Open Letter to UTLA President A.J. Duffy
New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) is deeply concerned that the leadership of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has buckled to Zionist pressure by canceling its Human Rights Committee’s forum in support of Palestinian rights.
Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian and Lebanese people are well documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other organizations. These crimes are carried out with U.S.-made F-16s, Apache helicopters, and cluster bombs — part of $5 billion that Israel gets each year from the United States government.
The U.S. does not arm Israel to “promote democracy” or for “self-defense.” Even Zionist historians now admit that Israel’s origins are rooted in dispossession of the Palestinian people — whose labor then built the Israeli economy — through an unrelenting campaign of ethnic cleansing: exile, squalid refugee camps, imprisonment, torture and murder.
Rather, it supports this racism and state terrorism because, along with dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel is a cornerstone for U.S. domination over the world’s most important oil-producing region.
Clearly, these grave injustices are not in the interest of Palestinian or U.S. workers. Yet, most U.S. labor bodies have a shameful record of complicity with U.S./Israeli crimes.
State employee retirement plans and union pension funds invest hundreds of millions of dollars in State of Israel Bonds. In April 2002, while Israel butchered hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Jenin, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney spoke at a “National Solidarity Rally for Israel.”
This year, American Federation of Teachers specifically embraced Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon. U.S. Labor Against the War, which opposes the war in Iraq, has remained disturbingly silent.
In sharp contrast, international labor has strongly denounced Israel’s attacks.
On July 10, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) urgently called for sanctions and boycotts against the “apartheid Israel state,” which it branded worse than the former racist regime in South Africa.
On July 31, the General Union of Oil Employees in Iraq issued an “appeal to all the honorable and free people of the world to demonstrate and protest about what is happening to Lebanon.”
On August 5, major British trade unions supported a massive London protest against Israel’s attacks. Even before the current escalation, several labor bodies in Britain, Canada and elsewhere called for divestment from Israel.
In this country, growing protests have been organized by the Arab-Muslim community, people of color, anti-Zionist Jews, and other activists who recognize that Lebanon and Palestine are inseparable from Iraq and Afghanistan.
New York City Labor Against the War commends the UTLA Human Rights Committee for courageously standing with this movement, and calls on UTLA’s leadership to take an equally courageous stand for free speech and justice.
NYCLAW Co-Conveners (other affiliations listed for identification only):
Former President, NPMHU Local 300
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March