October 12, 2006
UTLA quashes Israel divestment push
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Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) said he believes the committee is "made up of a fringe of anti-Semites."
The congressman added that perhaps UTLA should create a new committee for teachers supporting Israel. The Human Rights Committee's mission statement calls for "social justice and the peaceful resolution of conflict for its members and other staff, students, parents, the community, the nation, and the global economy."
In an Oct. 9 letter, the AJC asks the union to "reform its constitutional foundations which enabled the HRC to stray from its stated mission...."
After learning about the planned anti-Israel meeting, local Jewish groups united in their condemnation, characterizing the event as anti-Semitic and criticizing the UTLA for initially allowing its headquarters to be used.
"This is worse than a black eye. This goes to the heart of [UTLA's] credibility," said Stephen Saltzman, western regional director of the Zionist Organization of America, before the UTLA announced the gathering could not take place on its property. "This is the largest teachers' union west of the Mississippi allowing itself to be used by extremist radicals who want to launch a campaign to attack the state of Israel and do so with the implied endorsement of the people teaching our children."
Paul Kujawsky, vice president of the Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles, and a fifth-grade teacher at Germain Street Elementary Street in Chatsworth, said he thought UTLA could make better use of its time grappling with such important local issues as high school drop-out rates.
"As a union member, I'm furious that we are attempting to have our own foreign policy when there are so many important educational issues to be addressed," Kujawsky said before Duffy's announcement.
A release put out by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Movement for a Democratic Society said the meeting's purpose was to support the Palestinian people and call for a boycott, divestment and sanctions.
"When Israel was created in 1948, 75 percent of the Palestinians were forcibly dispossessed of their lands and forced into exile," the release says, adding that "Israel's apartheid and racist system of oppression closely resembles that which South Africa once had...."
A Movement for a Democratic Society spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the strategy for boycott, divestment and sanctions is really a "campaign for the elimination of the state of Israel, spearheaded by extremist groups who use the same hateful rhetoric as states like Iran and terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."
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