L.A. Teachers’ Union Reps Endorse the BDS Movement

As I mentioned in last week’s article, the United Educators of San Francisco declared its solidarity with the Palestinian people by supporting the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement against Israel. The union also called for Joe Biden to stop aid to Israel, but after receiving some angry pushback from the Jewish community, the union issued a second resolution in which it added a condemnation of some of Hamas’ actions. But the new document left its BDS stance intact, and still refers to “the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood” and “Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.” (Maybe, one day, the union will release a truthful resolution explaining that the expulsions were for non-payment of rent, and the airstrikes were in response to an onslaught of rockets being fired from Gaza.)

At the same time, members of United Teachers of Los Angeles voted to support a resolution to “stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people because of the 3.8 billion dollars annually that the US government gives to Israel, thus directly using our tax dollars to fund apartheid and war crimes.” It should be noted that the UTLA resolution came from a group of chapter chairs (campus representatives), not the UTLA as a whole. In fact, the union leadership issued a statement after the resolution went public, explaining that it is not an official union document, but that it would be taken up by the UTLA House of Representatives, its highest decision-making body, at their next meeting in September. 

But one group is not buying into UTLA’s disclaimer. The parent-led California Students United hit back hard against the teachers union last week with a blistering five-page denunciation addressed to union president Cecily Myart-Cruz. The organization demands “an unequivocal apology for the anti-Semitism and intolerance coming from you and the union you lead. Especially in the wake of the recent spike in attacks on Jews, your anti-Semitism is not only offensive, it endangers thousands of teachers, parents, and especially children in the LAUSD and beyond.” 

To make its case, California Students United referred to recent UTLA activity, claiming that “UTLA as an organization and you, Ms. Myart-Cruz as an individual, have a disturbing history of promoting insensitive and potentially illegal and anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish LAUSD families.” 

The letter accuses UTLA of creating an official racial profiling database of parents who make comments about UTLA to the media, and points to a Facebook post in March where Myart-Cruz insisted that “wealthy white and Middle Eastern parents” were stalking union members on social media. California Students United wants to know just what Myart-Cruz meant, asking “…as parent stakeholders, we request clarification as to whom you were referring when you said ‘wealthy, white and Middle Eastern?’ Based on the demographics of Los Angeles and your personal exposure to the West Los Angeles community due to your tenure at Emerson Middle School, many have perceived this statement as a thinly veiled reference to Jews, specifically Persian Jews.”

Details of the database claim are especially creepy. On February 19, a UTLA employee and purported “Research Specialist,” sent an email to a parent of an LAUSD student on behalf of UTLA stating: “My name is Albert Lowe and I work for the United Teachers Los Angeles. I’m working on a research project on who speaks on LAUSD issues in the LA Times and coding for race and class. You are quoted twice in the last eight months. In coding, my rubric is self-identification within the article, self-identification found elsewhere or using the last name index on the census for all names with at least 1000 results. [Redacted] is not in that index and I have not found any statements by you about your own self-identification. I know that [redacted] is a common Iranian name, but I will not make any assumptions without a legitimate method. Could you tell me how you racially self-identify or point me to a citation on your identity?”

In fact, UTLA’s anti-Israel involvement is hardly new. In 2006, the union’s “Human Rights Committee” had planned to sponsor a meeting of the uber-radical Movement for a Democratic Society, the purpose of which was to launch a local BDS campaign to “support the Palestinian people in their decades long struggle against Israeli aggression, dispossession, and oppression.” Under pressure from some Jewish teachers and activist groups, however, UTLA backed off and did not host the meeting.

It should be emphasized that anti-Israel union fervor does not start and end in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In London, at least 25 teachers from a Jewish school have quit their trade union to protest its call for participation in pro-Palestinian rallies. And the socialist In These Times reports that “U.S. Unions Are Voicing Unprecedented Support for Palestine.”

While teachers’ unions spend time and energy propagating anti-Israel canards, just what are they doing for the teaching profession? Apparently, not much.

While 70 percent of white public school students in San Francisco are proficient in math, only 12 percent of black students are. And in Los Angeles, according to NAEP, the “nation’s report card,” only 16 percent of 8th-graders scored proficient in math in 2019, compared to 27 percent in other large cities, and 45 percent of all U.S. students. And the union-mandated lockdowns in 2020-21 undoubtedly will result in even more abysmal student outcomes. 

The letter from California Students United calls for an immediate investigation “into potential civil rights violations related to racial profiling,” adding that union leaders have “no business singling out one country and its people, especially a people who have been victims of discrimination, persecution, and genocide for generations.”

Talking about civil rights, how about an investigation into the rotten job the “union-occupied and oppressive” government school monopoly is doing, primarily in big U.S. cities? Now that’s a BDS movement, I could get behind!

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared originally at the California Policy Center.


About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Photo: Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images

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