As historic victims of state-sponsored discrimination and violence, Jews have long stood with the oppressed, including the labor, civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. Indeed, many of us in the labor movement today are the descendants of parents and grandparents who considered working class struggles to be their lives’ work — as do we.
In that spirit, the Labor Network of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) wholeheartedly supports the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), including the academic boycott, against Israeli apartheid.
The BDS campaign was initiated by Palestinian civil society, including its entire labor movement. It calls for an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of historic Palestine, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they have been ethnically cleansed since the Nakba of 1947-1948, and equal rights for all throughout historic Palestine.
This campaign has been endorsed by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Trades Union Congress (U.K.), Solidaires Industrie (France), UNISON (UK), Transport and General Workers’ Union (UK), Western Australia Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, six Norwegian trade unions, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Intersindical Alternativa de Catallunya.
The BDS campaign gained still greater urgency after the Gaza pogrom launched by Israel on December 27, which left 1,400 dead and 5,000 wounded; nearly all were civilians, hundreds of them children. Gaza remains under Israeli siege.
One of labor’s finest hours was participation in the international boycott movement against South African apartheid, in solidarity with Black working families who labored in conditions of near-slavery.
Today, South Africans point out that Israeli apartheid is even worse, if only because its aim is so clearly the elimination of what Zionists call a “demographic threat” — an ideology of racism and ethnic cleansing with which Jewish history is all too familiar. They remember that Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally.
For these reasons, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union in Durban has refused to handle Israeli cargo, while COSATU has “call[ed] on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.”
Despite all of this, U.S. labor officialdom — often without the knowledge or consent of union members — remains a leading accomplice of Israeli apartheid.
For more than sixty years, it has closely collaborated with the Histadrut, which has spearheaded — and whitewashed — apartheid, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians since the 1920s.
U.S. labor leaders have an estimated $5 billion of union pension funds and retirement plans invested in 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 July 2007, Stuart Appelbaum of the Jewish Labor Committee, a Histadrut mouthpiece, enlisted top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win to condemn British union support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
This treacherous role parallels U.S. military and financial support, without which the Zionist system could not exist.
How far have the AFL-CIO moved on since opposing the historic March on Washington led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.? They are entrenched in Israeli racism and apartheid.
Upholding our Jewish heritage of fighting oppression, and reaffirming the principle of labor solidarity, we in IJAN-Labor call on labor bodies everywhere to totally and immediately:
- Divest from State of Israel Bonds.
- Boycott Israeli goods, and support workers’ refusal to handle Israeli cargo.
- Break ties with the Histadrut.