Appeal To Get Connecticut To Divest It’s Israeli Bonds

The 13 initial signers listed below ask you to join them in this letter to the AFL-CIO. If you wish to be listed as a signer send an email to mecc[at] saying “add me to the letter to the AFL-CIO” and put your full name and a line of identification. If you have a working class job or any affiliation to any union (including those outside the AFL-CIO) be sure to mention it. We need your answer by Friday 9/4 as we want to reach the union body before next week”s New Haven convention.

To the Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Board and AFL-CIO Convention:

We are a group of CT unionists, workers, community leaders and concerned citizens who are distressed that the Connecticut AFL-CIO continues to own $25,000 worth of Israel bonds. The government of Israel is notorious worldwide for its mistreatment of Palestinians, and its anti-labor policies among Jewish workers. We call upon the CT AFL-CIO to join the worldwide movement to bring pressure on the Israeli government by selling its Israel bonds.

Israel controls not only its internationally recognized borders, but the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and parts of Syria. In that area live 5 million Palestinians. Some are Israeli citizens with second class rights (for instance, they are not allowed to work in a number of major industries and they are barred from owning or leasing over 90% of Israeli land). Most Palestinians are not citizens and live in areas surrounded by walls, checkpoints, military bases and Jewish-only settlements. Unemployment rates among these Palestinians are among the highest on earth because very few are allowed to work in Israel itself and because the Israeli government makes sure Palestinian factories and businesses don”t compete with Israeli products. Millions of other Palestinians are refugees, forbidden to return to their homes despite numerous U.N. resolutions and basic human rights.

The Gaza Strip demands separate mention. Long one of the poorest places on earth, its 1.5 million people have been under siege for three years, and often suffer Israeli military attacks In 2008 the Israeli Air Force blew up the headquarters in Gaza of the trade union federation, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. On January 16 of this year Israeli jets attacked the building of the University Teachers Association-Palestine causing severe damage.

The AFL-CIO owns no other foreign country”s bonds. Obviously it bought Israel bonds to help the Israeli government. In the past the AFL-CIO and many other unions supported Israel because of its alliance with the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut. At one time the Histadrut represented almost all Jewish Israeli workers. It owned factories and banks and had major influence on the Israeli government. It used that power to create numerous social welfare programs. However, that time is long past. Privatization has made the Histadrut a shadow of its former self. The Israeli Jewish community which used to be famous for its equality is now like the U.S., among the most unequal societies in terms of pay and property

It also must be said that Israeli Palestinians have not benefited from Histadrut membership. For 39 years it was a segregated union with only Jews being allowed membership. After being allowed membership in 1959 100,000 Israeli Arab citizens joined even though there were many complaints of unequal treatment in the union. Once health insurance was no longer administrated by the Histadrut unions, its Arab membership dwindled to a few thousand.

Starting in the 1990″s tens of thousands of Palestinian workers were barred from their jobs in Israel and replaced with workers from China, Rumania, Thailand and other countries. Israel now has the second highest percent of foreign workers among industrialized countries. These workers labor under temporary work contracts and are often thrown out of the country if they complain about working conditions or pay.

To protest its mistreatment of Palestinians, unions worldwide are divesting from Israel and some are calling for boycotts of Israeli products and other measures to pressure its government. These include the UNISON, the biggest union in the UK along with the British University and College Union, IMPACT, Ireland”s largest public sector union, the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and COSATU, South Africa”s biggest union.

It is fine that the AFL-CIO wants to use its savings to promote working peoples welfare, but the money would be better put to use buying bonds from hurricane ravaged Louisiana, bonds from the state of Michigan whose government is devastated by the collapse of the auto industry or bonds supporting deficit riddled Connecticut.

We call for the CT AFL-CIO to immediately sell off its Israel bonds and to issue a press release announcing that it will no longer subsidize Israeli government mistreatment of Palestinians or privatization of the Israeli economy.

(organizations listed for identification purposes only)

Elizabeth Aaronsohn
Associate Professor, Teacher Education, Central CT State University, and member of AAUP

Jeff Bartos
Teamsters Local #557
Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07

The Rev. David W. Good
An Ordained minister in the United Church of Christ
Old Lyme, Connecticut

Ioanna Gutas
Retired librarian

Stanley Heller
West Haven Federation of Teachers
Central Labor Council delegate

Michael Jefferson
Attorney at Law

Bruce Martin

Sadanand Nanjundiah
Professor of Physics, CCSU

G.A. Rosso

John Paggioli, M.D.
Norwich, CT

Frank Panzarella
Former President
IAM, Local 1990
New Haven Area Vice President
CT State Council of Machinists

Chengiah Ragaven
Professor, Central Connecticut State University

Cliff Thornton
Former national Green Party Steering Committee Co-Chair

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