A recent resolution passed by a United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) chapter has inserted the country’s second largest teacher’s union into an international conflict. On May 20, the chairs of the Harbor City UTLA chapter voted on a resolution expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemning Israel for its actions in the latest conflict with Hamas. The resolution will not appear before UTLA’s highest decision-making body until September for a full vote. But until then, groups are speaking out against the move.
“Like many of you, I am worried and concerned about the anti-Israeli resolution planned for a vote in upcoming September by the Los Angeles teacher’s union (UTLA). We at the IAC see this resolution as dangerous and one-sided,” said Dikla Soffer-Ninary, Los Angeles regional director for the Israeli American Council (IAC), in an email to members. “This resolution fails to condemn [the] terrorist organization Hamas and promotes division.”
Soffer-Ninary’s email went out with a call to action and an invitation to a town hall meeting that they held on June 16. The IAC did not return a request for comment.
The resolution voices support for “the Palestinian people” and calls on Israel to “end bombardment of Gaza and stop displacement at Sheikh Jarrah.” Additionally, the resolution calls on President Joe Biden to cease aid to Israel and endorses the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
The BDS movement, which started in 2005, but did not move into more mainstream political discourse until the late aughts, is a non-centralized campaign to put economic pressure on Israel in support of Palestine. The movement seeks to oust Israeli from the West Bank and end the blockade on the area. It demands that Israel grant millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants full citizenship.
The Beverly Hills City Council has been a vocal critic of the BDS movement for years. In 2016, the Council passed a resolution in support of California Assembly Bill 2844, the California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act. The bill, which passed, bars public agencies in the state from contracting with businesses that participate in the BDS movement.
Then-Mayor John Mirisch described the movement as Judeophobic. “The so-called BDS movement that is spreading around college campuses and throughout other venues in the U.S. is dumb, it’s dangerous, it’s disingenuous, and if you take the D out of BDS, that’s pretty much what we’re left with,” he said in May 2016.
In response to a request for comment, UTLA forwarded the Courier a statement about the resolution. The statement emphasized that while the resolution passed in one chapter, the resolution did not speak for the union as a whole. After a motion passes, it then goes to the UTLA House of Representatives, the union’s highest delegating body.
“Motions brought by UTLA members at regional Area meetings are not the official expressed opinions of UTLA or its elected leaders,” UTLA said. “Debate and disagreement are essential to democracy and to our union, even when there are deep, conflicting emotions on both sides.”
The statement condemned “racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and oppression in all forms,” including recent attacks against Jews in Los Angeles.
“We are deeply concerned about UTLA’s focus on an Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of on a safe way our kids and teachers will be returning to the classrooms in September,” Soffer-Ninary wrote in her email. “We stand against this excluding resolution, which marginalizes anyone who supports Israel and turning the UTLA and our schools into an unsafe place for Jewish and Israeli educators and students. We hope UTLA leadership will focus on our students’ well-being and a safe return to schools for all the students and staff.”