Coalition of Jewish groups works to derail LA teachers union BDS resolution

L.A. Parents Against Antisemitism group using letter campaign to get teachers on their side before a September union vote on a BDS motion.

Dan Verbin ,

BDS activists
BDS activists

A coalition of Jewish groups has banded together to defeat a Los Angeles teachers union resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

A partnership of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, the ADL and other organizations such as StandWithUs, the Southern California Board of Rabbis and the Israeli American Council came together to form L.A. Parents Against Antisemitism, and has led a vocal opposition to United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) resolution, which will come to a vote in September.

“We believe that this motion, if it becomes union policy, will do great harm,” said L.A. Parents Against Antisemitism in a letter addressed to the union’s Board of Directors and House of Representatives. “It will create bitter division within our own ranks and undermine the collective work we have set in motion to advocate for our students, build bridges with parents/community, and protect public education in Los Angeles. It will further create an unwelcome and unacceptable environment for many of our members.”

Remarking that by aligning itself with BDS, the union would put the Jewish students it teachers and the communities it serves in jeopardy in the wake of the surge in anti-Semitic incidents, they stressed that the motion would “add fuel to the fire of anti-Semitism 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 ‘Mizrachi’ (Eastern and Middle Eastern) Jews and the persecution, discrimination and bigotry all Jews have faced as minorities wherever they have lived, throughout ever era of the world.”

They added that they cannot allow a specific group of students to feel singled out by their teachers who appear “collectively poised against them.”

“As teachers we must wear our union red as a symbol of protection for our students from being triggered and stigmatized,” they wrote. “It is inappropriate for our union to promote only one side in a complex international conflict that alienates and threatens students on campus, making minority students feel unsafe and insecure. It’s also ethically wrong to misrepresent Israel and mislead our students about Israel’s existence and its democratic make-up.”

A significant number of Los Angeles Jewish teachers have reportedly said they would leave UTLA in a group walkout if the resolution passes the union’s 250-member House of Representatives

Larry Shohan, an English teacher who had led the coalition’s letter-writing efforts, told JWeekly that over 800 teachers have so far signed the group’s petition. He was also confident that the union’s resolution would fail.

If the resolution does not pass, it would be a turning point in a recent trend that has seen multiple American labor groups put forward and pass BDS resolutions or motions that are highly critical of Israel that critics have denounced as so extreme as to endanger the Jewish community in the wake of the recent uptick in anti-Semitism, while also charging they play into anti-Semitic tropes. The trend has intensified since the May fighting between Israel and Hamas.