Make your voice heard on the UTLA anti-Israel motion

Jun 10, 2021 Article / Local Jewish News / News

Make your voice heard on the UTLA anti-Israel motion

A few weeks ago, ADL Los Angeles was contacted by several community members, including local Los Angeles Unified teachers, with concerns about a motion that was ultimately passed by two of eight local area meetings of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the largest union representing teachers in Los Angeles.  The motion reportedly was motivated by the recent armed conflict between Hamas and Israel, which was preceded by the controversy over the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem and protests on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

ADL, like the rest of the world, saw very intense fighting between Israel and Hamas over an 11-day period, and we mourn the loss of all innocent life, both in Israel and Gaza.  As a leading civil rights organization with Jewish roots, ADL supports a two-state solution, and we sincerely hope that the cease-fire holds, and that there will someday be a resumption of negotiations that will result in peace between Israel and their Palestinian neighbors.  At the same time, ADL has consistently opposed efforts to blame one side for the lack of progress on a lasting settlement and efforts to eliminate Israel as an independent Jewish, democratic state. 

To that end, we reached out to the leadership of UTLA in response to the motion that may be voted on in September by the union’s legislative body.  You can find ADL’s letter here, along with a response from UTLA leadership. 

Additionally, you can find articles about this issue at the Los Angeles Times and the Jerusalem Post

Understandably, many people in the Jewish community, along with our allies, are concerned about this motion and are looking to take action.  Should you decide to contact UTLA or UTLA members that you know personally, we’ve listed below several actions and talking points. 

TAKE ACTION AND SPEAK OUT

The most impactful voices that can weigh in on this issue are current UTLA members and LAUSD families.  Should you wish to reach out to UTLA leadership on this issue, firstly, be respectful and brief.  We would suggest that you emphasize the following:

·         The divisive nature of the motion 

·         While acknowledging the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians, this motion will have no impact on the issues in the region (and will in fact alienate many Jewish and Israeli-American staff and students). 

·         The motion endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.  Emphasize the one-sided nature of the BDS movement (our backgrounder is here)

·         While the current conflict has subsided, the motion fails to acknowledge the crucial role that Hamas played in launching rockets at Israel, which only then responded with strikes in Gaza. 

·         Notably, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick recently in antisemitism, including in Los Angeles – UTLA should focus on their own community before tackling international relations.

  • When else has the union weighed in on international conflicts?  Has UTLA condemned China (Uighurs, Tibet), Morocco, Syria, Yemen?

If you are a UTLA member, our partners at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles have been supporting a group of educators with a sign-on letter to the UTLA leadership.  If you are interested in adding your name to this letter, you can find it here (ONLY FOR UTLA MEMBERS).

Additional ways that you can make an impact, include:

·         When contacting UTLA, emphasize if you are a dues-paying member of any union, if applicable. 

·         If you are a union member, feel free to ask your union leadership to take a stand against this motion or take a more balanced position.  A good example of a statement from the labor movement about the recent conflict can be found here, from Jewish Labor Committee. 

·         If you have children currently enrolled in LAUSD schools, consider speaking with teachers with whom you have a relationship.

    • Be sure to share how the resolution makes you feel and the marginalizing nature of the language for Jewish and Israeli-American families, especially in light the recent spike in antisemitic incidents.
    • Again, be respectful and cognizant of the fact that not everyone has the same base level of knowledge on these issues and even if they disagree, it may be coming from a place of good intent.  This is your opportunity to share more information and context. 
    • A general guide on respectful conversations in the school environment can be found on ADL’s website

We expect that this motion will be addressed by the UTLA House of Representatives in September.  ADL will continue to monitor this issue and represent your voice on this matter.  Please feel free to reach out to us  with any additional questions or concerns.  As always, you can report acts of antisemitism and hate to us at www.adl.org/reportincident.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey I. Abrams, Regional Director
ADL Los Angeles