Monthly Archives: August 2007

Public Services International Union Celebrates Centennial


[Hat tip to Labourstart]

Public Services International (PSI) was founded on 27th August 1907.

In March 1907, the executive of the German “Verband der Gemeinde- und Staatsarbeiter” (Federation of Municipal and State Workers), based in Berlin, called on “the workers employed in municipal and state undertakings, in power stations, in gas and water works in all countries” and convened the “First International Conference” from 25 to 27 August, 1907, in Stuttgart.

The invitation read: “The purpose of the conference is to bring about an exchange of views on pay and working conditions and on worker welfare in general, to pave the way for support in pay disputes and create firmer international ties for the workers.”

On 25 August 1907, four Danes, two Dutchmen, eight Germans, a Hungarian, a Swede and a Swiss met in the Stuttgart trade union building for the First International Conference of Workers in Public Services. The 17 delegates represented six unions with a combined membership of some 44,500. They talked for three days, mainly about the legal status, pay and working conditions of workers in public services in their respective countries. The unanimously adopted a “Resolution on the establishment of an international secretariat”.

Over the hundred years since that initial meeting, PSI membership has grown to cover some 20 million members in 651 affiliates in 154 countries and territories around the world.

JTA: American Jews owe Unions Extra ‘Thank You’ on this Labor Day


By Stuart Appelbaum

NEW YORK (JTA) — As is the custom, millions of families will soon flock to beaches and backyard barbeques to celebrate Labor Day. Unfortunately, the reason for the holiday, recognizing the value of the labor movement, is too often forgotten. Of course, every family has reason to salute the contributions unions have made to our country. After all, it was organized labor that introduced the idea of the weekend and the 8-hour day. However, this year there’s one group of Americans who have special reason to be thankful for organized labor — those of us in the Jewish community.

At a time when many in business, the media and other institutions are too timid to challenge the rising tide of anti-Semitism abroad, America’s labor leaders did something extraordinary this summer. In a stunning show of solidarity with Israel, the presidents of virtually every major U.S. union signed on a declaration denouncing anti-Israel boycotts and divestment campaigns like the ones which have been endorsed by several British unions.

The fact that unions representing everyone from teachers to truck drivers bashed the Israel-bashers is no small thing. Just ask Kenneth Stern, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s department on Anti-Semitism and Extremism, who described it as “an important milestone in the fight against attempts to demonize Israel and Israelis.”

“Our hope,” said Stern, “is that other unions around the world will follow the example of their American counterparts and realize that it is morally wrong to focus solely on Israeli actions in this conflict and to realize that such bigoted behavior is entirely inconsistent with the norms and purposes of the trade union movement.”

Is the U.S. labor movement’s opposition to the Israel boycott having an impact? So far the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Many foreign unions who once may have been tempted to follow the lead of their British counterparts are having second thoughts. Perhaps most important of all, Israel’s supporters within the international labor movement now know that they are not alone.

Clearly, the mobilization of the U.S. labor movement against the Israel boycott didn’t happen on its own. It was organized by the Jewish Labor Committee, the national organization of Jewish union leaders and their supporters. But while it was the JLC who launched the effort, it was hardly “a Jewish thing.” The vast majority of labor leaders who backed the JLC’s campaign were non-Jews. In fact, one of the first to endorse the effort was Bill Lucy, the influential president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

Some may ask why so many American union leaders decided to stand up against anti-Israel boycotts. After all, Jews today comprise only a miniscule portion of U.S. union members. The real question ought to be “why wouldn’t they?” After all, whether it was opposing the Nazis, supporting Soviet Jewry, or challenging bigotry against Jews in our own country, the labor movement has never wavered in its opposition to anti-Semitism or its support for Israel.

On this Labor Day, we ought to reflect on the contributions unions have made to our country. But that’s not all. We should also recognize that the American labor movement is one of the best friends Jews have ever had.

Mr. Appelbaum is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and President of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Thanks (Again!) to Fellow Bloggers


Thanks to fellow bloggers for linking to The New Centrist.

The Contentious Centrist on the controversy over pseudo-anthropologist Nadia Abu el-Haj. She also covers the Armenian Genocide and provides an excellent definition of centrism:

Centrism, as I see it, does not mean straddling a fence in an attempt to appease and please both sides of it. Centrism means that one has liberated herself from any allegiance to either thesis or anti-thesis. Centrism means independent thinking relying on moral clarity and principled support for universal human rights, verifiable history and truth.

Don’t Trip Up on the uses and misuses of liberalism.

Shagya Blog on Eric Blair aka George Orwell.

Bob From Brockley on the Armenian Genocide.

ModernityBlog on The New Statesman.

The Kvetcher added me to his blogroll. linked to “Hyderabad, India: Terrorist Attack Leaves 40 Dead.” Click “From the Blogs.”

Ron Paul and the Paulistas, Part II,” had the kooks from coming out of the woodwork. I expected some increased traffic but Paul’s minions live on the Internet so the hits went through the roof. You can read their replies here.

Thanks to all. Well, almost all…

Shabbat shalom and have a great weekend.

Eve Garrard: Gaza, Auschwitz of our Time?


[Hat tip to Norman Geras and Engage]

The claim has been made that Gaza is rather like the Warsaw ghetto. Now this claim is either a legitimate comparison, or it’s a peculiarly unpleasant smear, insinuating that Israel is akin to Nazi Germany. So let’s see if it’s a legitimate comparison. The two main features of the Warsaw ghetto were (1) that it was an unspeakable atrocity, leading to the deaths of nearly half a million Jews and others, and (2) that it was part of a genocidal plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Take the first point, and consider the comparison: on the one hand, the number of Palestinian refugees in the late 1940s was approximately 750,000, but it now stands between 4 and 6 million. It would be quite hard to regard this as even an attempted genocide – few genocides end up with an increase in the victim population of the order of several hundred per cent. By contrast, the size of the Jewish population in the Warsaw ghetto after the three years in which it existed was zero. The current life expectancy of a Palestinian woman is 75 years, according to the UN. What was the life expectancy of a Jewish woman in the Warsaw ghetto? Whatever age she was, she had at the very most three more years to live. Not a striking similarity, then.

With reference to the second significant feature of the Warsaw ghetto, which supposedly resembles Gaza, it should be noted that Israel has had control of the skies over Gaza for many years now, and had it wanted to it could have produced the same outcome as the Nazis did in the Warsaw ghetto. The fact that it hasn’t done so would demonstrate to most people, even those hostile enough to stand in need of a demonstration, that it has no such aims. People who maintain their suspicion that Israel has genocidal intentions towards the population of Gaza do so in the face of a total lack of evidence to support their view.

Let us now consider whether there is any evidence that Israel is aiming to exterminate the Palestinians in general. Where are the slave labour camps in the Territories, in which tens and hundreds of thousands are worked to death, with a life expectancy of between three and six months? Where are the gas chambers killing thousands every day? Beats me, I just can’t see them.

So the comparison is not, to put it mildly, a legitimate one. It is, in fact, a poisonous smear, which derives its repellent quality partly from its exploitation of the terrible history of the Nazis and the Jews. It’s hard to know why some people feel the need to paint the swastika on to the foreheads of the Jews of Israel in this way, to covertly suggest that the Nazis have been reincarnated as Israeli Jews and that Israel is the new Third Reich. I think it’s unlikely that all boycotters share these views, but insofar as they do, their position is morally polluted by this new version of a very old stereotype, that Jews are secretly planning to kill millions of innocent people. (Eve Garrard)

Podhoretz: World War IV


[Hat tip to Ira Stoll @ The New York Sun]

The journalistic category of war correspondence evokes images of dashing young men in flak jackets and muddy combat boots, dodging bullets and hitching rides in jeeps. It is a measure of how different the current war is that one of our finest war reporters turns out to be a 77-year-old grandfather who does most of his reporting in Manhattan rather than from Kabul or Baghdad.

It’s not that Norman Podhoretz hasn’t seen attacks firsthand. The morning of September 11, 2001, he was serving jury duty on Centre Street and was out on the street as the second tower collapsed. His great skill, though, is as a reporter of the war of ideas, one of the hottest fronts in the conflict described by Mr. Podhoretz with the title of his latest book, “World War IV” ( Doubleday, 224 pages, $24.95).

It’s a slim volume built to a large degree on his essays about the war in Commentary, but even those of us who are readers of the magazine and followers of the war will find in it new insights. Mr. Podhoretz has a clear idea of our enemies in Al Qaeda and the other Islamofascist forces and of their goals, but where he really shines is in his assessments of their sympathizers in the West.

He quotes the wonderful descriptions by Nick Cohen of the London Observer of the antiwar marches throughout Europe in 2003: “About a million liberal-minded people marched through London to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime… In Madrid, about 650,000 marched to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime.” All told, throughout Europe, “millions, maybe tens of millions, had marched to keep a fascist regime in power.”

Mr. Podhoretz quotes the Italian playwright Dario Fo, a Nobel laureate, as minimizing the attacks of September 11 by writing, “The great speculators wallow in an economy that every year kills tens of millions of people with poverty– so what is 20,000 [sic] dead in New York?” Mr. Podhoretz quotes a professor of classics at Cambridge University, Mary Beard, as saying of September 11, “the United States had it coming.”

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Fall Semester 2007…


School started this week so I have not had as much time to spend on the blog as usual. Preparing lesson plans takes a lot more time than putting together a short blog post. I hope to keep posting 2-3 articles a day although that may not be possible as things get busier and more crazed on the job.

Ralph Seliger: Arab and Jewish Theme Schools



[Hat tip to Ralph Seliger at Meretz USA]

Curiously, two public schools dedicated separately to Hebrew and Arab language and culture, in Florida and New York respectively, have simultaneously made news . Our journalist friend, Doug Chandler, co-authored this story on the Arab school controversy. The following quote from a NY Times article bothered me because the concern expressed is factually flawed:

Opponents say that it is impossible to teach Hebrew — and aspects of Jewish culture — outside a religious context, and that Ben Gamla, billed as the nation’s first Hebrew-English charter school, violates one of its paramount legal and political boundaries.

One can indeed teach Hebrew, or any language, outside of a religious context. It’s also true that because its emphasis is on language, this school cannot be replicated by Christian groups. But I wonder if public schools should be in the business of imparting ethnic culture – which is also why I question the Arab school in New York. But teaching the Hebrew and Arabic languages (as well as social studies classes that cover Middle Eastern cultures) are proper course offerings for youngsters in public schools.

Critics on the school board in South Florida disregard the extent to which public schools in much if not most of America are infused with Christian religious themes. The very idea of Christmas parties and overtly religious Christmas carols – something I remember very clearly from my school days, even when the schools I attended had mostly Jewish students – stamp the public schools with the sense of a majority Christian identity. I think that this is a more serious issue, because it’s so prevalent, than are worries over a Jewish or an Arab curriculum here or there.

—–>[~you can read The New Centrist’s perspective here~]<—–

Bernie Sanders: FOX News Wants to Attack Iran


Self-described socialist senator Bernie Sanders (D, VT) is a confused individual. In a recent article he blames FOX News, not Iranian policies, for driving the U.S. towards war with Iran.

“Fox Attacks: Iran” is a bold effort to provide Americans with a different view of our policy toward Iran than the one Fox News keeps pushing on us. While Fox beats the drums for war, Robert Greenwald has produced documentary evidence that unmasks the ‘coverage’ for what it is: propaganda to get Americans ready for a Bush administration attack on yet another Middle Eastern nation. Robert has done something remarkable. He has used his extraordinary media skills to make a short video – only three minutes – to educate the American people, using the Internet as a way to connect us.

Click on the link just to read the responses of the moonbats.

To review, Greenwald and Sanders ignore that Iran recently took British sailors hostage and that three American academics remain in jail in that country. Neither addresses the seriousness of Iran’s nuclear program, threats against Israel or Iran’s support of terrorist organizations–including Hezbollah–in the Middle East. Instead we are treated to Greenwald’s ham-handed, cut-and-paste pastiche without any sort of context. While this is certain to appeal to his target audience I wonder how much this “documentary” will resonate with the broader American public?

Schoenfeld: Fare Thee Well, Alberto Gonzales, and Good Riddance


[Hat tip to Gabriel Schoenfeld at Contentions]

Alberto Gonzales is leaving the Justice Department with a lot of sensitive business pending. One open case of exceptional importance concerns the leak of highly classified information about the National Security Agency’s terrorist-surveillance program. Details of the program were published in the New York Times in a series of articles beginning on December 16, 2005, and supplemented in State of War, a book by Times reporter James Risen, which came out the following month.

A grand jury has been investigating the leak since January 2006. Earlier this month, a former Justice Department lawyer by the name of Thomas M. Tamm had his home searched and his computers, including two of his children’s laptops, seized, along with his personal papers, in a raid by the FBI. Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reported that the raid was connected to a criminal probe into the NSA wiretapping leak.

Gonzales’s own participation in this case is of a piece with his overall performance: fecklessness combined with an inability to articulate a clear position. The fact is that the NSA leak in the Times occurred in the middle of a war. It concerned not secrets from the past, as in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case (also involving a leak to the Times), but an ongoing operational-intelligence program designed to prevent a second September 11. On its face, as I argued in COMMENTARY, the Times had violated Section 798 of Title 18, which makes it a crime to disclose classified information pertaining to communications intelligence.

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Lebanese Army Prepares Final Obliteration of Refugee Camp, Really


[Hat tip to CK at Jewlicious]

I was watching Al Jazeera. They were showing the Oscar winning West Bank Story (I hadn’t seen it yet). After the screening they showed a discussion between Palestinians and Israelis who had also seen the film. Suddenly, a news alert flashed across the screen and as the competing Felafel and Hummus stands burnt to the ground, Al Jazeera let us know that once again, the Lebanese Army was bombing the shit out of what was left of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. They are hoping to flush out the remaining Fatah al-Islam gunmen inside. So far 300 people have died in the fighting and all but 80 of the 40,000 residents of the problematic camp have fled. This fighting has been going on for months. No really. I’m not kidding – 300 dead and 40,000 homeless. I’m serious. Here – read about it on the BBC. Or on Reuters.

Now I know these Fatah al-Islam gunmen dudes are supporters of Al Quaeda and all – but with 40,000 people forced out of their homes, you’d expect some UN guys to say something or at least some cool footage of weeping civilians. With 40,000 people frightened away by intense violence, someone had to have wept. I’ll keep monitoring the news. I’m sure we’ll get the footage of this human rights catastrophe pronto. Any minute now, I’m sure.

Oh, and I enjoyed West Bank Story. Didn’t enjoy the post-movie conversation as much, but the movie was hilarious.