorial, “Israel’s Latest Highway to Apartheid,” 11 March 2020; for background: “The E1 plan and its implications for human rights in the West Bank,” 27 Nov. 2013.
  10. Ali Abunimah, “Israel attacks Palestinians as they fight COVID-19,” 31 March 2020; “Israel demolishes Palestinian homes amid coronavirus crisis,” 28 March 2020; “Since coronavirus pandemic outbreak: Israel kidnapped 292 Palestinian,” 3 April 2020.
  11. Tamara Nassar, “Settler attacks rise by 78 percent amid pandemic,” 11 April 2020; “Jewish Settlers Attack Palestinian Family Homes in Hebron,” 6 April 2020.
  12. Estimates includes West Bank and Gaza, “The Labour Force Survey Results 2019,” Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
  13. In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Jerusalem estimated these figures at 200,000 Palestinian workers, implying their wages support a population of over one million (assuming each worker supports at least five dependents) (“Palestinian labourers fear loss of income as well as coronavirus”).
  14. On March 6, 2020, the Israeli financial newspaper, Calcalist, estimated significant losses at $1.8-billion monthly for the construction sector if Palestinian workers were not allowed in, see Ahmad Melhem, “Israel tightens grip on Palestinian workers to limit COVID-19,” 20 March 2020; Adam Rasgon, “PA urges Palestinian workers to return to West Bank as Israel’s virus cases grow,” 25 March 2020.
  15. Jack Khoury and Hagar Shezaf, “Palestinians fear coronavirus surge as workers return from Israel over passover,” 4 April 2020; Rania Zabaneh, “Palestinians brace coronavirus outbreak workers return,” 6 April 2020.
  16. Zeina Amro, “A Glimpse into the COVID-19 Crisis in the Context of Palestine,” 2 April 2020; Alex Lederman, “Palestinian labourers fear loss of income as well as coronavirus,” 28 March 2020.
  17. Palestinians brace for influx of workers as Covid-19 cases continue to risesee video.
  18. Al-Haq, “In the face of potential COVID-19 outbreak in the Gaza Strip, Israel is obliged to take measures to save lives,” 7 April 2020; Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council press release, “PHROC Calls the International Community & ICRC for an Urgent Intervention,” 23 March 2020; Samidoun, “Virtual call to action for Palestine: COVID-19, Gaza and the Struggle for Justice,” 16 March 2020; also see, internationally: Michael Arria, “Warren, Van Hollen lead Senators in demanding Trump admin send aid to Palestine amid COVID-19 crisis,” 27 March 2020; IfNotNow, “Demand Israel Protect Palestinians in Gaza.”
  19. Solidaires (CM), “Coronavirus: colonialism worsens the situation too,” 1 April 2020; Solidaires (CM), “Palestine in the Time of Covid-19,” 9 April 2020.
  20. Salim Vally, “From South Africa to Palestine, Lessons for the New Anti‐Apartheid Movement,” Left Turn, Notes from the Global Intifada, April 2008.

G.N. Nithya is a Ph.D. candidate at York University.

Labor for Palestine Statement at NYC May Day 2019

Presented by Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine

From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!

On May Day 2019, I first want to remember Bud Korotzer, who was present at NYC May Days for some 70 years through 2018, and who is very much here today in spirit. To his lifelong partner, Fran, and their family, please join me in saying: Bud Korotzer, presente!

There are many organizations and struggles represented here. That’s how it should be, because the whole meaning of May Day is to show unity between all struggles for justice, to reaffirm, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “justice is indivisible.”

Today, from Jim Crow to Jerusalem, from the Mexican border to Gaza, Palestine is on the cutting edge of such justice movements. And Palestine is a workers’ issue!

At the forefront of that intersectionality are Dr. Angela Y. Davis, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Michelle Alexander, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Black for Palestine, and other Black supporters of Palestinian liberation.

Their leadership, in turn, reflects more than half a century of Black solidarity with Palestine, as exemplified by Malcolm X, SNCC, the Black Panther Party, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. And that is why those leaders are being smeared by Zionists with charges of anti-Semitism, and even being cynically blamed for recent attacks on Jewish synagogues in this country.

To the contrary: blame for those attacks lies squarely with Trump and his mob of  anti-Semites, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and rightwing politicians—all of them openly allied with Israel—who have whipped up and/or tolerated a frenzy of racist violence against Muslims, People of Color, Jews, and others.

These alliances echo Israel’s long-standing and well-documented complicity with rightwing dictatorships and apartheid South Africa.

Let’s be clear: none of this started with Netanyahu. It is rooted in Zionism, a settler-colonial ideology that has practiced “ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death” against Palestinians, an ongoing Nakba (Catastrophe) has been carried out since 1948 by an Israeli apartheid regime that veteran South African freedom fighters have called “worse than apartheid.”

Nowhere is this clearer than at the Gaza fence, where for the past year, Palestinians have demanded an end to the siege, and their right to return to their homes throughout historic Palestine. In response, Israeli snipers have killed hundreds, and maimed thousands, using $3.8 billion each year in U.S. weapons. In exchange,  Israel serves as watchdog for imperialism throughout the region and beyond.

But none of this can stop the Palestinian freedom struggle and the mushrooming Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which call for (1) ending Israel’s 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.

Together, we will win.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine



To a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 people, a discussion: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go” was held on Wednesday, March 22, at 6101 Wilshire Blvd., formerly Johnie’s with the theme, “grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality (sic),” according the Facebook page of the event.

Also according to the same Facebook page, the event was sponsored by Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement Southern California, California for Progress, HP Boycott Campaign-Los Angeles, Idle No More L.A., Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Jewish Voice for Peace-L.A., Labor for Standing Rock, LA4Palestine, and March and Rally Los Angeles.


Karen Pomer, who was the lead event organizer, also according the Facebook page, and who is also with Labor for Standing Rock, said, “If we are missing a few people tonight, it’s because we have hundreds of people that we helped organize along with many other groups outside the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office tonight fighting back against the raids and again protecting the state of California from ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

To read the Facebook page, which announced the discussion, click here.


Pomer introduced Garik Ruiz.  Ruiz said he’s the North America liaison for the Palestinian BDS Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee (BNC).  Thus, he works with organizations fighting for human rights for Palestinians against the Israeli state.  Ruiz reported last week the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia released a report for the first time named Israel as “creating a system of apartheid” and asked governments to respond to the BDS campaigns.  Because of pressure from the U.S. and Israel, the U.N. removed the report.  In response, the director resigned rather than withdraw the report.  He also reported the Israeli state had detained prominent Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti placed him under “intense interrogation” to intimidate him and the BDS movement.  Click here to read the the full statement on Barghouti by BNC.

Ruiz then introduced the panelists: Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, who was born in Kuwait and is the National Chairwoman of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Alfredo Gama, who is a member of the Papalotl Brown Berets and an organizer of the recent immigration protests; Nana Gyamfi, who is a member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, including BLMLA; Michael Letwin, who is a New York City public defender, former president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (United Auto Workers Local 2325) and Labor for Standing Rock; Lydia Ponce, who is an organizer with the American Indian Movement and Idle No More of Southern California and an organizer of the No Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Los Angeles; and Ameena Mirza Qazi, who is the Executive Director of the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, civil rights attorney who has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination and due process issues.


Barakat characterized herself as a Palestinian-American immigrant and refugee.  She said, “Trump’s win … has been very difficult and exhausting for many of us…. Aside from him (President Trump) bringing us together today, we’re only two months into his administration and we’re already seeing a change in the American landscape….Tens of thousands of citizens across the country have stormed congressional offices and town hall meetings.…We can see today policy flourishing in the larger institutional structure that serve only select few in the American society.  Whether you’re Black, Latino, Native American, LGBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer) or a Muslim, the system excludes you equally….As a Palestinian, I can say with certainty that injustices we face are the same ones our Black, Latino and Native American brothers and sisters have faced for far too long.”


Next was Gama.  He said when he was first asked to speak he was reminded of the Facebook picture, which said, “From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson to Palestine.”  He then explained that Ayotzinapa is “where 43 students went missing, to Ferguson, where Michael Brown was murdered right to Palestine, where … indigenous Palestinians are also being murdered…. We have to understand we are still a colonized people…. The law is not about justice but power…. We are illegal because we are profitable…. We are saying we are here and we are here to stay.”


Gyamfi followed Gama.  She almost immediately said, “It is clear that everyone that’s here is someone who understands that how this system is constructed is completely wrong, that it needs to be destroyed and that we need to build a new world.”  She pointed out the Platform for the Movement for Black Lives in 2016 included support for BDS and Palestinian autonomy because Pan-Africanism and the struggle of the Palestinians are a result of colonialism.  At the end, she said, “We are talking about the onslaught on the freedom, the liberation, the autonomy of indigenous populations and we will win together.”


Letwin followed Gyamfi.  He said the struggle around Palestine is “a beating heart” of intersectionality, which puts Palestine in the center.  Letwin rhetorically asked what the Trump administration means for the movements?  He said while the Trump era is troubling and worrisome, the response, the resistance to it is hopeful.  He pointed out that the policies of the Trump administration that the grassroots movements are responding to are the policies that were part of the Obama administration and all the administrations before it.  Letwin’s last point was that different struggles must include those struggles that have been most marginalized, like the struggles of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Palestine.


Ponce immediately reminded the audience they were on the land of the Tonga people.  She said when we come to these kinds of gatherings and meetings, “we recognize that we are all healing from our historical trauma and that the value of coming together like this is to do it more often.”  Ponce said activists “need to step out of their comfort zone and “just show up” even when it “may not be your thing.”  She added, “For solutions tonight, … is to accept the idea the economic elite has declared war on all of us and has signed a death certificate for earth mother.”


Last to speak on the round was Qazi.  She wasted no words.  She described briefly that the question of Palestine was important to the Middle East South Asian Committee, which is part of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.  She spoke of the Arabic concept of “ummah,” which means community, but also “transcends space and time” and the need to return to that concept that was used before 9/11.  She said, “The United States plays the most active role in oppression of foreign peoples with the suppression of Palestinian rights.”

Ruiz posed some questions to the panel.  First, besides just showing up, are there ways to develop what Ruiz called, “joint struggle.”  Barakat said it was important to learn about each other’s struggles and then participate.  Gama said it was important “to show up but to shut up.”  He said for himself, while he can learn about the Palestinian struggle and stand in solidarity with it, he understood the Palestinians must lead their own struggle.  Gyamfi said issues need to be identified that “we have the same opposing force” and that we understand that we are oppressed and harmed in different ways.  Letwin said one area for potential struggle is to look at “class” and when attempts are made to exclude folks, we need to figure out a way to participate without being silenced, including our own contingents.  Ponce echoed Gama and ended her thoughts with “honor the differences but find the similarities.”  Qazi said it was important to create safe spaces for all of us.  She used a recent example, where it was necessary for the NLG had to boycott a meeting because the Anti-Defamation League (According to the Electronic Intifada, the ADL had been advising universities how to isolate the BDS movement.  Click here to read the Electronic Intifada article.), was participating.  To educate those at the meeting, the NLG sent a letter explaining its decision.

Ruiz posed a second question: what does it mean for us to be supporting Palestinian indigenous resistance, when we are doing that work here on indigenous land and how can we better shape our campaigns and messaging?  Ponce said it was divestment and the need to support the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights for the Indigenous People.

Ruiz posed a third question: how can the Palestine Solidarity Movement in the U.S. do more to support the Movement for Black Lives?  Gyamfi said one way is “to address the anti-blackness within in the Palestinian population.”

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”


From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from#NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality.

Join some of the leading representatives from these movements to discuss how we can deepen coalition building and a united front within mushrooming resistance in the Trump era.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22nd
6:30 PM: Reception with refreshments
7:00 PMRound Table starts promptly

WHERE: Formerly Johnie’s Coffee Shop 
6101 Wilshire Blvd, (at Fairfax) Los Angeles, CA 90048


MODERATOR: Garik Ruiz, the North America Liaison for the Palestinian#BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. He works with local and national partners throughout North America to support BDS campaigns and be a direct link for local organizers back to the BNC leadership in Palestine. Garik spent 6 months in Palestine at the height of the second Intifada in 2002 and 2003 working with Palestinians resisting the occupation non-violently through the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). LA-based Garik has been deeply involved in local struggles for racial and environmental justice over the years.


Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, Palestinian-American community organizer, refugee born in Kuwait, and originally from the village of Tantoura in the suburbs of Haifa. Currently the National Chair of Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and a board member of the newly launched Palestine Foundation; organizer of many of So-Cal Palestinian Solidarity actions.

Alfredo Gama,
 member Papalotl Brown Berets; undocumented (illegal) youth organizer; organizer of many of the recent large immigration #NoWallNoRaid protests in the Los Angeles area.

Robert Gardnerstudent activist; member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, who has been targeted by ultra rightwing Zionists for his activities; a senior studying Political Science, African American Studies, and Urban Planning.

Nana Gyamfi, member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys dedicated to providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, which includes BLMLA; represented all the BLMLA members who were arrested/had court cases/went to trial from 2014 – 2016; will continue to represent BLMLA members who ask for representation. 

Michael Letwin, 
NYC public defender; former president, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; 1960s-1970s L.A. youth activist (Red Tide); co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock.

Lydia Ponce, organizer with American Indian Movement-SoCal; Idle No More LA; lead organizer of all the many #NoDAPL protests in LA.

Ameena Mirza Qazi, Executive Director of the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. A civil rights attorney and activist; she has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination, First Amendment, equal protection, and procedural due process issues, including #NoWallNoBan.

Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement (AIM) So-Cal, California for Progress, Idle No More LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock and LA4Palestine, March and Rally Los Angeles.