CUPEOK, hopefully Muffti managed to convince you that the academic boycott(s) in Britain were far more hype than substance: in reality, the ‘boycott’ motion was passed and designed to last a few days (the unions merge officially today, ending the boycott until they re-think it in 2007. Now that there are way more academics in one room than before trying to think it out, they should have an acceptable draft by, say, 2204). In any case, the boycott on inspection really looked more like mealy mouthed vague ‘advice’ rather than a demand for, well, anything.

However, a boycott by Canadian public employees threatens to be a bit more substantial. ‘CUPE’ is an acronym for Canadian Union of Public Employees and it is one of the more powerful unions in the country.

As CUPE auto-describes:

With more than half a million members across Canada, CUPE represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines… A strong and democratic union, CUPE is committed to improving the quality of life for workers in Canada. Women and men working together to form local unions built CUPE. They did so to have a stronger voice – a collective voice – in their workplace and in society as a whole.

Sounds good, right? One would think that with that many members in that many areas of employment and in that many geographical regions, one would figure that the only common interest would be in protecting worker’s rights, fighting for minimum wage increases, etc. That’s why it’s odd to see that the other day that the Ontario division took the time to vote on boycotting Israel. As CUPE’s press statement claims:

CUPE members will have read about the CUPE Ontario vote held at its annual convention in Ottawa on May 27, 2006, to support a boycott of Israel. CUPE National has a policy that was adopted at our 2003 national convention. That policy states that we

*”demand that the Israeli Government immediately withdraw from the occupied territories and abide by UN Resolution 242 and 338″;
*”call for and actively work towards an end to all acts of violence that take the lives of innocent people, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli”; and,
*”help develop a peace process based on equality between Israelis and Palestinians and based on the implementation of United Nations resolutions and international law.”

CUPE National respects the right of its chartered organizations to take a stand on all issues. As a national union we are governed by policy resolutions adopted at our national conventions. And as such, we will not be issuing a call to our local unions across Canada to boycott Israel.

CUPE encourages democratic debate on international issues. Debates focused on the Middle East should respect the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinian and Israeli people.

According to the CBC, the vote in Ontario was overwhelmingly in support of the boycott. Katherine Nastovski, chairwoman of the CUPE Ontario international solidarity committee.


Boycott, divestment and sanction worked to end apartheid in South Africa…We believe the same strategy will work to enforce the rights of Palestinian people, including the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties.

Indeed. The Globe and Mail ran a similar story.

The British Columbia wing of CUPE has maintained an ‘education’ program aimed at providing anti-wall pedagogy with the message tear down the wall! tear down the wall! The CUPE BC press release claims:

The violence in Israel and the occupied
Palestinian territories has come from both sides.
Its human tragedies are equally devastating for
all victims and their families. Innocents, including
children, have been killed on and by both sides
and both sides have violated international law.

But the violence by Israelis and by Palestinians
cannot be equated. It does not have the same
roots nor are the two sides guilty in the same way.
What we often hear described simply as “the
violence” in the Middle East cannot be understood
without understanding what the Israeli
military occupation is really about.

Because military occupation is itself illegal, all
Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories is in
violation of international law, specifically the 1949
Geneva Convention, which identifies the obligation
of an occupying power to protect the
occupied population.

Palestinian violence historically has tended to be
a violence of resistance. Palestinians have the
legal right to resist against military targets and
have done so in the past. However, the violence
has changed in recent years as living conditions
under the Israeli occupation have deteriorated
dramatically and increasing numbers have lost
hope and succumbed to desperation.

In the context of increased Israeli repression and
the increased influence of organizations like
Hamas, suicide bombings have been launched
inside Israel, specifically targeting Israeli civilians.
These Palestinian attacks on civilians are themselves
a violation of international law and are
universally condemned. Unfortunately, after
38 years of brutal occupation, prominent Israelis
are not surprised by these attacks.

Muffti thinks we can all see where this is going; but if you want to see the entire 36 pages, complete with picture and graphs, click here (.pdf file will begin to download).

To no one’s great surprise, Jews were a tad unhappy with the actions of the Union. As Steven Schulman, Ontario regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) put it (reported in the CJC):

For a respected labour union to engage in such a vote which is completely one-sided and based on mistruths is shocking.

The Canadian Jewish News ran an editorial lambasting the union. Here’s a snippet:

Nastovski hit upon the two key, resonating code-words: “apartheid” and “refugees.” And in doing so, she sealed the poison into the envelope that she and her colleagues are intent on distributing throughout Canada.

But there should be no misunderstanding: the apartheid analogy is false, odious and immoral; and calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties is, in effect, calling for the dismantling of the Jewish State of Israel.

The single-minded, zealous preoccupation of these groups in targeting only Israel for exceptional, punitive treatment – through boycott, divestment and sanctions – is no longer puzzling. It simply tells us a great deal about the true nature of the groups. We ask the broader CUPE membership, other trade unions and public officials to repudiate and reject the CUPE calumny against Israel.

The National Post ran a similar editorial, though Muffti can’t help but find the end of it rather creepy:

Union power has withered in recent decades for a variety of reasons — including outsourcing, mechanization and the decline of manufacturing. It is no coincidence that the only place unions still flourish is the public sector, the one part of our economy that’s immune from market forces. But even here, their continued survival isn’t guaranteed.

Till now, public unions have survived because the financial benefits the country would reap from breaking them are smaller than the associated political costs that governments would suffer. But that will change if union leaders present themselves as radical ideologues who care more about signing on to fashionable causes than actually supporting workers’ rights. So keep talking, Ms. Nastovski. When Canada’s governments finally bust the nation’s pampered public unions, we’ll have you to thank.

Way to deviate from the point. The Toronto Star also ran a milder in tone editorial and Ha’aretz took the time to report the decision. They report our superhero ADL leader Abe Foxman as claiming:

…the union’s resolution makes no effort to reflect current realities on the ground in the region. There is no mention of Israel’s unilateral redeployment from Gaza and proposed action in the West Bank, nor is there any recognition of the challenges posed by the terrorist group Hamas’ reign over the Palestinian Authority and its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist or to renounce terror

Muffti appreciates the sentiment but can’t overcome a bit of homeland pride. Abe, mind your own country! Do we really need another American pushing Canada around?

The campaign aimed at this result has been going on for a year and was supported in large part by academics and churches.

All credit is due to Kenny for this story, who provided the links and much of the snarky tone but none of the spelling mistakes. And Muffti will conclude with his new end of post prayer:

May the founding members of Jewlicious, who in their infinite wisdom and sensitivity grant Muffti the power to post, smile favourably upon this post and its tone.

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8 Comments

  • As a Canadian Public Servant (PSAC, not CUPE) I’m not sure that this will have any real impact beyond the psychological impact. As a former Ontario CUPE member, I do not think that the rank and file have either the interest or the ability to act on this call for boycott. Certainly, not under the policies they are obliged to follow.

    CUPE has a history of being a bit out of line when it comes to these kinds of issues.

    Having said that I still think this is an outrageous resolution and needs to be rounding condemned.

  • As Jews across Canada celebrate Shavout, we’ll be shoving mouthfuls of dairy products into our system. Couple that with our predisposition to lactose problems…well…we can have a might smelly protest if we all band together and visit our local Cupe office en masse. Fuck ’em.

  • As someone heavily involved in both Israel activism in Canada, progessive causes, and the national political scene here I would recomend against spaming cupe… it’s just futher their assholeness… instead i would encourage 2 things – SHORT TERM – Jewish CUPE members need to step up and speak out… for too long our community has remained silent, maybe even by refusing their union dues. LONG TERM – the jewish community needs to get involved in the political scene, especially the progessive political scene… the only way to address the deep antisemitism that can be found in the Canadian left is to shatter it with knowledge… the only way to explain israel’s right to exist and defend itself is to make the story personal.

    Remind them that this isn’t a simple picture. That the wall – as much as i hate to admit it – saves lives. Remind them that Israel tried to return the territitoris. Never surrender israel’s right to exist in peace, but also be honest about its failings. Israel isn’t perfect, but it’s not apartheid either.

    We have to get involved – giving up is not an option.

  • The boycott sickens me. I’m with shtreimel. Throw away the lactaid – Jews of Canada unite!

  • Shtremiel, that was…gross 🙂 but, characteristically creative! Glad to see you still have juice, ol’ friend.

    Good call Tom C and thanks for providing a link to the petition Noah B. Kol Isha, that was, ummn, gross 🙂

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