July 18, 2007
We view with increasing concern the phenomenon of trade unions in a number of countries, including, most recently, the United Kingdom, issuing resolutions that either directly or indirectly call for divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
With the large number of local, regional and international conflicts, with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.
We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.
Any just and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought about through meaningful negotiations between their elected representatives. We believe strongly in a two-state solution, brought about through meaningful negotiations, with the involvement and encouragement of the world community.
Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations. In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.
Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of association, key principles for which academics and educational unions have struggled over many years. Rather than limiting interactions with Israeli educators, academics and educational institutions, we see the importance of maximizing, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between peoples, cultures, religions and countries.
Similarly, calls for journalistic boycotts of Israel are inimical to the free flow of information and journalistic objectivity, and must be opposed.
Rather than divestment from Israel, we believe that investment of time, energy and material aid is the best means to alleviate the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. Engagement, rather than disengagement, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is needed, so that a just and fair resolution of this conflict may be pursued, and so that meaningful progress towards achieving the legitimate needs of Palestinians and Israelis can be made.
We offer our support to assist trade unionists as well as interested members of the community-at-large who are grappling with these matters, and who share our concern over simplistic and non-constructive approaches, whether in the form of misguided resolutions or other statements on the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Stuart Appelbaum, President, Jewish Labor Committee, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / UFCW
Edward J. McElroy, Secretary, Jewish Labor Committee, President, American Federation of Teachers
Morton Bahr, Treasurer, Jewish Labor Committee
John J. Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO
Clayola Brown, President, A. Philip Randolph Institute
Timothy A. Brown, International President, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots / ILA
R. Thomas Buffenbarger, International President, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
William Burrus, President, American Postal Workers Union
Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
Barbara J. Easterling, Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America
John J. Flynn, President, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
John Gage, President, American Federation of Government Employees
Ron Gettelfinger, President, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union
Michael Goodwin, President, Office and Professional Employees International Union
Joseph T. Hansen, International President, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Frank Hurt, International President, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union
Thomas F. Lee, President, American Federation of Musicians
Jill S. Levy, President, American Federation of School Administrators
William Lucy, President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Gerald W. McEntee, President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Bruce S. Raynor, General President, UNITE HERE
Cecil E. Roberts, President, United Mine Workers of America
Robert Scardelletti, International President, Transportation Communications Union / IAM
Michael J. Sullivan, General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
George Tedeschi, President, Graphic Communications International Union / IBT
James A. Williams, General President, International Union of Printers and Allied Trades