Parent Group Calls On Teachers' Union Head To Denounce Anti-Semitic Statements

Randi Weingarten has not condemned AFT affiliates for attacking Israel

Randi Weingarten / Getty Images
June 18, 2021

A national parent group is calling on American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten to condemn two California teachers’ unions that made anti-Semitic statements.

Fifteen groups signed on to Parents Defending Education’s Tuesday letter criticizing United Teachers of Los Angeles and the United Educators of San Francisco for issuing anti-Israel statements during recent Hamas attacks. The American Federation of Teachers affiliates endorsed the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and accused Israel of committing war crimes and "apartheid."

"You are leaving the impression that anti-Semitism, unlike other forms of bigotry, is tolerated in your ranks," the letter says. "It is unacceptable that the teachers’ union you head has affiliates that are using the AFT’s name and infrastructure to promote this kind of hateful rhetoric."

The affiliate chapters’ statements came just months after Weingarten attacked Jewish parents who supported reopening schools. Weingarten, who is Jewish, claimed American Jews are "part of the ownership class" and want to "take the ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it." Emails uncovered by the New York Post in May found that the American Federation of Teachers influenced the Centers for Disease Control’s decision to keep schools closed despite scientific evidence that they could safely reopen.

The United Educators of San Francisco became the first American teachers’ union to back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which encourages governments and businesses to sever economic ties with Israel. In the same statement, the union called the Jewish state a "regime of legalized racial discrimination" and demanded the Biden administration cut aid to Israel. United Teachers of Los Angeles chapter chairs proposed a similar resolution on May 19.

Neither statement mentioned the Hamas rocket attacks on Jerusalem.

The unions’ criticism of Israel is hypocritical, said Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

"Calling Israel an apartheid state when it’s the only country in the world with Jews and Arabs in the government, in the legislature, in the Supreme Court—to call that ‘apartheid’ is racist bigotry," Menken said.

Parents Defending Education’s letter urges Weingarten to denounce the California unions for their anti-Semitic statements. The signatories recommend that the American Federation of Teachers develop training to confront anti-Semitism within its ranks and work with the California affiliates to "repair the damage" caused by their statements.

On June 14, Weingarten wrote to the Anti-Defamation League that the American Federation of Teachers has "long fought to eradicate antisemitism." She did not comment on the unions’ endorsement of sanctions against Israel, saying only that teachers have the "democratic right" to chastise "governments we consider to be violating people’s rights."

Nicole Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education, said Weingarten’s dismissal of anti-Semitism as diversity of opinion "speaks volumes."

"The fact that Ms. Weingarten cannot bring herself to acknowledge anti-Semitism in her union, referring to the embrace of [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] and anti-Semitic rhetoric as differences or questions of policy speaks volumes," Neily told the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s a vivid illustration of the saying, ‘A fish rots from the head.’ Discrimination has no place in America’s schools."

The American Federation of Teachers has not responded to the letter as of this writing.

Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, questioned why teachers' union leaders are spending time lobbing anti-Semitic statements instead of working on fixing the American education system.

"No wonder the number of children being homeschooled has doubled over the last year and a half," said Schilling, whose organization also signed onto the letter. "Not only are the teachers' unions bankrupting us, they are destroying the next generation of Americans. They must be held accountable."