Monthly Archives: December 2008

NYCLAW at NYC Gaza Rally

42nd Street & The World: Free, Free Palestine

December 31, 2008

Here is a video I shot and put together from the rally.

Hundreds of marches in different cities around the world made known their solidarity with the oppression of the Palestinian people. A people who for the last 60 years have seen nothing but displacement, racism, and pillaging. In the United States, the ANSWER Coalition along with dozens of community groups sponsored marches in cities across the United States. In New York City, after nearly 4,000 people marched on Sunday afternoon, over 2,000 hit the streets again after work in front of the Israeli Consulate on 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue.

For 2 hours local organizers spoke over a loud speaker about the history of occupation in Palestine, the US’s vested interest in the Middle East, and a call to action regardless of whoever is in the White House. Classic anti-war chants were retooled to fit the anti-occupation and pro-Palestinian fervor. Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against War spoke of major Union Leadership and its contribution to the assault, as well as, the need for the fight to continue until the current seige is over and the blockades are broken. Folks from the ANSWER Coalition hyped the crowd up, providing some of the most motivational and intense solidarity and chanting I’ve ever witnessed at any demonstration. Members of various ethnicity were out in support. Among the the Palestinian flags were enormous Dominican and Puerto Rican flags. Student groups, a rabbi, and a local progressive church pastor spoke out in solidarity.

Across the street around 40 Zionists tried their best to defend Israel’s aggression with signs that read “Israel Must Defend Itself” and “Hamas is the Terrorist.” The media came out and covered both sides, although the video on WPIX’s article online spends nearly the entire video focusing on the counter-protest and one of its speakers.

ANSWER Coalition has sponsored another rally in Times Square on January 3rd, 2008 at 1PM.

Tell President-Elect Barack Obama, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Change to Win Chair Anna Burger: End all U.S. government and labor aid to Israel!

Please endorse the statement below at:

New York City Labor Against the War joins millions around the world in condemning Israel’s ongoing murder and maiming of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza.


Israel claims that it is fighting “terrorism” – the same hollow excuse with which the U.S. tries to justify wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the erosion of civil liberties and labor rights at home.

But as South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu points out, Israel’s massacres “bears all the hallmarks of war crimes.”

Long before these attacks, Israel had turned Gaza into the world’s largest open air prison, assassinating activists, and cutting-off essential goods, jobs, and services to 1.5 million people.

Only as a result did Hamas abandon a unilateral two-year ceasefire and subsequent truce. Since that time, it has repeatedly offered to cease all rocket fire in exchange for an end to U.S.-Israel blockade and other military attacks.

Israel responded with escalating pogroms, arrests, home demolitions, settlements and murder in the West Bank and Jerusalem – from which no rockets have been fired.

As a result, violence is overwhelmingly one-sided against the Palestinians, who – as an occupied people – have no aircraft, artillery, tanks or ships. While rockets launched from Gaza since 2000 have killed 17 Israelis, Israel’s modern arsenal has killed more than 400 Palestinians – including many children – since December 27 alone.

The dead represent a greater portion of Gaza’s population than the percentage of New Yorkers who died on 9/11. And Israel warns that these attacks are “only the beginning.”

Indeed, this is the “bigger Shoah” against Gaza threatened by Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Matan Valnai on February 29, 2008.

Even the Israeli press admits that this brutality is a way for politicians to prove their “prowess” in contentious upcoming Israeli elections.

It is also part of an ongoing U.S.-Israeli campaign to collectively punish Palestinians for democratically electing Hamas.

And it is an attempt to stamp out all resistance – including nonviolent protest – to Israel’s ongoing dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians since before the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948.


The U.S. stands behind Israel’s war on Gaza.

The White House, President-elect Barack Obama, and leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties have – actively or tacitly – condoned the massacres.

In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid to Israel was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be $30 billion. As in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is U.S. aircraft, cluster bombs and bullets that kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers.

Such support bolsters Israel’s longstanding role as watchdog and junior partner for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East – and beyond. In that capacity, Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally.


On December 27, Cosatu, the South African trade union federation, specifically condemned the current Gaza massacres and reaffirmed its support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, a campaign that has been endorsed by labor bodies and trade unionists – many of them Jewish – in Britain, Canada and other countries.

On December 29, in response to the Gaza massacres, the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees urgently called for intensification of this campaign.

But much of labor officialdom in this country – often without the knowledge or consent of union members – has a longstanding complicity with Israeli Apartheid that dates to before 1948.

Some 1,500 labor bodies have plowed at least $5 billion of union pension funds and retirement plans into State of Israel Bonds.

In April 2002, while Israel butchered Palestinian refugees at Jenin in the West Bank, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was a featured speaker at a belligerent “National Solidarity Rally for Israel.”

In July 2007, top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win signed a statement that condemned British unions for even considering the nonviolent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Virtually no labor bodies have opposed the Gaza massacres.

As Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum recently boasted, “American leadership is fundamental to challenging Israel bashing within the labor movement globally.”

This complicity parallels infamous “AFL-CIA” support for U.S. war and dictatorship in Vietnam, Latin America, Gulf War I, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

It strengthens the U.S.-Israel war machine and labor’s corporate enemies, reinforces racism and Islamophobia, and makes a mockery of international solidarity.

And as with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, workers in the United States pay a staggering human and financial price, including deepening economic crisis, for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation.


More than forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came under intense public attack for opposing the Vietnam war. Even within the Civil Rights Movement, some dismissed his position too “divisive” and “unpopular.”

In his famous speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967, Dr. King replied, “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

This principle is no less relevant for today’s labor and antiwar movements.

Yes, the Israel lobby seeks to silence opponents of Israeli Apartheid. All the more need for trade unionists to break that silence by speaking out against Israeli military occupation, for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and for the elimination of apartheid throughout historic Palestine.

Therefore, we reaffirm our support for the international Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestment campaign, including an immediate end to all support for Israel – including that provided by U.S. labor leaders.

Issued by NYCLAW Co-Conveners
(Other affiliations listed for identification only):

Larry Adams
Former President, NPMHU Local 300

Michael Letwin
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys

Brenda Stokely
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March


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Appeal, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees

Union urges immediate boycott following Gaza university bombing
Appeal, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, 30 December 2008

The following appeal was issued on 29 December 2008:

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombing today of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza. This wanton destruction of an academic institution is only the latest in the ongoing lethal campaign launched by the Israeli government and army against Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip. This murderous rampage has caused more than 300 deaths and the injury of close to 1,500 Palestinians. And the carnage continues with impunity.

We add our voice to the urgent appeal issued two days ago by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) urging international civil society not just to protest and condemn Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. We agree that, without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.

Today, at the height of the lethal Israeli assault against the Palestinian people in Gaza, we are met with deafening silence emanating from the Israeli academy. Does it condone the murderous bombing campaign that its government is carrying out in the name of all Israelis? Are the members of the academy dutifully preparing for the reserve call-up just approved by their government, ready to serve in the death squads committing war crimes around the clock? Are Israeli universities willing to call for an end to the occupation? Are they going to cut their organic and deep-rooted ties with the military-security establishment? There is no doubt that the aggression against the Gaza Strip has reached horrendous proportions, described by many international public figures as constituting war crimes and a continuation of the ethnic cleansing unleashed 60 years ago.

We urge academics around the world to intensify their boycott of Israeli academic institutions, and to isolate the Israeli academy in international forums, associations of academics, and other international venues. Israeli academic institutions are complicit in the entrenched system of oppression practiced by the Israeli state, and their silence at this critical moment is only the most vociferous indicator of this complicity.

Dr. Amjad Barham
Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees

Jordan Labor Protests Gaza Massacres

U.S. demands Hamas end terrorist acts, urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
The United States on Saturday urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in air strikes on Gaza, and said Hamas must stop rocket attacks into Israel for the violence to cease.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put the responsibility for the violence on Hamas, saying “The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The cease-fire should be restored immediately.”

Rice also called for the international community “to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza”

The White House did not call for an end to the Israel Air Force strikes that have killed at least 230 people in Hamas-ruled Gaza, according to Palestinian medical sources.

“Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

“The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza,” he said.

The Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip will closely resemble the Second Lebanon War, Hamas vowed on Saturday after a series of Israel Air Force strikes on the coastal enclave.

Hamas officials said all of Gaza’s security compounds were destroyed. Hamas said it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending suicide bombers to Israel.

“Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking on a Gaza radio station.

“Hamas is in good shape and the government is in good shape,” Barhoum told Al Jazeera. “The world will see many things from us. Now all options are open before the Az a-Din al-Qassam Brigades” (Hamas’ military wing).

“Even if Israel kills the current heads of Hamas, there are hundreds of others that are capable of leading the organization,” Mushir al-Masri, a senior Hamas official, said following the IAF strikes.

Al-Masri warned Israel that the targeting of senior Hamas officials will be met with “a harsh response” from the Islamist group.

“Assassinations of Hamas heads will not weaken us and we will not lose control but rather they will boost our forces and our stability,” al-Masri said. “Within the movement there are leaders that will fill the missing ranks at any moment.” He added that Hamas leaders are cognizant of the threats on their lives and thus take the necessary precautions.

“All fighters are ordered to respond to the Israeli slaughter,” said a statement by the Islamic Jihad group, echoing statements issued by Hamas and other armed factions.

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt condemned the IAF attacks as “massacres” that were carried out “in criminal fashion.”

“They are trying to subjugate the Arab and Islamic world through these massacres in Gaza – God willing victory will come,” the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt told Al Jazeera.

Hamam Said, the secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, called on the Jordanian government to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. He also urged all Arab armies to embark on a war against Israel.

“The time has come for us to crush the Jewish enemy and to purify Palestine,” Said said. “Everyone must take to the streets and highways, come from wherever you are.”

Labor unions in Jordan organized a mass demonstration to protest the IAF strikes in Gaza. “Egypt? The mother of the world, is not Gaza part of the world?” read one placard which was brandished during the protest.

The demonstrators called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh to forge a united front.

Hadash, the predominantly Arab leftist party, will stage a demonstration on Saturday in Nazareth to protest the IAF operations in Gaza. Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh called on the government “to immediately halt the crime in the Gaza Strip.”

“Escalation will not bring quiet and calm,” Barakeh said. “It is inconceivable for the Palestinian people in Gaza to live between starvation and bombardment. The government and the defense minister are trying to gain political capital in an election period on account of the bloodletting of the Palestinian people.”

MK Jamal Zahalka, who is the chairman of the Balad faction, called for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to be tried for “war crimes” in Gaza.

“Barak is trying to win votes in exchange for Palestinian blood,” he said.

In the West Bank, Hamas’ rival, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that he condemns this “aggression” and calls for restraint, according to an aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

Palestinian Authority official Yasser Abed Rabbo condemned the Israeli strike on Gaza as “a barbaric act,” according to Channel 10.

Responding to pressure from the Arab world, Egypt ordered the opening of the Rafah crossing to absorb wounded Palestinians from Gaza, Channel 10 reported.

European leaders respond to Gaza escalation

The spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana criticized the escalation of fighting in the Gaza Strip and called for both sides to call a ceasefire, saying “We are very concerned at the events in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge everybody to exert maximum restraint.”

A spokesman for French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an end to the violence, saying Sarkozy “demands an immediate stop to the firing of rockets on Israel and to the Israeli bombings in Gaza and calls for all parties to use restraint.”

Pleas for calm were echoed by the British Foreign office, which said “the only way to achieve lasting peace in Gaza is through peaceful means. Whilst we understand the Israeli government’s obligation to protect its population we urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties”

The UK foreign office also called for Gaza militants “to immediately
cease all rocket attacks on Israel.”

“I am deeply concerned by continuing missile strikes from Gaza on Israel and by Israel’s response today.”

Moscow also called for an end to hostilities, with a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry saying “the only way to achieve lasting peace in Gaza is through peaceful means. Whilst we understand the Israeli government’s obligation to protect its population we urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties”

“We also call on miltants in the Gaza Strip to immediately cease all rocket attacks on Israel.”

The Vatican’s spokesman has urged Israelis and Palestinians to renounce violence and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio on Saturday that Israel’s
offensive will be a very serious blow to the Islamic militant group Hamas but could also cause many innocent victims and damage peace prospects in the Holy Land.

Lombardi said all sides must look for a different way out, even though it
seems impossible.

Arab world denounces IAF strikes

The Arab world reacted in shock to the attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday with scattered protests around the region and Egypt summoning the Israeli ambassador to express its condemnation of the air strikes.

In a statement from the president’s office, Egypt condemned Israel’s attacks and held it responsible for those killed and wounded and called for renewed efforts to restore the truce with Hamas.

“Egypt will forge ahead with its contacts to create a favorable atmosphere for renewing the truce and attaining inter-Palestinian reconciliation in a bid to end the suffering of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.

Egypt also opened its border with the Gaza Strip to receive Palestinian

Egypt’s closure of that border has been condemned by many in the Arab world for abetting Israel’s siege of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.

Arab League head Amr Moussa, meanwhile, called for an emergency meeting of all Arab foreign ministers in Cairo Sunday to address the crisis.

Hundreds of protesters in the Jordanian capital of Amman demonstrated in front of the nearby UN headquarters, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel’s strikes.

King Abdullah II called for an immediate halt all military actions in a statement issued by the royal palace, saying the attacks targeted innocents among the civilians including women and children.

The king warned that “violence will only escalate the crisis and will not bring security to Israel.”

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fuad Saniora described the Israeli attacks as a
“criminal operation and new massacres to be added to its full record of

In the country’s south, dozens of Palestinian youths hit the streets in Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp to express solidarity with Gaza and set fire to tires. Larger demonstrations were planned later in the day in the camp and in the capital Beirut itself.

In Syria’s al-Yarmouk camp, outside Damascus, dozens of Palestinians also protested the attack as well, vowing to continue fighting Israel.

“It’s a Zionist holocaust, but it won’t dissuade us from going on with our struggle to achieve our goals,” said Ali Barakah, 42, one of the protesters.

Cosatu Condemns Gaza Massacre


Prominent South Africans, including Ronnie Kasrils, Steven Friedman, Eddie Makue, Condemn the Gaza Massacre
Palestine Solidarity Committee

27th December 2008

A number of prominent South Africans have condemned the brutal attacks currently being perpetrated by the Israeli army in Gaza. Among those who have voiced their condemnation are Eddie Makue, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches; former government Minister Ronnie Kasrils; Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven; and University of Johannesburg academic Professor Steven Friedman.

This morning witnessed a massive escalation of the brutal Israeli campaign of bombardment and starvation against the population of Occupied Gaza, resulting in a massacre in the most densely populated area in the world. Thus far, more than 200 Palestinians — many of them civilians — have been murdered as a result of missiles fired by Israeli F16 fighter jets, and hundreds more have been injured. Television footage has shown scores of dead and injured schoolchildren.

The attacks constitute violations of international law, with Israel imposing collective punishment on a civilian population and violating numerous rights of a people living under occupation.

This campaign comes at the end of 18 months of a severe siege of Gaza imposed by Israel, in terms of which even medication and food was not allowed to enter Gaza. People were not allowed to leave the territory — even if they sought medical treatment.

Prof Steven Friedman said the actions of the Israeli army cannot be called ‘war crimes’. ‘There is no war,’ he said, but a brutal massacre. These are crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the fourth largest army in the world.’

Ronnie Kasrils said he stood by his statement that Israeli security forces were ‘babykillers’. Today’s attacks and the siege against Gaza, he said, were proof of Israel’s ‘genocidal intentions’. He further condemned the ‘complicity and silence of the west’ throughout the period of the ‘slow murder of the people of Gaza’.

Cosatu spokesperson, Patrick Craven, said Israel’s campaign was ‘criminal’. Civilians, he said, were ‘bearing the brunt of the shootings and bombings’.

The past six months has seen a truce between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza. In that period, Israel repeatedly violated the truce. Now that the truce has ended, Israel has seen its way clear to turn Gaza, which has been an open-air prison, into a wasteland.

The South African Council of Churches General Secretary, Eddie Makue, called on the South African government to take a strong stand against Israel. The same sentiment was expressed by Craven who called on the government to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel and institute sanctions against it.

We call on all our people to oppose the perpetration of these war crimes by Israel. Furthermore, we call on the South African government immediately to withdraw our ambassador from Israel, to end all diplomatic relations with Israel, and to impose sanctions on Israel. Our government cannot pretend that this is a war between equal sides. There is no balance in this situation. There can be no moral equivalence between the fourth most powerful army in the world (whose armaments include nuclear weapons) and an occupied people fighting for their survival to prevent a complete genocide against them.

Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. The barbarism of these attacks, and the impunity with which Israel continues to violate international law should also be placed on the agenda. Just as Apartheid South Africa was kicked out of the UN for its gross violations of human rights and for its perpetration of a system which was a crime against humanity, so too should Israel be excluded from the UN for its repeated refusal to adhere to international law and UN resolutions and for its perpetration of a system of apartheid.

For more information, call: Salim Vally, 082 802 5936