Israel, Justice

Look to the rock from which you were hewn

unionsOn this labor day weekend, one of the things we should be considering, aside from the al haEsh and the sales, is the great debt which American Jews owe the labor movement in this country (not to mention how many of our grandparents and great-grandparents hepled build that movement).
I won’t regale us all again with a list of the great benefits that our ancestors in this country received, and how we were able to drag ourselves into the middle and upper classes because of the work of the labor movement, and anyone who has a day off a week also owes labor a debt of thanks.
But even in these sad days of diminished power in labor (anyone actually know someone who still works forty hours a week as a normal expectation?) labor is still coming through for the Jews – specifically, in fact. Check out the Jewish Labor Committee’s website. I already knew (I think we posted it here a few weeks ago, actually) that the presidents of virtually every major U.S. union signed on a declaration denouncing anti-Israel boycotts and divestment campaigns like the ones which have been endorsed by several British unons. But let’s not just take it as a matter of course.
It was not, after all, all those blatherers on the right who came out in support of Israel when it came down to it. And of course, I can’t forget to mention that American labor is a protector of many of our jobs, even today. It’s a darn shame that so few people have been able to join unions that can protect them from random firings, employers making illegal requests, unions that can improve their wages so that we could reduce the number of working poor – people working two and three jobs just to pay rent and food, that can get health (and other important) benefits for us, and damn it, get back our forty hour work week.
Thank you, American Labor! Now, get back to work, organizing!
ht to Arieh Lebowitz

5 thoughts on “Look to the rock from which you were hewn

  1. Why is it so good that the US labor movement rushed to denounce boycotts without allowing for an open an honest debate at the grassroots level? I’m not saying how much support there is, or if the boycott is a good idea, only that this step has more to do with the authoritarianism of unions today than anything else. They want to suck up to pro Israeli Jews, who have a degree of influence in Democratic politics that is, well, it’s big I tell you. (no, not elders of zion big, just big.)

  2. You mentioned that “several” British labour unions were endorsing boycotts of Israel. Out of curiousity, other than the UCU (the union for university faculty) and the NUJ (the journalist union) what other unions have signed on to this? These two are the only ones I have heard discussed.

  3. As to Ian Thal’s question re what other British unions have passed boycott Israel or similar resolutions, they are the Transport & General Workers Union, the”T&G”, and AMICUS — both of which are now sections of the UK’s UNITE union — as well as the UNISON union. Current and background information can be found at – scrolling back using the tool at the bottom of the main page will give a sense of what’s been going on over there.
    Ezra is mistaken at best or dissembling at worst in linking the term “Jewish Labor” as in “Jewish Labor Committee” with “Avoda Ivrit” as in “Hebrew [i.e., Jewish] Labor,” a term originally used within the Yidhuv during the period of the British Mandate.
    Although there has vitually always been a left-Labor Zionist presnce within the Jewish Labor Committee, the organization was formed in New York in 1934 by overwhelmingly Yiddish-speaking non-Zionist and generally Bundist Jewish trade unionists to oppose the rise of Nazism in Germany. Basic information on the Jewish Labor Committee — Yidisher Arbeiter Committee — on its website,
    Whatever one thinks of the appropriateness of the philosophy of and program of the pre-State Israeli labor movement in terms if explicitly employing only Jewish workers unlessnone were available for specific jobs, the time has long past. Israeli labor law and the norms of a democratic society dictate against a policy either over or covert of discrimination against Arab citizens of the State of Israel.

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