A Reply to Bnai Briths
Manifesto Denouncing CUPE-Ontarios Boycott of Israel
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
June 3rd, 2006
On 31 May 2006, By B'nai Brith
issued a statement
denouncing the decision by CUPE-Ontario
to support the global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions
against Israeli apartheid. The Coalition
Against Israeli Apartheid has prepared this response to the
myths and allegations raised by Bnai Brith. We welcome your
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bnai Brith: We support the State of Israel, a sister
democracy to Canada, the only country in the Middle East founded
on the rule of law
CAIA: The state of Israel continues to violate international
law through the construction of its wall through Palestinian territory,
through its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its denial
of Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and lands.
Israel remains the only country in the UN general assembly with
more than one class of citizenship (through the Population Registry
Act) where Jews are granted preferential access to land, and water
resources, as well as social services.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture has repeatedly condemned
Israel for its continued use of torture against Palestinian civilians.
In 1997, Amnesty International noted, Israel is the only country
on earth where torture and ill-treatment are legally sanctioned.
Over 9000 Palestinians are currently held as political prisoners
by Israel, including 400 Palestinian children. One thousand of these
detainees are held without charge or trial; the equivalent of 8000
Canadians held under Security Certificates.
To describe these practices thoroughly documented by UN
bodies, and international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights
organizations - as the rule of law is to mock the basic
principles of justice.
Bnai Brith: We applaud Israel as a vibrant society
that respects the civil, religious and cultural rights of all its
CAIA: Israel consistently denies its non-Jewish citizens
equal access to social services and the material resources of the
state. Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute one-fifth of the
Israeli population yet it is illegal for any individual or party
to run for the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) if they do not support
the Jewish character of the state. Israeli Knesset members have
openly advocated the forceful expulsion of Palestinian citizens.
In Israel, 93% of the land is earmarked for Jewish control and
development through state ownership, the Jewish National Fund and
the Israeli Lands Authority. In apartheid South Africa, 87% of the
land was reserved for whites. The 2002 state budget, for example,
allocated around $30 per person of the housing ministry budget to
Arab communities compared with $3100 per person in Jewish ones.
Over 100,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel are from unrecognized
villages residential areas that have existed for hundreds
of years but are deliberately refused recognition by the Israeli
government. These citizens are denied any basic services such as
running water, electricity, proper education and health services,
and access roads.
In May 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court effectively banned marriage
between Israelis and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
a decision that the Israeli daily Haaretz
termed shameful. Until recently, the Bank of Israel
and the state electricity company did not hire anyone who was Arab.
Furthermore, Israel continues to occupy and control the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, thus denying millions of Palestinians their civil,
religious, and cultural rights through the imposition of military
checkpoints, through the destruction of Mosques, churches, and places
of worship, the killing of civilians and the targeting of Palestinian
political institutions and parties. Palestinians are identified
by different colored identity cards and license plates and are forbidden
from traveling on certain roads. Movement of Palestinians between
towns and villages is controlled by Israeli permits and checkpoints.
These measures should be described as they are: examples of Israeli
apartheid. The main thrust of the CUPE Ontario decision is the comparison
with South African apartheid. Indeed, the first item of the CUPE
resolution is to conduct an education campaign about the apartheid
nature of the Israeli state. It is striking that the various
attacks against the CUPE Ontario resolution refuse to address this
theme. Does Bnai Brith support or oppose Israeli apartheid?
Bnai Brith: We oppose the CUPE-Ontario boycott of
Israel, as inherently biased and discriminatory, betraying a politically-charged
CAIA: The CUPE-Ontario resolution calls for an education
campaign and for the respect of international law. The resolution
specifically targets Israeli practices already found to be in violation
of international law i.e. discriminatory citizenship rights,
the Wall, and self-determination for Palestinians.
Yes, CUPE-Ontario does stand on the side of those who are oppressed
and who are struggling for their rights. Indeed, this should be
fundamental to the principles of the labor movement. CUPE-Ontario
should be applauded for taking this stand in support of justice,
human rights and international solidarity.
Bnai Brith: We understand full well that such boycotts,
from wherever they emanate, do nothing to advance true peace in
the Middle East, but rather create a roadblock to meaningful resolution
of the conflict, and;
Bnai Brith: We expose such boycotts as thinly veiled
attempts to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel and
its right to protect its citizens against terror and violence.
CAIA: During the fight against Apartheid in South Africa,
international sanctions and boycotts were instrumental part in forcing
the regime to change. South African archbishop and Nobel laureate
Desmond Tutu has likened the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to
the treatment of black people under South African apartheid. Trade
unions, churches, social groups, NGOs, and political parties all
over the world joined in boycotts, at the request of South African
anti-apartheid groups. It should not be forgotten that, at the time,
Israel provided major political, financial and military support
to the South African Apartheid regime.
Two days after the CUPE Ontario resolution was adopted, another
boycott resolution was passed by the largest union of university
teachers in Britain, the National Association of Teachers in Further
and Higher Education (NATFHE). NATFHE, representing around 70,000
members, declared its active support of boycotts against Israeli
academics and academic institutions that do not publicly take an
explicit stand against Israeli apartheid and Israels discriminatory
These two resolutions represent the latest in a snowballing movement
to isolate Israeli apartheid in the manner of South African apartheid.
In July 2005, over 170 Palestinian trade unions, NGOs and religious
groups issued a call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against
Israeli apartheid. A long list of institutions, city councils, religious
organizations, political parties and unions have since endorsed
and acted on this call. In March 2006, the Green Party of the United
States issued a powerful policy statement that supported divestment
from and boycott of the State of Israel until such time as the full
individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people are realized.
In February 2006, the Church of Englands general synod --
including the Archbishop of Canterbury-- voted to disinvest church
funds from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. On 16
December 2005, the regional council of the Sor-Trondelag in Norway
passed a motion calling for a comprehensive boycott on Israeli goods
to be followed up with an awareness raising campaign across the
region. Sor-Trondelag was the first Norwegian county to boycott
South Africa and is now the first to boycott Israeli apartheid.
The central obstacle to peace in the region is Israeli apartheid.
We must work to end this apartheid system if we are to provide justice
and hope to all in the area. CUPE Ontario should be congratulated
for taking this courageous stand in support of human rights, and
openly supporting the global movement of boycott, divestment and
sanctions against Israeli apartheid.
Bnai Brith: We warn that the Right of Return
demanded by CUPE-Ontario would ultimately lead to the destruction
of the Jewish State
CAIA: In 1948 with the founding of the Israeli state, 80%
of the indigenous Palestinian population were driven from their
homes and land and became refugees. The Israeli state guarantees
any person of a Jewish background, anywhere in the world, the right
to become a citizen of Israel yet the indigenous population is refused
their right to return. Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration
of Human Rights states, Everyone has the right to freedom
of movement and residence within the borders of each state; and
everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own,
and return to his country. The right of return of refugees
is not a matter of negotiation. It is an inalienable right of all
people. Currently, Israel stands in direct violation of the UN Declaration,
a document of which Israel is a signatory.
The right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and
land is not simply a legal question. Most significantly, it points
to the fact that we should oppose any state that operates on the
basis of one religious or ethnic exclusivity. The central goal of
the anti-apartheid struggle is a state in which anyone can live,
regardless of their religious or ethnic background. This unquestionably
means the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes
and lands from which they were expelled in 1948.
Bnai Brith: We condemn the highjacking of CUPE-Ontarios
core mandate by individuals who have marginalized and ignored the
views and values of union members who do not support the prevailing
CAIA: The CUPE Ontario convention was attended by over 900
delegates democratically elected by CUPE Locals all over the province.
All resolutions were provided in written form to the delegates in
the months before the convention took place. The boycott, divestment
and sanctions resolution was put forward by the CUPE Toronto District
Council as well as other CUPE Locals. Many delegates spoke in favor
of the resolution at different points during the convention proceedings.
It is ironic, indeed, that an organization unrelated to CUPE Ontario
should undertake a massive lobby campaign to get CUPE Ontario to
revoke a decision made at its highest decision making body, and
in the process accuse the union of being highjacked.
The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid affirms its support for
union democracy and decision making.
Bnai Brith: We note CUPE-Ontarios failure to
condemn the gross abuses perpetrated against trade unionists in
many Arab countries, and question its failure to stand in solidarity
with its union colleagues elsewhere, as is surely its sacred responsibility
CAIA: Once again, Bnai Brith belies its ignorance
of what actually happened at the CUPE-Ontario Convention and of
the mandate of CUPE. An emergency resolution was unanimously adopted
in support of pro-reform and pro-democracy activists in Egypt, many
of whom have been subject to extra-judicial jailing and torture.
The Convention repeatedly underlined the importance of international
solidarity as central to building a strong union movement in Canada
that learns and co-operates with other struggles. This theme was
also stressed in the Action Plan for 2006 adopted by the convention.
An international solidarity forum organized by the CUPE International
Solidarity Committee at the Convention discussed struggles in Haiti,
Columbia, Palestine and the situation of people in Canada jailed
under security certificates. Invited guests addressed the convention
on the situation in Venezuela and Bolivia. CUPE members spoke at
and participated in a demonstration in support of refugee rights
CUPE-Ontario has a proud tradition of solidarity with international
unions, and support for the international standards of human rights,
environmental practices, and labour conditions. To suggest otherwise
is to engage in deliberate obfuscation of CUPEs mandate and
Bnai Brith: We dispute the right of CUPE-Ontario -
with its declared anti-Israel agenda - to represent itself as a
credible body to undertake public education on the Arab-Israeli
CAIA: CUPE-Ontario has many representatives and members
who are extremely knowledgeable of the practices and experience
of Israeli apartheid. This includes a large number of Palestinians
and Jews who support the anti-apartheid movement. CUPE-Ontario also
has a wide network of academics, fellow unionists and individuals
who support this anti-apartheid stance and are experienced in conducting
public education campaigns. Other CUPE divisions, such as CUPE B.C,
have already produced high quality educational booklets on matters
such as the Apartheid Wall.
Bnai Brith: We call on citizens of good will to demand
that CUPE Ontario repeal its boycott which stands in stark contradiction
to the established foreign policies and trade agreements set by
the Government of Canada, which represents the Canadian people.
CAIA: The position of the Canadian government is clearly
in support of Israeli apartheid. Canada was the first country in
the world to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, the elected representatives
of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Canada has a free
trade agreement with Israel that helps to sustain and reward Israeli
apartheid. This resolution is one more indication that a growing
number of Canadians clearly do not support these policies. All citizens
of good will should be concerned, and should feel free to voice
their concern with Israeli apartheid, individually or collectively,
through resolutions in unions, churches, synagogues, temples, and
mosques, through community meetings, letters to the editor, political
lobbying and public demonstrations.
For further info, please see:
Stop the Wall Campaign
Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within.
London: Zed Books, 2003.
McGreal, Chris. Worlds Apart, in the Guardian
newspaper, February 6, 2006 (online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1703244,00.html)
Against the Israeli Occupation: It's Time
I Divest? - By Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
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