Amani Barakat must be joking when she twice touts the “peaceful” tactics of an anti-Israel drive among West Coast teachers’ unions. Simultaneously, Barakat continues in a leading role in an organization that seeks the right of return for Palestinians to Israel, a mission that could readily lead to war.

Column: War And Pieces: The Shape of Teachers’ Anti-Israel Drive

So much for “the peaceful solution” and “this very peaceful way.”

Amani Barakat must be joking when she twice touts the “peaceful” tactics of an anti-Israel drive among West Coast teachers’ unions. Simultaneously, Barakat continues in a leading role in an organization that seeks the right of return for Palestinians to Israel, a mission that could readily lead to war.

Such a contradiction stands out with news that the leadership of the Los Angeles teachers’ union will vote in September on a resolution to “express our solidarity” with the Palestinians.

This move is revealing in generating multiple concerns not only about this pending vote but also the hypocrisy of this supposed pro-Palestinian movement. This campaign run by members of United Teachers Los Angeles campaign signals not just a willingness to go to war but also distresses Jewish students and employees, mocks the very idea of seeking social justice, lies about opposing anti-Semitism, singles out Israel and distracts from their fundamental role to educate the school district’s 465,000 students.

The resolution would call for ending all American aid to Israel and urges UTLA to “express our solidarity with the Palestinian people and call for Israel to end bombardment of Gaza and stop displacement at Sheikh Jarrah,” a reference to property where Palestinian residents face forced removal, The Los Angeles Times reports. The resolution also asks members to endorse “the international campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid in Israel.”

Teachers in San Francisco adopted a similar position in May. The National Education Association had planned to vote on a pro-Palestinian measure on Wednesday, June 30, which is under protest from the Zionist Organization of America. UTLA is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

“This is the least we can do, honestly, to educate on this very peaceful way to protest what’s happening in Palestine,” Barakat told The Los Angeles Times. “Boycott, divestment and sanction is the peaceful solution to try to deal with this oppression and occupation that’s been going on for 73 years.”

For one who promotes “this very peaceful way,” Barakat has been listed as chair of the national coordinating committee of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition which proclaims on its website “that the Palestinian Arab people…are entitled to live anywhere in Palestine which encompasses present-day ‘Israel’, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Al-Awda regards the Israeli definition of Jewish nationals, granting exclusive rights to citizenship and land to any Jew from anywhere in the world, as part of the racism and discrimination inherent in Zionist ideology, which underlies the policies and laws of the colonial state of Israel.”

Except for token gestures, Israelis have traditionally regarded this demand as non-negotiable. If all refugees could live where they want in sovereign Israel, they would severely upend the population balance.

The Palestinian leadership cannot realistically expect Israelis to accept the right of return as part of a peace deal, which would leave them one option: war. The Palestinians would need to attack and control Israel to make the Arab right-of-return a reality.

We need to consider that in Israel and its territories neither the Jews nor the Arabs are going anywhere. They can only resolve their differences through compromise or to continue fighting one another. By hanging onto the right-of-return, Barakat’s group supports the potential for a military confrontation. Is that their idea of “this very peaceful way”?

Pressure on Jewish students and employees is among other objections raised by Jewish advocacy groups, with the Anti-Defamation League stating that the resolution “marginalizes those who disagree with it, including many Jewish and Israeli-American staff, students and families. With the recent rise in antisemitic hate crimes and speech around the world, including here in Los Angeles, we would hope that the focus of UTLA remains with the well-being of their staff, friends, and neighbors.”

Adds the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles: UTLA “promote(s) 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 resolution “knowingly alienates an entire population of their members, and intentionally makes all LAUSD schools feel unwelcome and unsafe for most Jews and their allies.”

“This is not about singling out a specific demographic,” said Soni Lloyd, chair of a teachers union chapter, as quoted in the Times. “It’s about opposing colonization, war crimes and injustice, which are all things that harm the cause of labor.”

In that case, we should refer Lloyd to the recent clash in which Hamas fired rockets into Israel, Arab society customs for honor killings of their women and murder of homosexuals, and China’s oppression of its Muslims and its path toward destroying Hong Kong’s remaining remnants of freedom that its citizens enjoyed when it was a British colony.

The union chapter chair happens to be a history teacher at Venice High School. We must wonder if Lloyd studied Middle East history before babbling on about war crimes and so on.

Lloyd lumped the conflict in Israel with other causes, saying that in the 1980s union members spoke out “in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by U.S.-funded war crimes in Central America…as refugees from these crises poured into L.A….in the same way we are now speaking up for the Palestinians.”

While Israel is not without fault, Lloyd conveniently ignores the intent of many Palestinians to drive out the Jews and seize control of sovereign Israel, not to mention a host of other factors that cannot be fairly compared to social justice issues in America and elsewhere.

A disingeneous statement from the UTLA declares: “As educators, it is our job to create nurturing, safe environments for all of our students. UTLA stands against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and oppression in all forms.

“We stand 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.”

Their resolution is creating a hostile environment for Jewish students, and Arabic society is excessively sexist and homophobic.

Finally, an unidentified Jewish parent expresses the first thought that entered my mind: “I don’t know why it’s relevant to the union. It has nothing to do with educating kids.”

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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One comment

  1. There are so many violent conflicts in the world, with exponentially higher casualties. Why the laser focus on the Jewish state, to the exclusion of all others?