AFL-CIO leadership attempts to censor San Francisco labor solidarity with Palestine

New reporting by The Intercept has revealed that the national leadership of the AFL-CIO, the main labor federation in the United States, has attempted to undemocratically block the San Francisco Labor Council from considering a resolution in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli oppression. This move comes as the movement for justice in Palestine continues to gain significant traction.

A high-ranking AFL-CIO official sent a memo in late September to the labor council in San Francisco — which is an affiliate of the federation — forbidding any vote or debate. Specifically, the resolution’s focus on supporting the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement was emphasized as being supposedly unacceptable. 

The ongoing brutality of the Israeli apartheid system, coupled with periodic all-out military assaults that kill hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian civillians, demonstrates the necessity of international condemnation. Brutal attacks on civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere by the Israeli military this past year have shown that there are no limits to Israel’s cruelty, nor a sufficient international check on their behavior.

Following a daylong general strike across Palestine last May, trade unions and workers’ organizations on the ground put out an international call for solidarity and support in their struggle against Israeli apartheid. Many union activists across the United States are strongly supportive of the Palestinian labor movement and the Palestinian struggle more broadly, understanding that solidarity among workers needs to transcend national boundries. If enforced, the AFL-CIO memo regarding the BDS movement would effectively forbid 12.5 million American workers from discussing the ongoing catastrophe in Palestine within their unions. This is an unequivocal act of censorship.

Censoring, vilifying, and conflating the BDS movement with anti-semitism are all tactics long used by the anti-worker political establishment to undermine this completely nonviolent form of protest. The AFL-CIO should not join this camp and instead hold true to the ideals of the labor movement by supporting the Palestinian people who are standing up for their basic rights. 

A victory for BDS would mean that the $3.8 billion annually allocated to Israel’s military could instead be diverted to social programs at home as well as providing reparations to Palestinians. It is clearly in the interests of the working class for the United States to cease its support for Israeli war crimes, yet the AFL-CIO leadership is steamrolling its membership to make this discussion impossible.

The AFL-CIO should immediately reverse its decision to bar the San Francisco Labor Council from following democratic processes to consider the resolution. International union solidarity should be welcomed, not prohibited.

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