In the best tradition of labor solidarity, South African and Australiandockworkers responded by refusing to handle Israeli cargo, and the Congress ofSouth African Trade Unions (COSATU) "call[ed] on other workers and unionsto follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott allgoods to and from Israel until Palestine is free."
Their action echoes the West Coast dock-workers who refused to handle cargo forNazi Germany (1934) or fascist Italy (1935); those in Denmark and Sweden(1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refusedshipping for apartheid South Africa; those in Oakland who refused to load bombsfor the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and those at all twenty-nineWest Coast ports who held a May Day strike against the wars in Iraq andAfghanistan (2008).
Since Gaza, the 2005 BDS call also been endorsed or reaffirmed by numerousother labor bodies around the world, including the trades union congresses ofIreland, Scotland and the UK; UNISON (UK); Transport and General Workers’ Union(UK); L’Union syndicale Solidaires Industrie (France); Canadian Union of PostalWorkers; Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario; six Norwegian tradeunions; and Intersindical Alternativa de Catallunya.
It is no accident that South African workers play a leading role in the BDSmovement. They remember that Israel was apartheid South Africa ‘sclosest ally. They agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s observation thatIsrael ‘streatment of Palestinians is "worse than apartheid." They recognizethat the Gaza massacre mirrors the infamous Sharpeville massacre of 1960, which gave birth toan international boycott against South African apartheid.
This rising tide of labor support for BDS has only been further vindicated byIsrael’s rejection of the war crimes indictments issued against it by AmnestyInternational, Human Rights Watch, the UN’s Goldstone Report and numerous otherbodies — many of them Israeli.
The BDS campaign is particularly relevant to workers in theUnited States .
In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid to Israel was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be another $30 billion. As inIraq , Afghanistan and Pakistan ,U.S. aircraft,white phosphorous and bullets kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers, while bothDemocratic and Republican politicians condone the slaughter. Amidst deepeningeconomic crisis, workers in this country pay a staggering human and financialprice for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation throughout the region.
Despite all of this, however, manyU.S. labor officials — oftenwithout the knowledge or con-sent of union members — have ignored Palestinianappeals for justice. Instead, they continue to collaborate with the Histadrut,the Zionist labor federation that not only supported Israel’s war on Gaza, butwhich has spearheaded — and whitewashed — racism, apartheid, dispossessionand ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians since the 1920s.
They have invested billions of our union pension funds and retirement plans inState of Israel Bonds .They have actively encouraged the U.S. to provide the money and weapons that oppress Palestinian workers, and toensure Israel ‘s role aswatchdog for U.S. dominationover the oil-rich Middle East .
The Jewish Labor Committee has exploited its carefully groomed"progressive" image by hurling hurls false accusations of"anti-Semitism" against those who challenge racism in the U.S. labormovement, who support affirmative action for workers of color, who criticizenotorious "AFL-CIA" support U.S. war and empire, and — above all –who oppose apartheid Israel.
Thus, it was the JLC that in July 2007 mobilized top AFL-CIO and Change to Winofficials to condemn British union support for BDS. It is the JLC that seeks todeflect outrage over the Gaza massacres bylaunching Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine ,whose stated purpose is to sabotage the BDS campaign, while demanding boycottsagainst Iran , which –unlike Israel — receives noU.S. aid and has no "weapons of mass destruction."
In the 1980s, as president of the United Mine Workers, you rightly argued that,"economic pressure and political isolation of the South African governmentcan hasten the day when justice and freedom reign in that troubled land."Two decades later, the cause of "justice and freedom" forPalestinians requires no less of you as president of the AFL-CIO. As tradeunionists, we must immediately and completely:
1. Divest from State of Israel Bonds.
2. Support workers’ refusal to handle Israeli cargo.
3. Break ties with the racist Histadrut.
4. Oppose U.S. military andeconomic aid for Israel .
(List in formation — *For identification only)
Monadel Herzallah, President, Arab American Union Members Council,California
Larry Adams, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Former President, NPMHU L. 300*
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, New York City LaborAgainst the War; Former President, UAW L. 2325/ALAA*;Al-Awda NY ;International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor
Brenda Stokely, Co-Convener, New YorkCity Labor Against the War; Former President, AFSCMEDC 1707*; Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement
Sam Weinstein, Former President, UWUA L. 132*; International JewishAnti-Zionist Network/Labor
Stanley Heller,AFT L. 1547*, Delegate, CT Central Labor Council*
Marty Goodman, Former Executive Board Member, TWU L.100*
Fred Mason ,Maryland AFL-CIO*
Clayola Brown, A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFL-CIO*
Frank Rosen, General Vice President (retired), UE*
Steve Zeltzer, Producer, Labor Video Project
Anthony Arnove, National Writers Union/UAW L.1981*
Mike Gimbel, Chair, Labor-Community Unity Committee, AFSCME DC 37 L. 375*;Delegate, NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO*
Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council*
Lee Sustar, Chicago Labor Against the War
Timothy Kaminski, UAW L. 110* (ret.)
Janice Rothstein, AFSCME L. 3299*
Andy Griggs, UTLA*; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee, Cafe Intifada
Emma Rosenthal, UTLA*; LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee, Cafe Intifada
Pete Nowicki, AFSCME L. 145*
Jim Crampton, 1199SEIU/UHWE*
Allan Fisher, AFT L. 2121, SF Community College*
Alan Benjamin, OPEIU L. 3*
Sharon Black, AFT L. 2*; Bailout the People Movement
Bill Balderson, Oakland Education Assn.*
Sarah Ringler, AFT L. 1936, PVFT*
Frank Pinto, UPTE-CWA L. 9119*
Steve Desavouret, TCU/IAM 6608*
Louis LaFortune, AFT L. 1936, PVFT*
Azalia Torres, Former Executive Bd. Member, UAW Local 2325/ALAA*
Patrick Langhenry, UAW Local 2325/ALAA*
Lucy Herschel, Delegate 1199SEIU/UHWE*
Carol Seligman, South San Francisco California Teachers Association*
Rubina Jamil, Working Women Organization; AllPakistan Trade Union Federation*
Tony Leon, Secretary General, Venezuelan Union of Oil Industry Workers*