Monthly Archives: October 2007

Additional NYC Labor Support for Israel Boycott

The following letter was written by Mike Gimbel, recently retired member of AFSCME Local 375 and current elected Local 375 delegate to the New York City-Central Labor Council. Gimbel wrote the letter in response to an article that appeared in the Sept. 7 edition of The Chief whereby New York City Comptroller William Thompson attacked British trade unions for supporting a boycott of Israel.

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http://www.thechief-leader.com/news/2007/1026/letters/040.html

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper October 26, 2007

As a Jewish trade unionist who supports the just struggle of the Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel, I object to the hypocrisy inherent in the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) President Stuart Appelbaum’s statements, as quoted in the Sept. 7 issue. [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2683] JLC President Appelbaum, in opposition to the boycott of Israel by British unions, states in the JLC letter that “Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together.”

Where has the JLC actually done this? The JLC is a partisan supporter of Zionism! It has always fought strenuously against such a dialogue within the labor movement! Please tell me what unions in NYC have allowed representatives of the Palestinian resistance movement to speak to their members? From my own personal experience, I know that just bringing up the question of defense of the Palestinians, even in the most moderate fashion, is enough to bring down on one’s head a full frontal political attack intended to silence all critics of Zionism.

Many years ago, I chaired a large meeting of my union chapter where I invited both sides to speak. Only the Palestinian side showed up because the Zionists’ side refused to sit at the same table with the Palestinians! Last month, at a meeting I chaired at DC 37 opposing the Iraq occupation, I made a plea to the union movement to begin a dialogue on this critical issue. The JLC letter is quoted as stating: “We call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” I challenge the JLC to make that statement a reality! I’ll gladly help them set up such a meeting where the rank-and-file union members can attend and ask questions. Let’s start a real and continuing dialogue!

The issue of the boycott of Israel can’t be allowed to be pushed under the rug. The issue of Zionism is central to almost every political conflict in the Middle East. U.S. foreign policy for over a half century is wedded to the ideology and strategy of Zionism. Trillions of dollars of our tax money and the blood of the U.S. soldiers, as well as the blood of millions of Iraqis, Lebanese, Iranians, Afghans, Palestinians and Jewish civilians are at stake. Washington has no money for health care, no money for rebuilding our bridges and infrastructure, no money to rebuild New Orleans while trillions of dollars are poured into the wars in the Middle East.

Can the AFL-CIO affiliated American Center for International Labor Solidarity known as the Solidarity Center continue to embrace U.S. support for the Israel occupation while unions all over the world are backing the boycott? In order to emphasize the importance of the issue, I stated at the meeting I chaired at DC 37 last month that “Today’s Palestinians are yesterday’s Jews” and “Today’s Gaza Strip is yesterday’s Warsaw Ghetto.” We must support the seven million Palestinian refugees waiting outside occupied Palestine for decades because the Zionists refuse their legal right to return, while the other three million Palestinians live directly under the Zionist boot heel. This is one of the greatest crimes in human history along with the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews!

Let’s have a dialogue on the rise of anti-Semitism but most importantly, engage the labor movement in a dialogue about Palestinian human rights and the right of return. Let’s not cover up the U.S. sponsored crimes of Zionism. As a first step in that dialogue, I was pleased to see that The Chief printed the letter in your Oct. 19th edition that was written by Larry Adams, Brenda Stokely, Marty Goodman and Michael Letwin that criticized Comptroller William C. Thompson and the JLC witch-hunt of the British unions for boycotting Israel. I contacted them, after seeing their letter in The Chief, in order to say how much I liked their letter.

Our union members come from all over the world. That includes the Middle East and it includes Palestinians as well. Shouldn’t we give them the right to be heard? Shouldn’t we also allow Jewish anti-Zionists to be heard? Isn’t it about time that our unions set up forums where both sides can be heard? That’s what I actually did in my union chapter many years ago. Unity cannot be achieved by silencing our Palestinian and Middle Eastern members. Let’s follow the old and true union motto: “In unity there is strength.”

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NYCLAW Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks

http://www.thechief-leader.com/news/2007/1019/Letters/032.html

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper October 19, 2007

Thompson and Israel

To the Editor:

The undersigned trade-union activists disagree with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the Jewish Labor Committee, who have joined the witch-hunt against British unions for boycotting Israel (Sept. 7 issue [*]).

Palestinian trade-union bodies have long asked international labor to support the boycott; endorsers now include the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and unions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

It is no more unfairly selective or one-sided than the isolation of apartheid South Africa, a campaign in which we and many others actively participated. This boycott — many of whose supporters are Jewish — DOES NOT target Israel for its ethnicity, but for theft and colonization of Arab lands, denial of equality to Arab-Palestinians in Israel, and violation of Palestinian Refugees’ right to return home.

South African apartheid — racist oppression of the black majority — was consolidated in a 1948 white-only election. At the same time, apartheid Israel began with the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1947-49, when Zionists systematically terrorized, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian majority. Some 13,000 Palestinians were massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent — including East Jerusalem, the’ West Bank and Gaza — which remains under military rule.

Today, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are in exile — the world’s largest refugee population. Those who managed to remain — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are confined to 2.5 percent of the land, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, and deemed a “demographic threat” to be “transferred” elsewhere.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined, separated and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints. In Gaza, 1.4 million suffer sealed borders; air, artillery and ground strikes; economic blockade; designation as “enemy entity”; and suspension of essential services.

During the past seven years, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories have been killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

Apartheid Israel has also aggressively exported itself beyond Palestine. It was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally. Especially since 9/11, it has promoted the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but manufactured phony “evidence” of WMD for the Bush administration to invade Iraq.

There, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon, the U.S./Israel alliance has killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, using Israeli-perfected techniques of collective punishment, air war, human shields, home demolition, assassination, kidnapping, rendition, detention, torture, separation walls, partition and ethnic cleansing. Working people in this country have also paid a high price for these wars to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. Now, Israel is at the forefront of escalating attacks against Syria and Iran.

Moreover, apartheid Israel is sponsored by the U.S. In the past ten years alone, it has provided $17 billion in military aid, which the bipartisan Congress has just increased by 25 percent. U.S. trade-union officialdom is a shameful accomplice, and tries to silence union members who oppose this apartheid regime.

Ending this support would strike a critical blow against war and racism — abroad and at home. As in South Africa, points out Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a boycott “will not change [the regime’s] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [apartheid is] racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

Workers in Palestine, the United States, and around the world, deserve no less.

LARRY ADAMS
Former president, Mail Handlers Local 300

MARTY GOODMAN
Former executive board member, TWU Local 100

MICHAEL LETWIN
Former president, Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

BRENDA STOKELY
Former president, AFSCME DC 1707

[Signers affiliated with New York City Labor Against the War; other affiliations listed for identification only]

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http://www.thechief-leader.com/news/2007/0907/News/014.html
*The Chief-Leader, September 7, 2007

Thompson Hits Israel Boycott by Brit Unions

By ARI PAUL

City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Aug. 28 blasted several British unions, including the Transport and General Workers Union
(TGWU), for supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.

Various groups have called for boycotts of products made in Israel and for institutions to divest from companies that do business in Israel to protest the country’s 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Thompson sent letters to several trade-union leaders saying, “Boycotts of this nature will result merely in a failure to achieve a just and fair resolution of the Middle East conflict.”

Labor Leader Applauds

Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum, who is also president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, praised Mr. Thompson’s stance.

“I thank Comptroller Thompson for his bold words against these ill-conceived anti-Israel resolutions,” Mr. Appelbaum said in a statement. “It is my hope that Comptroller Thompson’s words will be followed by similar actions by others truly concerned about seeking a just and fair resolution, and peace in the Middle East.”

The JLC issued a statement signed by dozens of American labor leaders opposing such boycotts and divestment campaigns. The president of the TGWU’s American counterpart, James C. Little of the Transport Workers Union of America, signed the statement, but Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100, has not made his stance on the issue public.

‘Bring Them Together’

“Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations,” the JLC’s letter said. “In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.”

Mr. Thompson was pleased to see American unions signing the JLC’s statement.

“The Comptroller is concerned about any issues that affect trade and the economy,” a spokesman for Mr. Thompson said in an email. “In this instance, as he indicates in his letter, he is concerned that ‘antagonism or retaliation’ are being employed whereas constructive dialogue would be a more productive route.”

Postponement of NYCLAW Meeting

Postponement of NYCLAW Meeting
Posted by: “NYCLAWNYCLAW mletwin2001
Date: Mon Oct 8, 2007 9:28 am ((PDT))

Due to scheduling conflicts, the next NYCLAW meeting
will NOT take place on Tuesday, October 9, but will be
rescheduled in the near future.