Saturday, November 3, 2007

"Washington has no money for health care, money to rebuild New Orleans while trillions of dollars are poured into the wars in the Middle East."

More on Israel boycott in labor paper "The Chief"

Received by email from Marty Goodman, Oct. 25

Below is a letter on Palestine by Mike Gimbel appearing in the Oct 26th issue of "The Chief," a New York City Civil-Service weekly (circulation 30,000). Gimbel's letter follows last week's letter on Palestine by myself and three other trade-unionists (see below Gimbel's).

Both letters protest reactionary remarks made by NYC Comptroller Thompson (Democrat) and the pro-Zionist Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) in opposition to a trade-union boycott of Israeli goods by South African, British, Irish and Canadian unions. The original article on Thompson and the JLC appeared in "The Chief" Sept. 7th.

Gimbel, who is Jewish, is a member of NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) and a union rep for New York's District Council 37, Local 375.

A second letter appeared this week by Stuart Leibowitz, President of DC 37 Retirees. It is a reactionary defense of Israeli apartheid and condemns last week's letter about Palestine. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of it. You must read it in "the Chief" until it appears on their website (after 30 days). You're not missing much!

New York's DC 37 has 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees. The remarks of both of these DC 37 union officers are sure to be discussed by its' members.


To: "The Chief," Letter to the editors section.

From: Mike Gimbel,

Recently retired member of L. 375, AFSCME & current elected L. 375 Delegate To NYC-Central Labor Council.

Re: "The Chief" article titled "Thompson hits Israel boycott by Brit unions."

Date: October 17, 2007

As a Jewish trade unionist who supports the just struggle of the Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel, I object to the hypocrisy inherent in the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) President Stuart Appelbaum’s statements, as quoted in the Sept. 7 issue.

JLC President Appelbaum, in opposition to the boycott of Israel by British unions, states in the JLC letter that "Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together."

Where has the JLC actually done this? The JLC is a partisan supporter of Zionism! It has always fought strenuously against such a dialog within the labor movement! Please tell me what unions in NYC have allowed representatives of the Palestinian resistance movement to speak to their members?

From my own personal experience I know that just bringing up the question of defense of the Palestinians, even in the most moderate fashion, is enough to bring down on one's head a full frontal political attack intended to silence all critics of Zionism.

Many years ago, I chaired a large meeting of my union chapter where I invited both sides to speak. Only the Palestinian side showed up because the Zionists side refused to sit at the same table with the Palestinians!

Last month, at a meeting I chaired at DC 37 opposing the Iraq Occupation, I made a plea to the union movement to begin a dialog on this critical issue.

The JLC letter is quoted as stating: "we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." I challenge the JLC to make that statement a reality! I'll gladly help them set up such a meeting where the rank-and-file union member can attend and ask questions. Let's start a real and continuing dialog!

The issue of the boycott of Israel can't be allowed to be pushed under the rug. The issue of Zionism is central to almost every political conflict in the Middle East. U.S. foreign policy for over a half century is wedded to the ideology and strategy of Zionism.

Trillions of dollars of our tax money and the blood of the U.S. soldiers, as well as the blood of millions of Iraqis, Lebanese, Iranians, Afghans, Palestinians and Jewish civilians are at stake. Washington has no money for health care, no money for rebuilding our bridges and infrastructure, no money to rebuild New Orleans while trillions of dollars are poured into the wars in the Middle East.

Can the AFL-CIO affiliated American Center for International Labor Solidarity known as the Solidarity Center, continue to embrace U.S. support for the Israel occupation while unions all over the world are backing the boycott?

In order to emphasize the importance of the issue, I stated at the meeting I chaired at DC 37 last month that "Today's Palestinians are yesterday's Jews" and "Today’s Gaza Strip is yesterday's Warsaw Ghetto." We must support the seven million Palestinian refugees waiting outside occupied Palestine for decades because the Zionists refuse their legal right to return, while the other three million Palestinians live directly under the Zionist boot heel. This is one of the greatest crimes in human history along with the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews!

Let's have a dialog on the rise of anti-Semitism but most importantly, engage the labor movement in a dialog about Palestinian human rights and the right of return. Let's not cover up the U.S. sponsored crimes of Zionism. As a first step in that dialog, I was pleased to see that "The Chief" printed the letter in your October 19th edition, that was written by Larry Adams, Brenda Stokely, Marty Goodman and Michael Letwin that criticized Comptroller William C. Thompson and the JLC witch-hunt of the British unions for boycotting Israel.

Our union members come from all over the world. That includes the Middle East and it includes Palestinians as well. Shouldn't we give them the right to be heard? Shouldn't we also allow Jewish anti-Zionists to be heard?

Isn't it about time that our unions set up forums where both sides can be heard? That's what I actually did in my union chapter many years ago. Unity cannot be achieved by silencing our Palestinian and Middle-Eastern members. Let's follow the old and true union motto: "In unity there is strength."