Monthly Archives: March 2008

U.S. Labor and Gaza

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New York City Labor Against the War
March 23, 2008

New York City Labor Against the War joins the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions in denouncing Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza, the victims of which include at least 130 Palestinians — half of them civilians, including dozens of women and children — since February 27.


Israel claims that it is fighting “terrorism” in Gaza. This is the same hollow excuse with which the U.S. seeks to justify war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the erosion of civil liberties and labor rights at home.

In fact, Israel’s attacks are part of a relentless, U.S.-orchestrated campaign of collective punishment — with complicity of the corrupt Palestinian Authority — to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government.

Long before its latest massacres, Israel had turned Gaza into the world’s “largest open air prison,” assassinating activists, and cutting-off essential goods and services to 1.5 million people. Only as a result did Hamas abandon a unilateral two-year truce.

Even now, Israel seeks to derail Hamas truce offers by escalating arrests, home demolitions, settlements and murder in the West Bank — from which no rockets have been fired.

Despite media portrayals, this violence is overwhelmingly one-sided against Palestinians, who have no aircraft, artillery or tanks.

Thus, while only one Israeli has been killed by rockets launched from Gaza since May 2007, Israel’s modern arsenal killed 60 Palestinians on March 1 alone.

On February 29, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Valnai, threatened a bigger “Shoah” — a reference to the Nazi Holocaust.

As UN official John Dugard has pointed out, Palestinian rockets are not the cause, but the “inevitable consequence,” of Israeli state terror in Gaza, the slow-motion genocide which human rights organizations describe as “worse than at any time since the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967.”

Following the latest attacks, a Council on Foreign Relations expert explained, “You have Palestinians who wouldn’t necessarily support the violence but they are saying, ‘Well, what choice do we have?'”


Israel’s war on Gaza can only be understood as an attempt to stamp out all resistance — including nonviolent protest — to Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Indeed, most of Gaza’s population are survivors of Zionist expulsions since the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, when 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 of Palestine — including East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — which, in violation of UN resolutions, remains under Israeli military rule.

Today, as a result of these policies, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are refugees — the largest such population in the world. Despite other UN resolutions, Israel vows that it will never allow them to return.

Palestinians who managed to remain within the 1948 areas — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are permanently separated from their families in exile, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, treated as a “demographic threat,” and threatened with mass expulsion.

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, denied medical treatment, and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints.

From 2000-2007, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories were killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

All of these conditions have dramatically worsened since the Annapolis “peace conference” in November.


Israel’s war on Palestine depends completely on U.S. money, weapons and approval.

Since 1948, Israel — the top foreign aid recipient — has received at least $108 billion from the U.S. government. In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be $30 billion.

Israel’s recent assault on Gaza was endorsed by a Congressional vote of 404-1. Democratic and Republican presidential candidates fall over themselves to offer more of the same.

On March 22, Dick Cheney reassured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of “America’s. . . . commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats,” and that the U.S. and Israel are “friends — special friends.”

This “special friendship” means that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is U.S. aircraft, cluster bombs and bullets that kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers. Just one of many targets was the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions headquarters in Gaza City, destroyed by F-16s on February 28.

Such support bolsters Israel’s longstanding role as watchdog and junior partner for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East — and beyond. In that capacity, Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally.

After 9/11, it helped intensify the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but helped manufacture “evidence” of Iraqi WMD. With U.S. weapons and support, it invaded Lebanon in 2006.

Together, these wars and occupations have killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, thereby creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Now, Israel is the cutting edge of threats against Syria and Iran.

In other words, oppression and resistance in Palestine is the epicenter of U.S.-Israeli war throughout the Middle East. These stakes are reflected in the ferocity of Israel’s attacks against Gaza.


In Palestine, South Africa, Britain, Canada and other countries, labor has condemned Israeli Apartheid.

Workers in the United States pay a staggering human and financial price, including deepening economic crisis, for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation.

But through a combination of intent, ignorance and/or expediency, much of labor officialdom in this country — often without the knowledge or consent of union members — is an accomplice of Israeli Apartheid.

Some 1,500 labor bodies have plowed at least $5 billion of union pension funds and retirement plans into State of Israel Bonds.

In April 2002, while Israel butchered Palestinian refugees at Jenin in the West Bank, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was a featured speaker at a belligerent “National Solidarity Rally for Israel.” In 2006, leadership of the American Federation of Teachers embraced Israel’s war on Lebanon.

These same leaders collaborate with attempts by the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) to silence Apartheid Israel’s opponents — many of whom are Jewish.

In July 2007, top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win signed a JLC statement that condemned British unions for even considering the nonviolent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Just days ago, the JLC and the leadership of UNITE-HERE bullied a community organization in Boston into revoking space for a conference on “Zionism and the Repression of Anti-Colonial Movements.”

Even the leadership of U.S. Labor Against the War, which receives funding from several major unions, remains adamantly silent about U.S. government, corporate and labor support for Israeli Apartheid.

Labor leaders’ complicity parallels infamous “AFL-CIA” support for U.S. war and dictatorship in Vietnam, Latin America, Gulf War I, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It strengthens the U.S.-Israel war machine and labor’s corporate enemies, reinforces racism and Islamophobia, and makes a mockery of international solidarity.


More than forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came under intense public attack for opposing the Vietnam war. Even within the Civil Rights Movement, some dismissed his position too “divisive” and “unpopular.”

In his famous speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967, Dr. King answered these critics by pointing out that “silence is betrayal,” and that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . [is] my own government.”

At the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace in November 1967, he reiterated the most basic principles of labor solidarity: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. . . . Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

These principles are no less relevant today.

Yes, the Israel lobby seeks to silence opponents of Israeli Apartheid. All the more need for trade unionists to break that silence by speaking out against Israeli military occupation, for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and for the elimination of apartheid throughout historic Palestine.

Therefore, we reaffirm our support for an immediate and total:

1. End to U.S. military and economic support for Israel.

2. Divestment of business and labor investments in Israel.

3. Withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from the Middle East.

Issued by NYCLAW Co-Conveners
(Other affiliations listed for identification only):

Larry Adams
Former President, NPMHU Local 300

Michael Letwin
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys

Brenda Stokely
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March

NYCLAW, with Al-Awda-NY The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is a cofounder of Labor for Palestine.

Previous NYCLAW materials on Palestine include:

Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (October 19, 2007)

Open Letter to UTLA President A.J. Duffy (October 9, 2006)

U.S. Government and Labor Aid to Israel (September 1, 2006)

Labor and the Middle East War (August 11, 2006)

Conference: Palestine, Labor and the AFL-CIO (July 23, 2005)

From Palestine to the US – Labor Fights Back! (October 7, 2004)

Report on the New York Visit by Representatives from the PGFTU (December 22, 2002)

An Evening With Palestinian Trade Unionists (December 13, 2002)

Protest Israeli Consul’s Speech to AFL-CIO (May 21, 2002)

No Labor Money for Israeli War Crimes! (May 21, 2002)

Monday Israeli Consul Protest Postponed April 26, 2002)
Subscribe to the NYCLAW low-volume listserv:

New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
PO Box 620166, PACC, New York, NY 10129

Protest Greets ‘Butcher of Gaza’

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By Greg Butterfield
New York

Hundreds of Palestinian people and their supporters gathered outside Manhattan’s luxurious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel March 18 to protest a fundraiser for the Friends of the Israeli Occupation Forces (officially “Israeli Defense Forces” or IDF). Inside, wealthy patrons supped on $1,000-a-plate dinners and toasted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, dubbed the “Butcher of Gaza.”

Though New York Police forced protesters to rally across the broad expanse of Park Avenue, there was no question that the occupation’s backers heard their message loud and clear. Throughout the rally well-heeled guests quick-stepped from their limos and towncars into the hotel lobby, while Barak’s arrival was greeted with jeers and thunderous chants of “Bush, Barak, you will see, Palestine will be free!”

The crowd of women, men and children held signs demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and waved large Palestinian flags in the chilly late-winter air. Besides people of Arab descent, there were African American, Latin, Asian, Native and white supporters, including anti-Zionist Jewish activists.

Protesters cheered when International Action Center co-director Sara Flounders offered her wish to the “Friends” that they “choke on their dinners.” She was echoed by other speakers who said their plates were caked in the blood of dead and suffering Palestinian children in Gaza.

The protest was organized by Al-Awda NY-The Palestine Right of Return Coalition and the General Union of Palestinian Students, among other groups. Speakers at the rally included Samia Halaby of the Defend Palestine Coalition and Al-Awda NY, people’s attorney Lynne Stewart, Larry Holmes of Troops Out Now Coalition, Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against the War, and Charlotte Kates of New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine.

On March 11, 13 human rights and anti-war organizations had called on the Waldorf-Astoria management to cancel the event. “The human rights violations committed by the Israeli military over the past 60 years are severe,” said the groups’ statement. “Last week the respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported that, ‘From 27 February to the afternoon of 3 March, 106 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. Contrary to the [Israeli] Chief of Staff’s contention that ninety percent were armed, at least fifty-four of the dead (twenty-five of them minors) did not take part in the hostilities. In addition, at least forty-six minors were wounded.’

“Furthermore, during last week’s fighting, Israel’s Deputy Defense MinisterMatan Vilnai threatened Gaza’s people with ‘a bigger holocaust.'”

Israel has blockaded Gaza, cutting off electricity, fuel, water, food, and medicines. Hundreds of people have died in vicious Israeli military assaults. Meanwhile, U.S. politicians–Republican and Democrat alike–and the corporate media continue to label heroic Palestinian resistance as “terrorism” and U.S./Israeli state terrorism as “self-defense.”

The Zionist settler state, Washington’s loyal attack dog in the oil-rich Middle East, receives more than $5 billion in U.S. aid annually, almost half going directly to the military. President Bush’s proposed 2008 budget calls for a further 9-percent increase in direct military aid.

U.S. Gov’t Cited for New Orleans Housing Crisis (Workers World)

At U.N. meeting in Geneva
U.S. gov’t cited for New Orleans housing crisis

By LeiLani Dowell Published Mar 9, 2008 8:15 PM

In the midst of the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a joint statement by two United Nations advisers—one on housing, one on minority rights—has called on the U.S. government to stop the demolition of public housing in New Orleans and defend the human rights of the city’s Black residents and internally displaced persons.

The statement was issued by Miloon Kothari, the special rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and Gay McDougall, the independent expert on minority issues, during a meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva.

The declaration cited the lack of consultation with the affected communities regarding the demolition of public housing developments, the increasing cost of rents and mortgages, and reports showing more than 12,000 homeless in the New Orleans metropolitan area. “These demolitions, therefore, could effectively deny thousands of African-American residents their right to return to housing from which they were displaced by the hurricane,” they stated. (UN News Service, Feb. 28)

Although “the authorities claim that the demolition of public housing is not intentionally discriminatory,” (Associated Press, Feb. 29) Kothari and McDougall stated, “The disproportionate impact on poorer and predominantly African-American residents and former residents would result in the denial of internationally recognized human rights.” (UN News Service, Feb. 28)

A delegation of more than 100 activists, organized by the U.S. Human Rights Network ( under the leadership of Ajamu Baraka had traveled to Geneva to challenge the U.S. government’s report to the U.N. monitoring body. The delegation included a group of organizers focused on the rights of Katrina survivors and internally displaced people. Other delegates included Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and People’s Hurricane Relief Fund; Mayaba Liebenthal, Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence; Monique Harden, Advocates from Environmental Human Rights (AEHR); Brenda Stokely, NYC Katrina/Rita Solidarity Committee; and Katie Schwartzmann, ACLU-NO (New Orleans).

Kothari and McDougall’s statement was issued two weeks after tests revealed that formaldehyde fumes in FEMA trailers and mobile homes, used to house survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, were at toxic levels. The chemical preservative, which is commonly used in construction, was classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2004.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Feb. 14 that tests conducted on 519 trailers and mobile homes revealed fumes that were, on average, five times higher than the exposure in modern homes. More than 35,000 survivors currently reside in these facilities.

According to the Associated Press, “The formaldehyde levels in some trailers were found to be high enough to cause breathing problems in children, the elderly or people who already have respiratory trouble, CDC Director Julie Gerberding said. About 5 percent had levels high enough to cause breathing problems even in people who do not ordinarily have respiratory trouble, she said.” (Feb. 15)

FEMA officials had ignored complaints by trailer occupants—beginning as far back as 2006—of a series of ailments, including nosebleeds, difficulty breathing and headaches. Now it says it is rushing to, once again, find temporary housing for these survivors before the summer makes the fumes worse.

Bridging the Gap: Making it Happen

An organizers conference for people who wish to act together to bridge the gap between civilians and members of the armed forces resisting the war by organizing direct face-to-face outreach

April 5, 2008

Middle Collegiate Church
50 East 7th St., New York, New York


10 am – Noon: First hand reports on sentiment against the wars in the armed forces outreach to the troops [organizing tactics in the real world]

1:00 – 1:30: Resistance Through Evocation: Photographs, Poems

1:30 – 3: Troops Resist War; Vietnam And Iraq: Eyewitnesses

3:30 – 5: On Guard: “We Never Swore To Obey; We Swore To Defend”

5 – 6:30: Iraq Veterans + Union Workers = History In Motion

Fabian Bouthillette, Iraq Veterans Against The War & The Military Project

Clarence Thomas, Local 10, San Francisco The International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Speakers In Alphabetical Order [Partial List]
*Thomas Barton, The Military Project & GI Special
*Richard Boyle, Author, Flower Of The Dragon
*Elaine Brower, The Military Project & Traveling Soldier & Military Families Speak Out
*Fabian Bouthillette, Iraq Veterans Against The War & The Military Project
*J.D. Englehart, Iraq Veterans Against The War & The Military Project & Traveling Soldier
*Mike Hastie, Photographer, Vietnam Veteran
*Michael Letwin, New York City Labor Against The War & The Military Project
*Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq Veterans Against The War
*Dennis Serdel, Poet, Vietnam Veteran
*Clarence Thomas, Local 10, The International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Organized By: The Military Project: [With the assistance of Traveling Soldier & GI Special]