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.
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.”