LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As Los Angeles schools prepare to start a new academic year this fall, teachers are poised for a contentious debate about the Middle East after United Teachers Los Angeles recently held area meetings to vote on motions to address the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
“It also endorses the boycott, divestment and sanction movement against Israel, which we know targets Jews and the movement itself is antisemitic,” Alisa Finsten, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said.
Through a statement posted on its website, UTLA said that the motions passed in some of the area meetings, but not all. The statement went on to say that debate and disagreement were essential to democracy and the union.
However, the statement noted that, “motions brought by UTLA members at regional Area meetings are not the official expressed opinions of UTLA or its elected leaders,” and that the union stands “against both anti-Jewish hate and violence and anti-Arab hate and violence wherever they occur, and we denounce the recent attacks on Jewish people in Los Angeles.”
“We believe that antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate should be talked about in the classroom,” Finsten said. “A robust conversation where all sides of the conflict are talked about makes sense. Educations have to educate and teach and be neutral.”
At least one teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, has resigned from the union citing safety concerns.
“We are really highly concerned that this motion, if it goes through, will isolate Jewish and non-jewish students and staff who are supportive of the state of Israel,” Finsten said.
UTLA said in a statement that it mourns “the loss of every innocent child that has been caught in the middle of this conflict. We deplore the destruction of schools on both sides and the need to convert places of learning into emergency shelters to house displaced people.”
The motions will now move to the UTLA House of Representatives, which meets in September.
As for the teachers who resign from the union, a spokesperson for UTLA said they could continue to work.