Pressure from pro-Israeli Forces
S.F. Labor Council Rescinds Resolution on Middle East
by Charles Walker
On March 11, the San Francisco Labor Council narrowly adopted a resolution condemning the Israeli “bombing of civilian and political targets most specifically, but not limited to, the Palestine trade union offices in Nablus, Palestine, and remind[ing] the U.S. Government that this is both a moral and legal crime…” The resolution also called upon Israeli and Palestinian labor federations “to launch joint action against both sides’ attacks on innocents and civilians and work together to gain control over this horrible situation…”
The labor council represents several hundred local unions with a total of some 75,000 members. The council has taken many controversial positions over the years, including support for Mumia Abu-Jamal. More recently, the council endorsed the National Marches to Protest War, Racism, and Poverty, scheduled for April 20 in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. But just a month after the council adopted the resolution, which also stated that “the U.S. proves to be the main culprit in this struggle by supplying the Israeli State billions of dollars in arms to suppress the Palestinian struggle for statehood and ancestral lands,” the labor body reversed itself and rescinded the resolution.
Perhaps the March 11 resolution might have been rescinded even if outside pressures had not been applied to the council. We say that because it barely passed in the first place, and because the council’s executive committee, its central leadership body, seemingly opposed the resolution from the get-go. So chances are the leadership would have attempted to rescind the resolution, if they figured they could muster the necessary two-thirds majority required to rescind a motion by the council.
But the council, or more correctly, the council’s
leadership, came under heavy pressure to overturn the March 11 action. That’s
not to say that all the pressure that was brought to bear has been made public.
It may well be that what is publicly known is no more than the tip of the
iceberg. If so, that would be no surprise.
What we do know is that the San Francisco Zionist
establishment, which includes prominent Democratic Party contributors and
politicians, were terribly upset that the council resolution implicitly called
for the end of the 35 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine and pointedly
condemned the use of U.S.-supplied “Israeli F-16 jets that continue to bomb
civilian and Palestinian political targets,” in defiance of unenforced U.S.
The San Francisco Examiner carried a column by
Andrew Heinze, professor of history and director of the Swig Judaic Studies
Program at the University of San Francisco. Heinze lambasted the labor council
for adopting what he called “one-sided
and ill-informed declarations that add nothing but more fuel to the fire…”
Heinze seemingly believes that Israeli and Palestinian warfare is rooted in a
long-standing anti-Semitic pan-Arab “world view,” utterly opposed to a
“Jewish State.” In other words, the professor implicitly defends the
decades-long occupation and settlement of pre-1967 Palestine as strictly a
matter of morally justifiable self-defense. Heinze called the resolution’s
opposition to the Israeli occupation “arbitrary, divisive and unjust.” Heinze says that Israel “should be judged by the same
standards we use to judge any nation,” but fails to apply the standards to
Israel that have judged and condemned the domination by powerful nations of weak
nations, especially during the past two centuries.
The professor’s attack on the labor council’s
short-lived resolution revealed little more than his loyalties and
insensitivities. Another attack, however, disclosed the close ties between the
labor council’s leadership and the region’s organized Zionists. That’s not
to say that those relationships were a secret. But they would not have received
such notice except for the storm the resolution precipitated. The executive
director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Rabbi Doug Kahn, said the
Jewish community had a “close and longstanding relationship with the labor
movement in San Francisco, and, specifically, the labor council leadership”
(quoted by the Northern California Jewish Bulletin on March 28. The same
bulletin account quoted a colleague of Rabbi Kahn as saying, “This is not the
traditional relationship of labor in San Francisco or the nation to Jews and
Israel. The AFL-CIO has been one of the strongest friends of Israel among
organized communities in the country.”
“In the weeks to come,” Rabbi Kahn told the Jewish
Bulletin, “we will be engaged in extensive discussions with the leaders of
the labor council to see what steps we can take to undo [the resolution].” We
can’t report on those discussions nor say with certainty that they even took
place. However, we think it highly probable that the Zionists and their
supporters in the Democratic Party, who routinely are touted as “friends of
labor,” did pressure the labor council leadership to withdraw the council’s
statement condemning the apparently endless occupation of Palestinian territory
and the Israeli domination of the Palestinian inhabitants.
Of course the labor council has the right to adopt any
resolution it chooses, and if it chooses to rescind a resolution, that also is
its right. But what is wrong is that in the end, the pressures of the Zionists
and their supporters outweighed the cries of the wounded and dying Palestinians
whose blood was shed upon the land that bore them.
(In the wake of the council’s rescinding the Israeli/Palestine
resolution, it was announced that the labor council plans to form a committee
and write a “broader” resolution. Also various observers made the following
“I think we have a responsibility to make sure we look at the big
picture, from all points of view.” (Walter Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, S.F.
It “was frightening to sit there and listen to so much anti-Zionist rhetoric and hatred of Israel with no understanding of what led up to this.” (Karen Lipney, Assistant Executive Director, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild.)
“When the Democratic Party and big business bosses bark, their labor
lieutenants snap to. And that’s what happened on this issue.” (Charles
Minister, author of the resolution and delegate to the council.)
“The political leader of the trade union bureaucracy is not Walter Johnson. It is not any official in the San Francisco trade unions. They are all loyal Democrats. They look to Mayor Willie Brown and State Senator John Burton for day-to-day leadership guidance, but their leader is Walter Shorenstein, a ‘fat cat’ liberal Democrat/Zionist. Senator Dianne Feinstein is one of his creations. Shorenstein is one of the wealthiest people in San Francisco, and he owns a good section of the financial district buildings in the city. When Shorenstein says, ‘jump’— the trade union bureaucrats ask, ‘How high?’” (Roland Sheppard, retired Painters Union official and delegate to the labor council.)