'COSATU Open Letter in Support of CUPE Resolution'
THE PASSING OF a resolution on 27 May 2006 by the Ontario Division of the
Canadian Union of Public Employees in support of the Palestinian peoples has
sparked a great deal of notice across the North American labour movement,
and, indeed, the international labour movement.
Resolution 50 clearly states the case for Israel as an apartheid state, and
calls for "support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and
sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian
people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the
precepts of international law including the right of Palestinian refugees to
return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194." It
also calls for a campaign of education on the nature of the Israeli
apartheid state, and the role of the Canadian government in its support.
The resolution has met with a sharp and predictable response from the
Canadian Jewish Congress blaming the Palestinians for all, absolving the
Israeli state, and raising the usual shibboleths of any that would contest
their 'blaming the victim' interpretation of the conflict. The apartheid
wall cutting Palestine into a series of bantustans, the violations of the
International Court of Justice, the ignoring of UN resolutions and
international law in the building of illegal settlements, the possession of
weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons outside international
arms treaties, are all safely ignored. Sadly, the CJC has been joined by the
President of the Canadian Auto Workers, Buzz Hargrove, in condemning the
CUPE resolution in an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star on 5 June 2006. In
ignoring some of CAW's own resolutions on the conflict, Hargrove continues
to pull the CAW in a rightward and corporatist direction, leaving behind the
social unionism that the CAW was once noted for, preferring now the company
and political positions of major Canadian capitalists and leading Zionists
such as Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, both playing a significant role
in pushing the Liberal government of Paul Martin to shift Canada's policies
in the direction of Israel and closer to the U.S. position.
The position taken by the CUPE Ontario Convention, and the op-ed in defence
of Israel written by the CAW's increasingly unpredictable leader Buzz
Hargrove, has led to a revival of the debate within the Canadian labour
movement on the Middle East. In the past, trade unionists who spoke out
against Israeli policy in the Middle east were quickly marginalized.
The recent position taken by CUPE Ontario in support of the boycott against
Israel has led to the expected counter-attacks, but we seem to be in the
process of a sea-change in international opinion which suggests that this
time, it may be the Zionist lobby that will be put on the defensive. One
expression of this shift is the authority which the South African trade
union movement has given to the CUPE Ontario position in a letter -
reprinted below - which was sent to CUPE's leader Sid Ryan this week.
The Bullet reprints here this important open letter from the Presidend of
the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Willie Madisha, in
support of the CUPE Resolution, and for further development of the
international campaign of unions in support of the rights of the Palestinian
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Ontario
June 6, 2006
Brother Sid Ryan,
On behalf over 1.2 million South African workers organized under the banner
of COSATU I greet you in the name of worker internationalism. It is this
solidarity, since the formation of the very first union and across space and
time, often in the face of harsh repression, that provided vital moral
succour and allowed workers to strengthen their resolve against oppression
In this spirit and with great pride, I congratulate CUPE Ontario for their
historic resolution on May 27th in support of the Palestinian people - those
living under occupation and those millions of Palestinian refugees living in
the Diaspora. We fully support your resolution.
As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine
I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe
that some of the atrocities committed against the South Africans by the
erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa pale in comparison to those
committed against the Palestinians.
The latest outrage by the apartheid Israeli regime-the construction of the
hideous Apartheid Wall-condemned by the International Court of
Justice- extends the occupation of Palestinian lands, disrupts the already
precarious economic, social, health and education well being of an entire
people and entrenches the Bantustanisation of Palestine.
When the governments of the world turn a blind eye to these injustices; when
they are seduced by apartheid Israel's justification of brutality through
the pretext of 'security'; when they silence criticism of state terror
through the canard of 'anti-semitism'-then it is time for the global workers
movement to stand firm and principled against hypocrisy and double
standards. We cannot remain silent any longer. It is time to stand in word
and in deed with the peoples of the Middle East and heed their call to
support the struggle against occupation. There will be no peace in this
region and in the world, without justice.
Despite the action of some Western governments and big business, workers and
democrats of the world including the citizens of Canada, heeded our call
when we struggled against apartheid. Boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions
against the apartheid regime in South Africa hastened our march to
democracy. Why should it be different for Palestinians? In the face of an
intransigent, arrogant, racist and brutal Israeli state, this strategy of
isolation-particularly since the vast majority of Palestinians support
it-should be applied to Israel as well. It is a peaceful option.
South African workers will never forget the support given by the Israeli
state to the apartheid South African regime. In the same way we will never
forget the thousands of acts of solidarity of ordinary citizens around the
world who sustained our struggle through the boycott weapon.
COSATU supports the demand that Apartheid Israel must respect and implement
all resolutions passed by the United Nations; that the right of return of
Palestinian refugees must not be compromised; that Israel respects the
democratically elected government of Palestine; and that Palestinian taxes
collected by Israel must be returned to the elected representatives of
Those supporting the ideology of Zionism and the pro-Israeli lobby will
muster their substantial resources against you. Despite these pressures, we
ask you not to doubt for a single moment the correctness of your just stand.
We salute the courage and vision of CUPE Ontario's leadership and members in
unanimously passing resolution 50. Your unwavering resolve inspires us, we
who lived through decades of apartheid oppression, as it will undoubtedly
inspire and endear you to millions of Palestinian and other freedom loving
people throughout the world.
Congress of South African Trade Unions