The head of Washington, D.C.'s teachers' union sent an email condemning "Israeli occupation" and asked her 5,000 members to lodge complaints against the police department for partnering with the Anti-Defamation League to train in Israel.
On Dec. 14, Elizabeth Davis circulated an email to thousands of D.C. public school teachers and employees with the subject line "STOP the Deadly Exchange," a reference to a campaign launched by anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace to link Israel to police violence in the United States. Davis urged members to contact the police department and urge them to sever ties with Israel.
"The Washington Teachers' Union is asking its active and retired members to call and to send a message to Chief of Police Peter Newsham at (202) 727-4218 or firstname.lastname@example.org to demand that this police exchange and all trainings with Israel, be cancelled," the email said.
Davis further went on to condemn Israel and members of its self-defense forces.
"The trainers on this trip include Israeli military and intelligence officials who enforce a military occupation. Israeli occupation is no model for DC," she said. "DC citizens, our children, and their families deserve better."
One D.C. teacher and union member, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, said she was disgusted by the email. The email struck her as an extension of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to financially hurt Israel by pressuring companies and consumers to cut ties with the Jewish state or businesses. She called Davis's campaign an abuse of her union dues payments.
"It shakes me to my core to think that part of my salary is being used to support anti-Semitic, racist causes like BDS," she said. "As a DCPS teacher, I don't have a choice. We must pay dues to WTU and they can use that money for whatever they want, even if it has nothing to do with education."
Davis did not return request for comment.
The Washington Teachers' Union represents more than 5,000 teachers in the D.C. public school system and is part of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union. A financial audit posted to its website reveals that it collected about $4.2 million in dues and fees in 2016, the most recent year available. It expects to collect $4.16 million in 2017, according to its projected budget.
The national office of the American Federation of Teachers national office did not respond when asked if it stood by Davis's position or if the email reflected an official union position.
A police department spokesman said it received "a very small number of complaints" following the email. The department stood by the training program, saying it was a "valuable experience" for participants to help protect the city.
"Expanding our knowledge on counter-terrorism and gaining valuable experience for the next generation of MPD leadership is critical to the safety and well-being of the residents and visitors of D.C." he said in an email. "The Metropolitan Police Department's participation in the ADL National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel was to learn best strategies in combatting terrorism. This experience did not impact our commitment to providing fair, unbiased and constitutional policing."
An ADL spokesman declined comment about Davis's email, though the organization has called JVP and the Deadly Exchange campaign "radical" and said JVP has come "uncomfortably close to age-old anti-Semitic canards" in targeting pro-Israel groups.
JVP did not return request for comment.