Will an Education Union Turn Against Israel?
Some members of the National Education Association (NEA) — the largest labor union in the country — want to turn America’s public school teachers against Israel. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s not your fault.
There has been almost no coverage of this story, which should be raising alarm bells for every supporter of the Jewish state. The NEA has over three million members, and exercises profound influence over America’s public schools. If certain NEA members are able to turn the union against Israel, there will be an indoctrination campaign against the Jewish state unlike any before seen in the US school system.
On July 4, 2019, the NEA held its Annual Meeting and National Education Association Representative Assembly in Texas, where teachers from across the country gathered to vote on New Business Items (NBI) — which are resolutions and policies that determine the work, activism, and teaching practices of NEA’s members for the following year.
Members proposed two business items consecutively in 2018 and 2019 that specifically singled out Israel for condemnation: NBI 92 and NBI 26. They condemned US aid to Israel and claimed that the aid goes toward “apartheid, atrocities, and gross violations of human rights of Palestinian children and families by the State of Israel.”
Fortunately, a majority of the NEA delegates opposed the resolutions and were able to defeat the proposed new business items. However, a loud minority of NEA members seem determined to push the union into incriminating the only nation in the Middle East that scrupulously protects the individual rights of its citizens.
Why should this alarm the Jewish community? The educational direction that certain NEA members embrace, even if they fail to get anti-Israel NBIs passed, can also spread to the classrooms where they and their colleagues teach.
No other foreign nation that is given American foreign aid was criticized or condemned in any proposed New Business Items.
There was, of course, also no mention of the fact that Arabs, including the Palestinians, have repeatedly rejected peaceful co-existence and waged wars and terrorist campaigns against the Jewish state from the first day of its founding. Nor was there any mention that Israeli peace offers in 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008 were all rejected by Palestinian leaders out of hand.
The NEA’s misguided focus on Israel can be seen in its concern towards the LGBTQ community; multiple NBIs target the unfair treatment of LGBTQ people. Interestingly enough, the Report of the 2018-2019 NEA Resolutions Committee lists a condemnation towards “gender-based violence worldwide.”
If the NEA cares about LGBTQ issues, then why do certain activists attack Israel and say nothing about Iran, which executes gays? And why do they fail to address the difficult situation of gays in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority?
Israel is the only country that affords all legal rights to its LGBTQ citizens, which stands in stark comparison to the highly restricted or non-existent rights they have in the rest of the Middle East. Israel was also ranked the world’s 8th safest country for women by New World Wealth research — all facts that the NEA activists do not take into consideration when trying to cooperate with organizations that aim to boycott Israel.
Paradoxically, there seems to be some concern with antisemitism at NEA meetings. NBI 102, for example, deals with the advocacy of the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2019, and the Report of the 2018-2019 NEA Resolutions Committee B-63 lists the importance of Holocaust education.
Some background: Since the beginning of 2019, Congress has focused on the growing wave of antisemitism within public schools by trying to mandate Holocaust education in secondary schools across the country.
The recently proposed bipartisan “Never Again Education Act” aims to fight this trend by providing teachers with the necessary tools to educate students about the lessons of the Holocaust. While knowledge about the Holocaust is central to comprehending the consequences of dangerous ideologies, the fight against antisemitism in schools requires a broader approach, which includes the establishment of Israel as a Jewish home and the often tragic history of the Jewish people who lacked the security of a national homeland.
It is counterproductive for educators to fight antisemitism by teaching about the atrocities and lessons from the Holocaust while simultaneously using the classroom to demonize and single out the one homeland of the Jewish people.
If educators are truly concerned about the increase of antisemitism in the United States, they would do well to first educate themselves on the history of Israel and learn to spot inaccuracies about the current conflict circulating in the media. While the NEA, with its vast influence over public education, is responsible for fairly and accurately presenting Israel, the public is responsible for making sure their actions do not go unchecked. Consider yourself warned.
Katrin Gendova is an education researcher at CAMERA.