Canadian postal workers urge divestment of 'apartheid' Israel

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers passed a resolution at its national convention in April supporting the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, labeling it an "apartheid state" and calling on the Canadian government to increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. "It's time to push for a fair and just settlement so that both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace," said Denis Lemelin, the CUPW national president. "There can't be a solution while settlements exist on Palestinian land and while a security barrier restricts the movement of Palestinian workers." The move, praised by anti-Israel groups such as The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, is the first time a national union in North American history has passed such a resolution against Israel. The resolution by the CUPW, which represents more than 50,000 postal workers in Canada, states that the union will work "with Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations to develop an educational campaign about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the political and economic support of Canada for these practices." Using UN resolutions as its basis, the resolution also calls on Israel to "immediately withdraw from the occupied territories" and "tear down the Israeli-West Bank barrier." Expressing support for a condition the Israeli government has repeatedly refused to agree to, the CUPW resolution also calls on Israel to recognize the Palestinian people's "right to return to their homes as stipulated in UN Resolution 194" - a demand by Palestinian negotiators that would virtually erase the Jewish state. But the resolution was dismissed by Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber. "CUPW has a very well-established, almost iconic reputation as a radical organization on the far extremes of the Canadian labor movement," he said. "[The resolution] was a foregone conclusion almost from the outset." Farber also said that the fact the resolution was largely ignored by the mainstream media suggested that people did not take the CUPW resolutions seriously. "The vast majority of men and women working for the postal service have no clue about such resolutions," Farber said. "Very few pay any attention to them." Still, the call for a global campaign of boycott and divestment from Israel by over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and other organizations issued in July 2005 has been heeded internationally. And while the CUPW's resolution may be marginal in North America, it remains to be seen whether other labor unions will follow.