update deskSchools & Higher Education

Petition signed by 1,400 blasts anti-Israel content in teachers union webinar

School literacy coach Brett Berkman described it “as two hours of anti-Israel propaganda and thinly veiled tropes about Jewish money and power.”

A map of Massachusetts. Credit: BestStockFoto/Shutterstock.
A map of Massachusetts. Credit: BestStockFoto/Shutterstock.

A webinar run by the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s Anti-Racism Task Force to present the Palestinian perspective on the Israel-Hamas war has received considerable community criticism for alleged anti-Zionist and anti-Israel materials.

On Thursday, the webinar, which is not available for public viewing, featured political science professors; a participant in the anti-Israel activist group Jewish Voice for Peace; and the union’s former president, Merrie Najimy.

Brett Berkman, a school literacy coach in Framingham, Mass., and a member of the union, said as many as 1,400 people had signed a petition blasting the event.

The MTA “does not exist to comment on international conflicts. It also speaks volumes that the one time they do speak on an international conflict—when they have no shortage of other conflicts to weigh in on—is when it involves the world’s only Jewish state,” Berkman told JNS.

“The goal of the webinar was to explain the Palestinian perspective,” said one of the participating professors, Leila Farsakh, who teaches political science at UMass Boston. “The aim of this webinar was to explain the settler-colonial structure of Zionism, of Israel. But it was neither against Israelis or the Jewish people.”

Yael Magen watched the webinar and said it contained inaccurate historical events that were “very troubling.” There was a slide, she said, saying “Israel does not equal the Jewish people.” Another slide said, “Zionism is oppressive and is a propaganda machine.”

Berkman attended a recent protest against the teachers union and told JNS that “the MTA board made a statement in December that labeled the conflict as genocide and did not mention Hamas or the hostages.”

She called the webinar “the final straw.”

It can only be described, said Berkman, “as two hours of anti-Israel propaganda and thinly veiled tropes about Jewish money and power. When parents heard about all these incidents, they were outraged and joined teachers  on a rainy, cold day to stand up to  the MTA.”

She added that the union “has many things they should be doing. We need help with contracts, best practices for students and teaching facilities. Not this.”

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