The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) might finally be learning that bashing Israel isn’t a job for teachers.
It is no secret that the teachers union did everything in its power to defeat Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his educational reforms during last year’s special election in California. What wasn’t as widely known until this month was that UTLA has also been doing its part to bring Israel, a country many of UTLA’s radical leaders detest, to her knees.
Not until it was bombarded by complaints from concerned citizens did UTLA cancel its decision to host a meeting sponsored by the Los Angeles Chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS). The purpose of the upcoming event is not to help spread democracy in the Middle East, but to hurt the lone democracy in the region by “launching a local boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign in support of the Palestinian people.” The MDS can boast about having on its National Board Noam Chomsky, whose book Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States was praised by Hugo Chavez last month at the United Nations. Indeed, Chomsky, Chavez and the MSD all share a deep hatred for Israel. While Chavez has accused Israel of committing a “new Holocaust,” the MDS believes that “Israel’s apartheid and racist system of oppression closely resembles that which South Africa once had.”
Apparently, for the MDS, such methods as “boycotting companies that are invested in Israel” and “working to end US government foreign and military aid to Israel” aren’t the only acceptable ways of bringing about the country’s destruction. On the flier for the event, which was originally posted on the UTLA Human Rights Committee website, there is no condemnation of the never-ending terrorist attacks perpetrated against innocent Israeli citizens. In fact, the only mention of the intifada can be found at the bottom of the notice: “Meeting endorsed by: Los Angeles Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee Café Intifada.”
Café Intifada is an arts events organization that aims to “unite art with critical consciousness.” An example of this infusion of politics into art can be found on Café Intifada’s website: a photo of a small Palestinian child facing an Israeli tank. The organization’s goals are to “raise funds for Palestinian Programs” and to “highlight…the current plight of the Palestinian people.” It is little wonder that Café Intifada blames Israel entirely for the struggles of the Palestinian people when members of controversial pro-Arab groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are on its advisory board.
But what might come as the real shocker to Los Angeles teachers, who are required to pay union dues to UTLA each month, is that the founder of Café Intifada, Emma Rosenthal, is a UTLA Human Rights Committee member. Rosenthal is so militarily anti-Zionist that she endorses the International Solidarity Movement -- this in spite of the fact that it has refused to condemn “armed struggle” and has harbored known terrorists. (Some of its members have also been photographed with terrorists.)
For the Jewish Rosenthal, however, the only true terrorists are Jews. Her explanation for anti-Semitism is that “[a]nimosity towards Jews, in whole or in part, coming from the Middle East is not much more than a century old, in reactions to the imperialist intentions of Zionists such as Herzl and Jabotinsky and the terrorists activities of Jewish groups.”
Parents who are already concerned enough about failing Los Angeles schools now have to worry about the fact that radicals like Rosenthal are involved with teacher training. Last April 22, the UTLA Human Rights Committee hosted their annual Conference with the theme "Human Rights and The Environment." Rosenthal was the Conference Chair. LAUSD teachers earned salary points for attending workshops focusing on such themes as “climate change, sustainable agriculture, Katrina, The Gulf War and the environmental impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian communities.” The keynote speaker of the event was Adam Shapiro of the International Solidarity Movement. Rosenthal promoted the Conference on the radio station Uprising Radio, saying that the workshops would provide “the kind of information that activists need to get the word out.” Why teachers should be promoting politics over educations went unexplained.
Mere criticism is unlikely to put the brakes on UTLA’s social activism. In October of 2005, Linda Tubach, a Los Angeles Unified School District staffer and one-time advisory-board member of Café Intifada, put together a professional development course for teachers called “Teaching About the Middle East.” Jewish organizations complained then that teachers were earning salary points for receiving the standard left-wing treatment of non-violence, human rights and so-called peace movements. The course went on as planned.
While UTLA President A.J. Duffy was correct to move (however belatedly) the MDS meeting, much more needs to be done to ensure that the public trust is not breached again. The American Jewish Congress explained why this is so important:
Parents must be assured that their children's teachers are not misinformed and encouraged to bring political bias into the classroom. Taxpayers must be assured that the public school teachers' union is not being used to promote prejudice and misinformation. UTLA's 44,000 members must be assured that their union cannot be co-opted by a Committee with politicized, extremist views that do not reflect their sentiments and they must feel secure that the Human Rights Committee will remain neutral and professional.
Los Angeles schools aren’t providing students with quality educations. The last thing they need to be concerned about is turning out the next generation of anti-Israel activists.
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