The San Diego chapter of the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution this month rejecting Israel’s legitimacy as a country and accusing the Israeli government of carrying out ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and war crimes against Palestinians.
In the resolution, AFT Guild Local 1931, which represents community college teachers in San Diego, refers to Israel as "historic Palestine" and calls on the Biden administration to "hold Israel accountable for its complete disregard of international law" and implement a "prompt reassessment of military aid to Israel."
The statement does not mention Palestinian terrorism. It argues that Israel’s "indiscriminate bombing of the Gaza Strip has claimed a significantly greater and disproportionate number of Palestinian lives and destroyed essential infrastructure in the already oppressed occupied territories."
The resolution comes as hate crimes against Jewish Americans are on the rise and progressives across the United States ramp up a campaign of delegitimization and economic pressure against Israel. On Tuesday, House Democratic leadership removed funding for Israel’s missile defense shield from its spending bill, in response to protests from progressive lawmakers.
AFT national president Randi Weingarten told the Times of San Diego she was "troubled" by parts of the resolution but had no control over the chapter’s decision. The Anti-Defamation League called it "unconstructive and potentially detrimental to San Diego area students, parents, faculty, and administrators." A local Jewish group also condemned the resolution.
"We are concerned about many aspects of this statement and the misrepresentations and omissions throughout, and in particular that it questions Israel’s fundamental right to exist," Heidi Gantwerk, the interim president of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, told the Washington Free Beacon. "More importantly, we are deeply troubled by the negative climate this creates on these campuses. Jewish and Israeli students, faculty, and staff should feel safe and welcomed wherever they choose to teach and learn. Sadly, many now feel singled out, threatened, and anxious. Federation and our partners are committed to supporting all aspects of Jewish life in San Diego, and that includes at our institutions of higher learning."
The AFT local guild resolution denounced Israel’s "73-year occupation," a reference to the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. This claim goes beyond the accusations of many of Israel’s harshest critics, who trace the "occupied territory" dispute to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The union also defended itself against charges of anti-Semitism, claiming that "condemning Israel for its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, occupation, apartheid, and war crimes is not anti-Semitism."
Some members of the guild objected to the resolution and expressed concern that it would encourage hate crimes against Jews, according to meeting notes from the Sept. 5 vote obtained by the Free Beacon.
One dissenter said the statement was "factually inaccurate and takes much out of context" and added that it could "provoke and give people permission to engage in anti-Semitism." Another member said "Israel has the right of self-defense" and called the resolution "an anti-Semitic hate crime."
Supporters of the resolution rejected these arguments, with one claiming that "conflating Israel and Judaism is anti-Semitic," according to the meeting minutes. Others accused former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "openly advocat[ing] for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" and "engaging in a settler colonial project in line with historical colonialism."
The guild’s president Jim Mahler did not respond to requests for comment. The National AFT did not respond to a request for comment.