Parent implores school district: Focus on academics, not international affairs

Parent implores school district: Focus on academics, not international affairs

This week, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to support a resolution condemning anti-Israeli rhetoric being pushed by the United Teachers Los Angeles in recent months. Below are the comments offered by a Los Angeles parent on the resolution. Watch the full discussion here. 

Good Morning. My name is Margaret and I am a parent and member of California Students United.

I am commenting on Mr. Schmerelson’s Anti-Semitism Resolution. I appreciate the nod to anti-hate, however, without the explicit inclusion of Anti-Zionism, this comes up short on addressing the main source of anti-Semitism in LAUSD, UTLA’s BDS motion.

As noted in The Atlantic magazine, LAUSD achievement is shockingly poor, with a majority of students falling below grade level. Our achievement gap is one of the worst and many students experienced horrible trauma this year. However, we have an opportunity to focus on making LAUSD the district that every child deserves with a 60% increase in our budget for the upcoming school year.

Meanwhile, our district and teacher union are mired in a debate about a war thousands of miles away. There are currently over 40 active conflicts globally. Why is LAUSD focused on the Israeli-Palestine conflict? To me as a non-Jew, the only conclusion I can presume is anti-Semitism.

CSU outlined the unchecked anti-Semitism in a letter sent to each of you. Jewish parents have been told by UTLA that they have no place to advocate for their children because they are the minority by the same UTLA President who told teachers on an ethnic studies call that the Holocaust Museum was “not with us”. Only Mr. Melvoin’s office responded to the letter. The office of Ms. Gonez, did not offer a response, but instead asked, “Why does it matter whether we are ok with anti-Semitism?”

I hope Mr. Schmelerson’s affirmation will serve as a renewed commitment to respond to these blatant acts of anti-Semitism

I bet many of you have been convinced that there is a fine line between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism. This is a fallacy. I hope an understanding of the history will provide some understanding and empathy.

Six million or 60% of Jews were murdered during WW II, bringing the Jewish population from nearly 10 million to fewer than 4 million. During and after World War II, countries blocked Jewish refugees. For example, Sweden took one of the largest lots of Jewish refugees at 30,000 but also turned away 20,000. The US only accepted 10,000. Jews were in desperate need of a homeland and it was decided in a global treaty by non-Jews that Israel would be returned to the Jews.

The logic for granting Jews a piece of land only twice the size of LA County was that Jews had been in Israel for thousands of years. Jews were the natives, as proven by the Palestinian Mosque being built on top of a Jewish Temple. However, due to slave trades to Egypt – where Jews were enslaved for over 400 years – and other persecution, there had been an exodus. This is not a justification for why Israel was returned to the Jews in 1945, rather an explanation. I have a tremendous amount of empathy for Palestinians and understand the complicated Mid-East situation having lived in the Arab Middle East.

But Anti-Zionism is a form of Anti-Semitism. When Israel is denied the right to exist as a Jewish state and Anti-Israeli expression creates an environment that makes anti-Semitism more acceptable, it is Anti-Semitism. Additionally, being in support of Israel does not exclude either the peaceful living of Palestinians in Israel OR a two-state solution.

Jews and others defend Israel because there is a history of ongoing genocide, slavery and ethnic cleansing. Israel is the only place in the world that guarantees Jewish refugees a home. As I mentioned, when Jews were being slaughtered none of our countries took them freely. This history is important to help us understand the purpose of Israel and to have empathy for LAUSD Jews living in fear today.

I beg you to include anti-Zionism in your anti-Semitism motion and not allow school leaders to use their platform to choose sides; this should be done on those activists’ free time. The Israeli-Palestine conflict has nothing to do with primary education and LAUSD and their partners do not belong in this fight within the bounds of our school community.

At a time when all children in LAUSD need us, it makes no sense that UTLA is actively advocating to exclude 15% of LA families from that safe and welcoming space. That is why Mr. Schmelerson’s resolution is so important but does not go far enough. And that is why, Ms. Gonez, it matters more than ever that this board cares about anti-Semitism.

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