The United Nations and the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) have long had something in common. Both organizations have so-called Human Rights Committees that routinely condemn the United States and Israel as the biggest threats to world peace.
Now both share another, equally dubious distinction: Just as the Oil-for-Food scandal revealed the corruption of the UN, a controversy earlier this month has focused attention on the inner workings of the largest union in Los Angeles County.
As reported last week, UTLA made headlines when it became known that the Los Angeles chapter of the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) would use UTLA headquarters to discuss the launching of an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. Local Jewish groups responded with a campaign of their own and were able to exert enough pressure on UTLA president A.J. Duffy to get the meeting moved.
But it was obvious from the start that Duffy wanted only the story—not the meeting—to go away. “This is a democratic union in a democratic nation and I will not sponsor censorship,” Duffy recently wrote on the UTLA's website. In fact, however, the current controversy has nothing to do with free expression. Rather, it concerns the UTLA’s effective sponsorship of a group -- the MDS -- that openly supports terrorist organizations. The MDS “Statement on the ‘New Middle East’” reads: “We support a new internationalism founded on unity and solidarity with popular, mass-based resistance movements such as Hamas and Hizbullah struggling against those who oppress us all.”
Duffy’s second tactic—claiming to be unaware of the Human Rights Committee’s activities—was even less persuasive than his attempt to act as a champion of free speech. In a meeting with local Jewish organizations on October 4, Duffy told participants that because of the great autonomy enjoyed by UTLA’s member committees, their positions don’t always reflect those of the union as a whole.
According to UTLA literature, however, the “33 Standing Committees help formulate UTLA policy.” Stephen Saltzman, western regional director of the Zionist Organization of America, explained why blame has to fall on UTLA: “This is the largest teachers' union west of the Mississippi allowing itself to be used by extremist radicals who want to launch a campaign to attack the state of Israel and do so with the implied endorsement of the people teaching our children.”
Duffy surely has allowed himself to be used by such radicals, never more so then when he gave the welcoming address at this year’s Human Rights Committee Conference. A mere glance at the event’s agenda reveals a workshop on “the environmental impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian communities” and a discussion of “definitions of genocide and human rights in the U.S., world history and in the Middle East, specifically in Palestine."
Until recently, photos on the group’s website showed Duffy sitting at a table with many members of the Human Rights Committee. (The incriminating photos have now disappeared from the site.) And the cameraman was none other than Emma Rosenthal, the Human Rights Committee member and founder of the anti-Israel organization Café Intifada. Yet, Duffy wants the public to believe that he doesn’t know what the Human Rights Committee is up to behind closed doors.
It can only be hoped that the average Los Angeles teacher would have an easier time than Duffy condemning the Human Rights Committee’s decision to invite Adam Shapiro of the International Solidarity Movement to be the keynote speaker at the annual Conference. Shapiro justifies the Palestinian armed "resistance" against Israel provided that it targets Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The conclusion is easy to draw: An organization that is ostensibly dedicated to the betterment of children’s lives has no problem honoring an individual who supports the slaughter of innocent children. Writing in the Los Angeles Daily News, Bridget Johnson asked:
Considering that Hamas has killed children (seven alone in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing) in its suicide attacks and encourages Palestinian kids to become "martyrs," and Hezbollah uses children as human shields in its blend-in brand of warfare, why would any teacher offer their wholehearted support?
In the warped minds of UTLA’s radicals, they are doing their part to protect children from the real danger: the United States military. Showing that no lessons have been learned about the appropriateness of social activism following this month’s events, the following flyer appears in the current UTLA newspaper:
LOS ANGELES: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2006, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
EDUCATION NOT MILITARIZATION! War Leaves Every Child Behind ~ A Conference for Educators, Students and everyone concerned
Sponsored by: CAMS and Human Rights Committee/UTLA
United Teachers Los Angeles UTLA Building
3303 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90010
(by the Red Line Metro, Wilshire by Vermont)
* Legal Rights of teachers and students
* Panels, Workshops, Resources, Materials, Curricula
* Alternatives to the Military
* Network with educators and activists doing amazing work
CAMS, which stands for The Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, is part of the UTLA Human Rights Committee and meets once a month at the UTLA Building. The organization was founded after the attacks of 9/11 by Human Rights Committee member Arlene Inouye as “an effort to inform and educate students and the community about the military recruitment that entices our young.” She regards American soldiers as both “cannon fodder” and ruthless murderers. Describing CAM’s 2004 “Stopping Militarism in Our Schools” take-action workshop, Inouye wrote approvingly that “[a] high school student reads her anti-war poetry and tells her audience she is friends with a murderer, a former JROTC drill team leader who enlisted, went to Iraq, and killed five people.”
Teaching children how to read and write would not be the primary function of schools if it were left up to the member of CAMS. According to Inouye, they envision “the neighborhood schools as centers of activism where the broader community could participate.” Thus, she finds it acceptable when students decide to rebel against school administrators, as she demonstrated in her reaction to an incident during CAM’s Operation Opt Out Campaign:
This campaign triggered an outpouring of student organizing. Students set up tables and crafted large opt-out signs to get the information out to their peers. They passed out flyers and counter recruitment literature, and made multimedia presentations. At one school an administrator refused to publicize the opt-out information through a public announcement. When students learned about this resistance from teachers, many of them (including the uniformed football team) became angry and stormed the principal's office. When the opt-out returns were announced, we were ecstatic.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles students, the CAMS Adopt-A-School Project has been successful, with more than 35 schools now learning how to brainwash students. (It is not the U.S. military recruiters who are brainwashing students by telling them about the opportunities that come from serving their country, but CAMS, which considers all American military action to be criminal.)
CAMS advises teachers to “assign reading such as Addicted to War by Joel Andreas” and to “sponsor a peace club, MECHA, or student activist group to address related issues of concern for youth of color and the poverty draft.”
With such indoctrination taking place, it is no surprise that schools of today are so different from what they were like just a few years ago. While this should upset parents who want their children to receive a quality education, radicals like Inouye couldn’t be happier. Here is how she described a return visit to the high school her mother attended:
Today when you visit Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, you will find a very different school climate than three years ago. Military recruiters claim "Roosevelt has kicked us out" and they are no longer interested in coming to campus. Instead, students from MEChA and other organizations wear handmade T-shirts with sayings like "Books not Bombs" and "Students not Soldiers," and pass out counter-recruitment fliers and college informational brochures. They are all a testament to the organizing work of many that started with a few.
They are also a testament to the unconcerned union leaders who allowed such a radical transformation to occur in the first place.
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