The GTFF stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and recognizes their struggle for their liberation and independence from the settler-colonial, capitalist state of Israel as wholly necessary. Presently, Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza have been subject to immense violence by Israelis, both in forms sanctioned by the state and at the hands of Israeli citizens. This, however, is only the most recent manifestation of the struggle for emancipation from the Israeli colonization, from before the formal founding of the state up to today–the ongoing Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic–which has and continues to threaten the Palestinian people with dispossession, expulsion, juridical and geographical separation, social death, and eradication via ethnic cleansing. Israel has produced a people for whom life is lived in constant terror and anxiety, where social bonds can be ripped away in mere seconds, and where, as Noura Erakat powerfully intimates in an interview with CNN, “[Palestinian] deaths become numbers rather than vanished dreams and mourning families.” We condemn all Israeli violence, state-sanctioned or otherwise, against the Palestinian people and other non-Jewish peoples in the region, and see the project of Zionism as necessarily recapitulating imperialist, nationalist, and racist institutions borrowed from the Christian-Secular West.
The growing violence is a reactionary response to Palestinians protesting against the imminent dispossession of 58 Palestinian residents from their homes in the occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. That these Palestinian families rightfully keep their homes itself has been legally contested since 1972 when several Israeli organizations filed lawsuits against these families. Finding the imminent dispossession intolerable and understanding that the Israeli legal system will only favor the colonists, many Palestinians took to protesting against the dispossessions and were faced with brutalization at the hands of the Israeli police, soldiers, and civilians (the latter of whom championed ultra-religious and fascist Israeli nationalism). These Israeli forces have raided Sheikh Jarrah multiple nights this week, employing stun grenades, water cannons, skunk water, and the like, removing barriers to their advance and quelling solidarity protests. We celebrate the resistance the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has made to keep these families in their homes! Their success in resisting Israeli violence is a clear demonstration that, however great the state’s violence may be, resistance and organization in the name of actual human flourishing will succeed and that Israel is not invincible. In their defeat, the settler colonial state of Israel has extended its reactionary violence in occupied Jerusalem to Gaza, breaking in and terrorizing a Palestinian family in the city of Haifa, and even raiding the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the concluding nights of Ramadan where worshipers and protesters gathered. The Palestinians imprisoned within Gaza have been bombed over the last few days. As of Saturday, May 15th, 137 Palestinians have been killed and more than 920 have been wounded; and over 10,000 people have been displaced from their homes out of concern for their safety or because they have been destroyed, and are now even more precarious refugees. And today, Sunday, May 16th, 2021, Israel continued its offensive via air strikes against Gaza that destroyed several homes, killed 42 Palestinian, 10 of whom were children. Though these constitute the clearest acts of violence against the Palestinian people, we also recognize that Israel has employed a host of tactics to realize their goals of ethnic cleanings and colonization. For instance, Israel is a leading manufacturer of medication and as such is currently the third-most vaccinated country in the world for COVID-19 (58.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, which we’re left to infer only includes those with Israeli citizenship), while less than 1% of the people in Gaza and the West Bank are fully vaccinated (with only 2.5% partially vaccinated). Clearly, Israel would rather endanger its own population and the Palestinians with continuing the pandemic as another means for eradicating the people whose land the Israelis have expropriated.
The GTFF also condemns discursive moves that attempt to delegitimize the Palestinians’ means of resistance by emphasizing Hamas’s use of rockets against the Israeli state, while willfully forgetting Israel is one of the most organized and well-funded militaries, with the vast majority of the Israeli citizenry being conscripted at the age of 18. In fact, in the 1970s the state of Israel helped fund and facilitate the growth of Hamas and other Islamist political forces in order to supress secular-nationalist and left-wing, socialist Palestinian resistence organizations. This means that Israel has divided the Palestinian people, created an opposing group that can be seen in the world’s eyes as its equal in a so-called conflict, such that Israel can attempt to claim legitimacy in its violence by appealing to self-protection. Such discursive moves conflating Israeli violence and Palestinian resistence, as can be seen when Noura Erakat is asked to comment on the Hamas rockets, absolve Westerners from examining our own complicity in the Nakba through our investments—social, political, economic, psychic—in Israeli occupation, and instead put moral burden for the present violence onto Palestinians disproportionately more than on Israelis. The effects for those clouded in such ideology is that this is a conflict between two warring nations, not Western colonial expansion into the Middle East through Zionist settlers.
We also recognize a need to disambiguate our decidedly anti-Zionist stance from the multifarious and contradictory ideology of antisemitism. Being against the Israeli state and for Palestinian liberation does not constitute a discriminatory position against Jews in any regard. To say that being anti-Zionist is being antisemitic is to be swept in the contradictions incumbent to the West’s development as the secularist and Christian center of global accumulation, at the expense of Jews, Muslims, and all Arabs: We have witnessed the growing number of antisemitic attacks—and Islamophobic ones—from the bolstering far right, fascist, white supremacist, and/or nationalist extremists; and we recognize that these attacks and the antisemitism they perpetuate are justified and normalized by more center political parties. And at the same time, these same parties (from far right to center, including the Biden administration) maintain pro-Israeli stances, which effectively justify their antisemitism. What is more, these pro-Israeli, antisemitic forces are seen in the public as protecting Jews from Leftists, Muslims in the West, and activists in solidarity with Palestine. We reject this tout court as ideology aimed at maintaining the existing imperialist-capitalist order, which will serve to bolster white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia, Israeli colonialism, police brutality, patriarchy, capitalist accumulation in the Global North, etc., all at the expense of Palestinian lives. It is clear that these prevailing forces internationally are no champion for the flourishing of any Jewish communities, just as clear as Israel is at the forefront (backed multifariously by the West) of the destruction of the Palestinian people. In fact, one of Zionism’s founding figures, Theodor Herzl, himself made clear that the project of Zionism fundamentally agreed with European antisemitism: that the Jews have no place in Europe. And it is no mistake that on this point—and so on many others—Zionism is ideologically linked at its core with antisemitism.
We urge our GTFF members to learn and bear witness to the violent and complex history of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We see our duty, as members of the international working class, to fight in solidarity with the Palestinian people in defence of their right to return, and all forms of oppression that leave the vast majority of humans unable to satisfy their needs to flourish as social-metabolic beings.
To this end, we call on other labor unions and state and national labor federations to support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and to commit to following Labor for Palestine’s call to respect the Boycott Divestment Sanctions picket line and divest from the state of Israel, particularly from bonds that are part of union pension funds.
Specifically, we call on our parent unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Unions (AFL-CIO) to echo the International Trade Union Confederation’s condemnation of the violence and call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. We urge AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and other national labor leaders to push the Biden administration to pressure the Israeli military to cease attacks against Palestinians, to stop arms sales to Israel, and to demand the end to displacement of Palestinians and expropriation of their land.
We are all called upon to act with concern and compassion towards our Palestinian colleagues, comrades, students, and community members. This duty extends to staying vigilant to xenophobic reactions to the present situation, Palestinian discrimination, and Islamophobia in all its forms.
#SaveSheikhJarrah #RightofReturn #CopsOffTheEarth