Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Democratic Party, Unions, and Israel

Is there a line of attack that can potentially unite leftists interested in a campaign to divest from the Israeli occupation, a rank-and-file campaign to promote union democracy, and a campaign to create a political party of the working class and our allies? Here’s a hint:
There are approximately 9,500 pension funds, 3,500 banks, 1,500 labor unions, and 500 insurance companies in the United States that invest in Israel Bonds. School districts, municipalities, and other large institutions also purchase them. One of the largest sources of institutional investment capital in Israel is from U.S. pension funds through the purchase of Israeli government bonds. (Global Exchange, "Israel Bonds: A Bad Investment," 2003)
First of all, from a purely financial point of view, Israeli bonds are poor investments. "[B]ased on the findings of a visit by the IMF to Israel in December 2003. . . , [t]he IMF estimates the accumulated GDP loss from the security situation at 6-8% of GDP" (emphasis added, "IMF Sees 2.5% Growth for Israel in 2004; The International Monetary Fund Estimates the Accumulated Loss from the Security Situation at 6-8% of GDP," Globes [online] - Israel's Business Arena, June 06, 2004) -- a self-inflicted pain caused by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Palestinian resistance to it. It is no wonder, then, that “[t]he major credit rating services give Israel Bonds the sixth rating, classifying them as only an ‘upper medium investment’” ("Israel Bonds: A Bad Investment," 2003). In addition, “[u]nlike most securities, Israel Bonds cannot be traded on the open market or easily converted into cash” ("Israel Bonds: A Bad Investment," 2003).

What if activists for Palestinian solidarity, union democracy, the Green Party, and so forth joined hands, exposing financially unwise decisions undemocratically made by leaders of political parties and trade unions who claim to advocate but act against the interests of the working class? Misuse of pension funds to financially support the Israeli government is an issue that can bring a seemingly remote question of the Israeli occupation home to many American workers. At the same time, the way that such investment decisions are made, without active consent of workers, highlights lack of democratic control over both trade unions and governments. Moreover, like James E. McGreevey who invested New Jersey Public Employees Pension Funds in Israeli bonds while advocating for privatization of their management, leaders who misuse pension funds for an immoral political purpose are, more often than not, engaged in simultaneous attacks on workers on other fronts. Most importantly, the problem is one that the Democratic Party, a close ally of Zionists -- especially those in the Labor Party of Israel -- cannot address, much less solve, without ceasing to be what it is. There is no other issue -- aside from the US occupation of Iraq -- that is a better argument for the urgent need for a political party of the working class and our allies, a party that is not controlled by the US power elite, the majority of whom have seen in Israel a useful instrument to prevent or destroy the rise of Arab masses for democracy in their own countries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a thoughtful and important piece. I am surprised that there are no other comments. Getting the unions to cooperate will be difficult, however. Most Unions (I am a member of the teachers union--AFT) are as undemocratic and intransigent on this matter as the Democratic Party. When teachers union pension were invested in Israeli bonds about 20 years ago those persons who objected were smeared as being 'anti-semitic."