It is inappropriate and unacceptable for UTLA to promote a one-sided position on a complex geopolitical issue that is far removed from the day-to-day public education in our schools, among our teachers, our students, and their families. The motion, which has been adopted by sections of UTLA and could be adopted by the full UTLA membership, knowingly alienates an entire population of their members and intentionally makes all LAUSD schools feel unwelcome and unsafe for most Jews and their allies. Now more than ever, it is wrong for any part of UTLA to take a stance on an issue that will cause personal harm, foster hate, and alienate so many people. We applaud the teachers who are organizing themselves to oppose this motion.
We believe that this motion, if it becomes union policy, will do great harm. It will create bitter division within public education in Los Angeles. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is regarded by many as unjust and antisemitic because it denies Israel’s right to exist, demonizes and dehumanizes Zionists, Jews, and Israelis, and it holds Israel to a moral and political double standard. As Jews, we know that it is up to the Jewish community to define the hatred we face. Too often, antisemitism is veiled as political discourse vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As such, supporting the BDS movement against Israel would harm the district because it is an unjust cause.
BDS has a long track record of promoting antisemitic rhetoric and harassment towards Jews in communities around the world. The movement opposes virtually all forms of cooperation and dialogue, something that is antithetical to the values of a union. Sadly, in this context, hatred towards Jews is rising on both the political left and political right, including violent attacks here in Los Angeles. Making things even worse, we have recently witnessed this type of clear bias and bigotry towards Jews with the union. This has occurred in community forums discussing pedagogy, in social media posts, and commentary from teachers — and in the aforementioned pro-BDS motion.
By aligning with BDS, this motion puts teachers, students we teach, and the communities we serve in harm’s way. In the wake of numerous attacks against the Jewish community, this motion adds fuel to the fire of antisemitism and does nothing to achieve a just resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead, it dehumanizes and demonizes Jews and Israelis, all while delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist. At best, it white-washes Israelis and Jews, erasing the diverse history of “Mizrahi” (Eastern and Middle Eastern) Jews and the persecution, discrimination, and bigotry all Jews have faced as minorities wherever they have lived, throughout every era in history. We cannot allow any teachers or students to feel that their teachers’ union is collectively poised against them.
It’s also wrong to misrepresent Israel and mislead our students about Israel’s existence and its democratic make-up. Similarly, it misrepresents the Palestinian cause and the realities facing the Palestinian people, including the U.S. designated terror group, Hamas’ rule over the Gaza Strip and ongoing targeting of Israeli civilians. Israel is as diverse and progressive as Los Angeles and holding Israel to a moral and political double standard while staying silent about other atrocities in the world is unexplainable and immoral. The anti-Israel movement opposes virtually all forms of cooperation and dialogue, something that is antithetical to the values of a teacher’s union and a school district. By advancing such a motion, and legitimizing the BDS movement, segments of UTLA demonstrate how out of touch they are with the real needs of Los Angeles students, their families, and educators. This is especially unacceptable with so many unresolved challenges and gaping inequities resulting from the pandemic.