British Teacher’s Union Defends Hiring Activist Who Daubed ‘Free Gaza’ on Warsaw Ghetto Wall for Antisemitism Workshops
After receiving a scathing open letter by a leading British Jewish group on Wednesday, the National Education Union (NEU) issued a statement defending the role of an activist who had previously daubed the Warsaw Ghetto wall with anti-Israel graffiti in its antisemitism workshops.
On Wednesday morning, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it was “profoundly disturbed” over the NEU’s hiring of Ewa Jasiewicz to organize a series of workshops titled, “Understanding Antisemitism,” as reported by the Jewish News.
In 2010, Jasiewicz vandalized the surviving wall of the Warsaw Ghetto with the words “Free Gaza and Palestine” and, in Hebrew, “liberate all ghettos.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl wrote in the Wednesday open letter, “To have somebody with this sort of track record organizing antisemitism training workshops for your union is simply grotesque. There are a number of outstanding Jewish communal organizations in the UK which provide training on understanding antisemitism.”
It noted that Jasiewicz had defended her behavior by saying that Israel had “co-opted” the Holocaust for the “agendas of colonization and repression.”
“For many Jews, however, her actions were profoundly antisemitic,” van der Zyl continued, “both by making a direct comparison between the Nazis and Israeli, and by her gross disrespect to the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Jews incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto who were murdered by the Nazis.”
Issuing its own letter roughly five hours later, the 450,000-member strong National Education Union said Jasiewicz was employed as an “organizer” and “facilitated the organization of the event, at the request of the members, but had no role in deciding, or delivering, the content of any of the sessions.”
“The union has a proud record of tackling racism and antisemitism,” the letter continued. “Like other forms of racism, it is on the rise and needs to be urgently tackled. A dedicated section of our website points to teaching and learning resources to support teachers and leaders in tackling antisemitism in education.”
The NEU’s statement contradicted a Jewish News report that Jasiewicz’s assigning “core reading” by the group Jewish Voice for Peace, to challenge “common Eurocentric [understandings] of antisemitism.”
Speaking anonymously to the British outlet on Tuesday, a Jewish NEU member said its hiring of Jasiewicz for the program “says everything about the NEU’s attitude towards its Jewish members.”
“It’s no wonder hundreds of teachers and teaching staff have decided to quit the NEU in recent months,” he continued, citing what was described in May as a “mass exodus from the biggest education union over its anger at its policies towards Israel and towards wider antisemitism.”
Since February, according to the Jewish News, twenty-five Jewish members and three official NEU representatives have resigned.
“I felt I had no choice but to leave the Union which isolated me as a Jewish, pro-Israel, teacher,” a former NEU representative said in May. “The NEU have chosen to align very closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who do not support a two-state solution.”
“A teaching union should be impartial,” another teacher said, “as we are a professional body who must represent these strong ethics and values in our school.”