The National Education Association has no business platforming hate

In classrooms across the world, Palestinian textbooks tell students that violence against civilians is “a legitimate means of resistance.”

School classroom. Credit: Pixabay.
School classroom. Credit: Pixabay.
Carole Greenfield, Gail Hammerman and Karen Bloom

The National Education Association (NEA) states that its purpose is to champion justice and education. However, three biased new business items (NBIs) to be voted on at this year’s annual conference from July 3-6 are directly at odds with the NEA’s principles of inclusivity, diversity, tolerance, and respect for truth and facts.

These items distort the facts about Israel and could help fuel anti-Semitism, making schools less safe for Jewish teachers and students. They have no place in the NEA platform, which is why we must take a stand against them together.

Presenting just one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without considering the true historical context is disingenuous at best. Yet this context is sorely lacking in the three NBIs proposed for discussion at the upcoming NEA annual meeting.

Reading these items, for example, you would not know that Palestinian leadership has rejected every meaningful and substantive peace plan, and every two-state solution offered for nearly 100 years. You also wouldn’t know that Palestinian leadership and organizations are sponsors of terrorism and responsible for flagrant human and civil-rights violations. You wouldn’t learn that while much of the Arab world has now acknowledged Israel’s right to exist as a state and taken steps towards peace, Palestinian leadership continues to call for a complete dissolution of the only Jewish state: Israel.

Right now in classrooms across the world, Palestinian textbooks tell students that violence against civilians is “a legitimate means of resistance.” They are also full of anti-Semitic tropes that depict Jews as dangerous and demonize Israel. The United States and the European Union have been pushing against these for years to little avail. We must do better at home.

With anti-Semitism on the rise globally and in the United States, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to fight and not fuel this hatred. Elevating biased and misleading narratives that distort the facts about Israel and Palestinians could exacerbate anti-Semitism among educators and students.

These items are just part of what seems like a larger, concerted effort to delegitimize Israel—the only Jewish state on the planet and America’s closest Democratic ally in the Middle East. In fact, the growing movement to adopt anti-Semitic and anti-Israel measures, including support for the BDS movement, in local teacher unions and groups is already sowing division and fear. Increasingly, Jewish educators fear identifying themselves as Jewish and some have even resigned, citing that they don’t feel safe.

As educators and members of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, one of our main goals is to fight anti-Semitism through education. Our newly formed Hadassah Educators Council is a place where Jewish women educators can work to build a space where we can come together to improve education and our communities.

The NEA gains the trust of teachers, parents, students and all affected by the education system by committing to put forward objective facts and balanced views on issues across the globe. We have so many important issues to face at home for our children—gun violence, access to health care, safe housing … the list goes on.

These one-sided NBIs go against what the NEA stands for. Half-truths won’t do for our educators and students. Thanks to the work of Hadassah and the NEA’s Jewish Affairs Caucus, we were able to veto and overrule last year’s attempts to introduce one-sided NBIs that attacked Israel. Now, we must band together once again to oppose this year’s biased and misleading NBIs.

Carole Greenfield is chair of the Professional Councils and Special Interest Groups at Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America; Gail Hammerman is co-chair of Hadassah’s Educators Council; and Karen Bloom is also co-chair of its Educators Council.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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