Can you put yourself into the shoes of a Palestinian living with no human rights under the longest military occupation in recent history? The military checkpoints, separation walls used to steal land, racist discriminatory political system, unemployment and poverty among the worst in world, the blockade by land, air and sea preventing essential materials needed to sustain life, home and business demolitions, ethnic cleansing and settlement expansion, the constant fear of military invasion and bombardment, having no state to protect you? This is the human cost of establishing and maintaining a Jewish supremacist nation-state in Palestine, otherwise known as modern Zionism.
The modern Zionist project of creating an ethno-religious state cannot be reconciled with democracy. This same contradiction makes democracy impossible in Muslim and Christian states that have their own terrible history of expelling and killing people of the Jewish faith. Dehumanizing one group of people to keep another “safe” is not sustainable or moral and just fuels the cycle of violence. Democracy will keep us safe, not bigoted and racist political systems.
Israel was born out of the same nationalism and imperialism that brought about the genocide of the Native Americans, the African slave trade and subjugation of Black people in the United States, the colonization of the globe by Europe and the United States and eventually two world wars. If we have learned anything from history it is that colonization and racism leads to immense human suffering.
The teachers of LA refuse to stay silent during this developing genocide and have passed resolutions that call on United Teachers Los Angeles to support the end of U.S. military aid to Israel, the end to Israeli occupation and war crimes and the right of return for Palestinians. Educators in Seattle, San Francisco and Vermont have done the same.
A tantrum of white fragility has resulted in attacks on progressive educators both within and outside of the union. The right-wing publication, the Free Beacon Press, backed by billionaire hedge fund manager, Paul Singer, who funds and supports the brutal occupation, wrote a hit piece on me, Soni Lloyd, for supporting the resolution and making social media posts critical of the white supremacy and Zionism. The Daily Wire- founded by Ben Shapiro, who is infamous for his racist propaganda about Palestinians and Arabs, claiming they are a rotten to the core people who breed terror and once advocating for a final solution of expelling all Palestinians from the West Bank-also published a hit piece on me for speaking up for the human rights of Palestinians.
In a show of anti-black racism, journalist Graham Piro of the Free Beacon Press and Krissy Clark of the Daily Wire chose to single out a respected Black teacher, me, who is relating the experience of people of color in the U.S. to the plight of Palestinians and posting the same criticism as many other teachers. Singer, Shapiro, Piro and Clark, support ethnic cleansing, apartheid and war crimes so they target school teachers and others who are speaking out for equality, peace and democracy in the Middle East.
The attacks on progressive teachers also include letters to our employer, LAUSD. Daniel Gold of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles wrote to my school administration to say that his organization is against teachers taking a stand against Israel. He fails to realize that our union takes many stances on human rights because they impact the working class as a whole. Three other parents of LAUSD students and an anonymous community member also wrote letters to my employer attempting to vilify me for organizing a teach in for educators at Venice High School on Israel Palestine and posting statements on social media critical of the US and Israeli governments.
A handful of fellow union members have turned on their own by sharing social media posts with school administration in attempts to have pro-Palestinian teachers disciplined. This is just despicable.
I grew up in Southwest Portland where I witnessed hate and discrimination against racial and religious minorities on a daily basis. Skinheads lived in my neighborhood. “Heil Hitler” was jokingly yelled by youth. Some of my white, working class neighbors used the terms Jew as slur, kike, spic, chink, nigger and sand nigger to refer to Arabs. My parents taught me to reject people like that but it is impossible to escape the poison of white supremacy and religious bigotry in the United States. It is in the media, the classroom, the workplace and the police forces. My home, with the only Black family in the neighborhood was routinely surveilled with an undercover detective sitting in a car all day long looking for non-existent criminal activity. A petition was circulated to remove our family from the neighborhood.
I learned about the origins of racism from very few of my teachers and my family. I vowed to become an educator that would center anti-racism and anti-imperialism so that the next generation would embrace democratic concepts and reject supremacist ideologies.
Teachers are critical thinkers. We realize the Israeli occupation is the root cause of the daily suffering of the Palestinians. As thinking people many of us choose not to side with the oppressors. Either you are for the occupation or you or not. It is hypocritical of us to teach our students about democratic values and then stay silent witnesses to crimes against humanity.
Imperialism robs from the working class through declining wages, the export of capital and the militarized state. The nearly $4 billion of our tax dollars that goes to Israel to fund war crimes and apartheid in Palestine is money that should go to education and healthcare. The hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent annually on the military, including 800 overseas bases could wipe out poverty in the U.S. if not the world.
At their core, unions are about economic power. The motion in support of equal rights for Palestinians is a step toward redirecting the massive resources of our country toward peaceful development and away from constant warfare.
Teachers stand for democratic values, peace and equality. We center anti-racism and anti-imperialism and labor rights in general to support the next generation. The current rise of the far-right around the world is very similar to the growth of fascism before WWII. This is the real threat to racial, ethnic and religious minorities. Reactionary policies have to be called out wherever they exist be it in Israel-Palestine, Saudia Arabia, Spain, Russia or the U.S. Privileges based on race, ethnicity or religion have no place in democratic nations. Dehumanizing one group of people to keep another safe will only result in resistance and war. We praise organizations like Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem for educating the world on the apartheid system in Israel-Palestine that needs to be dismantled. More than that we praise the courageous Palestinian people who continue to show the world how to fight for democracy and equal human rights against all odds.
We support democratic internationalism to oppose fascist internationalism. The progressive people of the world are coming together in a united front against the colonizers and war criminals. In this spirit, labor unions all over the globe have answered the call of Palestinians workers for solidarity. But more than that civil societies all around the world are marching and speaking out for the rights of Palestinians to live free from fascist occupation.
The worldwide uprising against racism in 2020, led by the U.S. Black liberation movement, marked a turning point in global affairs. Symbols of colonialism and white supremacy are falling across the world. The people are now in a mood to rebel the systems of oppression that has mankind living in chains.
The latest UTLA motions in support of human rights are a part of a working class movement to end racial discrimination and economic injustice.
My social media post critical of Zionism is similar to those of countless other anti-Zionist Jewish people and organizations. When I came under attack it was my Jewish friends here in West LA that came to my defense, starting a letter writing campaign for me and other Venice teachers who were targeted for showing leadership and promoting civil discourse about Israel-Palestine in our community. Jewish Voice for Peace created a letter template for the campaign. CODE Pink, LA Jews for Peace and California Scholars for Academic Freedom also contributed letters in support of me and the other VHS teachers.
This is the real popular movement that is drawing together progressive Angeeinos in the struggle against racial discrimination and war crimes. Far from inflaming anti-Semitism, this social justice movement is bringing together people of all faiths and nationalities to do the right thing. This is not about Jew versus non Jew, it about right versus wrong.
We study history to avoid repeating the worst parts. Settler colonialism, and imperialism is always wrapped in religious pretense. The Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny were used to brainwash Christian European migrants to participate in the genocide to the Native Americans. Similarly, claims of biblical rights to land for people of Jewish faith, are being used to fuel the violent dispossession of Palestinians right now. This is why the left supports the Palestinian struggle against Zionism.
Zionist teachers within UTLA organized frantically to defeat this popular anti-imperialist push within our union. Their main goal was to kill the resolution by preventing it from being heard or discussed by the governing body of UTLA, The House of Representatives. Hundreds of Zionist teachers signed a petition to drop their union membership if the board did not stop the voices of the people. Teachers who raised the motions were called to a meeting by UTLA officers and told to retract the motions. In that meeting members were told death threats had been made against UTLA president Cecily Myart Cruz in order to convince them to retract the motions. The teachers who brought the motions held firm that this the issue of Israel-Palestine needed to be addressed by our union and did not retract.
Next, a substitute motion was written by a board member, Scot Mandel, to suspend the pro-Palestinian motion indefinity and support a series of UTLA sponsored workshops on Israel-Palestine. The main thrust of the substitute motion was that taking a Pro Palestinian stand was too one sided and too divisive for our union. They are right, it is one sided. Thinking people cannot be neutral in the face of crimes against humanity. Do we weight the position of the abolitionist as equal to the slave owners, or the civil rights leaders as equal to the segregationist? As long as we live in a world based on special privileges and discrimination there will be division and right and wrong to support.
Over the summer the board called an emergency meeting to adopt the substitute motion. This substitute motion was presented to the House of Representatives in September and passed by a 2/3 majority vote.
I am really disappointed in UTLA leadership for allowing themselves to be bullied and failing to take a stand. But they are like most Americans who are programmed by the two parties of the rich to be hollow souls, and to live in fear of those with privilege and power. When master yells, they jump into line. They are not Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. They are not being ejected from their homes and systemically starved and murdered for their ethnicity. The UTLA board makes good money and eat really well while the Palestinians starve. This is the very essence of the labor aristocracy created by the bourgeoise in order to divide the working class and create loyal supporters of U.S imperialism.
A few years ago, the UTLA board took a stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and stood up to the bullying from the anti-black UTLA faction who used very similar tactics of the Zionist teachers. The Blue Lives Matter teachers circulated a petition and raised objections in meetings but to no avail. That was a proud moment for UTLA to stand committed to the cause of racial justice in the face of right-wing attacks. I respected Cecily Myart Cruz and the other board members for not being pushed around by the reactionaries. Now, my respect turns to disdain as I see them cowardly back down to the warmongers and silence the voices for equality.
The world is dividing into two great camps. On one side are the imperialists and their abettors who pursue the enslavement and systemic robbery of the working class in order to obtain maximum profits for the social and economic elites. Constant war crimes, racism, sexism and national oppression hang like a dark cloud over society as a result of this program. The imperialist camp is made up of fascists from all races, religions and nationalities and even the non-religious. They are a robber networks grabbing for power in every country, on every continent under the slogan “might makes right.”
On the other side are the anti-imperialist, democratic majority who struggle for peace, democracy, economic justice and racial equality. They recognize no special privileges based on race, religion or nationality. Instead of maximum profits for the few, they pursue the maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural requirements of the whole of society. Through internationalism they are drawing together the democratic masses of the various nationalities for the purpose of waging a joint revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the war criminals. All progressive Angelenos and Californians should continue to build a united front against fascism and imperialism. Like UTLA Educators for Justice in Palestine on Facebook to support the just cause. Use your social media to post about why you feel it is important for educators to promote democratic values.