A high-ranking Jewish American unionist accused two powerful Australian trade unions of anti-Semitism.
Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Jewish Labor Committee and of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, last week accused the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia of “anti-Semitism cloaked under the veil of anti-Zionism” following their endorsement last month of a newspaper ad accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
In an op-ed published in last week’s Forward newspaper, Appelbaum slammed the unions for their “diatribes against Israel.”
The ad in The Australian March 12 – the day the parliament passed a bipartisan motion congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary – was endorsed by a number of Jews.
It said, “We as informed and concerned Australians choose to dissociate ourselves from the celebration of the triumph of racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba [the catastrophe] of 1948.”
Under the headline “American labor can help right anti-Israel left,” Appelbaum in the Forward said the Australian unions had adopted “instinct over intellect.”
But Andrew Ferguson, the CFMEU’s general secretary, defended his union’s endorsement of the ad.
“I do not accept that being critical of policies of the Israeli state makes us anti-Semitic, just as being critical of the policies of George Bush does not make us anti-American,” he told The Australian.
Other union officials disagreed. Paul Howes, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union, accused the CFMEU and the MUA of “lining up with Hamas.”