Growing Trade Union Support for Boycott Actions against Apartheid State Israel

Another Blow to Zionist Racism
By Yossi Schwartz
Internationalist Socialist League
RCIT-Section in Occupied Palestine/Israel

Every few weeks another important organization is joining the boycott of Israel. In April the Irish teachers union, and at the end of February, the Oxford student union joined the struggle against racism. Recently the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) passed a resolution during its annual conference. This resolution calls for the boycott of the Israeli academic institutions that will apply only to institutions, but not individuals who oppose the systematic discrimination against the Palestinians.
“We are very aware that there are Israeli scholars who understand the difficulties that Palestinian academics and students have, and speak up in support of Palestinian rights,” Srikanth the former president of the Association told Insider Higher Ed. “So we would absolutely be working with them and proving in them with whatever support they need to challenge their institutions.” (Erwin de Leon, Asian American Academics Boycott Israeli Universities, 29 April 2013)

We support this resolution because indeed the Israeli educational system including in the higher education is racist and supports in many ways the oppression of the Palestinians. At the same time we do not support a total boycott of all Israelis as there are some who oppose the oppression of the Palestinians and they join struggles like in Sheikh Jarrah, Jaffa, the Nakba Day (Land Day). Some Israeli academics are even involved in organizing the boycott of the Israeli universities.

This resolution by the AAAS is another step in the isolation of the Zionist apartheid state. Another nail in the coffin of the racist state. A step we support even though we think that the real effective way to boycott Israel is by working class actions known in American English as “hot cargo”. These are actions of stopping the loading and unloading of Israeli goods on the ships, the trains, the trucks and the airplanes. Actions focusing in particular on the Israeli import and export of the products of the Israeli military industry where it will hurt them the most.

This can be done as more unions are joining the struggle against the Zionist state. Our brothers and sisters in Spain are one of the latest trade unions that have joined the struggle against Israel. In January 2013 five leading Spanish trade unions in the northern region of Galicia have called for a boycott of Israel.

The unions joining the campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) are the Unión General de Trabajadores, the Comisións Obreiras de Galicia, the Confederación Intersindical Galega, the Central Nacional de Traballadores and the Confederación Unitaria de Traballadores. Of these, two are affiliates of the International Trade Union Confederation. (See 5 main Unions in Galicia in Spanish state adopt BDS, January 16, 2013)

Zionist accuse (again) pro-Palestinian Solidarity as “Anti-Semitic”

As they begin to feel the heat under their seats the pro-Zionists say that boycotting Israeli academic institution is hypocritical and a form of avert Anti- Semitism, especially because the Israeli professors support a just solution of two states.

These pro-Zionists are hypocrites. Israel is the only country in the world that support US embargo on Cuba. Thus the pro-Zionists cannot say that they are in principle against boycott. What they are really saying is: do not boycott the apartheid state. Once upon a time the Zionists could use the weapon of calling those who oppose the Zionists crimes anti-Semites. Today this weapon is corroded. The ugly fat king is naked.

Secondly like most of the pro-Zionist crude propaganda this line is another lie. It is true that a very small minority among Israeli academies opposes the atrocities committed by the right wing settlers backed by the Israeli state. Among them we can count Adi Ophir (TAU), Hannan Hever (HUJ), Yehouda Shehav (TAU), Ariella Azoulay, Yair Auron, an expert on the Armenian genocide, Professor Moshe Zimmermann (HUJ) who compared the settlers to the Hitler-Jugend. These brave academics are facing various forms of persecutions.

Feras Hammami gives a few examples in a recent report:

“The right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu has sanctioned a series of repressive measures to deter domestic criticism from human rights groups, media and judiciary. Jewish students and faculty members police the academic environment, acting as watchdog over the courses of “dissident” professors. To avoid public vilification, job loss, imprisonment, or even death, staff members delimit the information that might provoke the authorities. Professor Ariella Azoulay of Bar-Ilan University was denied tenure because of her political associations. When Professor Neve Gordon at BGU announced his support for the boycott of Israeli universities in 2009 the extra-parliamentary group Im Tirtzu called upon the university to dismiss the professor and “put an end to the anti-Zionist tilt” (Haaretz, 9/30/2012). The Minister of Education Gideon Saar also criticized the Department of Politics and Government at BGU for its “post-Zionist” bias. Professor Ilan Pappe who supports the academic boycott of Israel was himself boycotted in Haifa University. After he had received several death threats and had been condemned by the Knesset, he moved his work to the University of Exeter in 2008.

Nizar Hassan, director of several award-winning films, was condemned by the Knesset Education Committee for criticizing a Jewish student who arrived to class at Sapir College in the Negev wearing military uniform (Cook, 2008). There was no such condemnation of a Jewish lecturer at the same college who asked a female Bedouin to take off her veil when she came to class. Since the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000, the Israeli police and secret services have intensified the arrest and interrogation of Israeli-Palestinian students in Israeli universities. Yusef, a student of the University of Ben-Gurion, lost his life due to his political association with an Arab Student Committee on campus.” (Feras Hammami: Political Crisis in Israeli Universities, International Sociological Association (ISA), Global Dialogue, Newsletter, February 2013, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden)

“Left” Zionists and a Palestinian Bantustan

A larger minority of Israeli professors have expressed in one form or another support for the idea of a mini Palestinians state a Bantustan alongside Israel on 80% of Palestine. The majority of the Israeli professors either openly support the new settlements in the lands Israel occupied in 1967 or at least do not oppose the settlements. Not only this but some of the “left” professors support the settlements as well.

On August 17, 2012 the Liberal Zionist daily Haaretz published an interesting article on this question of the “Left” professors: 

“Several academics who teach at the Ariel University Center in the West Bank have distinctly leftist views. But they see no contradiction between their work place and their political positions, and some were even pleasantly surprised when they discovered what it was like…. [ ] Cohen, who always voted “between Meretz and Labor,” received an offer to teach at the college in Ariel eight years ago, when he was about to retire. To his surprise, most of the faculty are of Russian origin, and chose to live in the settlement of Ariel due to the lower cost of living.

“There are a few more skullcap-wearing people here, but no messianism,” he said. “…”I think the conflict’s solution is two states for two peoples, but three large settlement blocs will remain – Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel,” he added. “I’m very optimistic.”

…”Last year some 1,000 academics, including 18 Israel Prize laureates, signed a petition against establishing a university in the 1967 occupied territories, warning that it would undermine international academic cooperation and harm the existing universities. “The identification of Israeli academia as a whole with the settlement policy will put it in danger,” they wrote.

But a number of leftist academics who have chosen to teach at Ariel disagree. Prof. Yossi Goldstein, for example, said he sees no contradiction between having leftist views and working at Ariel, despite his initial misgivings.

An expert on Zionist history and Israel, Goldstein said his voting ranges from Meretz to “more radical” parties. Having written biographies of prime ministers Levi Eshkol and Yitzhak Rabin, he is very familiar with the history of West Bank settlement. But this hasn’t stopped him from teaching at Ariel University Center for the past four years.

“The term occupation is correct” as applied to Ariel, he said. “We’re in occupied territory … But I’m in an academic institution.”

“All Israeli universities were established for political reasons,” he added. 
“I don’t deny the politicians who founded Ariel wanted to divide the West Bank in two and quash the chances of creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank,” Goldstein said. “That’s not my responsibility … My conscience tells me I’m a tenured history professor here. If it means my children and grandchildren can live in peace, I’d be ready to return every bit of land.”

Goldstein sees no contradiction between his work and his political positions. He even looked into buying an apartment in Ariel for investment purposes, but the plan didn’t work out.

“My view is simple: Israel must stay strong until peace agreements are signed,” he said. “I don’t think an academic institution can prevent peace.”
Criminologist Mally Shechory-Bitton has been teaching at the college since 1997, as well as at Ben-Gurion University. She supports “territorial compromise. I’m not willing to die for any land.”

But she sees no connection between establishing the university in Ariel and territorial compromise.

“Ariel College was built to strengthen Ariel. That doesn’t interest me,” she said. “The state decided to settle people there. They didn’t come here out of the blue.” (Chaim Levinson: Leftist views don’t keep professors from teaching at Ariel. Part of the Israeli left sees the recent decision to upgrade Ariel University Center to a full university as a move that bolsters the occupation, Aug.17, 2012)

These Professors may see themselves as left wingers, the Israeli state like to present them as left wingers and the pro-Zionists outside of Israel present them as left wing oppositionists but in reality judging not according what they say about themselves but what they do they are part of the racist crowd and deserved to be boycott.

While we do not support politically the bourgeois politics of Bishop Tutu in South Africa, he said the truth when he called to boycott the Ben Gurion University.

“It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. [Ben Gurion University] is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defense forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.” (Desmond Tutu, talking shortly before the University of Johannesburg cut its ties with Ben Gurion University, quoted in BDS: Academic Boycott)

The Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in the Oppression of the Palestinians

In 2009 the Center for Alternative Information published a research on the role the Israeli institution of high education play in the oppression of the Palestinians. The following are excerpts from this research already in 2009:

“The Technion, like most other Israeli universities, takes pride in projects of research and development conducted for the Israeli security forces. Examples of the more brutal of these are the development of a remote-controlled “D9” bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses5 and the development of a method for detecting underground tunnels,specifically developed in order to assist the Israeli army in its continued siege on the Gaza Strip. The extent of cooperation between the Technion and Israeli military was demonstrated when the Technion opened a center for the development of electro-optics in complete partnership with Elbit,one of the biggest Israeli private weapons’ research companies which is also heavily involved in development for the Israeli military. Though the Technion is the most notorious and prestigious academic institution that cooperates with the Israeli military in eveloping military technologies, it is not the only Israeli university to do so. A recent report by the student Palestinian Society of the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) revealed that Tel- Aviv University has participated in no less than 55 joint technological projects with the Israeli army, particularly in the field of electro-optics.

It has hosted conventions about electro-optics and robotics in which weapons’ manufacturing companies have participated. Bar-Ilan University has also articipated in joint research with the army, specifically in developing artificial intelligence for unmanned combat vehicles. Other academic institutes such as the Weizman Institute have also been involved in development in the Economy of the Occupation vice of the Israeli army. Academic institutions such as the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya or Holon College take pride in the fact that their students later work in weapons manufacturing companies such as Elbit and RAFAEL. The Wingate Institute also has joint research projects with the Israeli security forces, although more related to physical fitness rather than to weapon development. An example of the deadly fruits of such cooperation was revealed during Israel’s 2009 military attacks against the Gaza Strip, when at least 29 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli unmanned aircraft .One of the problems in estimating the exact extent of academic participation in military research is that much of it is done without formally labeling it as such. Private commercial companies have become an important part of the universities’ structure by investing money into the universities and becoming directly involved on the academic level. Numerous Israeli students turn to academic studies in engineering or computer science, hoping for a career in the lucrative high-tech sector. In studying for advanced degrees it has become a common practice in several Israeli universities for M.A. and Ph.D. students to have a university professor as a formal instructor, but someone from outside the university as their practical, de-facto instructor. This external person is usually a researcher or manager in a commercial high-tech company who guides the student in research which is heavily connected to that of the company. Though it is difficult to detect this type of involvement, as it is rarely written or publicized in official documents, indicators of this process can be found in the cooperation and connections between academic institutes and companies such as Elbit, RAFAEL and other weapon developers. This is most apparent in the Technion, which, in addition to the aforementioned, has also trained engineers specifically for work in Elbit18 and RAFAEL and where students have even dealt directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses. In June 2008 Elbit publicly announced that in each of the next five years it would be awarding half a million dollars in grants to Technion research students. This unusual publication of the research sponsorship indicates the special relationship between the Technion and Elbit.” (Shir Hever, Uri Yacobi Keller: Economy of the Occupation. Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories, Socioeconomic Bulletin, No. 23, October 2009, Published by the Alternative Information Center, pp. 9-11)

Revolutionary Anti-Zionist Perspective

But even if most Israeli academics were in favor of a mini-Palestinian state, this would not have solved the right of self determination of the Palestinians. If such a Bantustan was the solution, would those who support such a “solution”, accepted it for the Israelis? Of course not. Why should they accept such a small prison as a solution they will ask? But if it is not good for them why do they think it is good for the Palestinians? If they want it for the Palestinians and not for themselves it makes them racists.

The truth of the matter is that in this country you have to choose between the right of the self determination for the oppressed Palestinians or the imperialist oppressor settler colonialists. We in the International Socialist League have chosen the side of the oppressed Palestinians. For this reason against the Zionist apartheid from the river to the sea we advance the demand of a democratic one state from the river to the sea where the majority are the Palestinians and with the return of the refugees the Palestinian will be the large majority in this country. Thus we call for a Palestinian democratic state from the river to the sea.

Of course for this to happen it is necessary to win a revolution. The only force that can lead such a revolution is the working class. In this country, it means the Palestinian working class with those Jewish workers who will break with Zionism and the immigrant workers as well as with the support of the Palestinian Fallahin, the unemployed, the small businessman and the oppressed women and youth are the forces that can fight for such a solution.
For this reason we call for a workers and fellahin government. Needless to say this revolution can be won only as part of the victorious Arab revolution of the entire region. Thus we call for a Palestinian multi-national worker state as part of the socialist federation of the Middle East. This is also the reason why we want the international working class to lead the boycott on Israel. While we support all the actions that mobilize the masses including the lower middle class independently of the other imperialists, against the Israeli state, we firmly think that the middle class forces that are leading today the struggle do not have the strategy and the organizational method to win this struggle. Many of the supporters of the BDS see the goal as a Two-State Solution or at best one bourgeois state ruled by liberal pro imperialist class. Others want to pressure the other imperialists to boycott Israel rather than to rely on the workers and the masses. Those perspectives are similar to the perspective that happened in South Africa where the socialist revolution was betrayed by the South African Communist Party that blocked the socialist revolution and led to the present day capitalist South Africa where the huge majority of the Black workers and peasants are still living in poverty.

For Workers-led Boycott of Israel’s Economy, Military and Academic Institutions!

For a Free Red Palestine from the River to the Sea!

For a Workers Government supported by the Falahins from the River to the Sea!

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