This statement was developed with profound care by the Executive Committee in response to backlash over a tweet posted on ‘X’ in solidarity with Palestinians early Saturday afternoon. As we mourn the attacks on the sanctity of human life and indiscriminate killing of civilians, we have taken the time as an Executive to have conversations unpacking our responsibilities as settler and Indigenous workers dedicated to living decolonized realities. We have the responsibility to continue these conversations with our membership and the broader labour movement. We likewise believe in open and principled communication. To this end, we encourage any member with concerns or questions to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Executive Committee of CUPE 3906, we refute the conflation between support for Palestine and an end to the occupation as condoning violence against civilians. We refuse the distortion of our message for any other contexts and the disingenuous fabrication of what the CUPE 3906 Executive stands “for” or “against.”
As a Local, we have consistently maintained a position that opposes the arms trade and Canadian state funding for imperial war while imagining a world beyond war. Decades of oppression, occupation, and apartheid have given rise to the struggle we are seeing now, escalating a cycle that results in even more death and suffering. We recognize that, as Jewish Voice for Peace voiced in their statement, “oppressed people everywhere will seek — and gain — their freedom.” Just as we invoke in our Land Acknowledgement every meeting, “from 1492 Landback Lane to the fisheries at Sipekne’katik and far beyond, we stand in solidarity with Indigenous people who continue to assert their territorial sovereignty despite mounting risks of settler colonial violence.”
On October 7, 2023 at 12:37 PM, the President of CUPE 3906 reposted a video on X (i.e. Twitter) shared by Nadi Abusaada, a Palestinian architect, historian, and Aga Khan Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT. The video, originally posted by Al Jazeera producer Rania Zabaneh, shows a bulldozer destroying part of a militarized barbed wire fence built by the Israeli state, separating the Gaza Strip from the rest of occupied Palestine. Abusaada described this as the “breaking down of colonial barriers.” The re-post by CUPE 3906 added the following message, “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance” with a quote by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani: “Everything in this world can be robbed and stolen, except one thing; this one thing is the love that emanates from a human being towards a solid commitment to a conviction or cause.” This was cross-posted to Instagram.
Later that day, these posts were removed following violent messages received by Executive members and staff over email. McMaster issued a statement expressing that the University “is shocked and disappointed at the comments made by CUPE Local 3906 regarding this violence,” following that while CUPE 3906 “is an independent group with the right to express its views, the university is in disagreement with any statement condoning violence.” We reject any characterization of our message, replying to images of apartheid infrastructure coming down, as celebrating civilian death.
Our years of support for Palestine is rooted in historical context that Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is “unlawful under international law,” as per the October 2022 report to the United Nations General Assembly. It likewise rooted in the context that unequivocal resistance to colonial subjugation is a right enshrined under UN resolution 37/43. The context CUPE 3906 draw upon stands with “well respected human rights organizations like Amnesty International and HRW,” echoing the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Amnesty International’s 280-page report released in February 2022 painstakingly details Israeli apartheid, particularly striking in the 75th year of what Palestinians call the “Nakba” (“catastrophe” in Arabic): the displacement from their homes which began alongside the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. Since 2007, Israel has imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, popularly characterized as the world’s largest “open air prison.” The message we released early Saturday afternoon was enshrined in these contexts – not with intention to celebrate death of civilians or loss of life.
The voices of Palestinian students, faculty, politicians, and their allies are targeted everywhere by the highly organized Zionist lobby in Canada, its targets inclusive now of CUPE 3906 and the President of CUPE Ontario. The rhetoric being levvied at Local 3906 is not new: characterizing our messaging as support for “terrorism,” with the aim of silencing support. We also recognize that Palestinian community members face this backlash time and time again: being principled means being clear and conscionable in our response, and recognizing that decolonization is “about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools” (Tuck & Yang).