Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where Movements Converge

Question: What do environmentalists, labor unions, family farm supporters, consumer groups, Internet freedom advocates, and Palestinian human rights organizations have in common?

Answer: Opposition to Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

In an unprecedented show of unity, over two thousand organizations, including the progressive Jewish Voice for Peace, have signed a joint letter to the U.S. Congress urging opposition to Fast Track legislation that has been making its way through the legislature this spring.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, offers the reasons why so many progressive groups are leery of fast track authority for the TPP: “While we are not currently permitted to see the terms of the new trade deal, what we do know is the Fast Track process enables trade deals that hurt everyday Americans and stack the deck in favor of corporations. It limits public and congressional oversight and does not allow effective enforcement. We need trade policy that strengthens our country — ensuring the rights of workers, and protecting consumers and the environment. We need a democratic and transparent trade process that offers a fair shake for American workers. Fast Track fails these standards and should be rejected.”

But Fast Track authority for the TPP would not only threaten the quality of life of ordinary Americans. Amendments have been tacked on – amendments backed by AIPAC, the powerful right-wing “pro-Israel” lobby that would discourage and penalize boycotts against Israel and erase the distinction between Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies. 

As Jewish Voice for Peace federal policy organizer Rabbi Joseph Berman explains: “JVP opposes ‘Fast-Track’ not only because it is anti-democratic and bad for workers and the environment, but because it will also legitimize support for illegal Israeli settlements and impede efforts to apply non-violent pressure to hold Israel to the standards of international law and human rights norms.” In fact, these amendments make discouraging the BDS campaign “one of the principal U.S. trade negotiating objectives.”

These anti-BDS amendments suggest common interests between those who would grant ever more authority to powerful corporations and those who would privilege Israeli control at the expense of Palestinians. This fact alone should provide us with food for thought.

Yet the attempt to delegitimize BDS through binding international legislation also suggests that the BDS movement has grown to become a powerful nonviolent threat to the Israeli right. Public opinion is changing.

Says JVP: Across the U.S., millions of people inside and outside of the Jewish community are taking a long hard look at Israel's human rights abuses. Elected leaders who'd been too scared to speak out are raising their voices.

Academics and students are building power on campuses, where once it simply wouldn't have been possible.

Even Pope Francis has added the moral voice of the Vatican to the fray by signing a treaty that recognizes the "state of Palestine."

Our work is bearing fruit. The times they are a-changing.