***image1***Al-Awda New York (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and New York City Labor against the War have announced a joint campaign to introduce âLabor for Palestine,â described as âa new, labor-driven campaign for justice in the Middle East.â
In two simultaneous events on Saturday, November 20, 2004, the Labor for Palestine campaign began to find roots on opposite sides of the U.S. The first event, sponsored by New York City Labor against the War, was âResistance to Empire,â held at New Yorkâs AFSCME District Council 1707. Meanwhile, the University of California at San Diego hosted Al-Awdaâs West Coast Regional Conference, where Labor for Palestine was given center stage as one of Al-Awdaâs most critical campaigns for international justice.
At a Divestment workshop held as part of Al-Awdaâs West Coast Regional Conference, members of Labor for Palestine proposed a series of initiatives to make the struggle against Israeli Apartheid by the labor movement in the U.S. more concrete. One important suggestion made at the conference was that Labor for Palestine must become part of the December 3, 2004 divestment anniversary event in San Francisco sponsored by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
In launching the campaign, Al-Awda New York and New York City Labor against the War point out: âThe best word that describes Israel’s economic and political situation is apartheid. This unfortunate term was coined in South Africa, where European colonizers subjected the indigenous African population to large-scale captivity and ghetto-ization. The essential difference between South African and Israeli apartheid is that South Africa’s goal was to exploit native labor for mass industrialization and mineral extraction, while Zionism’s goal is to cleanse Palestine of its Arab majority. (For hard-line Zionists, that goal is to cleanse Palestine of all Arabs.) In occupied Palestine, labor exploitation not only serves Israel’s short-term economic objectives, but also serves their long term goal of frustrating Palestinian labor, thus discouraging them from remaining on their home land.â
The goal of the Labor for Palestine campaign is to repeat the efforts, and the successes, of the U.S. labor movement in its struggle against South African apartheid in the 1980s. Organizers of the campaign note that members of the U.S. labor movement played a critical role in dismantling the economic base of South African Apartheid: âThey drafted petitions, lobbied politicians, blocked ports and pressured corporations to abstain from financial and political decisions that supported apartheid. By the end of that decade it had become a public embarrassment for corporations and investment banks to have any financial relationship with South Africa. The basic principles that bolstered this movement were international justice and labor solidarity.â
Labor for Palestine seeks âto restore this virtue to international and U.S. laborâ by joining the international struggle against Israeli Apartheid. The campaign is described as âa non-hierarchical, global network of individual workers and labor organizations that are united under common principles that pertain to Palestine.â
Labor for Palestine has issued an open letter (which can be found at www.al-awdany.org) and calls for endorsements from U.S., Palestinian, and international labor organizations, as well as from individuals belonging to these organizations. More information about the campaign is available by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.