Trade Union Journey 2015

In September 2015 John Fussell, labor attorney and TOL Board member, Reverend David W. Good and Jiries Atrash led a labor delegation to the Palestinian West Bank that included former AFL-CIO President John Olsen, Connecticut Building Trades President David Roche and others.
Jiries Atrash, John Olsen (retired CT AFL-CIO President), Mahmoud Abu Odeh, John Fussell

Jiries Atrash, John Olsen (CT AFL-CIO President Emeritus), Mahmoud Abu Odeh, John Fussell

Trip background…
In 2013, the Connecticut AFL-CIO partnered with the Tree of Life Educational Fund to invite the Palestinian General Federation Trade Union (PGFTU) representative to address the 400 delegates of the Convention. Those who attended heard Mahmoud Abu Odeh describe the terrible conditions that Palestinian workers endure under the Israeli occupation. The PGFTU in turn invited Connecticut Labor leaders to visit Palestine and to meet with labor leaders and visit work sites to learn more about the condition of labor for Palestinians under occupation.

The PGFTU has requested the solidarity of trade unionist throughout the world to assist in helping to bring a fair resolution to the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict. UNI Global responded to that call in December at its Congress of Labor Unions when it passed a resolution calling for a just peace to that conflict. Shortly before the TOL Trade Union Journey, the Vatican joined over 130 nations in also recognizing a Palestinian State and calling for a just peace.

 

Trip report from Carol Lambiase, U.S. Labor Delegation member

TOL U.S. Trade Union Delegation

TOL U.S. Trade Union Delegation

In September I was part of a Union delegation to Palestine, which included CT AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Olsen, CT Building Trades President David Roche, Machinists Union Political Director for the Eastern States Conference Bill Shortell, labor attorney John Fussell, Steelworkers Union activist Anne Marie Miller and others from the Tree of Life Educational Fund.

A highlight of the trip was our meeting with the top leaders of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), where I was able to deliver the UE Resolution on Justice and Peace for the People of Palestine and Israel to General Secretary Shaher Sa’ed.

Palestinian worker at an early morning checkpoint

Palestinian worker at an early morning checkpoint

We learned how West Bank Palestinian workers who have jobs in Israel spend several hours each way at the border crossing even though they have work permits. The passage is surrounded by barbed wire and cattle like cages and can involve x-raying and disrobing at the directive of armed Israelis. Once in Israel, the Palestinian workers perform the lowest paid, dirtiest and riskiest jobs. There is no “equal pay for equal work.”

We traveled through Palestine and saw the Israeli settlements that are in violation of the Geneva conventions, the illegal “Separation Wall” that carves through Palestinian land and the modern “by-pass” roads built on Palestinian land by Israel for the convenience of Israeli settler travel from within the occupied West Bank to Israel but foreclosed to Palestinians. We saw Israeli military checkpoints, some at permanent locations, and some randomly stopping cars. We were given a tour by a former Israeli soldier who is “Breaking the Silence”, and talking about his orders to manage the occupation by searching homes at 2 AM, interrogating residents not suspected of any wrong doing and “keeping the roads sterile.” His orders were “to make the Palestinians feel hunted.” We saw the water tanks on the tops of Palestinian houses because Israel controls the aquifers and restricts Palestinian water use. Israelis have no restrictions.

TOL U.S. Delegation with Aida Toumi-Sliman

Delegation with Aida Touma-Sliman (center)

In Israel we met with Aida Touma Sliman, a member of the Knesset and learned of the systematic discrimination against Palestinian Muslims and Christians Israeli citizens. Although Palestinian-Arabs citizens of Israel make up twenty percent of the Israeli population, their sons and daughters, largely segregated in separate schools, receive one third of State resources allocated by Israel to the schools of the Jewish children. Israel is cutting the funding for Christian schools. A few Arab villages that Israel destroyed managed to relocate but are under threat of destruction again.

We were reminded of the former apartheid regime in South Africa, and we were reminded of the time when European colonizers came to North America and drove out the native peoples and took over their land. When I asked a PGFTU leader what it would be helpful for us to do when we returned to the U.S., he said “just tell the truth about what you saw.” Efforts at the U.N. to hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation of Palestine Territory have been vetoed by the U.S. We saw the other side of the conflict rarely, if ever, reported in the U.S. media. I recommend that anyone who wants to understand the truth about Palestine contact the Tree of Life Educational Fund and sign up for a tour.

Complete Trade Union Journey Report

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

One Response to “Trade Union Journey 2015”