Artists and Intellectuals Including Junot Díaz, Chuck D, and Boots Riley Call for Boycott and Divestment from Israel
Leading U.S. intellectuals, writers, and hip hop artists have recently added their voices in support of the Palestinian civil...
September 5, 2009
To the Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Board and AFL-CIO Convention:
We are a group of CT unionists, workers, community leaders and concerned citizens who are distressed that the Connecticut AFL-CIO continues to own $25,000 worth of Israel bonds. The government of Israel is notorious worldwide for its mistreatment of Palestinians, and its anti-labor policies among Jewish workers. We call upon the CT AFL-CIO to join the worldwide movement to bring pressure on the Israeli government by selling its Israel bonds.
Israel controls not only its internationally recognized borders, but the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and parts of Syria. In that area live 5 million Palestinians. Some are Israeli citizens with second class rights (for instance, they are not allowed to work in a number of major industries and they are barred from owning or leasing over 90% of Israeli land). Most Palestinians are not citizens and live in areas surrounded by walls, checkpoints, military bases and Jewish-only settlements. Unemployment rates among these Palestinians are among the highest on earth because very few are allowed to work in Israel itself and because the Israeli government makes sure Palestinian factories and businesses don’t compete with Israeli products. Millions of other Palestinians are refugees, forbidden to return to their homes despite numerous U.N. resolutions and basic human rights.
The Gaza Strip demands separate mention. Long one of the poorest places on earth, its 1.5 million people have been under siege for three years, and often suffer Israeli military attacks In 2008 the Israeli Air Force blew up the headquarters in Gaza of the trade union federation, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. On January 16 of this year Israeli jets attacked the building of the University Teachers Association-Palestine causing severe damage.
The AFL-CIO owns no other foreign country’s bonds. Obviously it bought Israel bonds to help the Israeli government. In the past the AFL-CIO and many other unions supported Israel because of its alliance with the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut. At one time the Histadrut represented almost all Jewish Israeli workers. It owned factories and banks and had major influence on the Israeli government. It used that power to create numerous social welfare programs. However, that time is long past. Privatization has made the Histadrut a shadow of its former self. The Israeli Jewish community which used to be famous for its equality is now like the U.S., among the most unequal societies in terms of pay and property
It also must be said that Israeli Palestinians have not benefited from Histadrut membership. For 39 years it was a segregated union with only Jews being allowed membership. After being allowed membership in 1959 100,000 Israeli Arab citizens joined even though there were many complaints of unequal treatment in the union. Once health insurance was no longer administrated by the Histadrut unions, its Arab membership dwindled to a few thousand.
Starting in the 1990’s tens of thousands of Palestinian workers were barred from their jobs in Israel and replaced with workers from China, Rumania, Thailand and other countries. Israel now has the second highest percent of foreign workers among industrialized countries. These workers labor under temporary work contracts and are often thrown out of the country if they complain about working conditions or pay.
To protest its mistreatment of Palestinians, unions worldwide are divesting from Israel and some are calling for boycotts of Israeli products and other measures to pressure its government. These include the UNISON, the biggest union in the UK along with the British University and College Union, IMPACT, Ireland’s largest public sector union, the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and COSATU, South Africa’s biggest union.
It is fine that the AFL-CIO wants to use its savings to promote working peoples welfare, but the money would be better put to use buying bonds from hurricane ravaged Louisiana, bonds from the state of Michigan whose government is devastated by the collapse of the auto industry or bonds supporting deficit riddled Connecticut.
We call for the CT AFL-CIO to immediately sell off its Israel bonds and to issue a press release announcing that it will no longer subsidize Israeli government mistreatment of Palestinians or privatization of the Israeli economy.
(organizations listed for identification purposes only)
Associate Professor, Teacher Education, Central CT State University, and member of AAUP
Teamsters Local #557
Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07
The Rev. David W. Good
An Ordained minister in the United Church of Christ
Old Lyme, Connecticut
West Haven Federation of Teachers
Central Labor Council delegate
Attorney at Law
Professor of Physics, CCSU
John Paggioli, M.D.
IAM, Local 1990
New Haven Area Vice President
CT State Council of Machinists
Professor, Central Connecticut State University
Former national Green Party Steering Committee Co-Chair
Plumber and Pipefitters Local 777
Kristen M. Day
Member, SEIU P-4
State Vocational Federation of Teachers
Local 4200A/AFT, AFT-CT, CPEF, AFL-CIO
Alfred G. Gerteiny, Ph.D.
University of Bridgeport Chapter,
The American Association of University Professors
retired, former member Local 34, Yale University
Steering Committee of CT Students Against The War
New Haven poet
Rob Camp Fuoco
Executive Director – Sharing Nature
retired member of TWU local 250.
Gail Courey Toensing
Staff reporter, Indian Country Today
Retired Professor of Islamic Art, American University in Cairo, Arizona State University
Former Regional Director, ICOM/UNESCO Museology Program, Cairo, Egypt
Radio producer, Talk Nation Radio
Syndicated with Pacifica Network
Retired insurance company actuary
West Hartford, CT
Michael M. Beal
Justine McCabe, PhD
Co-Chair, International Committee,
Green Party of the United States
Alissa De Rosa
Socialist Action Hartford, CT
West Hartford, CT
Lou Ann Villani
Howard P. Lenow
Founder, American Jews for a Just Peace www.ajjp.org
DC 37 and PSC, NYC
30 year union rep
American Federation of Teachers
United Teachers Los Angeles/AFT #1021
L.A. Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee
Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita,
California State University,
former Vice-President of California Faculty Assn
L.A. Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee
Jewish human rights activist
St. Louis, Missouri
former member, Newspaper Guild,
California Federation of Teachers
Sherif S. Fam
Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine
Professor of English
City College of New York
Member, PSC/ CUNY
Jason Kunin, teacher
member of Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), District 12
and lifelong union supporter
Retired Public Sector Worker
California State University, Long Beach
James A. Cohen
professor of political science,
Alice Rothchild, MD
American Jews for a Just Peace
co-producer, Truth and Justice Radio
San Francisco, CA
Jean Pauline and Tom Brown
Members, Women in Black
Newland F. Smith, 3rd
Member, Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy