In the true tradition of trade unionism, CUPE Ontario will always choose justice over injustice, side with the powerless over the powerful, and support the colonized over the colonizer. Throughout the world, CUPE Ontario’s International Solidarity Committee (ISC) links members to workers’ global struggles so that we may stand in solidarity with all oppressed peoples.
From this foundation, we do not hesitate to condemn the terrible violence in southern Israel and Gaza that took place over this past weekend, and that continues to escalate, with no end in sight. CUPE Ontario members have shared the world’s shock and horror at the attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas fighters and at the subsequent Israeli military assault on the people of Gaza. Violence and death visited on civilians is deplorable and CUPE Ontario mourns the brutal loss of innocent lives. We offer our condolences especially to those CUPE members who have ties to Israel and Palestine, and echo calls for an immediate cease and discussions that lead to a just peace.
However, in these volatile times, the same principles that guide us also make us targets of others’ hate and intolerance. Recently, CUPE Ontario became the focus of far-right extremist hate because of our role in the counter-protests to the September 20 anti-trans demonstrations. Now we find ourselves targeted by a highly organized pro-Israel lobby that seeks to control the anti-Palestinian narrative fed to Canadians and intimidate any person or organization that fails to comply with its agenda.
This lobby rejects any attempt or even reference to context, nuance or appeal to even-handedness in the history of Israel/Palestine. True to form, it has targeted CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn and CUPE 3906 for their recognition of Palestinians’ rights under international law to resist occupation through armed struggle. Support for these rights has guided the creation of CUPE Ontario’s policy against the apartheid policy of the state of Israel; that policy, often led by CUPE post-secondary locals, also forms part of our proud history of work against all forms of oppression and injustice.
These discussions are made even more challenging in our country given the one-sided media coverage and our current political environment. In news stories, Palestinians are routinely dehumanized and openly threatened with annihilation by members of Israel’s government; yet these displays of racism and threats of genocide have received no condemnation from any official quarter in Canada.
Still, CUPE Ontario and the ISC refuse to conflate the tragedy of the Israeli lives cut short since Saturday with a denial of support for Palestinians, their suffering and their rights to self-determination.
We contrast this principled stance with those of most of our elected leaders across the political spectrum. Their reactions have been uniformly disappointing, as they openly side with Israel and avoid any expressions of recognition or solidarity with Palestinians. Politicians of all stripes also selectively call for restrictions on free speech and freedom of assembly for supporters of Palestine and they happily mischaracterize pro-Palestinian rallies as pro-Hamas demonstrations. Most strikingly, tew have called for an immediate ceasefire, even as the death toll rises every hour in Gaza.
Hope for a just and lasting peace that offers security and freedom for everyone in Palestine and Israel: this fervent desire is at the heart of CUPE Ontario’s and the ISC’s calls for justice and it joins us to the global solidarity movement fighting for the rights of all peoples to liberation and self-determination.