Raid on the Gaza Flotilla Israel’s Attack on Us All

By admin, May 31, 2010 8:25 pm

Raid on the Gaza Flotilla

Israel’s Attack on Us All

By JONATHAN COOK

Nazareth.

http://www.counterpunch.org

It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.

How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.

If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.

The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.

So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:

* Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent “lynch” by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.

* The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.

* Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.

Today Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.
Will our leaders finally be moved to act?
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Today’s Globe and Mail publishes letter from Naftali Lavie (submitted before the Gaza flotilla massacre) at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/may-31-letters-to-the-editor/article1585912/

:
When the Israeli government spokesman denounces the Gaza solidarity flotilla as a “political prank,” he unwittingly exposes the weakness of Israel’s position. A mere political prank could be conveniently ignored. However, Gaza is under a blockade by land, sea, and air, enforced by Israel and Egypt. Solidarity activists from several countries are sailing to challenge the blockade and hoping to deliver humanitarian goods to the internationally-isolated people of Gaza. If Israel’s navy intercepts the relief ships, that will rightly be seen to be an act of political repression. More than ever, Israel is on a “collision course” with international standards of decency, solidarity, and respect for human rights.
Naftali Lavie, Toronto

CUPW’s Letter to Canadian PM regarding Israeli attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

By admin, May 31, 2010 10:42 am

By email and mail
May 31, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa  ON      K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing to you on behalf of the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  You will be aware that the Israeli navy, in an act of piracy in international waters, has hijacked the international flotilla of ships which was attempting to deliver essential humanitarian aid to Gaza.  The aid includes construction materials which would enable the people of Gaza to rebuild the homes destroyed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

There are nearly 700 people on board the boats, all of whom are civilians from around the world, including Members of Parliament from a number of nations, eminent writers and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. They have undertaken this mission out of concern for the people of Gaza, who are now entering their fourth year under siege, without access to basic necessities. They pose no threat to Israel, and are completely unarmed.

Despite this, the Israeli navy has attacked the flotilla outside of international waters this morning resulting in fatalities estimated by the Israeli military itself as 10 and by news sources at possibly in excess of 20 with another large number injured. Israeli news sources say that hospitals around Ashdod have been told to prepare for many injured people arriving.

I urge you to act swiftly to condemn this attack on the peace flotilla, which was breaking no international laws, and, that you demand to know the fate of those on board the vessels and to ensure that Israel releases the vessels immediately to allow this vital aid to reach its destination. Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Canada and has profusely praised you for maintaining strong relations with Israel, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers believes that you have an obligation to condemn this brutal attack.

Israel’s occupation of Gaza is illegal under international law, and it has been accused in a UN report of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Your obligation must be towards a group of citizens peacefully attempting to deliver humanitarian aid, than to a country which repeatedly violates international treaties.  CUPW calls on you to end the government’s silence over Israel’s aggressive actions against the flotilla, and intervene now to demand its safe passage to Gaza.

CUPW is calling on you to condemn this wanton act of piracy against the peaceful flotilla taking aid to the people of Gaza.  Finally, CUPW is calling upon you to take every step possible to bring about an end to the inhuman treatment of the people of Gaza by acting to end the siege and blockade that is taking place against them by the Israeli Government.

Yours sincerely
Your browser may not support display of this image.

Denis Lemelin
National President
Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Cc: National Executive Board
Regional Executive Cttee
Israeli Embassy to Canada

Haiti: Charity alone is not enough

By admin, May 30, 2010 2:42 pm

Haiti: Charity alone is not enough

| May 26, 2010

http://rabble.ca/news/2010/05/haiti-charity-alone-not-enough

The following is a talk delivered to a public forum in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on May 7, 2010. The forum was organized by the Winnipeg Haiti Action Group under the theme, “Perspectives on Haiti After the Earthquake.”

I am sure that the arrival at the general hospital in Port au Prince of foreign health professionals was welcomed by the Haitian patients like Mr. Abeldard, suffering from a bad foot fracture, Jeanne Aurilus, whose right arm had been amputated, and Emanuel Sovereign, who lost an arm and had multiple fractures and deep, infected wounds. These good people and several hundred others were in the large makeshift tents that made up the reconstituted hospital when I arrived [shortly after Jan. 12, 2010's devastating 7.0 Mw earthquake]. They were grateful for the international volunteers, like myself, and the millions of dollars of medical supplies we brought with us or arranged to be shipped.

But ethical humanitarian response soon gets undermined by charity aid. The latter can be self serving, or worse, resulting in perpetuating poverty and disempowerment. This provocative issue is what I want to touch on this evening. I hope to show that there is an option to provide ethical, solidarity aid as opposed to the more common charity aid.

After a massive disaster, Haiti required all the international help and resources that could be poured into the country. The emergency needs are so tremendous that only a rapid response of skilled medical workers, for instance, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in rescue aid can hope to meet the desperate requirements for immediate survival. For example, in the first week after the earthquake, the lack of medical care led to many grave wound infections following which the only way to save the person’s life was to amputate the infected limb. A legacy of that first week will forever haunt both the patients and the health workers who amputated thousands of limbs, often without the luxury of anesthesia or proper medical equipment.

So the needed emergency response does require a combination of rapid availability of skilled

volunteers like myself, independent organizations and NGOs, plus massive resources from the United Nations and wealthy countries like Canada and the United States.

Why is charity aid to Haiti less helpful than what we hope it to be? Why does charity often serve as a political weapon directed against poor countries? Why are many NGOs and charities criticized as the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex” — working hand in glove with neo-liberal policies to keep poor people disempowered, and in the case of Haiti, keep and entire nation disempowered? Why is solidarity aid too rare, and misunderstood?

For Mr. Abelard, Jeanne and Emanuel, they probably won’t understand the dynamics of how news photos and television images of them, and even NGO website photos, are being used to fund foreign charities, for better or worse.

After all, is there a difference between, let’s say, a wound dressing change on Emmanuel that is performed by Louise, a Haitian nurse who worked for the general hospital but was last paid three month previously; by Sland, an expatriate Haitian nurse who returns to Haiti to help; by a Canadian nurse like me who wants to be in solidarity with the Haitian people; by an American nurse sent by her university hospital in Baltimore as part of their corporate charity program; or by a Mormon missionary medical team from the U.S. that sees Haiti as fertile recruiting grounds for their church?

There really isn’t much difference in the “how” we treat the patients. But there is a huge difference in what happens after the emergency is over.

In 2005, I responded to Hurricane Katrina. In perspective, it was relatively small compared to Haiti’s disaster. In New Orleans, we set up the free Common Ground Health Clinic with the motto “Solidarity — Not Charity”.

Previous to the earthquake, the general hospital was the main public hospital in Port au Prince. Most other hospitals were private. The Haitian government was broke and barely functional due to several centuries of rapacious colonialism from western counties that plundered and invaded the country for its rich resources. More recently, in 2004, the popular, democratically-elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by a paramilitary uprising with vital support from the U.S., Canadian and other foreign governments. Naturally, the public general hospital also was crippled, lacking funds for adequate staff and medical supplies.


Charity Aid

Let me describe some examples of charity vs. solidarity aid.

There are many things wrong with the Charity Aid recently directed at Haiti:

- Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Haiti in the first month after the earthquake was spent outside of Haiti, including salaries to non-Haitians.

- Donated medical supplies for Haiti either enriched the foreign manufacturers who sold them, or they got a tax break for donating them.

- The doctors and nurses paid by organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders were from North America or Europe. They provided essential health aid to Haiti BUT their mission does not extend to helping Haiti build a sustainable health care system.

- The Quebec government will spend millions of dollars on Haiti reconstruction projects — but that money will go to Quebec, not Haitian, construction firms.

- The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is spending millions to build healthcare and education infrastructure, and helping the government re-establish itself. Why, that looks like exactly what we are advocating, so what’s the problem? Well, this is the same Canadian government that previously helped overthrow the Aristide government that was attempting to do the same. The 2004 coup installed a government more beholden to the neo-liberal policies of the Western nations. So this CIDA aid package is a total contradiction to what Canada’s real Haiti policy is — and at best propaganda. CIDA is not providing credit to Haitian businesses or farmers to produce sustainable products and food.

- Foreign investments are setting up foreign-owned sweatshops in Haiti, not sustainable local enterprises.


Solidarity aid defined

Here are a few examples of what solidarity aid looks like:

- The French-run Handicap International organization set up shop at the General Hospital. They visit the handicapped patients with a team comprising of French therapists and Haitian interns. The French will leave eventually, but they understand that the work must continue with the Haitian staff. This concept seems counter-productive to many NGOs and international aid agencies, who don’t have any plan to give up their jobs and projects.As Haitian medical staff returned to the hospital, I oriented those in my nursing wards to how it was now functioning with the international volunteer teams so they could manage the wards as I was leaving.

- A Haitian school called SOPUDEP is supported by a Canadian charitable foundation. The school was founded by a community organizer who envisioned a community school for poor children that can become a model for schools in a public school system. Though SOPUDEP is run as a private school, the assistance it receives from Canada and the U.S. supports Haitian employees and Haitian students, and it is designed to build a Haitian public education system.

- Mrs. Wintour got an experimental mechanical wound suction that aspirates draining fluid from her foot wound into a corrugated blue squeeze bottle. The sisters of her neighbour, Emmanuel, wanted one for Emmanuel. The wound device is being developed by a medical team from Boston who are working with Partners In Health based in Haiti. Kristine, PIH’s engineer on the project, thinks when the kinks are worked out, they can provide the molds for the plastic bottles to businesses in third world countries that can stamp out bottles for a few dollars. All together, they hope each system would cost less than $75. The high-tech US version costs thousands of dollars. Its manufacturer made $1.4 billion from it in 2008. The next day, Emmanuel got his blue bottle wound suction for his hip.

- Some of you may have heard of Partners in Health. They are a very important example of solidarity — not charity. PIH was started by Harvard doctors who had this radical idea that poor communities could be mobilized to treat community members who had multi drug-resistant tuberculosis, a deadly disease. They used a combination of health care, a few health professionals, and many community health workers who frequently visited the TB patient at home to make sure they were taking their year-long drug regime and were getting help with other health needs. The model worked. Until 20 years ago, TB was spreading throughout impoverished nations. The medical community felt the only

realistic solution was containment, and developing a new antibiotic.

This model not only worked for the patient, but it has the effect of strengthening community structures around important projects.

Then PIH began to target AIDS, with the same community mobilization response.

In Haiti, PIH is based in the countryside where there is very little public services and the poverty is appalling. They have attracted hundreds of volunteers from the U.S. and raised millions of dollars, but they spend their money paying and training Haitians. Today, in post-earthquake Haiti, some 5,000 to 7,000 Haitians are employed by PIH. The American medical staff are volunteers, (and many of us in the medical community would love to volunteer with PIH). The Haitians are in the PIH leadership, and in fact, the medical care services are only a fraction of what the agency does. PIH also funds sustainable community farming to grow healthy food and it funds local schools. So they opportunistically use health care to build sustainable democratic community infrastructure.

Cuba has made a long-term commitment to health care in Haiti. It had some 400 personnel serving prior to the earthquake. Then it mobilized hundreds more for earthquake relief. For years, Cuba has offered free medical school for Haitians on the condition they return and practice medicine in underserved Haitian communities. More than 500 Haitians have already graduated and are serving right now.

At the March 31 UN donors conference for Haiti held in New York City, Cuba presented a bold plan to build a comprehensive health care system in Haiti. It challenged the world’s governments funds to put the plan into action.

In my opinion, these solidarity examples show how we can re-vision help to both support ethical projects and demand ethical foreign aid.


Guidelines for solidarity aid

So meaningful aid for Haiti and other victims of natural or human-made disasters it means that we need to support humanitarian relief by ethical organizations that:

- Spend their money in the places they operate in.

- Have an organizational plan that is democratically decided by the affected people.

- Have a plan to work themselves out of their job by training local people to acquire the skills needed to take over the local organization.

The Canadian government must change its policies. I think it would be marvelous if Canada re-oriented its presence in Haiti towards helping Haitians build sustainable infrastructure. For example, Canada must no longer undermine popular governments that put people first. Canada should stop subsidizing Canadian industry and agriculture that export finished goods to Haiti. Instead, Canada should subsidize only the donation of Canadian products that are essential for Haitian enterprises and farmers to develop their own capacity to produce sustainable products and food. Canada should provide credit to Haitian business and farmers.

Above all, Canada should cease a foreign policy towards Haiti that amounts to keeping the country as a reserve of cheap labour and cheap natural resources.

Humanitarian aid is a moral sounding concept. But like any financial deal, it can be ethical, or it can be exploitative. Haitians like Jeanne, Mr. Abelard, Mrs. Wintour and Emmanuel must be allowed to decide their fate and have the chance to re-build a sustainable country. Ethical solidarity aid can be a valuable means to assisting these good people who liberated themselves from slavery, and are still paying the price.


Scott Weinstein is a Montreal-based nurse who volunteered for three weeks of medical duty in Haiti shortly after the earthquake.

***
Friendly reminder —  If you would like to subscribe to (or unsubscribe from)
the CHAN email list, just go to: http://lists.cupe.ca/mailman/listinfo/chan

University of Toronto community opposes campus closure during the G20

By admin, May 30, 2010 2:40 pm

—please circulate widely—

University of Toronto community opposes campus closure during the G20: Decision to “restrict access” heavy-handed and repressive
The decision to close the University of Toronto St. George campus during the G20 summit – the week of June 21-27 – contradicts the purpose of the university, reinforces harmful stereotypes of protesters, legitimizes police repression and violence, and does not reflect the wishes of students, staff and faculty.

Universities are sites for critical engagement and debate. The University of Toronto, as a place of higher learning, should be encouraging dialogue and engagement on the role of the G8/G20 and the future of our planet. Instead, administrators are prohibiting access to the campus, stifling dialogue and fostering a climate of fear.

According to a May 21st memo, the campus closure is necessary because of the “designated protest zone” at Queen’s Park. Playing into media hype, University administrators have chosen to focus on a crude “protesters vs. police” characterization of anti-G20 efforts, and entirely sidestep the issues that compel people to oppose the G20 and its policies. In so doing, they reinforce cynical stereotypes of protesters and legitimize police violence.

The University did not consult students, staff, or faculty in making this decision. This decision places an unacceptable and unnecessary burden on students, instructors and researchers, forcing them to postpone their research, alter their course and exam schedules, and even abandon their homes.

For these reasons, we call on Provost Cheryl Misak and President David Naylor to immediately rescind their decision to close the campus during the G20 summit. We invite campus community members and organizations to join us. To endorse this statement, please send an email to open.uoft.campus@gmail.com.

Signatories:

University of Toronto Students’ Union

Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3902

United Steelworkers, Local 1998

U of T Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students

Ontario Public Interest Research Group – U of T

The Centre for Women and Trans People – U of T

Graduate Geography and Planning Student Society – U of T

*We are compiling faculty signatures. Please send an email of endorsement to open.uoft.campus@gmail.com.

Truth, Non-Violence and the Palestinian Hills

By admin, May 21, 2010 3:42 pm
There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis. (Anne Paq/Activestills)
By Samah Sabawi

http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=15969(Based on a presentation given at Melbourne University Australia on April 30, 2010. The event was sponsored by Students for Palestine. )

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? I get this question at the end of almost every presentation I’ve given on Palestine. This fascination with finding a Palestinian Gandhi has been reflected time and again in newspapers commentary, and political discourse. Obama has promised in his Cairo speech [1] that should Palestinians renounce violence peace will find its way. Singer Bono wished with all his heart for Palestinians to find their Gandhi or their King [2]. A slew of bleeding hearts said it, wrote it, preached it and insisted on it.

The search for the Palestinian Gandhi even manifested itself in well-intentioned projects that end up being incredibly patronizing and condescending to the Palestinians. Take the Gandhi Project [3] for example; an initiative by the Skoll foundation that aims to teach Palestinians non-violence by translating the movie Gandhi and projecting it in cities camps and villages throughout the West Bank.  This project – as well meaning as it appears to be – reflects an almost insulting level of ignorance of the existing Palestinian culture of non-violence and the challenges Palestinians face when protesting non-violently against the brutal apartheid State.

For generations, Palestinians have adopted in their daily lives a culture of non-violent “Sumud”, an Arabic word that means to be “steadfast” and to “persevere”. Through Sumud, Palestinians have been able to protect their identity and to refuse not to exist. After all, since its inception, the Zionist project denied Palestinians their existence. Who can forget the false claim that Palestine was “a land without a people”?

Although Sumud was always part of the Palestinian story, it came to a full bloom as a distinct feature of Palestinian life during and in the aftermath of the six-day war in 1967. Having learned from their 1948 experience, more Palestinians were urged to show sumud and chose to be steadfast remaining on their land regardless of Israel’s war and occupation. Many believe that Palestinian steadfastness and Sumud and their refusal to leave in huge numbers during and after the 1967 war contributed to the reason why Israel wasn’t able to annex the West Bank and the Gaza strip as they had a very high Arab Palestinian population [4] which could have undermined the purity of the Jewish state.

Palestinians exhibit Sumud in their daily lives as they perform what would amount to normal everyday tasks in other places. Palestinian children resist succumbing to the will of their Occupiers non-violently as they make their daily journey to school despite the long waits at the checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli illegal settlers [5].

Palestinian men and women non-violently challenge their occupiers when they continue to go to work even if it means riding a donkey using back mud roads because they are denied access to the main streets in their villages as well as denied access to the Jewish only roads[6] which Israel has built illegally to connect the settlements. It is worth mentioning here that to build these Jewish only roads Israel has confiscated and carved up pieces of Palestinian land fragmenting and isolating hundreds of communities.

Palestinian families non-violently resist the imposed isolation by the occupiers when they insist on doing their family visits, even though what should be a 10 minute walk at times can take an entire afternoon of waiting for permits, submitting to body searches, waving IDs and waiting and waiting and waiting…. [7]

Even when Palestinians get married and have babies under occupation they are challenging their oppressors in a place where birth registration, family reunification, marriage certificates and building permits are controlled by a state that has one thing in mind – reducing the number of Arabs and paving the way for Jews to colonize their land.

But Palestinians still preserver not only as individuals or families but also as organized communities!  Palestinian NGOs today play a big role in helping the people deal with these issues. Through the method known as Reverse Strike – a non-violent method of resistance that focuses on community building – Palestinian civil society has created alternatives for the people to help lessen their dependency on their oppressors. Palestinian civil society has also successfully built an infrastructure of resistance. Inside the Occupied Territories, non-violent resistance shines through as villages and various Communities take on direct action to protests Israel’s continued assault on their rights, their freedom and their dignity.  The protests of the communities of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah have now become known as the white intifada.  The organization of these protests reflects a healthy and determined Palestinian Civil Society.

Palestinian Civil Society initiated the calls for the BDS campaign and is also working closely with international organizations and individuals to support the Free Gaza campaign. Both campaigns aim at engaging international solidarity groups giving them an important role to play in the liberation struggle. This month, the latest BDS victory was Elvis Costello’s refusal to play in Israel. This happened while the Freedom Flotilla’s three cargo ships and five passenger ships set sail to Gaza. The ships are carrying 5,000 tons of construction materials, medical equipment, and school supplies, as well as around 600 people from 40 countries.  They will once more challenge Israel’s illegal hold over Gaza’s borders, air and sea. We are seeing a fantastic rise in a people to people movement that is inspiring hope for a better future.

In Diaspora as well as inside the OT, Palestinian academia, artists and human rights activists do their part in Palestinian Sumud as they document Israel’s atrocities, write about the injustices, paint pictures, publish articles, sing traditional songs, write books and recite poetry that keeps the Palestinian narrative alive. People like Sari Nussiebeh, Ramzy Baroud, Ismael Shamout, Rima Bana, Mazin Qumsiah, Sam Bahour, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Dr. Sari Makdisi, Ali Abunimah and thousands of others who are hard at work non-violently protecting the Palestinian narrative. They have built the pillars of resistance that have kept the Palestinian identity and culture alive.

As I have shown so far, Palestinian culture of Sumud and non-violent resistance has encompassed direct action, reverse strike and civil disobedience over decades of oppression. There is so much evidence to show that the Palestinian non-violent resistance is and has always been central to the Palestinian struggle. But if that was the case, then where is that Palestinian Gandhi? The answer to that is simple: You are asking the wrong question.

There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis in Israel’s jails, at checkpoints, and in refugee camps.  There are even Gandhis as young as five years old walking to school holding on to their backpacks, to their pride and to their dignity while they get stoned and showered with settler garbage.  There are scores of Gandhis in Palestine, young, old, men and women. The problem is how to make these Gandhis visible to a world blinded by ignorance and by prejudice. The correct questions to ask are how do we make the work of the Palestinian Gandhis effective and visible? Can non-violent Sumud ever fulfill its goals of liberation and justice? What are the challenges facing the Palestinian non-violent movement and how can we help overcome these challenges?

There are two major challenges to Palestinian non-violence; the first is Israel’s reaction to peaceful protest. Israel is a country that views itself as being above international universal laws rights and jurisdictions. It often reacts violently to non-violent protests, spraying protesters with chemicals, rubber bullets and tear gas at times claiming their lives. Israel crushes political dissent by arresting political activists even those who hold Israeli citizenship. Israel holds activists on administrative detention without fair trial for indefinite periods of time. In short, Israel doesn’t respond and is not phased by non-violent protests simply because it views all Palestinians peaceful or not as a threat.  The minute a Palestinian baby is born, it is automatically a dangerous threat to the nature of a state that defines itself by its Jewishness. All Palestinians are seen as demographic bombs, they are enemies of the state and therefore no matter what methods Palestinians use – violent or non-violent, Israel will not change its course. It will still view them as enemies that must be fought, crushed and ethnically cleansed.

The other challenge to the Palestinian non-violent movement is that it remains invisible to the international community. Palestinian daily hardships in going to school or work or visiting relatives are all daily acts of non-violent resistance that go by completely unnoticed by Israelis and by the International community. The media is hungry for blood…a peaceful protest that occurs on a weekly basis with civilians sprayed with sewerage water or injured or even killed doesn’t make the news. A child’s journey to school, head held high as Jewish settlers’ children throw garbage at him and stones never makes the headlines.

This pattern of Palestinian invisibility feeds into Israel’s impunity. Soldiers and settlers are not held accountable for their actions and rarely, if ever, has any soldier been punished for degrading, humiliating, or taking the life of an innocent Palestinian. Even when Israel’s impunity reaches extreme levels as it did when they attacked Gaza, committing a long list of war crimes and human rights violations there was not enough international outcry to hold it accountable and to change the course of its actions.

So, where do we go from here? It is clear that the Gandhis of Palestine cannot succeed in their liberation struggle without the help of the international community. Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel.  This idea was inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid. BDS has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions and movements representing the Palestinian people in the 1967 and 1948 territories and in the Diaspora.  I urge you to visit the Global BDS website (www.bdsmovement.com) for ideas on how any one of you can help.

Finally, I’d like to say that it is a fallacy to assume that non-violent resistance is not a natural human reaction to oppression, especially when you’re dealing with unarmed civilians, families and communities. Non-violence is not a doctrine that has to be taught, preached, projected on large screens and stuffed down the throats of an indigenous people trying to survive and to have normal lives. Gandhi himself has refused to be seen as an inventor of the methods of non-violence, saying [8]. “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills.” If Gandhi was to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip today, I am sure he would agree that truth and non-violence in Palestine are indeed as old as the Palestinian hills.

- Samah Sabawi is a writer and a human rights activist from Gaza.   She has published numerous articles and poems on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She is the co-author of “The Journey To Peace in Palestine:  From the Song of Deborah to the Simpsons”

Notes:

[1] See White House website.
[2] Ten for the Next Ten by Bono Guest Oped.
[3] “As part of its vision to empower people to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, the Skoll Foundation has partnered with the Global Catalyst Foundation to sponsor the Gandhi Project in the Palestinian Territories.” See here.
[4] Waleed Mustafa, Former Dean of Arts Talking About the Concept of Sumud to Palestine-Family Bethlehem University.
[5] AT-TUWANI: Settler youth harass Palestinians and international human rights workers CPTnet
23 April 2010.
[6] B’tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights:  Restrictions on Movement.
[7] Palestine Monitor:  Exposing Life Under Occupation.
[8]  Brief outline of Ghandhi’s Philosophy – by Stephen Murphy.

If you like this article, please consider making a contribution to the Palestine Chronicle.

JUSTICE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES! NO TO G8/G20! YES TO TAKING BACK OUR CITY

By admin, May 21, 2010 3:17 pm

Friday, June 25th, 2010
2:30pm
Allan Gardens (Carleton St. and Sherbourne St)
RALLY. MARCH. BLOCK PARTY. TENT CITY.

From June 25th and 27th, 2010, the world’s twenty richest countries (the
G8 and G20) will send their ruling elite, along with heads of the IMF and
World Bank, to meet in Huntsville and then in Toronto, to talk
exploitation, wealth, and greed.

These ‘leaders’ have shredded the public sector and social spending,
criminalized the poor, immigrants and racialized communities, continued to
plunder Indigenous lands and trash the environment, deported our families
and friends, gutted the unions, and closed hospitals and schools while
they grant tax cuts to the rich and corporations and boost police and
military budgets. These disgusting policies have enacted devastation
around the world and are reflected right here in Toronto.

We are the people severely impacted by this agenda: we are Toronto-based
community organizations, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants,
women, the poor, the working class, queer and trans people, disabled
people, and our allies.

We live in a city that houses the corporations that exploit and displace
people. Toronto police kills and brutalizes our communities. Toronto
housing kicks out our families. Toronto social services slam the door on
undocumented migrants. This city pushes out poor people and attacks sex
workers. Toronto exists on stolen indigenous land.

Toronto’s communities are uniting to take back what is ours! Join us on
the streets June 25, as we ensure the G20, the G8 and their deadly
policies are exposed and challenged! Rally, march, party and pitch a tent
city against Toronto and the G8/G20’s colonial, racist, sexist, abeliest,
homo/transphobic and capitalist policies.

Join Us for Justice For Our Communities!

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, No One Is Illegal-Toronto,
LIFEMovement, Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty, Students Against
Israeli Apartheid, DAMN 2025, Women’s Coordinating Committee Chile -
Canada, No Games Toronto, South Asian Women’s Rights Organization,
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Our organizations are campaigning for the some of the following demands:

-Stop the theft and plunder of indigenous lands: Indigenous sovereignty now!
-Housing for all
-Status for All! Justice for Migrants and Refugees!
-Affordable Childcare!
-Accessibility legislation that means something – NOW!
-Reverse the cut to the Special Diet, Raise Welfare/Disability Rates!
-Stop psychiatric assault
-Access to Social Services Without fear
-No to the Pan Am Games!
-End Israeli Apartheid! Respect the call for Boycotts, Divestment and
Sanctions!
-Stop racial profiling
-Free and accessible transit
-Stop the privatization of city property
-Justice for migrant and non-status workers
-Affordable and accessible post-secondary education
-Remove the cap on Direct Funding for Attendant Care
-Police out of Schools
-Stop the Social Cleansing of the Downtown East End
-Stop Police Brutality, Impunity, and Militarization of Communities

(To join the organizing, and to add your local campaign demands to this
call, email seetheg8onyourstreet@gmail.com

)

For more information about June 25th, visit http://25june.wordpress.com,
email seetheg8onyourstreet@gmail.com, or call 416-925-6939

For more details on the broader G8/G20 Convergence in Toronto, visit
http://g20.torontomobilize.org

WITH STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: MOBILIZATION AGAINST PRÉVAL GAINS MOMENTUM

By admin, May 16, 2010 6:47 pm

By Kim Ives; Editor, Haiti Liberté

http://www.haiti-liberte.com/
You can also read this article on the CHAN website: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/node/360)

Thousands of demonstrators marched through Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on May 10 calling for President René Préval’s resignation and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return from exile in South Africa.

Parallel mobilizations took place in towns throughout Haiti, including Miragoane, Cap Haitien, Gonaives, and Jacmel.

The giant march came as Senators, mostly from the President’s party, Unity, voted 16 against two to amend Article 232 of Haiti’s 1987 Constitution, extending Préval’s mandate from Feb. 7 until May 14, 2011. Deputies had approved the change in a May 6 vote of 56 for, three against and three abstentions.

On May 10, the 48th Legislature also expired, with only one third of the Senate remaining with a mandate.

Like the drop that overflows the glass, Préval’s three month term extension seems to have finally released a flood of anger against a host of policies, including last week’s sale of the state telephone company, the maintenance of a Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) which excluded 14 parties (including Haiti’s largest, the Lavalas Family) from now postponed elections, and the 18 month “state of emergency law” that puts a foreign-led commission in charge of Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction.

Marchers also reiterated long-standing demands that include an end to the six-year-old United Nations military occupation and stronger measures to resolve widespread homelessness and hunger four months after the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the capital and other nearby towns.

The Port-au-Prince demonstration was led by an emerging coalition called the Heads Together of Popular Organizations (Tet Kole Oganizasyon Popile yo), which is primarily composed of Lavalas base organizations with a smattering of formerly anti-Lavalas political personalities and alliances such as Evans Paul’s Alternative for Democracy and Progress, Serge Gilles’ social democratic Fusion, and Himmler Rébu’s Platform of Haitian Patriots (PLAPH).

Dubbed “Operation Take No Breath” (Operasyon san pran souf), Tet Kole’s mobilization aims to replace Préval with a provisional president and a Council of State similar to that which brought President Aristide’s predecessor, Ertha Pascale-Trouillot, to power 20 years ago.

“Faced with this situation of terrible suffering in which society lives today, we, grassroots organizations, civil society groups, and platforms of principled political parties have decided in unity to reject the state of emergency law, the widespread corruption, the Constitutional changes, the maintenance of the exclusionary CEP, and the extension of the presidential term,” said Tet Kole’s Paulette Joseph and Bateau Junior in a message read at the Champ de Mars’ Constitution Place. “We have decided to launch a mobilization which will continue until the complete satisfaction of our demands. We demand the immediate resignation of President Préval for betraying the trust of the people, for violating the Constitution, and for liquidating the country for foreigners. We demand the formation of a provisional government to improve the living conditions of people who were victim of the Jan. 12 disaster. We want to lay the foundations for rebuilding a better Haiti. We demand the annulment of the 18 month state of emergency law.”

Most of the demonstrators marched to the crumpled National Palace from St.
Jean Bosco, where Father Aristide used to preach before the church was burned by neo-Duvalierist thugs on Sep. 11, 1988. Feeder marches from the Belair et Carrefour Feuilles slums also joined the masses in the Champ de Mars.

Many demonstrators carried glossy posters of Aristide in the red graduation tunic he wore when receiving his South African doctoral degree in April 2007, or tattered newsprint photos of him carefully cut from the cover of the news weekly Haiti Liberté.

“Down with Préval! Down with occupation! Down with exclusionary elections!
Down with neoliberal policies!” the demonstrators chanted during the three hour march.

Near the Palace, Haitian riot police fired bullets and teargas at the demonstrators. Witnesses say that policemen beat several demonstrators including Makenson Pierre and Robenson Rémy, two musicians with the « Easy Rara » street band whose drums and horns motivated marchers.

Haitian police and UN soldiers arrested four demonstrators, and unconfirmed reports say several protestors were wounded.

Meanwhile, about 60 miles west in Miragoane and north in Gonaives, hundreds of people, mostly Lavalas partisans, in both cities also demonstrated with the same demands as the capital.

In the northern city of Cap Haitien, hundreds of residents held an action of banging pots and pans to signal unhappiness with Préval’s food policies.

In the southeastern city of Jacmel, the Alternative Movement for Haiti’s Decentralization and Reconstruction (MADREH) held a sit-in with hundreds in front of the central government’s office to demand Préval’s resignation.

Many eyebrows have been raised at the sight of 2004 coup supporters like “student” leader Hervé Saintilus, perennial politician Turneb Delpé, and Democratic Convergence leaders like Paul, Gilles and Rébu marching alongside Lavalas partisans holding aloft posters of Aristide’s smiling face.

“One of our principal demands is that the government provide former President Aristide with a passport so he can return to his country,” Delpé declared.

But many in Haiti’s democracy movement fear that right-wing politicians are feigning support for Lavalas demands and will try to hijack the mass mobilization to push Préval from power and install an even more reactionary government.

“We are organizing now to provide leadership to this mass movement which is forming,” Evans Paul said on Radio Tropical.

But Yves Pierre-Louis, a leader with the National Platform of Base Organizations and State Victims (PLONBAVIL), one of Tet Kole’s key components, says that Lavalas and progressive militants are confident they will keep control of the movement.

“We are very aware of the dangers posed by allowing former putschists into our alliance and demonstrations, and we talk about it all the time,” he said. “But right now, Préval has gone too far in selling out the country and trampling the Constitution. He must be stopped. This requires a broad coalition, but we are not diluting our demands. Some politicians, who have been our opponents, are embracing our demands, or at least pretending to.
Whatever the case, the unity and consciousness of the progressive forces in this mobilization are strong, and we will prevail.”

Préval proposed Article 232’s amendment as it has become clear that presidential and parliamentary elections are unlikely to be held by November, especially if he refuses to reconstitute the CEP. “I cannot just leave while an unfinished [electoral] process is underway,” Préval said in a May 6 press conference.

The new Article 232 is worded so that Préval can leave office anytime between Feb. 7 and May 14, 2011.

Due to difficulties in organizing elections after the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against Aristide, Préval was not elected until Feb. 7, 2006, the date when a new president should have been inaugurated according to the Constitution. Préval began his five-year term on May 14, 2006.

The Public Sector: Searching for a Focus

By admin, May 16, 2010 2:24 pm
Socialist  Project - home The   B u l l e t Socialist  Project - home
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 354
May 15, 2010

The Public Sector:
Searching for a Focus

Sam Gindin and Michael Hurley

As capitalism begins to emerge from the ‘Great Financial Crisis,’ there is good reason for working people to refrain from celebration. Though the roots of the crisis were in the private sector, it’s clear that the bill will be primarily paid via the public sector – which is to say that the costs will be placed on the working class as both providers and recipients of social services. Moreover, although economic and political elites experienced a significant decline in credibility as a result of the crisis, popular movements – a few exceptions aside – remain on the defensive and are generally ill-prepared to respond. Most dangerously, as our weaknesses are exposed, and as pressures from business grow to ‘deal with the deficit,’ the government will likely harden its position and modest restraints will turn into more severe cutbacks.

And so at a time when people will need more public programs and supports, they will get less. In Ontario, the recent $200-million cut to the ‘special diet program,’ to help people on social assistance buy fresh fruits and vegetables and other medically necessary dietary supplements, is one especially disgraceful example of this, after spending billions bailing out auto companies and supporting the financial sector. And at a moment when unions in the private sector are reeling from the job losses resulting from restructuring and globalization, it is their public sector counterparts – now at the center of any hope for reviving the labour movement – that are under the gun.

The Challenge to Unions

The 2010 Ontario Budget of the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty – following a pattern set in Budgets at the Federal level and in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia and now being generalized across the country – tries to trap and marginalize public sector workers in two particular ways. First, the government framed the issue to isolate these workers. It cynically set itself up as the defender of services, while suggesting that higher labour costs would be paid for through cutting services: if workers demand improved compensation, this would only prove that they didn’t care about the public. The very name given to the legislation makes this intent clear enough: the ‘Public Sector Compensation Restraint and Protection of Public Services Act.’

Second, the Ontario government has attempted to create a wage freeze environment, that is, to orient workers and their unions to assume that wage and benefit gains are impossible. It has not done this by directly introducing legislation to open existing collective agreements or to directly ban bargaining gains. Instead, it imposed a two-year compensation freeze on non-unionized employees alongside stipulating that its ‘transfer partners’ (the various agencies and departments involved in bargaining with unions) would not be funded for any net compensation increases in any open or renewal collective agreements. Those employers would, of course, use that limit on funding to ‘reluctantly’ offer unionized workers only zero compensation packages.

For all the politics behind the focus on controlling wages without the Liberal government directly doing the dirty work, the approach they’ve taken is very likely linked to a 2007 Supreme Court decision. That ruling declared a law unconstitutional if “provisions of the legislation enacted by the government interfere with their [i.e. unions'] right to a process of collective bargaining with the employer.” The Supreme Court, however, closed its eyes to the substance of bargaining: “It is the collective bargaining process that is constitutionally protected, not the content of the actual provisions of the collective agreements.” This seems to endorse the hypocrisy of the Ontario government saying they have left bargaining intact, while supporting specific employers who argue they are bargaining in good faith even if the end result is pre-determined. [Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, SCR 391, June 8, 2007.]

In 2010, approximately 850 agreements covering 134,000 public sector workers open for negotiation in Ontario. Among the first agreements up are many covering small social service agencies, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and numerous university collective agreements of CUPE. Last year’s strikes at York University and city workers in Windsor and Toronto (all represented by CUPE) were difficult. In the new environment, strikes will be all the more tough-going. An April 2010 OPSEU settlement of 0% and 0% for 1,200 Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) employees with the right to strike may be suggestive of where OPSEU will be heading in sectors with the right to strike, including social services. At the municipal level (where employers can raise revenue through taxation) and in essential services workers (where unions have access to interest arbitration), the settlement outcomes may be different.

Wage freeze regimes, like the Ontario government is attempting to impose, block workers from sharing in the output gains from productivity increases. As well, they prevent addressing the incredible shift in income distribution in favour of the richest groups in society since the early 1980s. How might unions effectively respond without becoming public scapegoats?

Bargaining Wages: Limits on ‘Business-as-Usual’

The response from public sector union leaders – divided by politics, ideology, and bargaining territory but united in their caution – has been muted. Ontario Revenue Minister John Wilkinson has indicated that some kind of implicit accord has been reached with the union leadership already. Seven years of “unprecedented labour peace” between the Ontario government and public sector workers, he suggested, will see workers and their unions co-operate rather than fight with the government on the wage freezes. “I’ve been really surprised and kind of heartened … by the fact that people who are paid by the taxpayers, have all kind of indicated they understand,” he said.

It may be tempting to recommend that unions who are too weak to resist wage cuts look to ‘trading-off’ wages for jobs. But if there is any lesson from the past, it is that when workers look to trade wages for jobs they generally end up with lower wages and fewer jobs. The reason for this is quite straightforward: it is one thing to fight for jobs and another to think they can be won out of weakness. If cutting public sector jobs is a government priority, they won’t reverse themselves unless public sector unions and allies are strong enough to force them to.

In the past, the public sector union response might have been obvious: we won’t let them erode our individual and collective democratic rights – at least we won’t let it happen without a bitter fight. In today’s context, the problem is that confronting individual employers one-by-one leaves public sector unions too fragmented to break the clampdown on wages and doesn’t address the lack of community support – without which politicians and employers are left more confident in their hard line while union members tend to become more demoralized

A serious response would require a very significant mobilization – at a minimum creating new structures for bringing unions together. Unless this is done, militant rhetoric about defying the wage freeze is only posturing. It also risks leaving public sector union members more isolated, and therefore more vulnerable in the future, than before. But it also requires bringing the users of public services – the rest of the working class – to our side. And that may mean going beyond general support for social issues; it may necessitate bringing that commitment into collective bargaining.

Adjusting Union Strategy: Expanding Collective Bargaining

In the 1930s – the last time the working class went through comparable economic chaos – workers radically and creatively adjusted their strategy by developing sectoral-based industrial unions. A comparable strategic adjustment for unions today would lie in transforming the confrontation from one between the workers and the individual employer, to one between public sector workers and the province by consolidating bargaining strength and moving into a strike position together.

Although specific groups of workers may well have very legitimate wage and benefit claims and may win the occasional battle, the strategic issue today is not in fact wages. If jobs go, wages are secondary but if public sector workers lead a fight to protect and extend services, this not only addresses jobs but builds the community support for taking on future wage improvements.

The strategic shift for public sector unions might be posed as follows: the government, by removing wages and benefit improvements from negotiations, is trying to dramatically narrow collective bargaining. What if the unions responded by expanding collective bargaining? What if public sector unions refused to settle collective agreements unless the settlements address the level, quality and administration of the services being provided?

Unions have often taken positions on these issues, and a number of unions or locals have already moved toward greater community links. The Ontario Health Coalition and CUPE, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), OPSEU, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) have over many years been holding forums and mobilizing at the community level against healthcare cutbacks. The CUPE Toronto Hydro local has revived its previously successful campaign against privatization and is now extending that campaign to engage communities on the potential environmental leadership role of a publically owned electrical utility. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been holding forums on transit services. CUPE workers in the Toronto education sector have been mobilizing at the community level against school closures. At the level of central labour bodies, the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, working with groups outside the official trade union movement like the Workers’ Action Center, held a successful series of community forums to win increases in the minimum wage. But going a step further and demonstrating the commitment of unions to improved public services by placing these issues on the bargaining table would represent a radical break in a number of ways.

First, the labour movement would have a focus – something it is sorely lacking now. Rather than each bargaining unit going through the motions of collective bargaining and further fragmenting workers with the message that there was nothing that could be done (or that it could have been worse), there would be a new basis of potential unity and possibilities. All unions would place the broader demands on the table.

Second, public sector unions would be leading the fight to preserve social services. Rather than letting the government and business isolate public sector workers as a cost that limits funds for public services, we’d be positioned to expose and clarify where the real problems lie. And by moving from progressive rhetoric to committed social action, there would be a basis to build the alliances that are fundamental to effecting change.

Third, the relationship between unions and their members would be changed. For such a perspective to succeed, unions would first have to win their own members over. This means a real emphasis on internal education; the widest discussion with members on tactics and risks; and developing confident organizers to engage the community. The intense mobilization implied by this would, in other words, mean bringing union members into a new kind of class politics and a more substantive union democracy.

Fourth, union structures would have to be transformed. Alongside any commitment to transform the content of union educational and democratic spaces, there would also have to be a reorganization of the technical supports that unions provide. Research and education departments would, for example, have to place relatively greater emphasis on the content of budgets and how expanded demands might be paid for; on the impact of the commercialization of public sector management on not just the level but the quality of services; and on alternative forms of management and delivery more sensitive to community needs.

Fifth, tactical creativity would be encouraged. As important as it is to prepare better policies and plans for the public sector, this will not be enough. There is an overwhelming need for public sector unions to develop new creative workplace tactics. These need to be coordinated so that union and progressive issues are put on the agenda in a way that the governments cannot ignore, while also contributing to building more support for union and socialist positions amongst other working people.

One such example is the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) offering to continue to deliver pension and social assistance checks even if they go on strike. That action blocked the government from using the elderly and the poor as pawns against the union and highlighted the class dimensions of the strike – CUPW was fighting the employer and a postal system biased to corporations, not the general public.

Another example occurred when the government tightened unemployment insurance rules to cut more people off. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represented the workers administrating the program, prepared pamphlets for unemployed workers on how to answer the questions so they would not unfairly lose their needed income. The union was using its knowledge and skills to show class solidarity and prevented its members from being pitted against other workers.

We need to learn about other such actions or invent new ones and build them into an overall united labour strategy – such as a week of actions across unions or weekly actions spread over time. Some possibilities inspired by the CUPW and PSAC actions might include:

  • Transit workers declaring periodic free transit days when they don’t collect fares in order to highlight transit as a basic element of universal access to our city.
  • Teachers and workers in the education sector fighting school closures by having a city-wide teach-in – during regular class hours and in lieu of a normal strike – to discuss schools as public spaces and alternatives uses for the facilities.
  • Hospital workers coming in on a given day for a work-in to highlight staff shortages, and long-term care workers doing the same to demand 3.5 hours of care standards for long term care residents.
  • Social workers organizing a teach-in with welfare recipients to discuss why they are put into positions of mutual frustration and what might be done about providing betters services and as part of this, more rewarding jobs).

What Next Steps for Public Sector Unions?

A starting point to get this on the agenda is to begin talking about it in workplaces, locals, unions, at labour councils, and at the OFL and CLC. Public sector unions and leaders need to ask ourselves whether we have a direction that is in fact taking us anywhere and if not, what – given the recent failures in protecting public sector services and workers – new alternatives might be.

Putting our local executives in motion could follow, with an emphasis on using (or reviving) union structures to spread the discussion among the wider membership, develop networks across locals, get this on the agenda of the larger labour movement, reflect on how to more successfully reach the public, and strategize over how to disrupt the goods and services public sector workers produce in a way that advances our collective cause.

These committees would need support. Some of this could be done internally. In other cases, public forums could be held across locals and unions to teach ourselves more about the public sector. This might include workshops on how far the cutbacks have gone elsewhere (so we see what may be coming); on how workers have resisted in other countries (to be inspired and get ideas); on the details of the Ontario and City budgets (so we can analyze and discuss them properly); on larger questions about the potentials and limits of financing public services in a capitalist society.

At the same time, the various groups affected by cutbacks and ignored needs could organize to further the links among themselves as well as develop contacts with the labour committees. More ambitiously, at some point neighbourhood committees might be organized to discuss community services, infrastructure, transportation, the expectations of a democratized public sector, and many other issues.

All this should not be restricted to public sector workers and community groups. Private sector workers have an interest not just in regards to union solidarity and not even just because social services are becoming more important as the door is closing to collective bargaining gains. It is also a question of private sector jobs and future security. If – as seems increasingly the case – the private sector provides little hope in the short term for decent working class jobs, then the intervention of a more credible and democratic public sector becomes all the more important.

Why, for example, could not all the plant closures in the auto industry be taken under the wing of a government agency committed to converting the valuable tools, equipment, and worker skills into socially useful production? The environmental challenge adds another dimension to such possibilities, since it means that everything – factories and machines, offices and equipment, homes and appliances, transportation and the entire infrastructure – will have to be adapted or converted through this century. An attack on the public sector that goes unchallenged closes off any such possibilities and leaves all of us ever more dependent on the private sector and its ‘solutions.’

Union Renewal Requires New Alliances

The greatest current danger is that all of us as workers and unionists keep lowering our expectations of what kind of society is possible – and then lowering them some more. There is a desperate need to rethink where we are at and to transform what is a looming disaster into a capacity for renewal. There is a need to develop a new response. It will be risky and difficult, but there is no longer any denying that it is essential.

One way or the other, this will involve workers seeing themselves as not ‘just workers’ but agents with the potential capacities to shape society and affect their lives. In particular, workers are part of a broader class that goes beyond public versus private unions, organized versus unorganized, employed versus unemployed and includes the poor. It is this relationship that lays the basis for effective alliances, and what it now concretely poses is rethinking how workers approach collective bargaining, especially at this moment and in the public sector.

One such example, among the several of new community-union alliances to forge a new working class politics, is the Toronto Workers’ Assembly. This needs to evolve into a space where activists can talk about such challenges and come to some agreement on developing concrete responses. •

Sam Gindin is the Visiting Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University, Toronto.

Michael Hurley is President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario.

If readers have other examples of innovative public sector bargaining tactics, deployed or just ideas, or want to participate in discussions in the Toronto or Ottawa areas, please contact us at labour_at_workersassembly.ca

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( The   B u l l e t ))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elect Ajamu for CUPE Ontario’s President at May 2010 Convention

By admin, May 16, 2010 1:37 pm

Greetings Sisters and Brothers:

I am offering for the position of CUPE Ontario President at the upcoming (May 26-29, 2010) convention in the City of Windsor. Please share this message with CUPE sisters and brothers in your network who will be attending the convention or are members in Ontario.

The attached document will indicate that I was not recently struck by the idea of union renewal as a I travelled along the proverbial “road to Damascus”. I have openly and passionately promoted member participation, equity for all, working-class trade unionism and accountability of the Union’s leadership since joining CUPE in 2005.

This presidential campaign will be informed by an integrated class and anti-oppression analysis and perspective. Below are some of the themes that will inform the platform that will be presented to the convention’s delegates:

SOCIAL unionism means accountable leadership, democratic union structures, equity for all, class solidarity, and programs exposing the injustices of capitalism.

ORGANIZING means providing CUPE members with any resources, knowledge and expertise required. Leaders are not born; they are forged by experience and education.

LABOUR education in CUPE means providing trade unionists with the knowledge and skills to understand the current economic system as one that benefits the elites and not the working-class!

INDEPENDENCE of all working-class political organizations must be the shared goal of CUPE and the labour movement. The fox and the chicken cannot be members of the same political party.

DEFENCE of universal public services, to extend economic and social rights and benefits to all, must be undertaken on all fronts.

ADOPTION and implementation of equity and human rights policies in CUPE to meet  the needs of all equity-seekers, build class solidarity, and weaken the “divide and conquer strategy” of the elites.

REINFORCE, educate, mobilize and organize CUPE’s members and the non-unionized working-class to fight back in the war on unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, public healthcare, post secondary education and other public services.

INTERNATIONAL solidarity means loyalty is not with the economic and political elites in Canada but with members of the working-class throughout the world. The elite’s loyalty is to global capital. Our loyalty should be to the global working class!

TODAY’s capitalist crisis has motivated politicians to use billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to subsidize the greed of private corporations while together they shamelessly attacked our wages and benefits. No to Corporate Welfare. Break Up anything “Too Big to Fail”.

YOUNG workers and other equity-seekers, in their diversity, are critical to the renewal, growth and vibrancy of the labour movement. CUPE must provide young workers, Aboriginal members and other equity-seekers with leadership opportunities to become agents of change in the Union and the wider labour movement.

The message of union renewal will be flowing through this convention. We have the opportunity to break with business-as-usual trade unionism.  I am in full agreement with Rosanne Cash’s statement, “The key to change…is to let go of fear”.

In solidarity

Ajamu Nangwaya

I’ll be damned if I want most folks out there to do unto me what they do unto themselves.
Toni Cade Bambara

On the State of the Union Today
Concentrated unchecked power inevitably leads to situations where the members’ voices are silenced by the use of autocratic constitutional provisions and the strict application of parliamentary procedure.  The union’s power is diminished and it is reduced at this point to an organization cleansed of member activity, run by-and-for the officers and their anointed staff. It’s no easy task to mobilize rank-and-file members to take part in contract actions, organizing, or political activities when the extent of their involvement in the union is limited to paying the bills via dues check off.  This failure is magnified when the members receive little support, few resources, and are offered no leadership to resist the bosses attacks in the workplace. “Rank and File Activism: A Viable Alternative” – John Hovis and Chris Townsend

On the Culture of Silence in Organizations & Society
Through fear tactics, psychological warfare, oppression and violence many people have been forced physically and mentally, [to not exercise] their right to voice their opinions or their desires to fight against the oppression that they experience. The people are forced to believe, and later come to identify with, the idea that the oppressor has supreme power and is working in the favor of the people. As a result a culture of quiet, non resistant, passive if you will, people are born. This Culture of Silence is longstanding and continues because the people continue to allow the destruction and the oppression to occur, not because they want to, but because fighting against the oppressor seems futile. Those that do fight are eradicated and made examples of in the attempt to silence future attempts at reform. – Author unknown – internet posting

NoOneIsIllegal-Tor] May Day 2010 March for Status for All: “Firing Jason Kenney, Building a Sanctuary City” (Pics and Video)

By admin, May 5, 2010 7:21 pm
For pictures, video and more from the march, check out: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/453

TORONTO – For five years, Migrant Justice organizers have built on the history of May Day in Toronto, creating the momentum for a massive Immigrant Rights demonstration on May 1. This work came alive on Saturday, May 1, 2010 as well over two thousand people gathered in one of North America’s most densely populated Immigrant neighbourhoods, St. Jamestown, to fight for Status for All!

“Today, from South Korea to Arizona, to right here in Toronto, millions of people are taking to the streets and marching for our rights, to demand our dignity, to take back our city!” began Graciela Flores, a member of No One Is Illegal – Toronto. “Migrant Communities Under Attack! What do we do? Stand Up, Fight Back!”

“I want to take this time to remember those who put food on our tables, those who build our communities, who take care of children and the elderly, those who have been detained and deported, and those who have been sick, injured and even died because of workplace abuses”, thundered Chris Ramsaroop, a member of Justicia for Migrant Workers.
“Minister Kenney is telling us that Canada is welcoming to Immigrants. Is that true?” asked Fariah Chaudhry. “Minister is Kenney is telling us that Canada wants to support refugees. Is that true?” “Minister Kenney says that Canada supports women and survivors of violence. Is that true?” Thousands yelled back No.

Hundreds of waving flags, and dozens of kids dressed as super heroes with No One Is Illegal! capes led the march, dancing to the tune of two Samba bands. As the march moved onto the street, a giant thirty foot banner dropped from a bridge that read “Fire Jason Kenney! No One Is Illegal. Status for All”. Jason Kenney is the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship that has forced through terrible changes to Canadian Immigration policy under a blanket of lies and deceit.

Rosina Kazi, lead singer of Toronto band Lal, appeared on the bridge urging the protest on. “You place the world on your shoulder… And you fight the good fight…Justice makes your heart pound…And your fist shall always rise…”

Just past Carlton, a team of waving flags and performers appeared on top of a roof. Amai Kuda’s ringing voice rose through the demonstration, electrifying the passers by that joined the march. Excited, singing and dancing, the protest moved down Parliament Street walking past Regent Park, a poor and immigrant people’s neighbourhood that has fallen to gentrification.

On the route, a street corner was taken over, with patients in stretchers and doctors holding banners that read “Cause of death: Lack of Status”. The marchers erupted in chants of “What do we want? Health for All!”

Closer to Dundas, a 10 foot high image of Jason Kenney had been put up. Organizers had water balloons ready for the kids to throw at the image when a fleet of bike cops attacked the threatening balloons and slashed them.

The march rolled in to the Moss Park apartment complex, a massive community and low income housing project accompanied by students, environmental justice, labor and community contingents. Speeches by organizers from Mujeres Al Frente and from Missy Elliot, an Indigenous activist from Six Nations, and a number of performances followed and people slowly dispersed – vowing to defeat Canada’s immigration policy and building a Sanctuary City – a city where all people can access good food, education, good jobs, healthcare, childcare, justice and dignity – a city built by its residents for its residents.

No One Is Illegal – Toronto will continue to struggle against the ongoing displacement of migrants, against war and occupation and environmental destruction, in defence of Indigenous sovereignty, to create a full regularization program and ensure permanence on landing for all temporary workers. We will continue to organize in neighbourhoods, in health centres, in shelters, in food banks, in schools and in universities, liberating these places from injustice and creating systems and policies that will force immigration enforcement out and allow all people working and accessing these spaces to live with dignity and respect.

On June 25, 2010, join us at 2:30pm at Allen Gardens during the G8/G20 meetings as we fight against the displacement of our communities and the global imposition of temporary and dangerous work on migrants.

On May 1, 2011, join us in Toronto, for a massive No One Is Illegal! May Day of Action for Status for All.

For pictures, video and more from the march, check out: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/453
=====================
=====================
No One Is Illegal – Toronto

Panorama Theme by Themocracy