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German DGB Union President Michael Sommer said calls for boycotts of Israel are reminiscent of Nazi slogans such as the sign above which says "German! Beware! Do not buy from Jews!"
News and Opinion

German and American Workers Unite!
Labor movements oppose boycott On Israel.

-- Arieh Lebowitz

The president of the Jewish Labor Committee, a national organization of Jewish union activists and their supporters, applauded a recent decision by Germany's largest labor federation to oppose a growing boycott campaign against Israel.

JLC President Stuart Appelbaum, who is also the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the move by the 6.5 million-member Confederation of German Trade Unions [Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund DGB] is a "powerful statement against the Israel-bashing which has become common in the European labor movement."

 Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee

On September 25, the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee hosted a meeting with the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council to hear a briefing from Bernard Fisher and Edward Mooney. The two labor leaders participated in the Labor Israel Institute, coordinated by the national JLC and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Fisher is Administrative Organizer of 1199C, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO and President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Philadelphia Chapter. Mooney is President of the Communications Workers of America, Local 13000.

Fisher and Mooney gained unique perspectives into the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict by traveling to a Negev Bedouin community, Nazareth (Israel's largest Arab city), and the Golan Heights. In addition, they gained new insights into the challenges facing Israeli society and trade unionists through lively meetings with Histadrut leadership and their labor counterparts, journalists, municipal and national Israeli politicians, and recent immigrants.

In Jerusalem, Fisher and Mooney discussed Israeli labor protections with Justice Stephen Adler of the National Labor Court, visited Yad Vashem and toured Holy sites. In Tel Aviv, they met with Gershon Gelman, Chairman, Tel Aviv-Jaffa Regional Labor Council, who signed a friendship agreement with the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO last fall, and they went to Kav La'Oved, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of disadvantaged migrant and Palestinian workers. The two labor leaders also traveled to Haifa, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and Kibbutz Barkai. Fisher and Mooney cheered in the stands at Israel's first national baseball game.

In addition to the Israel Labor Institute, another exciting development this summer was the JLC Statement of Opposition to Divestment From or Boycotts of Israel, signed by 44 major labor leaders in the US and the reaction it has received from European unions.

In July, July, the leaders of virtually every major U.S. union signed on to a JLC statement blasting British union support for the boycott effort. "The backers of the boycott campaign have pulled out the stops to brand Israel as the embodiment of evil in the Middle East," said Appelbaum. "Though they claim they are concerned with the problems facing Palestinians, their efforts only bolster the extremists who refuse to accept Israel's right to exist."

In its statement opposing the boycott campaign, the DGB said "Israel's right to exist is non-negotiable," adding that "anyone who challenges the foundations of the Jewish state can always reckon with our decisive resistance."

DGB President Michael Sommer recently told a German newspaper that calls for boycott measures are reminiscent of the Nazi slogan, "Don't Shop at Jewish Stores!"

"When U.S. labor leaders stood up against the Israel-bashers in July they sent a powerful message of solidarity to the people of Israel and everyone else who believes in peace," Appelbaum said. "Now, with the added backing of Germany's labor movement, the tide may be starting to turn against the boycott campaign."

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