Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Might Of Armies, Magnified A Thousand-Fold

Capital operates globally, and it has various institutions to carry out its work. So, labour should operate globally as well, and labour unions are right to actively engage in international solidarity campaigns. There’s important work to be done, like eliminating sweatshops, which is something the Canadian Labour Congress has taken on. And if you ask me, these people are bold as bullocks.

But what CUPE-Ontario has been up to is another thing altogether.

When the Ontario section of Canada’s largest union decided last month to sign up to a worldwide, Palestinian-led campaign to boycott Israel, the result was an unholy mess that British Columbia’s largest union is still busy trying to clean up.

“It’s been a little crazy, unfortunately,” a weary Barry O’Neill, president of the 70,000-member B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, told me the other day. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s really hateful,” O’Neill said. “And we don’t even agree with what Ontario is saying.”

That’s from my column this week. For which I expect to catch heck.

So’s this:

. . .the term occupation, as it appears in the CUPE Ontario resolution, doesn’t make much sense unless it’s meant to condemn Israel’s existence in what some people prefer to call Palestine.

CUPE Ontario also says the point of the boycott is to force Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. But Israel already does recognize that right. The resolution further demands that Palestinians be granted the “right of return” to Israel set out in the United Nations Resolution 194. But UN Resolution 194 was passed in 1948, and its intent has been overtaken by events. A Palestinian “right of return” now would pretty well finish off Israel as a distinctly Jewish nation-state.

You can see why some people find the whole thing, well, disturbing.

I expect I might catch heck for the photograph that illustrates this post, too, so let me say it is not intended to invite comparisons between CUPE-Ontario and the Sturmabteilung or anything like that. It’s intended to show why it is not unreasonable to expect a bit of grumpiness among otherwise reasonable people when the words boycott and Jews suddenly show up in the same conversation. There’s a certain history involved.

It hasn’t helped that CUPE-Ontario’s “Boycott Israel” resolution isn’t in aid of anything specifically recognizeable, like a more speedy withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That would be one thing. But it isn’t evidently about that. It’s not about anything immediately obvious, like securing justice for Palestinians workers within their own state, or compelling Israel to a peaceful coexistence with the Palestine Authority, or helping forge solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian trade unions, as in this fine initiative.

It hasn't helped that the resolution appears to be about eliminating Israel entirely.

But nevermind what I think. Let’s hear directly from its sponsors.

Resolution 50, which draws from this, was championed at the May 27 convention by CUPE Local 3903, the faculty union at York University, and Local 3903’s Rafeef Ziadah makes it quite clear here that the scourge the boycott is intended to eliminate is Israel itself - the Jewish, colonial, U.S.-backed “apartheid state” of Israel.

There’s only one difference I can see between this boycott and the Arab League’s antiquated boycott-and-blacklist campaign, launched in 1951, which still sputters and stumbles along. The newfangled version proposes to draw non-Arab countries into it, by pouring the old reactionary wine into new and leftish-looking bottles that Ziadah sets out as the “struggles of women, workers, people of color, immigrants, prisoners, and particularly indigenous peoples.”

I just doubt somehow that the delegates to the CUPE-Ontario convention were fully briefed on what they were getting dragged into. It also seems unlikely that Resolution 50 accords with the rank-and-file view among CUPE-Ontario’s 200,000-or-so members. What I know for sure is that if I were a CUPE-Ontario member, I’d be far more inclined to stand with my brothers and sisters here, but I'd give Daniel Nadler a wide berth. He's got a right to be angry but he's going about things the wrong way. He should get active in his union instead.

Eric Lee from LabourStart actually manages a bit of satire on the subject, by putting the shoe on the other foot.

If that doesn’t work for you, there’s always this.


Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Donning flame-proof suit, digging out marshmallows, fire-proofing lawn chair...

3, 2, 1...

3:13 PM  
Blogger Will said...

You see Terry, there's something about you that I like...I just can't put my finger on it at the moment...

Come on you wankers, let's be having you.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Terry said:"It hasn’t helped that CUPE-Ontario’s “Boycott Israel” resolution isn’t in aid of anything specifically recognizeable, like a more speedy withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That would be one thing. But it isn’t evidently about that"....

...I would agree wth that.This resolution troubles me.It is very vague in its meaning and can be construded in a negative way.
For sure Israel must be and deserves much criticism.That said any such resoluton must be very clear in its meaning and intent.

10:17 PM  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

While CUPE is definitely barking up the wrong tree, the hate calls from the JDL-type monkeys are a shame. Sorry having to say this, but...

9:56 AM  

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