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Student-teachers union takes stand against Israel as anti-Semitism concerns arise

By   /   August 21, 2014  /   No Comments

AP photo

ON DUTY: Israeli soldiers hold their weapons during clashes with Palestinians Aug. 15 in Gaza.


By Paul Miller

As Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters confront one another in a deadly battle over Gaza, an alliance of watchdog organizations asked University of California President Janet Napolitano to monitor the rise of anti-Semitic speech in the nine-campus system, citing “a scathing anti-Semitic statement released by the Union of Student Workers promoting the boycott of Israel.”

The organizations, including the AMCHA Initiative, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and StandWithUs, said they are “deeply concerned with the serious and growing problem of hate-filled rhetoric about Israel that sometimes rises to the level of anti-Semitism on campuses across the country, including at the University of California.”

Teaching assistants, tutors and other student-workers at the University of California are represented by UAW 2865. The union recently announced its intention to seek a membership vote in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish State.

“The Joint Council of the UAW 2865, a body made up of 83 elected officers who oversee the affairs of the 13,000 member-strong student-worker union at the University of California, is publishing this open letter that outlines our intent to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.”

In their letter to Napolitano, the Israel advocates said they “support the right of every member of UAW 2865 to exercise his or her freedom of speech outside of the instructional setting.”

It’s the “hateful rhetoric” that has the 12 organizations concerned.

“The Union’s statement contains numerous instances of language which meets the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism,” said AMCHA Initiative founder and UC lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. “For instance, the statement demonizes and delegitimizes Israel, falsely describing it as a ‘settler colonial’ and ‘apartheid’ state and accusing it of indiscriminate killing and ‘inhumanity.’

AP file photo

DOES SHE HEAR?: A coalition of organizations are asking University of California President Janet Napolitano to temper heated anti-Israel rhetoric on campus.

“The union has embraced a movement whose principal promoters call for the elimination of the Jewish state through any means necessary, including by murdering Jews.

In their letter to Napolitano, the Israel supporters said “teaching undergraduate students one-sided propaganda which falsely alleges that Israel is a ‘settler colonial’ and ‘apartheid’ state worthy of elimination and promoting an anti-Semitic boycott of Israel do not constitute education but unabashed political indoctrination, which is expressly forbidden by the UC Regents in their Policy on Course Content.”

The UAW 2865 did not respond to request for comment.

But in their statement, union leaders said their members have “a responsibility as educators to both learn about and teach the social issues of our time, including pressing global struggles such as the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation from settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

The University of California, which received nearly $2.4 billion of taxpayer funds during the 2013-14 academic year, is no stranger to anti-Semitism.

In an article for California Watchdog.org, professor emeritus Abraham H. Miller cites a 2012 incident in which, “a group of pro-Gaza demonstrators prevented Jewish students from entering a classroom building at the University of California-Davis. Several Jewish students were forced up against a building window, shouted at and physically intimidated by demonstrators pounding their fists into their hands while standing next to the Jewish students.”

In 2002, at San Francisco State University, part of the state’s separate California State University system, members of the General Union of Palestinian Students surrounded participants in a Jewish students rally, screaming at the Jewish students, “Get out or we will kill you!” and “Hitler did not finish the job!”

“We are deeply concerned about the rising tide of anti-Israel activism on UC campuses, evidenced by divestment resolutions, many faculty members who openly espouse anti-Israel propaganda and single-issue anti-Israel hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine,” said Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs. “The anti-Israel sentiment often stems from and is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism.

“These educators should be models of intellectual honesty and standards, but with this resolution they degrade all intellectual standards,” Rothstein said.

Anti-Israel sentiment among labor unions has been more visible since the recent turmoil began in Gaza. An anti-Israel rally in Chicago last Sunday that became blatantly anti-Semitic was broadcast on social media by Fox News contributor Jonathan Hoenig. Revealed in his tweets were multiple Chicago Teachers Union members wearing their union red shirts.

The CTU has not responded to requests for comment.

On July 25, officials for the United Steel Workers Local 8751 in Boston participated in an anti-Israel rally that included chants of “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that calls for Israel to no longer exist.

The USW said it does “not support any of the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic or anti-American organizations.”