Labor for Palestine Introduction

Al-Awda NY (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and New York City Labor Against the War are pleased to introduce Labor for Palestine, a new, labor-driven campaign for justice in the Middle East.

Israel’s oppression and exploitation of Palestine’s indigenous population – the Arabs – is based on maintaining a state with exclusive ethnic demographics. “The Jewish State” is the euphemism for this scheme, and it is fueled by the political ideology of Zionism. For all practical and historical purposes, Zionist Israel has been a 56-year colonial project. Zionism has always been opposed by the indigenous Middle Eastern majority, because it threatens the cultural and physical existence of that population.

Arab expulsion, displacement and population transfer have been the fundamentals of Zionism since Israel’s inception. That agenda has continued and accelerated to this day, and labor exploitation is just one its manifestations.

The best word that describes Israel’s economic and political situation is apartheid. This unfortunate term was coined in South Africa, where European colonizers subjected the indigenous African population to large-scale captivity and ghetto-ization. The essential difference between South African and Israeli apartheid is that South Africa’s goal was to exploit native labor for mass industrialization and mineral extraction, while Zionism’s goal is to cleanse Palestine of its Arab majority. (For hard-line Zionists, that goal is to cleanse Palestine of all Arabs.) In occupied Palestine, labor exploitation not only serves Israel’s short-term economic objectives, but also serves their long term goal of frustrating Palestinian labor, thus discouraging them from remaining on their home land.

The physical manifestations of Israeli apartheid – from racist laws and governmental policy to collective punishment and arbitrary checkpoints – are, according to South African liberation leaders, an exaggeration of apartheid.

In the 1980s, US labor played a critical role in dismantling the economic base of South African Apartheid. US labor drafted petitions, lobbied politicians, blocked ports, pressured corporations to abstain from financial and political decisions that supported apartheid. By the end of that decade it had become a public embarrassment for corporations and investment banks to have any financial relationship with South Africa. The basic principles that bolstered this movement were international justice and labor solidarity.

Labor for Palestine is a campaign to restore this virtue to international and US labor. The gruesome face of apartheid has no place in a progressive world where workers deserve justice and equality. Labor for Palestine is a non-hierarchical, global network of individual workers and labor organizations who are united under common principles that pertain to Palestine. This notion should not be limited to Palestine, but Palestine is the logical starting point: Few places hold more significance in terms of human and labor rights, global security and international law. Peace in the Middle East would set an immeasurable precedent for the world, yet peace is unachievable without justice.

Contrary to the claims of fervent Zionist supporters, campaigns against Israeli apartheid are not synonymous with anti-Jewish persecution, or the destruction and expulsion of a people and culture. This campaign, like those of its founders, calls for the dismantlement of a system of oppression and inequality. If South Africa could make such a noble transition in 1994, there is no reason Israel cannot do the same.

Becoming a part of Labor for Palestine is as simple as endorsing the Labor for Palestine Open Letter. Signatories fall into two categories, each with three subcategories (more categories can be added, if necessary):

1. Labor Organizations and Trade Unions. Labor for Palestine’s success relies on the wholesale support of trade unions and formal associations that are willing to lend their political and organizational influence.
a. US-based Labor Organizations. This subcategory is crucial given that the US is the world leader in financing Israeli apartheid. These signatories will provide a base for US-based political campaigns.

b. Palestinian Labor Organizations. No social, political or economic campaign is a success without a local, grass roots labor movement. This subcategory represents just that.

c. International Labor Organizations. Justice in our modern global economy is unattainable without international labor solidarity. Each signatory in this category represents a critical and unique element of that narrative. This section also applies to current non-Palestinian residents of historic (pre-1948) Palestine.
2. Individual signatories. This is for anyone who is a worker or is looking for work. If you belong to a trade union or labor organization that has not already endorsed this letter, then please include the name of your association (e.g. Victor Siphumelele, South African Municipal Workers’ Union; Joseline Rosen, DC 1707, Illinois). Your courageous endorsement will inspire other people in your group, and will hopefully lead the entire organization to endorse.

a. US-based Individuals.

b. Palestinian Individuals.

c. International Individuals.

Labor for Palestine will leverage its profile of endorsers as a unified political front. Initially, all organizational matters will be conducted on an e-mail listserve, which you can join by writing to lfp@al-awdany.org. All announcements and future initiatives will be posted to this Web site. An exclusive, independent Web site devoted solely to Labor for Palestine will be established soon after endorsements are received.

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