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Friday, August 1, 2014

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Postal union slammed for anti-Israel newsletter

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The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has drawn its sights on Israel once again, with the union’s The Rose newsletter accusing Canada of “perpetuating war crimes” by supporting the Jewish state.

Jewish organizations, MPs and postal workers slammed the union, accusing it of overstepping its mandate and of misusing workers’ funds.

MPs’ rebukes were non-partisan: Conservative MP Mark Adler strongly condemned CUPW, saying, “It is shameful that CUPW is abusing hard-working union members’ money by using it to fund hate. Spreading rhetoric about Israel has nothing to do with the mandate of the union and does nothing to help Canadian postal workers.”

Liberal party interim leader Bob Rae said, “I continue to be astonished by the extent to which ideas which should be on the ‘loony tunes’ margins of politics have now been adopted by a union which represents thousands of its members.”

NDP MP Peter Stoffer also slammed CUPW’s “war crimes” reference, saying, “I think their position would be very wrong on that and I would ask them to carefully reflect upon that.”

The anti-Israel comments were part of the March 2013 edition of The Rose. Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, the newsletter featured a page titled “Reflections from Palestine,” a report by Ruth Breen, a member of CUPW’s Fredericton local who visited “Palestine” last year. The Atlantic Region’s Solidarity Fund paid for her trip.

Breen describes hardships faced by several Palestinian women and concludes, “The lives of these women should motivate us. Our country plays a key part in perpetuation war crimes and we can use our voice to oppose it. Canada is allowing Israel to terrorize occupied people, breach international law, normalize home demolitions, build prison-style walls and checkpoints, and steal resources.”

Last year, CUPW was denied public funds after five members attended an anti-Israel forum in Brazil that called for the release of Ahmad Saadat from an Israeli jail.

Saadat was sentenced in 2008 to 30 years in prison for heading the left-wing terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and for orchestrating the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi.

In 2008, CUPW passed a resolution supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). It has also supported a Canadian ship that attempted to run the blockade of Gaza, and it has mused about refusing to deliver mail to Israel.

Last week, after the union came under fire for the Rose article, CUPW issued a news release saying, “we want to pressure the Israeli government to respect international law in order to create a lasting and just peace. This position reflects the democratic will of CUPW’s membership and the union remains committed to it.”

Postal worker Fred Toulch, however, believes the union’s anti-Israel stance and the article are not in line with members’ views. “The people I’ve spoken to are certainly not in favour of it, including non-Jewish postal workers. Most are upset that not enough is being done for postal workers,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to a few letter carriers and they’re not happy that the union has taken this position on international affairs. This is not just over this article. It’s going on now for some time.”

Toulch said the postal workers he’s talked to ask, “Why are they involved in this? This is not what they want to have done with union dues.”

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said CUPW’s anti-Israel positions “don’t represent the mainstream of their own membership.”

He said union members he’s spoken to oppose it and would like CUPW to focus on issues concerning their employment and job security.

“I think the membership expects the leadership would be focused exclusively on securing their positions, ensuring with management they don’t come under pressure to reduce the work force,” he said.

Fogel said that CUPW, along with some other unions, churches and academic groups, are directed by “small groups that have a radical agenda. They co-opt the control process to drive their agenda, mostly without the knowledge and understanding of the membership they represent.”

“They’re undermining their own credibility and diminishing the capacity to be effective representatives of their membership,” he said.

Other Jewish organizations also took aim at CUPW. The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) condemned “the racist anti-Israel propaganda perpetuated by the CUPW.

“The Rose… has disintegrated into a racist propaganda tool filled with half-truths and a complete lack of context, targeting the Jewish people who have re-built a nation in their ancient homeland,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the FSWC.

“There is an absolute neglect by CUPW of the ongoing anti-Jewish violence and terror faced by Israel on a daily basis. This demonstrates a profound bias against a people who, despite being repeatedly dispossessed throughout history, have managed to create the only democratic nation in the Middle East with equal rights for all its citizens on the land which is their historical birthright.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Diamant said that it’s “a distortion of the CUPW core mandate to use union resources in this fashion to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state, while ignoring real human rights violations across the globe.”

He added: “CUPW has completely failed to set an unbiased agenda for its members. If CUPW is going to divert resources away from domestic issues of concern to union members, where is its voice on such issues as the mass slaughter of civilians in places like Syria?”

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