Look for Jihad’s Union Label
Some unions offer a fertile ground for Islamofascist beliefs
SUMMARY: “Progressives,” including those in the labor movement in the U.S., are rapidly aligning themselves with Islamic political radicalism. Within unions that are historically pro-Israel, support is growing for the anti-Israel program known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions). In public schools, members of teachers’ unions are pushing partisan positions in favor of Islam. This is an emerging “red-green alliance”—red being the traditional color of the Left and green the traditional color of Islam—and it should alarm all mainstream Americans.
On September 24, 2010, FBI agents, investigating support for terrorist groups like Hamas, raided the Chicago home of Joe Iosbaker, chief steward of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. SEIU is a major political force in the United States—it was the union most closely allied with President Barack Obama—and the raid provided a troubling reminder of the drift of America’s labor unions into a “red-green alliance” with radical Islamism.
SEIU Local 73 pledged solidarity with the subjects of the raid, which included Iosbaker, his wife Stephanie Weiner, and former SEIU Local 73 Executive Board member Tom Burke. These individuals were “seeking peace and justice for workers and other oppressed people throughout the world,” according to the union’s resolution in solidarity with Iosbaker, Weiner, and Burke. The resolution noted an additional union connection, that Weiner is a member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Iosbaker was a staff adviser for the University of Illinois-Chicago chapter of Students for a Democratic Society; SDS is the radical group best known for its violent offshoot, the Weather Underground. Iosbaker has described his wife as an “activist in the Palestine solidarity movement.” And he has spoken favorably of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, declaring the farcical June 3, 2014, election to be a triumph for the Syrian people. At a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York, he said, regarding participation in the election, that the “Syrian people are an inspiration.” The election was a “defeat for the United States, for NATO, for the Zionists and the Gulf States.”
Contrast his views on Syria with his opinion of Israel. Iosbaker told PressTV, an Islamic Republic of Iran front, that Israel is a “racist” and “terrorist regime.” Although supported by “US imperialism…Israel is living on borrowed time and stolen land.” And, in 2016, “Israel’s occupation of Palestine has led to a third heroic Intifada.” (Intifada is an Arabic word meaning tremor or “shaking off” as with dirt. Figuratively, it means an uprising, particularly the violence by Islamist Palestinians against Israel.)
Widespread anti-Israel activism
The anti-Israel Iosbaker is not alone in the American labor movement, as indicated by the website of Labor for Palestine (LFP), a group that “endorses the 2005 Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line.” LFP’s December 1, 2004, founding statement declared that “Israel’s war on the Palestinian people reflects imperial domination throughout the Middle East,” which the “Palestinian people have courageously resisted.” (For more on the BDS movement, see “Progressivism’s New Hate on Campus,” Organization Trends, January 2016.)
Various American union chapters have heeded this “picket line.” The list includes International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10. As announced on Facebook, ILWU Local 10 participated in the October 25, 2014, “Block the Boat” campaign to prevent the offloading of an Israeli Zim line cargo ship in Oakland, California. “Join the BDS movement to end Israeli apartheid!” and “Zionism is simply not welcome on our coasts,” ILWU Local 10 announced.
A California chapter of the United Auto Workers, UAW 2865, followed suit on December 4, 2014. Representing over 13,000 University of California teaching assistants and other student-workers, UAW 2865 became the “first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote” responding to the Palestinian call for BDS. UAW 2865’s dissenting pro-Israel group, Informed Grads, noted that in the union “it is clear that our leaders oppose Israel’s existence, but they carefully avoid saying so explicitly.” One speaker at a union event said that “all of Israel is Occupied Palestine.”
With each over 2,000 members, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW2322) and the New York University Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-UAW 2110) voted in April 2016 to support BDS.
GEO/UAW2322’s resolution demands that Israel honor a “right of return” for millions of Palestinian “refugees” who would flood into Israel, demographically destroying the Jewish state. Likewise, Israel should end its supposed “occupation of the Palestinian territories” (including all of Israel?) and the “preferential treatment of Jews vis-à-vis Palestinians” in Israel’s “apartheid.” Supporting the resolution, one GEO member stated that “it is imperative to demand the immediate and unqualified decolonization of Palestine.”
Representing over 9,000 graduate student workers, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA), also known as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 3220, followed in May 2016. The TAA/AFT Local 3220 resolution contained the three traditional BDS demands while referencing an “Israel Occupation and Colonization of all Arab lands occupied in 1967.” The resolution also repeated the slander that Israel has a “network of racially segregated roads in the West Bank” and an “apartheid legal system.”
Representing some 30,000 workers, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) at its 2015 national convention in Baltimore, became America’s first national union to endorse BDS. UE proclaimed that the “BDS statement upholds the union’s long tradition of courageous stands on foreign policy issues, such as being the first union to oppose the Vietnam War.” UE general president Bruce Klipple stated that the “widespread abuse of workers under the occupation is a concern for the global labor movement.”
To the left of Abbas
Incredibly, these unions’ support for BDS is more extreme than the position of the Palestinians themselves. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian business leaders oppose BDS.
Contrary to Klipple, BDS harms Palestinian workers much more than Israelis and their settlements in the disputed territories won by Israel in the 1967 war. For example, the Israeli firm Soda Stream closed a factory in one such settlement where almost 1,000 Palestinian workers earned 5,000-6,000 shekels monthly plus all worker benefits guaranteed by Israeli law. The workers then had to find Palestinian jobs earning about 1,500 shekels monthly without benefits.
While making typical BDS demands calling for an end to Israel’s American military aid and a Palestinian “right of return,” the UE resolution also viciously slandered Israel by re-writing history. The resolution declared that in Israel’s 1947-1948 independence war “well-armed Zionist militias seized most of the territory of Palestine and expelled 750,000 people…. They executed much of the Palestinian leadership.” Anti-Defamation League national director Jonathan Greenblatt condemned in a letter to Klipple this “outrageous and totally unfounded claim that from 1947-1948 the Jewish State engaged in ethnic cleansing.”
The Connecticut chapter of the AFL-CIO also voted in favor of BDS at its 2015 convention. The BDS resolution repeated the false accusation that Israel had used indiscriminate military force in the Gaza Strip, such that “Israel’s right to defend itself” had resulted in “collective punishment.” The resolution condemned “all acts of racism” and anti-Semitism, but also targeted an undefined “Islamophobia,” an accusation often used to suppress even the mildest criticism of Islam.
A minority view
Such anti-Israel measures reflect a minority opinion in the American labor movement, as Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) president Stuart Appelbaum noted in 2008. The Forward, a prominent Jewish newspaper, reported that, after the JLC the previous year began a campaign against British trade union support for BDS—
In the space of two weeks, every major American union had endorsed the effort. In fact, the show of American labor opposition to Israel-bashing was so strong that unions in Germany followed our lead and took a similar stance.
As Eric Lee of the pro-Israel Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) stated in 2014, the “American labor movement has long been a safe space for friends of Israel, and to a large degree remains so.”
“Labor unions were once among Israel’s most important allies” in a friendly relationship going back to the Zionist settlement of Palestine, noted Rabbis Yitzchok Adlerstein and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. In the past “at one point, the UAW may have been the largest institutional purchaser of Israel Bonds.”
Similarly, the AFL-CIO Executive Council in an August 5, 1982, statement, considered “the Israeli invasion of Lebanon entirely justified.… In the conflict between Israel, on the one hand, and the PLO and Syria, on the other, the AFL-CIO is not neutral…. We support Israel.”
Some in the labor union movement have indeed opposed the anti-Israel campaign—the UAW International Executive Board, for example. UAW leaders have overruled local chapter BDS decisions, arguing for example in a June 16, 2016, letter that these chapters may not contradict policy of the international UAW. The UAW’s position drew protests from the student workers of University of Washington’s UAW Local 412. Eric Lee of TULIP noted in 2014 that, like “practically every other national union in the US,” the “UAW has long been friendly to Israel and there’s not a hint of support for BDS in the national union.”
In November 2014, as UAW Local 2865 prepared to vote on BDS, union leaders expressed opposition to the idea. Writing to the UAW International, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) national president J. David Cox, Sr. noted the “most obvious reason for the UAW to reject the BDS movement,” which is that BDS “calls for boycott and divestment from companies that employ UAW members.” Cox noted that—
Israel, unlike its neighbors, has a thriving labor movement and far greater legal protections for organizing, bargaining, and going on strike than we have in the United States…. Thus Arab Israelis and Palestinians working for Israeli companies have more labor rights, and more union rights, than workers anywhere else in the Middle East.
The Teamsters Union’s California chapter declared in a letter to UAW Local 2865:
Unlike the members of your union, who are graduate students and therefore union members for a short period of time, our members are working in jobs that must support them for a lifetime and it is our job to protect them for all of their working lives.
Lee of TULIP noted that the “student members of United Auto Workers Local 2865 have dealt a serious blow to Israel’s standing in the American labor movement, a movement in which we believed such things could not happen.” Adlerstein and Cooper wrote that now a “new front opens up in the war against the Jewish state.” Not surprisingly, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, at their February 2017 “JCPA2017” conference, featured a panel on “Labor Unions and Graduate Students: The Next Campus Challenge” in anti-Israel activism.
As the world turns
Lee warned that BDS victories in the labor movement “will happen again as BDS activists are emboldened, as they realize that their ideas are increasingly popular.” Adlerstein and Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote:
Union political orientations always had progressive and socialist leanings, which today are bolstered by alliances with left-leaning and third world groups around the globe, many of whom regularly demonize Israel and the United States.
“Though there remain many unions which are sympathetic to Israel and a two-state solution, particularly in the USA, Germany and Australia, the trend is absolutely clear” around the world, Lee declared. “Every day, supporters of delegitimizing Israel are growing stronger and the voices of moderation are growing weaker.” He added, “Supporters of Hamas with its exterminationist program, its vision of a Palestine free of Jews, living under Sharia law, have set the agenda.”
“To grasp the enormity of the challenge facing Israel’s friends on the left,” the Jewish Labor Committee’s Stuart Appelbaum noted in 2008, “one need only look at the Socialist International’s condemnation” in March 2008 of the “excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.” (Gaza is a territory between Egypt and Israel, captured by Israel when the Jewish State was attacked in 1967, and held until 2005. It remains under Israeli demilitarization restrictions and is administered by the Sunni/Islamofascist organization Hamas.)
The condemnation of Israel by the Socialist International reflected growing global labor opposition to Israel. For example, two Australian unions in 2008 denounced an Australian parliamentary resolution celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, because the unions saw it as a “celebration of the triumph of racism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948.” That “Catastrophe” is what Israelis call their “War of Independence.”
British unions, Lee said, are now “on the side of the Palestinians,” and “they have burned their bridges to the Jewish state and its trade union movement.” Yet “Opposition to Israel—indeed hatred of the Jewish state—is much more intense in other trade union movements,” including one of the worst cases, the South African labor movement. Adlerstein and Cooper also noted that Danish and Norwegian unions have supported BDS.
The Solidarity Center
Thus, the American labor movement risks association with anti-Israel hatred through involvement with international labor groups. For example, the AFL-CIO represented its more than 11 million members via the union’s Solidarity Center at the March 2013 World Social Forum (WSF) in Tunis, Tunisia. Befitting an annual gathering of radical leftist groups, the WSF in 2013 hosted several events condemning Israel and supporting BDS. Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business-oriented group, commented that many AFL-CIO members “would actually be insulted” by the WSF’s tenor, particularly concerning Israel.
Exploration of the Solidarity Center’s website reveals troubling anti-Israel biases. One article laments that “Attempts at a Palestinian national dialogue have failed to bring unity between the two political parties, Fatah and Hamas.” Fatah is, in essence, the late Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), perhaps the premier international terrorist organization of the last half of the 20th Century, and Hamas is a jihadist terrorist group with genocidal designs against Israel.
Another article links to a report by the pro-BDS Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) that refers to Israel as a “Zionist entity” and comments that “Work in tunnels is one of the special work conditions in the Gaza Strip” without mentioning that these tunnels serve Hamas terrorism. Notably, the Solidarity Center article overlooks important nuances revealed in the PGFTU report. The article cites a Palestinian worker who “must endure hours each day in dehumanizing lines to pass through” a checkpoint on the way to work in Israel. Yet the report reflects on the Palestinian realities of working in Israel by observing that: “Almost all the workers prefer to work within the Green Line [pre-1967 Israel] because of the high pay.” This preference is so strong that it exists despite “suffering and abuse” endured from security checkpoints and individual Israelis.
A July 23, 2014 Solidarity Center article sharply criticizes Israel’s position on a ceasefire during the Israeli “Protective Edge” military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The article links to several consistently anti-Israel labor groups and to an article regarding a Gaza ceasefire at the website of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The article notes that the “ITUC has called for many years for the lifting of the Gaza blockade and the removal of the separation wall,” two vitally important Israeli security measures.
Examination of past ITUC statements reveals ITUC’s absolute rejection of Jewish settlement in disputed “Palestinian territory,” territory that includes areas central to Judaism. Such anti-Israel criticism is no exception. ITUC has praised, as “an important step,” the European Union’s “decision to require labelling of certain products from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory.” In addition to this stigmatization and reduction of the economic value of these products, ITUC has called for BDS against these settlements, as “economic relations with the settlements help to sustain their existence, in violation of international law.”
ITUC World Congress positions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict reflect a two-state, “land for peace” solution that rejects the historic nuances of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 242 concerning territories Israel won in 1967. Under this resolution, Israel is not required to relinquish all these territories, yet the 2014 World Congress demanded “Israel’s withdrawal from all Palestinian lands, in line with the 4th of June 1967 borders” that were actually 1949 ceasefire lines. Similar ignorance—presumably willful ignorance—of UNSCR 242’s demand for defensible Israeli borders guided the 2010 World Congress, before Syria’s descent into jihadist mayhem, to call “for Israel and Syria to reach agreement on Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow’s 2014 condemnation of ongoing Israeli settlement development moved her to advocate that “Governments around the world should respond by giving formal recognition to the State of Palestine.” “There is every reason for Palestinians to have international recognition, and no good reason for yet further delay,” she declared, ignoring the chaos that characterizes the prospective “State of Palestine” and precludes recognition. She also ignored that reality in 2012, stating that: “For too long, major powers have sat by and tolerated the Israeli government’s policy of refusing to negotiate a just and lasting two-state settlement.”[i]
The July 2014 Solidarity Center article links to an article at the Public Service International (PSI) website also calling for a Gaza ceasefire. Additional PSI demands, like “promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return,” reflect the endorsement at PSI’s 2012 World Congress in Durban, South Africa, of the “BDS Campaign” and of “Israeli Apartheid Week.” (The “apartheid” reference likened Israel’s relations with the Palestinians to the racist policies of South Africa’s former white-supremacist regime.) Like the Connecticut AFL-CIO, the World Congress opposed “all forms of discrimination including anti-semitism [and] islamophobia” and endorsed “recognition of Palestinian statehood.”
UNI Global Union presented another labor group calling for a Gaza ceasefire cited by the Solidarity Center. UNI Global Union subsequently on August 7, 2014, demanded Israel face the “immediate suspension of all transfers of weapons, munitions and other military equipment and technology being used against civilians.” In addition to this arms embargo justified with the baseless charge that Israel uses indiscriminate force, UNI Global Union further endangered Israel with another appeal for an “end of the blockade of Gaza.”
Another Solidarity Center link directed readers to reporting on Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, who echoed UNI Global Union’s claims of Israel targeting civilians. He expressed “deep concern about the ever increasing number of civilian victims in Gaza caused by Israeli military action.” The article paraphrased his criticism of “Israel’s disproportional response.”
Another Solidarity Center link went to a union federation, the IndustriALL [sic] Global Union (IGU)—specifically, to IGU’s declaration of support for ITUC’s appeal for an “immediate ceasefire.”
IGU claims 50 million members in its affiliated unions, largely in mining, energy, and manufacturing. The federation called for Israel to undergo “renewed international pressure to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.” Like the ITUC, IGU rhetorically transformed ceasefire lines into internationally recognized borders and appealed for a “negotiated settlement to respect the 1967 borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.”
The Solidarity Center also tied the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to the call for a Gaza ceasefire. IFJ quoted its Palestinian affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, charging during the 2014 Gaza campaign that “Israeli forces have deliberately targeted media workers and media outlets.” IFJ has a record of glorifying Palestinian jihadist propagandists as “journalists,” such as when IFJ condemned Israel for destroying Hezbollah’s Al Manar broadcaster in 2006. This condemnation caused the IFJ’s Israeli chapter to briefly leave the organization, before disputes over dues payments caused IFJ to permanently expel the Israelis in 2009.
Teachers and Israel
In the United States, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten proclaimed herself a “Jew who has been a lifelong supporter of Israel.” She has opposed the American Studies Association’s academic boycott against Israel, but supported the “Iran nuclear deal as the best current course of action.” She contended that “If you love and cherish Israel” a “two-state solution is the only answer.”
Weingarten made the latter remarks at the March 2015 gala dinner of the group known as J Street, a left-wing alternative to the American-Israel Political Action Conference as a lobbying group supporting Israel. She said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “played on the Israeli people’s worst fears” with “Nixonian tactics.” She toured Israel on a January 2015 trip with J Street president Jeremy Ben Ami and met with radical leftist Israeli groups like Peace Now’s Settlement Watch and Breaking the Silence.
Weingarten and AFT also take leftist positions concerning Islam in the United States. AFT’s 2016 resolution on “Immigration and Islamophobia” supported in the United States the “processing and resettlement of tens of thousands of men, women and children” from the Middle East. A 2012 AFT resolution naïvely described the “Arab Spring” as a “mosaic of poignant outpourings across the region that garnered strength from each other, all expressing the will of the people for democracy.” Actually, the Arab Spring—backed by then-President Obama—led to results that were, on the whole, horrific. Islamofascists came to power (temporarily) in Egypt, chaos reigned in Libya to the advantage of the terrorists, and the Syrian civil war became perhaps the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II.
Weingarten proclaimed in 2015 that the “American Federation of Teachers strongly condemns the growing and disturbing anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic rhetoric and bigotry coming from some quarters in the United States.” She focused on the “planned Sept. 11 burning of the Quran by a Florida minister,” Terry Jones. This “shameful act by a group of bigots and political opportunists is a threat to our military personnel abroad and an assault on the values that we hold dear at home.” (In leftist propaganda, Muslim extremism results largely from Americans and other Westerners who insist on exercising their free-speech right to criticize Islam. A notable example is the attempt by the Obama administration to falsely blame the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack on an obscure anti-Muslim video.)
Weingarten and the AFT find soulmates in the other major teachers’ union, the National Education Association (NEA). NEA president Lily Eskelsen García is a hardcore partisan, calling Donald Trump a “racist” and praising Hillary Clinton, whose “proposal for the Syrian refugee crisis reflects the values this country was founded on.”
On June 12, 2016, a jihadist, reflecting the Islamofascist view that gay people deserve death, murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Garcia’s reaction was bizarre, seeming to excuse the attack as the result of mental illness, just as in other mass shootings. “What the shooters had in common was often mental health issues.” Who was at fault? Donald Trump, for his “narrow-minded ignorance,” for supposedly believing that the “Orlando tragedy occurred because there are Muslims in our country.” She described her gay son “telling me how upset he was to see friends and family members blaming Muslims in general for the Orlando attack.” These “troubled people who were susceptible to hate speech” had “easy access to military-style assault weapons with high-capacity magazines,” thereby justifying more gun restrictions.
Standing, roaring ovations greeted María Elena Durazo, former Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) national president, at the NEA’s July 2016 conference in Washington, DC. “Disobey Trump,” she urged, declaring that “What happens to Muslims happens to America.” A conference event accordingly focused on the ever-ominous threat of “Islamophobia.”
Displaying a similar mindset, NEA member and San Francisco schoolteacher Fakhra Shah led her students in participating in the 2016 “Muslims at the Capitol Day” in Sacramento, California. The event sponsor was the Hamas-derived Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case. (For more on this organization, see “Keeping up with CAIR’s Islamic Radicalism” in our January 2017 issue) The NEA reported on this Pakistani-American Muslim in the context of a CAIR report on the bullying of Muslim students.
The NEA article linked to Shah’s PowerPoint presentation on “Islamophobia,” defined as “fear, dislike, and prejudice towards Islam or Muslims.” The presentation equated “Islamophobia” with prejudices in American history like racism, and it included under “Anti-Muslim hate groups” the Jihad Watch website produced by best-selling author Robert Spencer. Shah referenced the “Impact of Islamophobia on Schools” with a picture of the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, the cause célèbre “Clock Boy” whose supposed school project in 2015 looked to school authorities suspiciously like a bomb. The presentation also presents France’s controversial burqa ban as merely bigoted and suggests approval of defacement of Pamela Geller’s Islam-critical San Francisco bus advertisements with messages like “Free speech isn’t a license to spread hate.” For good measure, Shah also created a lesson plan condemning Trump after his election, stating that a “racist and sexist man has become the president of our country by pandering to a huge racist and sexist base.”
NEA materials feature not just CAIR but also the Southern Poverty Legal Center (SPLC), whose founder Morris Dees received an NEA award in 2016. The SPLC, once a legitimate civil rights organization, is known today for its fake claims of “hate.” The NEA website links to an SPLC webpage featuring the booklet What is the Truth about American Muslims. Endorsed by numerous left-wing and Islamist groups like the SPLC and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated, terrorism-financing unindicted coconspirator Islamic Society of North America, the booklet contains a host of myths about Islam.
For example, the booklet states that “small factions within Islam…lift up extremist theology and pervert their faith to support their violence.” This statement ignores the prevalence of sharia law and other human-right violations in Muslim-majority countries, ranging from anti-blasphemy laws to the subjugation and sexual mutilation of women. The booklet also ignores the role that jihad has played in extending Muslim rule over non-Muslims around the world, in service of Islam’s proclaimed universal mission. Rather, in the booklet’s definition, “Jihad may also involve fighting against oppressors and aggressors who commit injustice. It is not ‘holy war’ in the way a crusade would be considered a holy war.”
Articles from the NEA’s journal Thought & Action reflect these biases concerning Islam and American reactions to jihadist dangers. The 2007 summer edition contained an article hawking the myth of Muslim-ruled Spain as a harmonious, multicultural society, a tale that is a staple of Islamic apologetics. The 2005 fall edition meanwhile claimed that “In the wake of 9/11, academic freedom suffered under a wave of patriotic correctness in America.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has expressed sentiments similar to those of the NEA. AFSCME supported the radical Israel-basher Charles Barron in his unsuccessful 2012 bid for a Congressional seat in New York. AFSCME vice president Johanna Puno Hester in 2015 joined CAIR’s San Diego chapter and other groups in the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) to declare San Diego a “hate-free zone.” SDIRC’s statement called upon the media to “Ensure that groups presenting their views are not affiliated with documented hate groups” (like Jihad Watch, falsely identified as such by the SPLC). Similarly, “Faith Leaders” should ecumenically “Emphasize the basic common tenant [sic] of all faiths that we should care for the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable among us.”
In her position as national president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFSCME’s Johanna Puno Hester denounced Trump’s “Islamophobia” throughout 2016. In a September 15, 2016 APALA press release, she stated that the “conflation of what it means to be American with anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia must come to an end, and that includes reforming government policies.” Among other groups, she noted that “APALA continues to partner with…Muslim Advocates,” a group known for having pushed American authorities in 2011 to purge their training documents of references to sharia and jihad.
AFSCME joined CAIR and others again in supporting the Freedom of Religion Act of 2016 introduced by U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-Va.) that declares that an “alien may not be denied admission to the United States because of the alien’s religion.” Religion defined here could give admission to someone who believes in theocratic, totalitarian dictatorship, in female genital mutilation, and in the execution of homosexuals. The broadness of the bill’s terms could prohibit any vetting, extreme or otherwise, of an immigrant because of critical inquiry into possibly violent religious beliefs.
The SEIU has also had several interactions with CAIR. CAIR and SEIU’s Seattle affiliates collaborated in 2013 to remove from city buses advertisements for the United States State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program. The groups condemned the advertisements as bigoted because the overwhelming majority of wanted terrorists pictured in the advertisements were Muslim. CAIR’s Chicago affiliate later joined SEIU president Mary Kay Henry in front of McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Illinois at a 2014 rally for a $15 minimum wage.
It was perhaps no coincidence that SEIU’s Washington, D.C. headquarters hosted an October 2015 anti-Israel panel (reported on by this author) featuring CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad. Fellow panelists included former Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman and Barack Obama confidante Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.
Like others, SEIU executive vice president Rocio Saenz in 2016 denounced Donald Trump’s “extremist rhetoric” concerning Muslims and others. He welcomed outgoing President Barack Obama’s abolition of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). That program monitored visa holders from countries posing high security risks like terrorism, most of them Muslim-majority jihadist centers.
Union and Islamist leaders have in recent years collaborated in several high-profile public initiatives. MoveOn.org published a full-page New York Times advertisement on December 10, 2015, that denounced that a “dangerous tide of hatred, violence, and suspicion is rising in America” and threatening Arab and Muslim Americans, among others. Its signatories included AFSCME president Lee Saunders, SPLC president Richard Cohen, radical Muslim anti-Zionist and leftist luminary Linda Sarsour, and Trita Parsi, leader of the Iranian lobby group National Iranian American Council, along with Awad of CAIR.
Like NEA’s Garcia, many of these union and Islamist leaders saw fit to blame American firearms ownership, not jihadist ideology, for the Orlando massacre. A June 13, 2016 open letter from Americans for Responsible Solutions focused on “condemning hatred and gun violence.” Along with Garcia, signatories included CAIR’s Awad, SEIU’s Henry, AFSCME’s Saunders, and AFT’s Weingarten.
American union alliances with Islamists and other “progressive” groups do not necessarily reflect union rank-and-file sentiments. “I am deeply concerned,” Henry stated in a January 2016 interview about SEIU, that “our members are responding to Trump’s message.” She worried that “Sixty-four percent of our public members identify as conservative.”
“Today, individual union members are often disconnected from political posturing of their organizations about non-economic issues, half way around the world,” Adlerstein and Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center wrote in 2007. As an example, they noted how in 2006 the Human Rights Committee of the United Teachers of Los Angeles teachers’ union agreed to host the launch of a BDS campaign. “Only the public outcry from Jewish organizations in Los Angeles forced the union to move the meeting off-site from its headquarters.”
Adlerstein and Cooper drew the lesson that “if you are a member of any union, be informed about its human rights agenda…. Don’t allow well-organized extremists to speak in your union’s name.” Appelbaum of the Jewish Labor Committee asked, “Why, then, has this [BDS] worldview remained so marginal among American progressives?” He concluded that “The answer may be found in the labor movement.”
Americans inside and outside of unions should keep a close eye on what the labor movement is doing in schools, the marketplace, and politics. As in the Cold War, when Communists and anti-Communists struggled for control of the labor movement, it is imperative to note who is on which side. In the struggle with Islamic totalitarianism, Americans must look under the union label.
Dr. Andrew E. Harrod (J.D., Ph.D.) is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, which fights the misuse of human rights law as a weapon against Western societies. He can be followed on Twitter @AEHarrod.
[i] Editor’s note: The term “two-state solution” refers to a hypothetical resolution of the conflict between Israel and a largely Arab people who, in recent decades, have been referred to as “Palestinians.” It would include an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and west of the Jordan River. It could involve a swap of territory termed “land for peace.”
Some supporters of Israel back a “two-state solution” as a way of preserving the Jewish State. But others see it as a trap. In the American Thinker, February 7, 2017, Jack Winnick wrote:
The so-called “Two-State Solution” has been touted for many years by Israel’s enemies as the only way to achieve peace. The fundamentals of this “solution” consist of the creation of two new countries. One would comprise the “West Bank,” historically known as Judea and Samaria, and be populated and governed solely by Arabs. As in other Arab countries, Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims would be unwelcome.
The other “country” would comprise the area now known as Israel, but would be open to the return of millions of Arabs as citizens. These “returnees” would include all Arabs who could show any relation to those living in the ill-defined region known as “Palestine” prior to the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. This, in effect, would mean Israel would have to open its borders to all Arabs in the Levant [the Eastern Mediterranean region including Cyprus, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, “Palestine,” Syria, and Hatay Province in Turkey, as well as Israel]. The idea of a Jewish homeland would disappear. A nation populated and governed by Arabs would take its place.