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Workers Vanguard No. 1089

6 May 2016

Down With Zionist Witchhunt Against BDS Activists!

In mid April, University of California campuses at Berkeley, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles were plastered with posters attacking the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a “Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel.” Signed with the hashtag #StopTheJewHatredOnCampus and linked to the website of rabid Zionist David Horowitz, the posters ominously named students and faculty involved in pro-Palestinian activism as “terrorist” allies. This smear job came barely a month after the UC Board of Regents passed a resolution condemning “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” While toned down from the Regents’ original proposal, which explicitly equated any opposition to Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry, the resolution comes in the context of an onslaught, heavily orchestrated by the Israeli government, against the BDS movement in the U.S. and internationally.

An Intercept article (16 February) titled “Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation,” co-authored by Glenn Greenwald, details the backlash. In France, 12 activists were arrested and prosecuted for “wearing shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel’” and for handing out “fliers that said ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza’.” In Britain, the government has outlawed participation in the boycott of trade benefiting Israeli settlements. In the U.S., at least 21 state legislatures have taken up resolutions aimed against BDS. Greenwald noted that under already existing laws “American companies have been fined for actions deemed supportive of boycotts aimed at Israel.”

As detailed in a Palestine Legal report titled “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech,” repression has been particularly intense on American college campuses. From New York University to the University of New Mexico, supporters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have been assaulted, suspended, fined and accused of terrorism and anti-Semitism. Thirty-five New York state legislators have called to ban SJP at the City University of New York, while the Columbia University SJP received bomb threats against one of its events. At San Francisco State University, the Zionist group AMCHA Initiative charged the General Union of Palestine Students with supporting the “murder of Jews” after the group marked the sixth anniversary of a campus mural honoring the late Palestinian rights activist and scholar Edward Said.

Democratic Party presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have joined the witchhunting chorus. In her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Clinton accused pro-Palestinian students and faculty of “bullying” Jewish students and vowed to make “countering BDS a priority.” Echoing this sentiment, if somewhat less vigorously, Sanders argued that “there is some level of anti-Semitism” involved in the BDS movement.

However much we disagree with the liberal strategy of BDS, the Spartacist League/Spartacus Youth Clubs vigorously oppose the campaign of slander and repression against BDS and other fighters for Palestinian rights. Equating anti-Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry is aimed at silencing all opponents of the bloody crimes of the Israeli state, including a growing number of Jewish students and activists who support BDS. It also serves to bury actual instances of anti-Jewish hatred under a mountain of lies. Moreover, in the supercharged climate of the imperialists’ “war on terror,” to be charged as “allies” of terrorism is to be branded as people whom the capitalist state can and should eliminate. Hands off BDS supporters! Defend the Palestinians!

Mobilize for International Labor Solidarity!

Unlike the BDS movement, which looks to capitalist corporations and governments to implement trade boycotts and sanctions to pressure Israel, our starting point is the need for international working-class solidarity in defense of the Palestinians. We are for time-delimited labor boycotts to protest particular atrocities—for example, workers refusing to handle Israeli cargo during the 2014 bombardment of Gaza. We are also for a standing labor boycott of all military shipments to Israel, which would be a real blow against the Zionist butchers and, even more crucially, their bloody U.S. imperialist patrons. The purpose of these demands is to strengthen the fighting power and class-consciousness of workers in the U.S. in solidarity with the exploited and oppressed of the world.

A central obstacle in the way is the trade-union bureaucracy, which subordinates the workers’ interests to the profitability of American capitalism and the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism abroad. Last year, the International Executive Board of the United Auto Workers (UAW) joined in denouncing BDS as anti-Jewish. Overturning a pro-BDS resolution passed by UAW Local 2865, representing 14,000 teaching assistants and student workers employed by the University of California, the UAW misleaders grotesquely accused the resolution of “biased targeting of Israeli/Jewish members.” In addition, keeping to their cowardly prostration before the bosses’ laws, the auto union bureaucrats argued that the resolution would interfere with “the flow of commerce” and violate the “no strike” clause in the union’s contract.

In a statement opposing the UAW International’s nullification of the resolution, Local 2865’s BDS caucus pointed out that the bureaucracy’s argument “is clearly based on the interests of the employers rather than those of workers.” True enough. The class-collaborationist policies of the sellouts sitting on top of the unions are based on the lie that the workers have common interests with their exploiters. It is ironic, to say the least, that the UAW International bureaucracy nullified the BDS resolution in the service of the very same corporations and capitalist government that BDS seeks to pressure.

An open letter initiated by Labor for Palestine calling on the UAW officials to “Respect Union Democracy, Solidarity and the BDS Picket Line” argues that the nullification of the BDS motion contradicts the union leadership’s previous support for civil rights movement boycotts and the South Africa divestment campaign. Like the UAW bureaucracy, the pro-Democratic Party civil rights leadership around Martin Luther King was looking to contain more militant struggle in the confines of bourgeois electoralism. The black Democrats who spearheaded the anti-apartheid divestment movement were part of a broader effort by corporations and governments to save South African capitalism when it was increasingly clear that the days of white-supremacist rule were numbered. In both cases, the common denominator behind the UAW’s support was the Democratic Party. It is precisely the union leadership’s ties to the Democratic Party, which historically has been even more pro-Zionist than the Republicans, that makes them opponents of even the tepid BDS campaign.

The Labor for Palestine statement notes that the pro-Zionist policies of the UAW bureaucrats were challenged by wildcat strikes and other protests in the past. Following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Arab auto workers in Detroit mobilized, including through strike action, in opposition to the purchase of Israeli war bonds by the UAW Local 600 leadership and against then-UAW president Leonard Woodcock accepting the “Humanitarian of the Year” award from the Zionists of B’nai B’rith. The Spartacist League and our youth organization at the time, the Revolutionary Communist Youth, participated in a protest against the Woodcock award with banners and signs demanding: “End Discrimination Against Arab Workers!” “Oust the Bureaucrats—Build a Workers Party! Forward to a Workers Government!” and “No Support to Arab Regimes, Butchers of the Palestinian Resistance!”

In opposition to the prevailing politics of Arab nationalism, our leaflet called for proletarian revolutionary struggle for a socialist federation of the Near East. We argued: “Only the organized and conscious working class, Arab and Hebrew alike, can overcome the endless cycle of war, oppression and revenge, issuing from the domination of competing nationalisms, and provide a truly democratic solution to the national conflict” (“Arab Workers Shut Down Dodge Main,” WV No. 34, 7 December 1973).

ISO Rides BDS Bandwagon

In a 17 March article titled “Building BDS and the Union at NYU” (, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) promoted the campaign by UAW-organized graduate student workers at NYU to pass a resolution endorsing BDS. Arguing that this is crucial “to revitalize a union and the labor movement as a whole,” the article enthused, “With their potential social and economic weight, labor unions particularly can make a contribution to the global BDS movement.” Far from having anything to do with mobilizing the social power of labor, the ISO urges the working class to line up behind a leadership that accepts the framework of capitalist rule, whether that be BDS or the trade-union bureaucracy. This serves to offer no alternative for workers and the oppressed other than to eke out an existence under the boot of the bourgeoisie.

In its article, the ISO also called to support an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, which was adopted by the NYU graduate students union by a narrow margin. We oppose such boycotts, which smear the entire Israeli population with the crimes of its ruling class. Moreover, the demand to boycott Israeli universities appeals to the supposed higher morality of academic institutions located in the center of the world imperialist order. Universities in the U.S. are no less tied to the American capitalist state and its far more gruesome crimes than Israeli universities are to the Zionist state. The multiple attempts to shut down pro-Palestinian rights activists on the campuses should serve to underscore that fact.

As revolutionary Marxists, we fight to break the working class from all illusions in the “good will” or “democracy” of U.S. imperialist rule. The American capitalist state—with the cops, courts, prisons and military at its core—represents and defends the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Just as it is the enemy of black people, immigrants and the working class here at home, the U.S. ruling class is the enemy of the Palestinians and all the oppressed abroad.

International labor solidarity is key to defending the struggles of the toiling masses of the world against their brutal subjugation by the imperialists and their local allies. Not only would such solidarity by U.S. trade unionists strengthen the hand of workers internationally against their capitalist exploiters, it would also advance the class struggle in this country. This perspective means fighting for a new leadership of the unions—one rooted in a program of proletarian internationalist struggle, not pandering to the class enemy, as the ISO does in promoting BDS. The Spartacist League and the Spartacus Youth Clubs are committed to defending the Palestinians as part of the fight to build an internationalist, multiracial, revolutionary workers party. Only such a party can lead a struggle for the socialist liberation of humanity.


Workers Vanguard No. 1089

WV 1089

6 May 2016


For the Decriminalization of Drugs!

Capitalist Misery and Heroin Addiction


PT Popular Front Paved Way for Right-Wing Reaction

Brazil Impeachment: Workers Have No Side

Break with the PT—For a Revolutionary Workers Party!


For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

Defend the Palestinian People!


Down With Zionist Witchhunt Against BDS Activists!


The Popular Front: Class Betrayal

(Quote of the Week)


Bolshevism vs. Stalinism on the Family

Greek Communist Party Pushes Anti-Gay Bigotry


Greek Trotskyists Launch Newspaper


Defend Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State!

Down With the Race and Class Purge of the Universities!

For Free, Quality, Integrated Education for All!

(Young Spartacus pages)