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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

US trade unionists support Palestinian call for military sanctions on Israel

Following last week’s call by Palestinians for immediate military sanctions on Israel, “similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past,” US trade union members released a statement on 13 July announcing full support of the call, the BDS movement, and inalienable rights for Palestinians such as the right of return.

Days ago, the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) also came out in support of the call for a military embargo against Israel and BDS as well. 

In a statement from Labor for Palestine, US-based trade unionists and labor activists called on labor bodies to divest from Israeli bonds, urged workers “not to handle weapons and all other military cargo destined for Israel,” and stated that these “and other necessary measures be maintained until the Israeli apartheid regime recognizes Palestinian human rights and self-determination.”

This statement has been signed by workers and organizers from a multitude of different labor unions from across the country, and follows in a strong tradition of solidarity with Palestinians by US labor groups. The International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU), a union that has a decorated history of strong support for anti-apartheid, anti-racist and anti-war political activism, last year prevented an Israeli cargo ship from being unloaded at the Port of Oakland in direct response to the ongoing blockade in Gaza and the lethal attacks by the Israeli navy on the Gaza flotilla weeks earlier. 

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), on the day the Palestinian call for sanctions against Israel was announced, stated in a press release:

The largest Palestinian coalition encompassing all Palestinian political parties, trade unions, NGOs and mass organisations, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), today called for an immediate and comprehensive military embargo on Israel.

“A comprehensive military embargo on Israel is long overdue. It forms a crucial step towards ending Israel’s unlawful and criminal use of force against the Palestinian people and other peoples and states in the region, and it constitutes an effective, non-violent measure to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law,” reads the BNC’s call.

The full text of the US-based Labor For Palestine network’s support for the Palestinian call for sanctions is below. The group is still collecting signatures from workers and union organizers.

Whereas, on May 4, 2011, the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (PTUC-BDS)specifically called “on trade unions around the world to actively show solidarity with the Palestinian people by… . divesting from Israel Bonds and all Israeli and international companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid”; and

Whereas, on July 8, 2011, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) urgently called for “immediate international action towards a mandatory comprehensive military embargo against Israel similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past”; and

Whereas, since the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1947-1948, Israel has used at least $108 billion from the U.S. government to carry out ongoing war, ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid against the Palestinians and many other Arab nations; and

Whereas, in the past ten years alone, the U.S. government — with overwhelming bipartisan support — has given Israel $17 billion in military aid; over the next decade, it will give another $30 billion; and

Whereas, as a result, Palestinian workers continue to be killed and maimed by U.S.-supplied naval vessels, jet fighters, Apache helicopters, white phosphorous and other weapons; and

Whereas, in 2008/2009 alone, Israel used these weapons to enforce the brutal and illegal siege by killing 1400 people in Gaza, most of them civilians — a massacre condemned by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations, including those that are Israeli; and

Whereas, U.S. supplied-weapons were similarly used in the deadly May 31, 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and to kill scores of unarmed Palestinian refugees exercising their right to return in 2011; and

Whereas, in 2006, Israel turned Lebanon into a killing ground, slaughtering and maiming thousands of people, destroying the civilian infrastructure, and turning a quarter of the population into refugees in their own land; and

Whereas, the U.S. and Israel provided similar support to the apartheid South Africa regime, just as they now arm and finance dictatorships to suppress the Arab Spring; and

Whereas, veteran South African freedom fighters have observed that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is “worse than apartheid”; and

Whereas, amidst spiraling economic crisis, workers in this country pay a staggering human and financial price for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation from Palestine to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan; and

Whereas, just as trade unionists fight “replacement” of striking workers, we stand against the dispossession, occupation and inequality inflicted on millions of Palestinian working people and their descendants for more than six decades; and

Whereas, the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against apartheid Israel has been endorsed by numerous labor bodies around the world, including the trade union congresses of South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Ireland, Scotland and the UK, and labor bodies in Australia, France, Canada, Norway, Catalunya, Italy, Spain and Turkey; and

Whereas, numerous U.S. labor bodies participated in similar divestment campaigns against apartheid South Africa; and

Whereas, following the May 31, 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, members of ILWU Local 10 in Oakland courageously followed the South African dockers’ example by refusing to handle Israeli cargo; and

Whereas, such solidarity stands in the proud tradition of West Coast dock-workers who refused to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934) and fascist Italy (1935); those in Denmark and Sweden (1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refused shipping for apartheid South Africa; those in Oakland who refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and those at all twenty-nine West Coast ports who held a May Day strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008).

Therefore, we join with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Brazilian CUT, and other labor bodies, in specifically reaffirming support for an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo; and

Whereas, Israel has now sought to repress the growing BDS campaign by banning recognition of the 1948 Nakba or advocacy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions;

Therefore, we call on all labor bodies to divest from Israel Bonds; and

Therefore, we call on workers not to handle weapons and all other military cargo destined for Israel; and

Therefore, that these and other necessary measures be maintained until the Israeli apartheid regime recognizes Palestinian human rights and self-determination by immediately:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands (1967) and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.