End Massive Israeli Killings of Palestinians!
March Aug. 2 to Protest U.S Funding!
Stop the Destruction of Gaza and Its People!
Stop Funding Israel’s War and Occupation of Gaza! March in D.C. on Saturday, August 2!
At the beginning of July 2014 the Israeli “Defense” Forces (IDF) launched a massive military attack on the Gaza Strip and its people. It began with air strikes and artillery shelling; a few days later the IDF launched a ground invasion against a people who have no standing army, no aircraft, no tanks, and no heavy artillery.
Gaza is an area in the southwestern corner of Palestine, about the size of Staten Island. Its population is nearly two million, most of whom are refugees from other areas of Palestine. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Israeli forces occupied it from 1967 to 2005. Though Israel withdrew its forces, it has maintained a blockade on Gaza since 2007 and has controlled all entry and exit on the north side. Egypt has blockaded Gaza on the south side since the coup that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government of Muhammad Morsi. Unemployment in Gaza stands between seventy-five and eighty percent, and shortages of food, fuel, and electric power are a daily reality. Professor Noam Chomsky has described Gaza as an “open air prison.”
Those conditions have led to a desire to fight back against Israel, by whatever means might be available. For some that might mean firing rockets; for others that might mean acts of sabotage or of individual terrorism. People are angry, and they want to fight back against the expansion of exclusive Jewish settlements, the impossibility of travel through the checkpoints, the house demolitions, and other day-to-day oppressive Israeli policies.
The arrest of 350 Palestinians, including the entire West Bank leadership of Hamas, on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths—Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, also 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19—provoked Hamas fighters to fire rockets at Israeli targets. The torture and murder of a Palestinian boy—Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, who was burned to death—exacerbated the anger. The Israeli police weeks later admitted that Hamas as an organization was not guilty of kidnap-murder of the Israeli teenagers.
Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” on July 8, with a massive onslaught of bombing and shelling from the air and sea. The Israeli government claimed that it was in response to the rockets, even though none hit their targets. Whatever the pretext, it is the imposition of collective punishment—a violation of international law—on the people of Gaza, and words can scarcely describe the horror of it. After the first forty-eight hours, sixty-four Palestinians had been killed, including at least twelve children and an eighty-year-old woman. Many more were injured and homeless, after only the first two days. At that time no Israelis had been killed, neither civilians nor military personnel.
The war came home to Americans on July 16. Ayman Mohyeldin, a reporter for NBC News, was on a beach in Gaza where some young boys were playing soccer. Mohyeldin, who is Arab-American and a native Arabic speaker, even kicked the ball around with the boys. Minutes later, an Israeli ship launched a shell right at them, killing four of the boys—all from one family, two brothers and two cousins. Their names were Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, 9, Ahid Atif Bakr, 10, Zakariya Ahid Bakr, 10, and Muhammad Ramiz Bakr, 11. Mohyeldin broadcast the story to NBC audiences in the United States. Within hours, NBC management ordered him to leave Palestine and return to the United States. They claimed it was for his “security,” but no one was deceived. He was being silenced, and there was a massive backlash against NBC. After several days of phone calls and e-mails demanding Mohyeldin’s reinstatement, NBC relented and put him back on the Gaza beat. Meanwhile, the “Four Little Footballers” have become symbolic of the indiscriminate violence carried out against the Palestinian people by the IDF.
The next day, Israel began a ground assault against Gaza. The justification was, in their words, to destroy tunnels by which Hamas fighters were going into Israel to commit acts of terrorism. Dutifully, the mainstream media now reports the tunnels as being a major problem for the security of the Israeli people. The only tunnels anyone has ever been informed about have been used for smuggling food and other items from Egypt, since the Egyptians have sealed the border at Rafah. Never has Israel complained about tunnels being used for military purposes, until it was time to provide a justification for the ground invasion.
As of July 27, 1,023 Palestinians had been killed, in contrast to 46 Israelis, according to the New York Times. According to the United Nations, eighty percent of the Palestinian dead were civilians, and hundreds were children. Two Israeli civilians and one Thai national were killed on the Israeli side; the remaining forty-three were military personnel.
The Israelis bombed a major hospital and a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school which was serving as a refuge for Palestinians whose homes had been destroyed. They obliterated a Gaza City neighborhood called Sheja’iyeh, killing sixty people within hours, injuring several hundred and leaving thousands homeless. In a cruel act of psychological warfare, the IDF has telephoned Arabs in Gaza, warning them that they have ten minutes to get out of their homes because they will be bombed. These are families with children, who are unable to take clothing or any possessions with them if they try to escape. But where can they go? There is nowhere in the open air prison that is the Gaza Strip that is safe from Israeli bombing and shelling.
On July 29, Israeli bombardment destroyed Gaza’s only electric generating plant. Muhammad ash-Sharif, the plant’s director, said, “The power plant is finished.” Fathi Sheikh Khalil of the Gaza energy authority added, “We need at least one year to repair the power plant…Everything was burned.” The strike on the plant will worsen already severe problems with Gaza’s water supply, sewage treatment, and power supplies to medical facilities.
On July 30, an artillery shell from an Israeli tank destroyed another UNRWA school where over three thousand Palestinians had taken refuge. At least nineteen were killed, and dozens more were injured. Christopher Guinness, speaking for UNRWA, said the attack was “a source of universal shame” and blamed Israel for it.
The American big-business media predictably has slanted its news coverage to try to present the Israeli onslaught as a war between “Israel and Hamas,” in which both sides are more or less equal and in which Israel is “defending itself” from Hamas’s attack. Some have echoed the Israeli propaganda that Hamas’s aim is to destroy the State of Israel and wipe out its population, a claim refuted on July 23 by Hamas chairman Khalid Meshaal. At a press conference in Doha, Qatar, Meshaal said, “I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs,” he said. “However, I do not coexist with the occupiers.”
Because of courageous journalists like NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin and the proliferation of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, the truth about the Israeli onslaught has been disseminated, and Israel has lost control of the narrative. Large demonstrations protesting Israel’s war on the Palestinian people have been held in cities throughout the United States, including one in New York City on July 25 estimated by the police at 10,000. Even in semi-rural Newton, New Jersey, whose population is 8,500, over seventy people demonstrated in its central square for an end to the war on the people of Gaza and the continued occupation of Palestine. A national demonstration is planned for Washington, DC, on August 2. The Labor Fightback Network has endorsed this action and urges all who believe in peace and justice to attend.
Outside the United States, the outpouring of anger at Israel has been even larger. An estimated 100,000 marched in London. Demonstrations also have taken place in Dublin, Berlin, and Paris, where the “socialist” government of François Hollande has banned demonstrations against the Israeli aggression.
In stark contrast to the revulsion being expressed throughout the world at Israel’s actions, the United States government continues to support Israel without a peep of criticism. On July 17, the United States Senate passed a resolution in support of Israel’s attack on Gaza by a vote of 100 to 0. Voting “yea” included Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and Al Franken, all of whom enjoy considerable support from activists for peace and justice, and from the labor movement as well. Secretary of State John Kerry, knowing as President Obama knows that the longer Israel’s massacre in Gaza continues the greater the danger that the reaction against it cannot be contained, especially in Middle Eastern countries, has been frantically trying to broker a truce, but has had no success. Hamas has offered Israel a ten-year truce in exchange for lifting the siege on Gaza and other concessions which would be very easy for Israel to accept. Click here for the details. Netanyahu will not even consider it.
Throughout the United States, public opinion has turned decisively against Israel, as the truth about Israel’s horrific violence and the day-to-day misery of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation become known. Within faith communities, universities, and local communities there is a growing call for boycott of Israeli goods, divestment of Israeli securities held by the churches, educational institutions, and township treasuries, and sanctions to be imposed on Israel until it complies with UN resolutions for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The abbreviation “BDS” (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) has come to stand for a strategy that proved effective in helping to end South African apartheid once and for all in 1994. The Presbyterian church has divested its holdings of Israeli securities and has just decided to divest its holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola, companies that do business in the illegal West Bank settlements. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is calling on the broader Episcopal church to follow the Presbyterians’ lead.
Now it is time for the labor movement to join in the campaign, to join in the vigils, pickets, rallies, and marches for an end to the aggression in Gaza and an end to the occupation and blockade. Many unions hold State of Israel bonds. Rank-and-file trade unionists need to call on their International secretary-treasurers to divest those securities. The labor movement has the power and resources to challenge the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has used its money to impose its will on the American government, especially the Congress. What it needs now is the will. Fighters for social justice in the trade unions can provide it.
End U.S intervention in Ukraine! End U.S. Support for the Kiev Regime!
Labor and its community partners should demand: “U.S. hands off Ukraine! End all support — military, economic, and poltical — for the Kiev regime!”
As U.S. intervention in Ukraine escalates, the danger of a wider war increases by the day. This is a crisis of the greatest magnitude. We in the Labor Fightback Network urge unity of labor and community forces to demand “U.S. Hands Off Ukraine!” The working class at home has no interest in having Washington involve us in yet another war, at a time when we are supposedly concluding the decades long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is the argument for justifying the U.S. going head-to-head with Russia over differences involving Ukraine? A major difference is over the issue of the Kiev regime, which seeks to consolidate its hold over Ukraine. The U.S. government is an uncritical supporter of that regime, despite the fact that it is anti-working class to the core and has four neo-Nazis in its cabinet. As soon as the billionaire Poroshenko became president of Ukraine, he announced an austerity program that targeted workers and the poor, slashing the country’already meager social programs and ending support for Ukraine‘s basic industry. Wealthy tycoons have been given top posts in Poroshenko’s government. Fascist storm troopers are being widely used in an attempt to exterminate dissidents in the civil war that has erupted.
It is beyond dispute that the U.S. spent five billion dollars to overthrow the elected Ukraine government that formerly held power. Why wasn’t that money used instead to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure here at home, for renovation of public schools, for continuing benefits for the long-term unemployed, and for strengthening the social safety net?
The other claim advanced in an attempt to justify U.S. intervention in Ukraine is that it’s necessary to counter Russia‘s role in the region. But whatever one’s opinion of Russia‘s actions, there is a big difference between being in the region (Russia borders on Ukraine) and being 6,000 miles away, as is the case with the U.S. And it is important to keep in mind that the U.S. incorporated eastern European countries into NATO, after promising that it would not do so, thereby creating a siege mentality in Russia.
Let’s keep in mind the U.S.‘s long history of intervention and aggression in eastern Europe parallels its intervention and aggression in this continent, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Throughout that history, the U.S. government has actively intervened both militarily and/or with covert operations in Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries. From the days of the Monroe Doctrine on, while hypocritically preaching that every nation in the world should be free to work out its own destiny without outside interference, Washington’s policy, in fact, has been to trample on the right of self-determination by waging wars against governments in this and other areas of the world that are not sufficiently submissive to the dictates of Big Business in the U.S. Short of wars, the policy has been to organize coups to overthrow independent regimes by spending billions building anti-labor, reactionary movements that could topple elected governments and then become loyal vassals under U.S. control. Boycotts, blockades, sanctions and other such tools have helped to accomplish the desired goal.
All of this has been part and parcel of U.S. foreign policy. It is designed to expand Washington’s influence in this hemisphere (and extending around the world) so that the multi-national corporations could reap ever greater profits and seize the natural resources and raw materials that enrich the few here at home while subjecting workers in other countries to poverty wages, unsafe working conditions and few or no benefits.
None of the named countries above constituted a threat to the American people which would justify U.S. interventionism. But as a result of U.S. policies and actions over the years, untold numbers of people have been killed or wounded and trillions of dollars expended in this, the age of unending wars and occupations.
The overwhelming majority of the American people have had it with these constant interventions. A war with Russia would, of course, be catastrophic for all concerned. Yet the step-by-step U.S. escalation in Ukraine runs the risk of a widening conflict.
A resolution adopted by the recently held convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) declared:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will stand in solidarity with the workers of Ukraine in their fight for a free, secure, democratic and pluralistic country, free from outside interference; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT oppose the IMF austerity plan for Ukraine, with its harsh measures driving down workers’ living conditions; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT support Ukrainian teachers’ demands for higher wages, a shorter workday, better working conditions and a full right to strike; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with Education International and Public Services International in our joint efforts to build the capacity of independent teachers’ unions and other public sector unions in Ukraine.
Glenn Kissack, AFT Local 2334, arguing for a substitute resolution, while referring to some of the WHEREAS clauses, stated:
“I move to amend by substitution. The substitute resolution has been submitted. Our delegation feels that the substitute resolution captures more of the complexity of the conflict in Ukraine, that it’s a more accurate description of the obstacles to democracy, that it’s more balanced in its criticisms of outside interference, and is pro-active in its recommendations for AFT assistance to Ukrainian teachers.
“We note, for instance, that the substitute resolution is more accurate in describing how Ukrainian political life is dominated by billionaire oligarchs with their own agendas, a tremendous barrier to democracy.
“The substitute resolution also more accurately describes the dangers of far-right political parties in the new government in Kiev. One of those parties, Svoboda, has been labeled as ‘neo-Nazi’ by the World Jewish Congress. The leader of Svoboda is Olah Tyahnybok, who called for the liberation of Ukraine from the ‘Muscovite-Jewish mafia.’ Svoboda is anti-Semitic, anti-ethnic Russian, anti-gay and anti-union. Yet Senator John McCain shared the podium with the Svoboda leader, and Assistant Secretary of State Nuland had a widely publicized friendly meeting with him.
“The substitute resolution calls attention to the IMF-imposed austerity plan that is reducing the standard of living of Ukrainian teachers and others. Imagine what would have happened in 2009 if the U.S. federal government had slashed spending at the height of the recession. This is what’s happening in Ukraine, and we should oppose this austerity regimen.
“Ukraine is a new site of conflict between the great powers and there is a real danger that it could lead to war. For years, the major powers have been jockeying for influence in Ukraine and have allied themselves with one set of oligarchs or another. There has been plenty of interference from a number of countries and the substitute resolution recognizes that.
“As well-informed educators we’re aware of the history of U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We know about CIA complicity in the overthrow of elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo and Chile. And of course we’re aware of the disastrous interventions in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s not go down that road again.”
If the U.S. government is concerned about violations of the arms treaty by Russia, the solution is to engage in a dialogue with Russia, not resort to a military response. The sanctions imposed by Washington and its allies against Russia are an attempt to bolster support for the Kiev regime and, as far as Washington is concerned, promote the goal of establishing U.S.’s unfettered domination in the region. The sanctions should be lifted.
What is needed now are more resolutions passed by labor organizations and community groups, along with mass actions in the streets demanding “U.S. Hands Off Ukraine!” “End All Support—Military, Economic and Political—For the Kiev Regime!”
To read additional comments on the key issues facing the labor movement—and to share your own comments—please visit the Labor Fightback Blog.
An Open Letter to Our Brother and Sister Trade Unionists
With the lockout of federal workers finally ended and with social programs being restored, attention is now being focused on what will happen next. The divide between the major political parties continues to linger and the prospect is for more government dysfunction and paralysis, albeit with bipartisan agreement that “entitlements” must be cut.
The undersigned trade unionists and community activists strongly endorse the position taken by the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. We not only call for the preservation of these programs but also for their expansion and improvement.
We reject the claim that Social Security and Medicare — our earned benefits — will run out of money within a decade or two unless major cuts to these programs are enacted now. Today the big banks and corporations are sitting on top of trillions of dollars in reserves — thanks in large part to the trillions of taxpayers’ money used to bail them out. We call for taxing those reserves and at the same time eliminating the cap on the tax paid by the very rich to fund Social Security; enacting measures to increase the taxation on the wealthiest 1%; ending corporate welfare; and closing tax loopholes. These are but a few of the many options available to raise whatever revenue may be needed to deal with the fiscal crisis, so it is crystal clear that there is absolutely no justification for cutting earned benefits received by low and middle income families. We fought for those benefits and they belong to us! The politicians have no right to take any part of them from us!
Yet that is what is on their agenda for the coming months. While the major parties may have been at each others’ throats during the past several weeks, their leaders are agreed now on one thing: stick it to the 99% and make them pay though the nose to curb the debt and deficit. And number one on their hit list is Medicare.
To be sure, Democratic Party leaders insist that they will not agree to cuts unless the Republicans agree to tax increases, which the Republicans vow they will not do. But we can’t take it for granted that the major parties won’t come up with some kind of understanding on this question. After all, in 2011 the parties did join in making cuts to safety net programs — despite major differences between them — by enacting the sequestration (which was implemented after the Supercommittee could not agree on fashioning a “grand bargain”). The Wall Street Journal has now proposed a “compromise,” whereby agreement could be reached and an impasse avoided. The paper’s October18, 2013 lead editorial states:
“The way out is to negotiate a revenue neutral reform that lowers a rate in return for closing loopholes, which will lead to faster growth that will in turn produce more revenue. Democrats can get their new revenue, but only by growing the economy. That worked for Bill Clinton in his second term after he agreed to cut the capital gains tax in 1997. By “lower[ing] a rate” the Journal is talking about cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%, something the president has said he supports. In the Journal’s view, this will pave the way for cuts in “entitlements.”
Let’s not depend upon the politicians and their schemes to safeguard our safety net programs. Let’s depend upon our own organized power and our readiness to oppose all cuts, regardless of who is pushing for them and under what guise.
Where does President Obama stand on cutting earned benefits?
- Obama’s recent record on Social Security and Medicare cuts includes his 2014 budget where he cuts $630 billion. He calls for squeezing Medicare by raising some fees and premiums as well as making cuts to providers.
- In an October 24, 2012 AP interview, the president was quoted as saying that if Republicans are willing, “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could even rankle his own party.
- He restated his support for cutting Social Security and Medicare in a press conference October 8, 2013, reassuring congressional Republicans of his willingness to agree to these cuts if the Republicans vote to increase the government’s debt limit.
So the die is cast. And Democratic Party congressional leaders can be expected to fall in line to present a united front in making cuts — especially when it comes to Medicare — with Republicans pressuring from the right for the most far-reaching cuts possible.
The question now is what is to be done? We are convinced that without massive mobilizations of the labor movement and our community allies, including an occupation of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if necessary, a bipartisan congressional coalition could work its will under the mantra of “shared sacrifices,” and tens of millions of people could find the benefits they need to sustain themselves and their families substantially diminished. We must not permit that to happen!
To put it more succinctly, what is needed is a national mobilization to defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the other safety net programs, and in the process to demand that the government create a jobs program that will put millions back to work with quality and comprehensive health care.
There is no time to delay organizing a broad, united and massive fightback movement, keeping in mind that an agreement is supposed to be submitted by the bipartisan budget committee by December 13, which could very well call for cuts to earned benefits. We urge trade unionists and community activists to take this issue to your respective organizations. Pass resolutions demanding “NO CUTS!” and calling for protest demonstrations both on a local and national scale (see sample resolution below).
Please fill out the form below so that we can help publicize the extent of opposition to proposed cuts to the safety net, and our determination to do whatever is needed to protect our cherished earned benefits.
Whereas the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations have taken a strong position opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid; and
Whereas these programs must not only be preserved but also expanded and improved; and
Whereas since the U.S. government has no problem coming up with trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, seemingly unlimited funds to pay for foreign invasions, and providing tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, it is crystal clear that more than enough money is available to sustain and expand vitally needed safety net programs; and
Whereas programs like Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits that we paid for and which belong to us, and no politician has the right to undermine or cut them; now therefore be it
Resolved that [name of union or community organization] opposes all cuts to safety net programs; and be it further
Resolved that we urge the labor movement, together with our community partners, to unite and mobilize locally and nationally including, if necessary, occupying Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if that’s what it takes to prevent Congress from legislating cuts to these programs; and be it finally
Resolved that a copy of this resolution be sent to [list organizations and individuals your organization deems appropriate].
Form Authorizing Listing of Organization’s Name as Signer of Open Letter and/or Reporting Adoption by Organization of Resolution Opposing Cuts to Safety Net Programs
Petition to Stop the Criminalization of the Right to Protest:
Drop Charges Against Saladin Muhammad and Moral Mondays Labor Rights Arrestees!
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