Lila Natalie Goldstein
WW photo: Alan Pollock
Following are excerpts from a talk given Nov. 13 by Lila Natalie Goldstein, a Workers World Party member and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) organizer in Boston, at the WWP national conference. Go to workers.tv to hear the entire talk.
In June 1967 Israel invaded the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, gaining control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and further fortifying its dominance over the Middle East. With one fell swoop Israel’s territory tripled and approximately 1 million Arabs were placed under its direct control in the newly captured territories. Palestinians had no power over the territories they lived in and were subject to rigorous military rule by Israel.
Within days of the invasion Workers World and its youth group Youth Against War & Fascism called a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people. This was before the development of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other Palestinian revolutionary groups that grew out of the movement against the 1967 invasion. This set in stone the role that the youth of Workers World would take in speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine during a period when it was an untouched struggle in this country. Even though there was a mass movement against the war in Vietnam, the issue of Palestine in resistance to the Israeli occupation remained a forbidden topic among many on the left in the U.S.
Because of 40 years of resistance from the Palestinian people, the fight for justice has finally come to the forefront of the youth and student movement in the U.S. and abroad, becoming the focus of anti-imperialist struggle. More and more people are beginning to understand that it is the billions of dollars in U.S. and military equipment that prop up the state of Israel itself.
The BDS movement
In July 2005 over 170 Palestinian groups from trade unions to women’s groups to refugee organizations called for the international community to boycott, divest and sanction Israel until it complies with international law. While this was not necessarily a revolutionary program, this caught the imagination of youth all over the world and became a vehicle for struggle. This was inspired by the boycott movement against apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then youth and student groups all over the U.S. and the world have taken on the call and struggled to not only raise awareness through BDS but put a damper on the Israeli economy.
I myself was involved in the struggle at Hampshire College organized by Students for Justice in Palestine to become the first college in the country to divest from the Israeli occupation. Since then other colleges and universities around the country such as University of California, Berkeley and UC San Diego have taken up this cause.
In October, organizers of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign forced the Irish government to cancel a contract with a weapons manufacturer called Israel Military Industries that would have supplied 10 million bullets to the Irish Defense Forces.
Student activists in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh were able to shut down a career fair at Edinburgh University in protest of the inclusion of a major weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems, which produces and sells arms and equipment to the Israeli military.
In Norway, a petition calling for a widespread institutional, cultural and academic boycott of Israel has quickly gathered a hundred signatories. That followed major divestment actions by the Norwegian government calling for an academic and cultural boycott of the state of Israel.
After a broad-based grassroots campaign in the town of Cigales in Spain, the city council voted to remove bottled water produced by the Israeli company Eden Springs from all municipal buildings.
The Asia to Gaza Caravan, a group of approximately 500 activists from 17 different Asian countries, plans to gather in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 1 to march through 18 cities in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in an effort to pressure Israel to lift the siege and blockade on Gaza. In Egypt, more than 300 activists affiliated with the Viva Palestina organization, which included members of Workers World, arrived in the port town of al-Arish with humanitarian aid, including more than $5 million worth of medical equipment and food supplies.
On Oct. 20, two Israeli Defense Force soldiers came to the University of Michigan campus as part of a national promotional campaign by Stand With Us aimed at justifying Israel’s recent atrocities in the Middle East. Students, staff, and community members collectively engaged in a silent walk-out in memory and in solidarity with all the silenced Palestinian children who were killed by the IDF during Israel’s most recent offensive on the Gaza Strip.
With every growing movement that threatens U.S. imperialism comes brutal repression. On May 31 Israeli naval commandoes attacked the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla, aimed at breaking the blockade of Gaza, killing nine activists execution-style in international waters. Following the attack, in June Nicaragua suspended diplomatic ties with Israel and both Venezuela and Cuba publicly condemned Israel’s actions.
Later in June people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area demonstrated at the Port of Oakland, staging a spirited community-labor picket line in front of a berth where an Israeli freighter was due to dock. Dock workers from Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line, and the company was forced to cancel the shift and send the workers home.
In July the Olympia Food Co-Op Board of Directors decided to boycott all Israeli goods at their two locations in Olympia, Washington.
In the last month the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which are both Zionist groups, launched a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. They recently invested $6 million for the next three years to help put a stop to the movement.
This reaction is an indication of the fear the Zionist forces feel from the growing movement against the Israeli occupation. However, the U.S. still gives Israel over $3 billion in aid every year and the fight to stop this pipeline has to grow stronger.
In 1967 the U.S. was able to paint Israel as a small besieged state. The brutality of the decades of occupation, the graphic images of the bombing of civilian populations, the collective punishment against Palestinian homes and orchards, and now the building of a physical apartheid wall have helped to unmask the true nature of Israel as an oppressor of the Palestinian people. It is our task in the U.S to expose the way that the U.S. aids and uses Israel to control the Middle East.
Now more than ever we can appeal to the youth of the U.S. and build solidarity between the oppressed peoples of Palestine with the exploited working class and oppressed peoples of the U.S. Long live Palestine!
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