NEW YORK – The path to Middle East peace is through good-faith negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which U.S. President Barack Obama recognizes, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not, a top Jewish union leader says – comparing Netanyahu to a businessman funding a decertification drive.

Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Jewish Labor Committee, criticized Netanyahu in a Jan. 12 speech to its annual human rights dinner. The JLC and the labor movement are long, strong supporters of Israel, he said, but that does not mean uncritical agreement with everything Israel does.

“Together with our allies overseas, the JLC is pushing back against a well-orchestrated campaign to demonize Israel as an apartheid state; it’s a campaign whose end goal is to undermine the very idea of a Jewish state. And they’ve made some headway in doing that,” Appelbaum said.

The thrilling “winds of change in the Middle East” also brought “new contempt for Israel within the Arab world,” he explained. “It’s a contempt that’s rooted, in no small part, in the conviction that Israel will never accept the right of the Palestinians to an independent state. And, sadly, Israel is cursed with a right-wing coalition government that’s regularly giving credence to that view.

“We all know Netanyahu talks a good game about a two-state solution, but, at the very same time, his administration continues to shamelessly promote the construction of illegal settlements on the West Bank – a policy that so severely impedes negotiations.

“It’s like an employer who comes to the bargaining table telling us he wants a contract that’s a win-win for both sides while, at the same time, he has his lawyers working on decertification petitions.

“The upshot is that Hamas – a terrorist organization that murders Israelis and Palestinians – is winning new support and, as they do, moderates who were once ready to negotiate peace are backing away and trying to sound as tough as the terrorists.

“The truth is, if Netanyahu doesn’t negotiate with Palestinian moderates today, there simply won’t be any moderates left to negotiate with tomorrow. That’s why it’s time all of us – Jew and non-Jew – send a message to Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition that the only path to peace is through good faith negotiations with the Palestinians. There’s nothing anti-Israel about being pro-peace and looking for a settlement worked out fairly by both sides,” he concluded in that speech section.

Appelbaum also had a few sharp words for business foes of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “When some tried to brand Occupy Wall Street as an anti-Semitic mob, we stood up and told the truth: That it’s not the Occupy movement that’s anti-Semitic, it’s the right-wing hate machine and the corporations that fund it,” he said.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.