Israel-funded group slams US labor federation for backing Palestinian rights

Solidarity activists are urging support for a US labor federation facing a backlash from a group closely tied to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over its support for Palestinian rights.

In October, the Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling on the national labor federation to back key elements of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

AFL-CIO is the largest US labor federation, counting dozens of unions with a combined membership of almost 13 million workers as its affiliates – 200,000 of them in Connecticut.

Now they’re in the sights of the Israeli-government funded, anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic organization StandWithUs.

“StandWithUs is deeply disappointed that this resolution passed,” the group’s northeast regional director Shahar Azani told the right-wing blog The Daily Caller. Azani claimed the decision was based on “a distorted, one-sided misrepresentation of the reality of the situation.”

But the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is pushing back.

It is urging supporters to sign a petition thanking the Connecticut AFL-CIO for its “principled stance in calling for national AFL-CIO to apply economic and diplomatic tools including BDS to support freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.”

Backed by Netanyahu

StandWithUs’ Azani asserts that his group wants to build “bridges and not walls between people such as those BDS promulgates.”

But the group has long been one of the most aggressive anti-Palestinian organizations in the US.

In January, Haaretz reported that the Israeli prime minister’s office had hired StandWithUs for $254,000 to “to help it push the government’s political line this year via social media.”

The Tel Aviv newspaper notes that in recent years, “StandWithUs has performed this service for free when Israel faced intense criticism abroad, such as during the summer [2014] war with Gaza.”

StandWithUs also colluded with the Israeli government to sue members of the Olympia Food Co-op for their decision to boycott Israeli goods in 2010. That litigation is ongoing.

In addition to the Israeli government, StandWithUs lists as its “sponsors and partners” dozens of the most extreme Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian organizations active today, including CAMERA, Christians United for Israel, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Zionist Organization of America.

The fact that the Connecticut AFL-CIO has attracted the attention of StandWithUs, a group with such high-level ties to Netanyahu, suggests that the labor federation will face growing pressure to reverse its vote.

But recent decisions to adopt BDS initiatives by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and the American Anthropological Association have dealt blows to Israel’s efforts to curtail support for Palestinian rights.

UE is facing a National Labor Relations Board complaint over its vote, filed by Shurat HaDin, another Israel-backed, anti-Palestinian group.

As of this writing, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s petition to thank the Connecticut AFL-CIO had garnered more than 2,600 signatures.

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Let me quote from Abunimah's article: "Azani asserts that his group wants to build “bridges and not walls between people such as those BDS promulgates.”

I trust the irony of the allusion to not building 'walls' is not lost on the rest of us!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.