Quebec teachers union promotes boycott of Israel
Thursday, 01 July 2010
MONTREAL — One of the province’s largest teachers unions – the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ) – recently devoted more than one-third of its in-house magazine – seven of 20 pages – to condemning Israel and supporting the international boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against it.
While a Quebec union being unfriendly to Israel may come as no surprise, the spring issue of Carnets stood out for the scope of its polemics and its use of vitriolic language.
• The 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was the start of “the naqba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine;”
• Palestinians “in the ‘Jewish democracy’… are constantly threatened with expulsion and dispossession because they are not Jewish”;
• Israel is a “rogue state,” and “use of the term ‘Israel apartheid’ is not rhetorical.”
The FNEEQ plans to promote its agenda this October in Montreal at the second Quebec Social Forum, which, according to its website, “is an open meeting place that aims to gather all those who believe in a fairer society, and all who disagree with all forms of oppression, whether in Quebec or in the world.” The event receives public funding from the city and the province.
Quebec Jewish Congress executive director Daniel Amar didn’t address the specifics of the Carnets publication, but said the BDS campaign is “absurd, counterproductive… and indicative of the cynicism” of several people who support the BDS campaign, notably Denis Kosseim, a member of FNEEQ’s international action committee, which formulates the union’s position on “Israel-Palestine”; Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir; and Réjean Parent, head of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec.
Amar noted that Shaher Saad, the secretary-general of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, has stated that if the boycott works, “we [Palestinians] would have nothing left to eat, nothing to pay for electricity, or gas to cook with… It would make things worse for the Palestinians.”
In addition to the BDS campaign, three other Carnets articles in the same issue were devoted to the history of the conflict, “solidarity with Palestine” and a “world education forum” this October in Ramallah in the West Bank that the FNEEQ will send representatives to.
In response to a CJN e-mail, Carnets editor-in-chief Micheline Thibodeau, who also is vice-president of FNEEQ’s international action committee, wrote, “I would like to point out that our [union] discussions are always very democratic… and a very large majority of our members share our concerns in regard to the Palestinian people.”
The position taken on Israel and the Palestinians by the FNEEQ, which represents 27,000 teachers at 46 CEGEPs, 33 private institutions and 11 universities and is affiliated with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, dates back to 2004, when 20 FNEEQ members attended an international conference on social change in Ramallah.
Before that conference, the federation met with members of the Teachers Creativity Centre in Ramallah, a Palestinian non-governmental organization, with an eye to future discussions and gestures of solidarity.
Former FNEEQ president Ronald Cameron says in Carnets that the federation was one of the first unions “to take up and publicize” the BDS call in 2005. The publication also devoted a 2007 issue to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Carnets also reported that in May 2009, an FNEEQ officer travelled to “Palestine” to meet with a delegation of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP). And at the first Quebec Social Forum in October last year, the FNEEQ “helped set up an inter-union CJPP committee in support of the BDS campaign.”
FNEEQ also supported a delegation that participated in an international rally last December that was part of the Gaza Freedom March, according to Carnets.
“The FNEEQ has made a real contribution to the development of greater solidarity with the Palestinian people here in Quebec, a solidarity that is part of growing international support for the Palestinian cause,” Cameron told Carnets.
Amar noted that the BDS campaign has had little mainstream support. A recent BDS motion by Khadir in the national assembly, for example, was rejected by Quebec’s three main political parties.
In addition, he said, “We have to be careful in our response strategy not to give any added notoriety, visibility or legitimacy to this odious and vicious campaign.”
By DAVID LAZARUS, Staff Reporter