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August 29, 1980 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-08-29

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12 Friday, August 29, 1980


U.S. Labor Support for Israel Continues After Meany's Death


Jewish Labor Committee;
Deputy Director,
Department of Organization
& Field Services, AFL-CIO

When George Meany died
last January, Israel and its
people lost more than a
friend. They lost a man who
sincerely believed in Is-.
rael's dream, and who
viewed Israel not simply as
another foreign land, but as
a special land, a living sym-
bol of what free people can
achieve through persever-
ance and dedication to the
principles of democracy and
On the surface at least,
George Meany's special re-
lationship with Israel ap-
pears to be somewhat
paradoxical. Growing up in
the Bronx of the immigrant ,
Irish, and working his way
through the ranks of the
American Federation of
Labor, which at the time
had few concerns beyond
the immediate needs of
wage-earners, Meany had
little or no reason to concern
himself with international
affairs. But early in his
trade union career, he un-
derstood that the rights of
American workers were
somehow linked to the
rights of all workers, indeed
of all powerless groups in-
cluding minorities.
As early as 1933, before
much of the labor leader-
ship was aware of the im-
portance to labor of in-
ternational affairs,

Meany helped B. Char-
ney Vladeck, David
Dubinsky and other New
York labor leaders form
"The German Labor
Chest," to raise funds for
relief and rescue of trade
unionists and socialists
from Nazi Germany.
For the most part, the
"Labor Chest" relied on the
support of the needle trades
unions, since the majority of
trade unionists at the time
had only a marginal inter-
est in European develop-
ments. Meany, however,
was an exception.
From the 1930s onward,
Meany's interest in interna-
tional affairs intensified. It
was this interest, I believe,
that led to his deep com-
mitment to the creation,
growth and survival of the
state of Israel.
Three features of Israeli
society strongly appealed to
George Meany. First, he
was fascinated by the demo- •
cratic politics of Israel. That
Israel was on an almost con-
stant war footing and yet
maintained — indeed th-
rived on — lively political
debate and a multiplicity of
parties, was, for Meany, a
feat to be admired, espe-
cially since so many
economists and social scien-
tists asserted that "nation-
building" could only be
achieved through
authoritarian or even to-
talitarian means. Israel be-
came Meany's most effec-
tive rebuttal to the prophets
of despotism.


Second, Meany felt a
special kinship with His-
tadrut, the Israeli labor
federation. He met reg-
ularly with its leaders,
and a unique bond of
friendship came to link
the AFL-CIO and Histad-
He viewed the Israeli
labor movement as some-
thing of a model. And even
though he understood that
the American and Israeli
labor movements were
different in many ways, he
saw Histadrut as embody-
ing the most fundamental
trade union values: worker
solidarity, the willingness
of the strong to help the
weak, and the sense of
common social and eco-
nomic interests.
For Meany, Histadrut's
success was a- source of re-
newed hope in the idea of
trade unionism in newly
developing countries.

Finally, I think Meany
found Israel so attractive
because he was invariably
drawn to the side of the
underdog, especially when
the preservation of integ-
rity and principles were
being fought for against
enormous odds. The courage
and sheer determination of
the Israelis to build a new
society, even when it
seemed that the whole
world was against them, fil-
led Meany with wonder and
admiration. Indeed, his
sense of fair play and sym-
pathy for any outnumbered
minority would have made
it:impossible for him to be
anything but a supporter of
Meany's interest in Is-
iael went far beyond
verbal pronouncements
of good will and support.
Instead, he translated
support into meaningful
action which has con-
tributed much to the via-
bility of Israeli society

Most important, Meany
politically aligned the labor
movement on the side of Is-
rael. Political leaders in
America now understand
clearly that Israel's security
is a "labor issue," together
with labor law reform,
minimum wage laws and
domestic social legislation.
To be an enemy of Israel is
to be an enemyof organized
Internationally, Meany
also made it clear that labor

movements and govern-
ments, which actively sup-
port forces and groups dedi-
cated to the extermination
of Israel, would never re
ceive the friendship or sup-
port of American labor.
When the International
Labor Organization, a spe-
cialized agency of the
United Nations, voted to ac-
cord the PLO observer
status, the United States
delegation, at the prompt-
ing of the AFL-CIO, staged
a one day walk-out. At the
AFL-CIO's initiative, the
United States later with-
drew because of the politici-
zation that had taken place.
In addition to vital politi-
cal support, Meany also
mobilized material support
for Israel. During the Yom
Kippur War in 1973, for
example, the AFL-CIO and
its affiliates raised hun-
dreds of thousands of dollars
for Israel. Aside from the
American Jewish commu-
nity, no other segment of
society has done as much for
Israel as organized labor.

Now that Meany is
gone, the Jewish com-
munity joins labor in
mourning his passing. We
remember him for what
he was — a loyal and
steadfast friend, a gener-
ous and committed sup-
porter of Israel. But while
we recognize that it was
his leadership and influ-
ence that won so many
friends for Israel within
the ranks of labor, we

must also realize that
labor's friendship with
Israel will not end with
the passing of George
Lane Kirkland, George
Meany's successor, made
this clear,in one of his first
public speeches following
his election to the
presidency of the AFL-CIO.
In expressing his appre ,
tion to the Philadelpii_
Jewish Community Rela-
tions Council for presenting
him with the Jules Cohen
Memorial Award, he said,
"The AFL-CIO will con-
tinue to do all in its power to
prevent any erosion of sup-
port for the only democratic
state in the Middle East —
not only for Israel's sake,
but for our own."
We can be assured that
George Meany's dedication
will be carried on by his suc-


West German Editorial Outlines a Peace Mission for Europe

cure and recognized bound-
(Editor's note: The fol- aries" which for all con-
lowing editorial by Ernst cerned were at that time a
Cramer appeared in the matter of course. And while
Aug. 1 issue of Die Welt in in 1967 simply a "just solu-
West Germany under the tion of the refugee problem"
headline, "Europe was envisaged, the present
Genuflects — Why No In- document recognizes the
dependent EEC Action terrorist organization,` the
PLO, as representative of
for Middle East?")
Miserable is a mild term the "Palestinian people."
The Israeli foreign minis-
for the attitude of the nine
EEC countries in the UN ter cannot be fairly con-
Palestine resolution. They tradicted when he says bit-
simply withheld their vote. terly: "The hands which
As things lie that is at least were raised to vote for this
half-way to agreeing with a resolution strengthen the
document which speaks of hands which murdered
all imaginable rights for the Jewish children in
Palestinians, including the Antwerp."
foundation of their own
Opportunists Back
state, but does not even
UN Resolution
mention Israel's right to
resolution by the
exist. A document which
calls for evacuation by the UN plenary assembly
Israelis of all positions se- springs from a sinister
cured in two defensive wars collaboration of Soviet
and likewise of the eastern power politics, Arab in-
part of the capital, transigence and world-
wide opportunism. Con-
This resolution goes far sistently followed
beyond the UN Security through it would lead to
Council's resolution of No- the early establishment
vember 1967, the now of a PLO state on the so
famous Resolution 242. called West Bank and in
Nothing remains of the "se- the Gaza Strip, a state


whose aim — the PLO
only recently stressed
this again in Damascus —
would be the destruction
of the state of Israel; a
state, furthermore, from
whose territory the
wildfire of terror and
subversion would spread
to all states in the Middle
East which are still inde-
pendent of Moscow.
Thus the Nine of Europe
have found no better answer
to a UN resolution, which, if
effected, would so incredibly
endanger world peace, than
to withhold their vote.
All honor to Norway, the
only country of the Old Con-
tinent to vote against the
resolution — together with
the U.S., Australia,
Canada, Guatemala, the
Dominican Republic and, of
course, Israel.
The image of this week's
vote in New York — 112
votes for, seven against, 24
withheld — documents a
frightening isolation of Is-
rael. And even many of
those who still count them-
selves friends of Israel pre-
tend that Israel need only
retire from all the "occu-

pied" areas to bring and se- ference being that at that the alleged obduracy of
the Jerusalem govern-
cure peace. The fact that time nobody bothered.
But merely lamenting ment. The Middle East
these areas were in Arab
over this cowardly attitude problem is much rather
hands until the June 1967
of the EEC countries in this now insoluble because —
war is forgotten — or sup-
one-sided UN vote is vain. It with the exception of
pressed — although this
is better to reflect what role Egypt — no single Arab
certainly did not secure
peace, but led to escalation the Europeans could, indeed country is prepared to
must, play. What ideas the make peace with Israel
of terror and finally to war.
It is also forgotten that hosts in Bonn could have and to recognize the
put to King Hussein during Jewish state.
these areas were at no
This would be a task for
time legally part of any his visit, what proposals the
new President of the EEC the statesmen of Europe, tO
Arab state. Unlike the
Council of Ministers, Gas- use their good relations
Golan Heights, which be-
longed to Syria, and the ton Thorn, could have taken with the Arab politicians in
on his visit to the Middle order to bring them to the
Sinai peninsula, which
path of recognition of Israel,
was part of Egypt, the East.
to the path of peace and fi-
territorial status of cis-
European Initiative
nally of cooperation. Were
Jordania and the Gaza
Buffered by Oil
that achieved all problems
Strip has never been de-
The greatest industrial could be tackled, as the Is-
fined. Like the present
region in the world could raelis have shown in Sinai.
states of Jordan and Is-
A European peace mis-
have the power to exert
rael, these areas were,
influence, provided it would sion for the region which
after the collapse of the
Osman Empire, part of only resolve not to let the cradled European - lture:
world's greatest oil region where is the states , .rho
the British Mandated
will accept this historic tasi -
divide it against itself.
Territory of Palestine.
The crux is not the and free Europe from the
After 1948 they were
problem of the Israeli set- mark of Cain, which it has
occupied by Egypt and
tlements, not the born, at the latest, since this
"Jerusalem law," and not week's UN vote?
So under international
law the West Banik and
Gaza are succession areas of
a League of Nations man-
date whose future, i.e. own-
ership, has never been de-
Saul began by sparing
The captive heathens
And a voice from heaven said:
In other words, Jordanian
"Be not overjust!"
occupation of part of the
Later Saul massacred
former mandated area of
His own priests at Nob
Palestine was followed by
And a voice from heaven said: •
Israeli occupation. The Is-
"Be not overwicked!"
raeli settlements there are
If we did not start
just as legal or illegal as all
By being overkind
comparable - activity by
We would not have to end
King Hussein between 1948
By being overcruel.
and 1967 — the only dif-

A Voice from Heaven

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