How Palestinian resistance inspired a new generation of labor activism

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Palestine solidarity activists move to block an Israeli-owned ship at the Port of Oakland, in protest of Israel’s latest aggressions, June 4, 2021. (credit: Brooke Anderson)
Israel’s latest assault on Gaza has prompted US labor unions to mobilize at unprecedented levels, further establishing Palestinian rights as a core component of progressive politics.

By Alex Kane | +972 Magazine | Aug 31, 2021

“Labor power has always been about international solidarity and all exploited people rising up against all forms of oppression,”
— Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center

As Israeli airstrikes dropped U.S.-made bombs on Gaza in May, damaging schools and hospitals, displacing thousands of Palestinians, and killing 260 people, many Americans looked on in horror. Then, some decided to take action.

On May 19, the United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing 6,200 public school teachers and aides in the California city, passed a resolution endorsing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a movement promoting pressure on Israel until it stops violating Palestinian human rights. The union also called for the United States to end military aid to Israel, which it said was committing the crime of “apartheid.” (The United States sends $3.8 billion in annual military aid to Israel.)

The San Francisco resolution made history — it was the first time a public school union ever endorsed the BDS movement. Soon after, at least six other educator unions or individual union chapters passed similar measures. Other unions, from Roofers Local 36 in Los Angeles to journalists at The NewsGuild-CWA, published messages of support for Palestinians. And in June, a community picket organized by Palestinian rights advocates in the Bay Area succeeded in turning away an Israeli-owned ship after port workers refused to unload its cargo in protest of the Gaza violence.

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