Archive for the Labor Organizing Category

Open letter to UK Trades Union Congress General Secretary

Posted in International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

4th October 2010
Brendan Barber
General Secretary
Trades Union Congress
Congress House
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3LS

Dear Mr Barber,

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), of which all of Palestinian trade union federations are members, warmly welcomes the recent passing of a motion at the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) that sets out plans for boycotting the products of and divesting from Israeli and international companies that are implicated in Israel’s occupation and colonial settlements.

The global trade union movement has consistently demonstrated its commitment to Palestinian rights by adopting labour-led sanctions as a form of effective solidarity with Palestinians. In the wake of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and in response to appeals from the BNC1 and from the entire Palestinian trade union movement,2 dockworkers in Sweden and California, USA implemented blockades of Israeli goods and an Israeli ship respectively. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing over 80 million workers worldwide, called for a three-day strike against handling cargo to and from Israel.3 Dockworkers in India, Turkey, Norway and South Africa – where the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) pioneered the boycott against Israeli maritime trade in February 2009 by refusing to offload a ship in Durban in protest of Israel’s war of aggression on the Gaza Strip – also announced support and plans to implement blockades.4 The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has launched a campaign to make every municipality in South Africa an “Apartheid Israel free zone”.5 Earlier this year, trade union federations and coalitions in Belgium,6 Canada and the Basque country joined other national federations and scores of individual unions in endorsing the global BDS movement.7

Adopting measures in the framework of the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is the most morally consistent and prominent form of trade union solidarity with Palestinian civil society and with Palestinian workers, in particular.

With almost seven million members, the TUC is the largest organised civil society body in the UK. Its pledge to lobby the UK Government and the EU to take stronger steps to ensure that Israel complies with UN resolutions is therefore a welcome and important one. The BNC hopes that the TUC feels able to lobby for and take steps to ensure the recognition and implementation of all of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people – the end of the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied by Israel since 1967 and dismantling of the wall, the recognition of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and, crucially, the implementation of the Palestinian right to return as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BNC looks forward to the joint work between the TUC General Council and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to actively encourage the boycott of, and divestment from, companies that profit from Israel’s occupation. Given the size and important role of the TUC and UK trade unions in general, successful efforts to ensure that pension funds do not invest in corporate supporters of Israeli occupation and other violations of international law would have real and lasting political impacts. The BNC is hopeful about the prospects of such a pension divestment campaign as a necessary step towards the adoption of a full and comprehensive boycott of Israel, as called for by Palestinian civil society.

Given that the Scottish, Irish and South African Trade Union congresses have firmly endorsed BDS and are actively reviewing relations with the Histadrut as part of this process, and following the decision by UNISON and the UCU to take similar steps with regards to the Israeli trade union entity, the BNC is pleased that Congress condemns the Histadrut for seeking to justify the Israeli killing of civilians on the Freedom Flotilla. The Histadrut actively supported the 2008-09 Gaza massacre and is seen by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, including Palestinian trade unionists, as remaining just as vital to Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and Apartheid as it ever has been. The BNC hopes this latest step is part of a process that will result in the TUC adopting the position of some of its international counterparts and member unions by reviewing its relationship with the Histadrut.

The trade union movement played a crucial role in the international solidarity that contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa. A wide range of trade unions in the UK are making significant and principled contributions to the global movement against Israeli Apartheid. The BNC warmly welcomes the news that Congress has adopted such strong and principled steps within the BDS framework, and it looks forward to and is willing to assist in any way that it can, the implementation of these policies at the grassroots, branch level as part of a movement towards the full adoption of the Palestinian civil society BDS call.

Yours sincerely,

BNC Secretariat Occupied Palestine

1 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/710
2 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/712
3 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/718
4 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/755
5 http://www.samwu.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=621&Itemid=1
6 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/752
7 http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/758

Seven Million Back Biggest British Boycott

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Palestine Monitor
16 September 2010

At their annual conference this week the TUC, Britain’s all-encompassing trade union coalition, announced their most comprehensive boycott policy yet. It targets settlement goods as well as companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. The motion to boycott and disinvest from these companies passed unanimously on behalf of the TUC’s seven million members. The announcement will increase pressure on British retailers to cut ties with suspect suppliers.

A TUC spokesperson said: “The resolution is more focused than last year, and we’ll be putting more pressure on retailers, asking them to prove their supply chains don’t involve the occupied settlements.” Last year a similar motion had been tabled but was diluted by the powerful GMB union, and there were several abstentions and objections. This time the vote passed unopposed, seconded by the GMB. The wording of the statement included a “presumption of guilt” that requires companies to prove their profits are not related to settlements, the occupation or the separation barrier.

Although stopping short of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s hope for a boycott of all Israeli goods, the congress statement “encourages the general council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign”. This was received enthusiastically by the PSC, who feel the joint publicity will make the issues more mainstream.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber went on to criticise the siege of Gaza and the May raid on the aid flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead. Transport union TSSA President Andy Bain condemned a policy of “ethnic cleansing” from the Israeli government, adding “we are not against Jews – we are against the actions of the Israeli state.”

See the TUC promotional leaflet here http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/settlementgoodsleaflet.pdf

British trade unions to boycott Israel

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Published: Sept. 15, 2010 at 8:36 AM

MANCHESTER, England, Sept. 15 (UPI) — Britain’s trade union federation voted against lifting its boycott of Israeli goods and services from West Bank settlements, Israel Radio said.

At an annual conference in Manchester, England, the Trade Union Congress voted to strengthen ties with the radical Palestinian Solidarity Campaign but dropped plans to impose a full boycott on all Israeli goods, the radio report said Wednesday.

“Congress instructs the General Council to work closely with the PSC to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from and boycott the goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall,” the motion passed at Tuesday’s meeting said.

Hugh Lanning, chairman of campaign later said the motion “builds on that passed at last year’s conference. It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision not to implement a full boycott saying it was a blow to the boycott movement, The Jerusalem Post said.

TUC votes for campaign of boycott and disinvestment to free Palestine

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on September 14, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Press Release

For immediate release

Britain ’s unions have thrown their weight behind a campaign of disinvestment and boycott from companies which are profiting from Israel ’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

Trade unions voted unanimously today at the TUC’s annual conference for a motion put forward by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), seconded by the GMB, and supported by UNSION, PCS (the Public and Commercial Services Union) and the FBU (Fire Brigades’ Union).

The motion called for the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and construction of the Apartheid Wall.

It condemned Israel ’s blockade of the Palestinian territories, in particular Gaza , and the Israeli military’s deadly assault on aid ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in May. It also called for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza , and a full independent inquiry into the attack on the Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, which killed nine activists.

A separate General Council statement requires the TUC, which represents 6.5 million workers across the UK , to have a concrete programme for action in place by next month

Hugh Lanning, Chair of PSC, said: ‘This motion builds on that passed at last year’s conference to campaign for a boycott of goods from the illegal West Bank settlements. It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.’

Mr Lanning added: ‘Trade unions were pivotal in helping to end Apartheid in South Africa and bring freedom to that country’s people. Today’s vote shows that Britain’s unions are prepared to stand up again in support of an oppressed people – this time the Palestinians – and help them to win their freedom. This is an historic moment for the union movement in the UK , and one that it can be proud of.’

Media contact: Sarah Colborne

T: 07971 424 296

E: sarah.colborne[at]palestinecampaign.org

Unions launch international anti-settlement campaign

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Labor Organizing on September 14, 2010 by Marcy Newman

SALFIT (Ma’an) – The General Federation of Trade Unions in Palestine announced Thursday the launch of an international campaign to support the decision to boycott the goods of Israeli settlements in global markets.

The campaign is in coordination and cooperation with various trade unions and international trade union organizations in solidarity with the Palestinians, as well as a number of socialist parties in European countries.

Secretary-General Shaher Saed said that the federation was raising funds to collect signatures in support of the union’s position and its efforts to stop dealing with the goods and products of settlements.
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Washing Away Labor’s War Stain

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 8, 2010 by Marcy Newman

September 7, 2010

Why is Union Money Going Abroad?

By STANLEY HELLER

Organized labor is joining with the NAACP in a “One Nation” jobs rally in Washington on October 2nd. No doubt they will be expecting anti-war folks to flock to it Lots of peace organizations have already done so

Trouble is the rally has no obvious peace focus at all. Look at the One Nation Working Together website. The demands are for jobs, education and equality for all. Nothing about peace even as a way to pay for jobs. Nothing about peace even though many, many unions have passed anti-war resolutions. Now there is a formation called “the Peace Table” that’s getting anti-war groups involved in the march, but what is “The Table” getting in return? Is it the poor relation allowed to come to the party as long as it stays out of sight?

And does organized labor deserve automatic support while it has a big war stain on its collar, the stain from the support its leaders give to Israeli Apartheid? They support it in two ways, by opposing the growing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel and by buying huge amounts of Israel Bonds. No sooner had Richard Trumka taken over command of the national AFL-CIO than he ran to a Jewish Labor Committee denouncing Israel “bashing” and any thought of boycott. Go to the JLC website and see how RWDSU and AFT leaders give cover to Israel for its crimes on the Mavi Marmara. Yet, words are secondary. The biggest help to Israeli Apartheid comes from union member dues and pension money going to State of Israel Bonds.

It’s, of course, quite right for unions to support unions in other countries. However, for U.S. unions to give financial support to foreign governments is unheard of …except in the case of Israel. Members dues are shoveled to Israel in the millions. No one knows how much. In 1988 Russell Mokhiber talked about a survey that stated unions held $250 million in the bonds. I wrote to my own union, the American Federation of Teachers, and asked what they have. The answer was they owned $300,000 of the bonds (and that’s just the national body. My guess is the New York City local has even more). In addition some unions manage their own pensions and own bonds while public employee unions sit silently while millions in their pensions are sent to Israel by State Treasurers.

The Israel Bonds site says the money goes for the development of “infrastructure” and it has pictures of highways and trains, but as far as I can tell the money raised for the bonds goes into the general Israel budget to be used for any purpose. Even if it is restricted to “development”, remember for an apartheid state development also includes settlements, settler-only roads and walls.

Why is Union Money Going Abroad?

Is there nothing in the United States in which unions can invest? What about U.S. “development”? There is a union owned bank, the Amalgamated, which was started by Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1923. It’s ownership was caught up in the SEIU – HERE fight, but that seems now to have been settled. Anyway, why is there just one union bank? Why not start others that would invest in worker run co-ops, or at least in the U.S.A.? At the very least invest in bonds of U.S. locales that need it, the Gulf, California, or Central Falls, Rhode Island. For a trade union movement railing against offshoring why is it sending hundreds of millions of dollars of capital overseas?

Unions are supposed to care for their brothers and sisters overseas. What about Palestinian workers, bombed to hell in Gaza, unable to travel to Jerusalem, stopped at checkpoints all over the West Bank, and beaten if they sneak into Israel to work? Even if they are Israeli citizens they’re kept out of whole industries and banned from living in 90% of the land.

There are Palestinian unions. 300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are members of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Their federation belongs to the same international federation as does the AFL-CIO. You would think U.S. unions would owe some loyalty to their union brothers and sisters, or at least some sympathy seeing that their national union headquarters in Nablus and Gaza were blown up by the Israeli air force earlier this decade.

Even Jewish Israeli workers take it on the chin. Once, the Israeli union federation the Histadrut was cock of the walk. It owned banks and industries, administered most workers’ health insurance and owned kibbutzim (collective farms) and a newspaper. But for decades Israeli governments have privatized and have chopped away most of what seemed exciting to us in American unions 30 and 40 years ago. Predictably Israeli Jewish workers suffered. Israel which once was a model of social equality (for Jews) now heads the list of Western nations in inequality.

And U.S. unions should be helping to maintain that injustice?

If union members knew about it would they let their money be invested in an apartheid state? In Connecticut some of us have been raising the issue for years. Last fall we brought it up to the Central Labor Council and the body voted unanimously to ask the state AFL-CIO to dump it tens of thousands of dollars of bonds. And in fact this year when its Israel bonds matured the CT AFL-CIO did not roll them over and so far has not purchased new ones.

It’s not as if U.S. unions were acting like other trade unions around the world. Unions internationally have condemned Israeli government actions and are joining in the BDS. Swedish dock workers boycotted Israeli ships for one week after the flotilla massacre. Similar actions happened in Australia and South Africa. The largest British union, UNISON, voted to boycott Israel as has COSATU of South Africa. Unions in Ireland and in Northern Ireland condemned the attacks on the flotilla. Even the International Trade Union Confederation (of which the AFL-CIO is a member) is calling for Israel to end the siege of Gaza, to end the occupation of the West Bank and to remove all settlements. It’s U.S. international union presidents who are out of step.

There are now websites devoted to eradicating the war stain on American labor. The one I run is called Dump Israel Bonds (dumpisraelbonds.com). There’s also Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (mn.breakthebonds.org) which concentrates on getting Minnesota state government to sell off its bonds.

Organizing for October 2

Last month despite Obama’s dismal labor record AFL-CIO heads gave him ovations at a national Executive Committee meeting. In These Times reported that leaders were “elated” when he apologized for not getting card check passed. He echoed FDR’s statement that urged factory workers to join unions. Obama said “ I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.” For this he was “wildly applauded”.

But in this year’s Labor Day address when he was speaking to the nation Obama said none of that. He said nothing about the One Nation march or any union campaign or strike. He didn’t say a sentence about card check or any labor law reform. He didn’t even utter the word “union”. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Instead he gave hosannas to “the great American middle class”. (If workers are now the middle class who is the lower class?) He talked about how his people were thinking up plans so that workers would have “new ways of saving their tax refunds and a simpler system for enrolling in retirement plans like 401(k)s.” He had the bully pulpit on Labor Day but didn’t say one thing of help to unions, working peoples’ engine of collective power.

So what will the tens of thousands be doing in DC on October 2? Is it a protest? Are we protesting the Republicans? Will One Nation demand the government put millions to work directly? Or will the unions and NAACP circle the wagons around Obama, the leader of the Blue Dog Wall Street Democrats?

The rally is against “hate” so will it support the Islamic Center in Manhattan? Will it protest the racism keeping a million Blacks in what Glen Ford calls the “black prison gulag”? If they even have a peace speaker will she or he be allowed to demand Obama pull out from Afghanistan and stop his 200% support of Israel? Or will the peace speech be limited to calling for cuts in the military budget?

Anti-war folks should organize for October 2nd, and go down to DC and leaflet and show off our banners. But we shouldn’t be chumps. We shouldn’t be restricted to some table in the back of the room. We should insist on a seat at the big table, with anti-war demands right in the main agenda. We need to see banners with “Troops Out Now” and “Close Down the Guantanamos” and “Dump Israel Bonds” right up on the stage.

Stanley Heller has been an AFL-CIO member for over 40 years. See www.DumpIsraelBonds.com He can be reached at stanley.heller (at) yahoo.com

[Press TV Reporters File] Continued Gaza Siege And Its Economic Impact Include BDS Campaign

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing, Why Boycott?! on September 8, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Activists tell shipping firm Zim — Israeli ships not welcome in Vancouver

Posted in International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on August 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Boycott Israeli Apartheid Coalition | August 24, 2010

Vancouver – Port truck traffic slowed to a crawl along the Deltaport causeway as a group of about 50 protesters approached drivers with leaflets containing information about the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. They also offered the drivers coffee and muffins in a gesture of solidarity. The protesters were there to draw attention to the fact that the Israeli container ship Zim Djibouti had landed in Vancouver to unload its containers.

Zim is an Israeli shipping company, one of the largest in the world.

“This action was part of the growing international campaign to pressure Israel to comply with international law and stop killing innocent civilians,” said Gordon Murray, spokesperson for the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Coalition (BIAC).

“Workers in South Africa, Scandinavia, the United States, Turkey and India have already responded to the Palestinian call for action to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and the suffering it is causing,” said Mike Krebs, BIAC’s other spokesperson.

“The international solidarity movement has decided that the best way to change Israel’s behaviour is to take actions against Israeli companies and institutions in order to put pressure on the government there.”

Around the World, Dockworkers Blockade Israeli Ships

Posted in International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on August 12, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Mike Elk

On June 20, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers in Oakland, Calif., refused to unload an Israeli Zim Lines ship for 24 hours. Their protest was supported by more than 800 rallying local activists, the San Francisco Labor Council and the Alameda County Labor Council (the equivalent of local branches of the AFL-CIO).

Workers around the world have been joining the call to blockade Israeli ships from being unloaded, in essence creating their own blockade to protest the blockade of food and humanitarian supplies Israel has placed on Palestinians in the Gaza strip. On June 7, by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), and several other organizations produced a call for dockworkers to refuse to unload Israeli ships.

Their statement, released after the flotilla massacre that killed nine people earlier this year, said:

Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity. During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the world was inspired by the brave and principled actions of dockworkers unions who refused to handle South African cargo, contributing significantly to the ultimate fall of apartheid. Today, we call on you, dockworkers unions of the world, to do the same against Israel’s occupation and apartheid.

Recognizing how similar longshoreman boycotts had helped bring down the apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions called for a boycott of unloading all Israeli ships. The Western Australian members of the Australian Maritime Union have also responded to the boycott, refusing to unload Israeli cargo, as have the Turkish dockworkers union Liman-Is.

There have been additional reports of solidarity by individuals unions. The Swedish Dockworkers Union and the unionized Longshoreman in the Port of Cochin, India, have also refused to unload Israeli ships. (See Greg Dropkin’s in-depth piece on this uprising of dock workers).

The Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla has been condemned by the International Longshoreman Union (ILWU) and the global labor movement, including the rival dockworker global union federations—the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), However, neither the U.S.-based ILWU or either of the two rival international confederations responded to the Palestinian call to refuse to unload Israeli ship. In other words, The responses to the Palestinian call for a boycott came not from big unions or confederations, but from the workers themselves.

The ILWU has a slogan of “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” By threatening to not unload ships, dockworkers have long been able to bring to a half the commerce of nations involved in human rights abuses.

In 1933, after the invasion of China by the Japanese and the Rape of Nanking, in which Japanese systematically raped 80,000 women, dockworkers on the West Coast refused to unload Japanese ships. Likewise when the stories of the holocaust began to become public knowledge in the 1930s, dockworkers would refuse to unload German ships in protest. In the 1980s, dockworkers around the world would refuse to unload South African ships in a sign of solidarity. On May 1, 2008, members of the Longshoremen Union in the United States refused to unload any ship in protest of the Iraq war and the atrocities being committed against Iraqi workers.

Dockworkers blockades stems from this tradition, but also from the involvement in helping facilitate the Gaza flotilla. The Swedish Dockworkers union, in conjunction with a Greek union, helped purchase the flotilla vessel the “Sofia.” Longshoremen union members provided key logistical support for several of the flotilla’s activities (In These Times covered this story back in June).

The lesson is that solidarity, even with something as obscure to most worker’s daily lives such as Gaza Flotilla, is not something that union organizers or big international union confederation need to create a sense of in workers. Most of these solidarity activities weren’t coordinated by big international union confederation, but by individual unions and workers themselves. Solidarity is something most workers feel natural.

As corporations become more global, more and more workers across the globe are working together to take multinational corporations or international regimes. (as the example of foreign bank workers helping U.S. workers organize shows). Solidarity is labor’s strongest weapon, important not just on the local picket line, but on the global picket line as labor takes on multinational corporations and repressive regimes.

Interview: “Israel has turned Gaza into the largest concentration camp in history”

Posted in Apartheid, Labor Organizing, Palestinian Economy, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 7, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Interview with Haidar Eid

Founding member of the PCACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

____________________________

The world was appalled by the Israeli massacre at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. But then Gaza disappeared from Western news media. What is the situation today in Gaza, a year and a half after that genocidal attack?

To best describe the situation in Gaza today would be to refer to what Richard Falk, the UN rapporteur to the Occupied Territories, called “prelude to genocide” and what the Israeli anti-Zionist activist Ilan Pappe called a “slow-motion genocide.” Despite the fact that bombs are not falling over us every few minutes as they did during the 22 day genocidal war, when the Israelis bomb or attack, they do so to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

After the occupation redeployed its troops around Gaza in 2006, what was a Bantustan turned into the largest concentration camp since Auschwitz and Warsaw during WW II as a direct result of the brutal blockade. We have over 90 medicines unavailable. Prenatal births, kidney dialysis and cancer patients are doomed to fatality as soon as they are diagnosed. Unavailable medical equipments and appropriate medical care are extinct and the slightest flue could have serious repercussions. A four year old child would not know what spaghetti or chocolate taste like because Israel has a list of 40 basic items that it allows in. We are treated as prisoners, rather much worse. Jimmy Carter said “Palestinians of Gaza are treated worse than animals!”

We wish we were prisoners in a so-called First World country for at least they have visitation rights which we don’t. Some of us have not seen their families and relatives for years now, and they could be only 40 minutes away in Jerusalem or in the other Bantustans of the West Bank. As a university professor, I have no resources to undergo research in my domain. The material I assign to my students is what I could find available on the internet—and only when electricity allows. Basic material like stationary and paper are unavailable. Books are also unavailable. Fuel is unavailable and I have lost my best students as a result of the deterioration of their conditions.

Many of their parents were factory workers but after Israel bombed factories and due to its hermetic siege, over forty thousand workers have lost their income. The occupation shoots, injures and often kills farmers as they harvest or water their crops. The fishermen are not allowed to exceed three miles at sea and are attacked, imprisoned and often killed at a distance of one mile depending on the soldiers’ whims. You can’t sleep, you can’t write, you can’t love, you can’t express yourself, or your pain under these conditions and the trauma is only growing as injustice continues.

How was the Zionist attack on May 31st against the humanitarian flotilla seen in Gaza?

It was a surprise and not a surprise. Yes, Israel is a terrorist state. One built on the blood and dead bodies of the Palestinians it has been ethnically cleansing since 1948. So, it’s killing of peace activists was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that it did it as the whole world was watching. We did not expect Israel to be stupid, but then again, isn’t that what fascist states mean to do? Ploy their own destruction? Zionism is a colonial movement and hence it is self-defeating.

Can we say it was a political victory for the Palestinian people, since the true nature of Zionism was revealed and Israel is isolated? Did that have a role in the temporary suspension of the blockade by Egypt? What is the situation on the Egypt/Gaza border?

How many more people should be killed for Israel to be held accountable in front of the international community and punished for its crimes? Weren’t the 413 children killed during the 22 day attacks enough? Weren’t the thousands of Palestinian killed since 1967 enough for the international community to put Israel in its place? The international community is complicit in the siege and in the killing as it stands silent and in denial. Richard Goldstone very clearly called Israel’s attacks “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity!”

You are wrong to believe that the Rafah Crossing is open as the movement of people freely through is not allowed. Out of thousands a few hundreds are allowed, and their conditions are usually severe, and they have tried numerous times before that. If all the crossing surrounding Gaza were opened and Rafeh remained closed, then the siege remains. Rafeh is the only crossing that guarantees the freedom of movement of Gazans; it is our only exit to the external world.

The Israeli attack against the activists of the flotilla of the Free Gaza movement shocked everyone who feels respect for human beings. Why does Israel still blockade Gaza?

With the support of the international community and in particular the support of the US, Israel will not back down, it will continue the blockade, the settlement expansion, and the home demolitions in the West Bank. Its arrogance and power are to no limits and it won’t stop at anything until it is put in its place. As I mentioned earlier, the blockade is a continuation of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide that it has been practicing since 1948. We are a “surplus population”, like Native Americans, that should not have existed in the first place!

But the direct reason as to why it still blockades Gaza is that Palestinians, “naively” taking George Bush for his words about “spreading democracy in the Middle East”, went to the polling stations in January 2006 and voted a party that neither Israel nor the Us and Official Arab regimes want, a party that is against the Oslo Accords. That was a huge blow to the Bush doctrine and the peace industry. Hence the collective punishment by Israel, with the direct support and participation of the West.

Do you see any possibilities of gains for Palestinians through the so called peace process led by the Quartet (USA, ONU, EU, and Russia)?

Haven’t we learnt from Oslo and Camp David that Israel translates its military power onto the negotiation table? There will be and should be no peace without justice. That means for Israel to be punished for its war crimes and crimes against humanity and for the UN resolution 194 to be implemented and the return of all refugees who were expelled in the Nakba of 1948. No negotiation is possible between the executioner and the victim. After Gaza 2009, we no longer have faith in the international community, but in civil society. Due to the huge imbalance of power, Israel being the largest nuclear power in the region and owning the fourth largest army in the world on one hand, and Palestinians with stones and sometimes firecrackers called “rockets” on the other, the only way this imbalance could be overcome is to build on an international solidarity movement. There have been turning points in the Palestinian issue, with the First and Second Intifada, with Gaza 2009, and now the massacre against peace activists.

Similar to the growing international solidarity movement that lead to, amongst other pillars of struggle, the liberation of South Africa and the collapse of the racist apartheid regime, the liberation of Palestine is through this path. And what could be more powerful than the global BDS movement against Israel that has resulted in the South African dock workers boycotting apartheid Israel, the British UCU union of colleges and universities boycott, the Scottish and Irish trade unions, and also the achievements of brave student bodies in the US– such as the Hampshire college, UC, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan at Dearborne– that resulted in divestment from some companies that support Israel.

How is the Obama administration seen in Gaza?

The Obama administration is not different from Bush’s. When Obama gave his much talked about speech at Cairo University, very few people took him seriously. They were proven right only last week when he held the white flag before Netanyahu upon the latter’s visit to the White House. Israel is still expanding its settlements, ethnically cleansing Jerusalem, besieging Gaza, killing Palestinians and Internationals with the full support of the Obama administration. Obama never had a single word of sympathy with the murdered children and starving women of Gaza. The only difference between Obama and Bush, when it comes to Palestine, is only in style, not substance.

Do you believe the Arab and Muslim governments supported the Palestinian people against Israel all they should?

A defeatist attitude governs the official Arab regimes. The idea of an invincible Israel and the constant fear and need to satisfy the US are prevalent. The organization of Islamic conferences along with the Arab league have failed the Palestinian people and failed to put an end to this deadly siege. The mainstream and dominant political discourse in the Arab world is to make peace with Israel, no matter what this entails.

What is the importance of the BDS campaign (Boycott, De-invest, and Sanctions) to isolate Israel? Why is it important to establish a link between Israel and South African apartheid?

Our BDS campaign is modeled on the South African boycott campaign. Its importance emanates from the fact that there is a huge power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians, similar to the imbalance between the apartheid regime and anti-apartheids campaign. The international community was called on to intervene and live up to its responsibilityagainst the racist regime. We expect the same. In the mid-70’s an UN resolution considered apartheid a crime against humanity. Israel is an apartheid state that discriminates against the 1.2 million Israelis of Palestinian descent. But the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS called also for the end of the military occupation and colonization of the 1967 areas and the return of refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194. In other words, the importance of the BDS emanates from the fact that it is a rights-based campaign and the fact that it addresses ordinary people all over the world, represented by civil society, to live up to their moral responsibility. The campaign is democratic, secular, inclusive and universal. It worked against the apartheid regime, and it is working now against apartheid Israel.

What is your view of the PNA? And of the political forces on the left such as PFLP and DFLP?

The PNA is the product of the Oslo Accords, which were signed in 1993 in betrayal of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The PLO recognized Israel, whereas the latter refused to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state. Oslo gave the wrong impression that there are two equal parties fighting for border adjustments. Israel managed to get rid of the responsibility of administering heavily populated areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and has kept total control over the land, air and sea. Israeli occupation forces were redeployed and never withdrew.

The Oslo accords led to the creation of a neo-colonial administration at the expense of the PLO; an administration that does not have real power in spite of the flag, the national anthem, the presidencies, premierships and ministries: all mean absolutely nothing except a perpetuation of the occupation, but in a different gown. After 17 years of the “peace industry”, Gaza has been transformed into a large open-air prison, a concentration camp a la Auschwitz and Warsaw, and the West Bank has been sliced into three major Bantustans—but with no sovereignty whatsoever.

The most dangerous outcome of Oslo is that it has managed to pacify the Palestinian Left. Nothing is left of Palestinian Left! Most left-wing activist, and I mean the hard-core here, have been NGOized. This process of NGOization, interrelated with Osloization, aims at washing out any revolutionary consciousness that the left is supposed to safeguard and replace it with false consciousness characterized by a new discourse about “empowerment of the disfranchised, projects, proposals, culture of peace, negotiations…etc”.

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