Britain’s largest teachers’ union backs BDS

Politicians, Jewish groups and teachers slam the politicized motion as a one-sided act that has nothing to do with the union’s job.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Britain’s largest teacher union has been roundly condemned by politicians and Jewish groups since voting to support the boycott of Israel at its annual conference in mid-April, The Jewish Chronicla reported.

The National Education Union (NEU), which is the largest union of its kind in the EU, passed a motion that supported “the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against the Jewish state.

The BDS movement singles out Israel for opprobrium among all other countries in conflict and denies its right to exist as a Jewish state, which makes it antisemitic according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of Jew-hatred.

The chair of the Parliament’s Education Select Committee, MP Robert Halfon, told TheJC, “I think this is pretty horrific and unnecessary. Why on earth the NEU should focus on Israel, when they should be keeping our children learning, is beyond most people.”

The union’s webpage describes its “key issues” as “workload, funding, child poverty, assessment and pay,” with the goal of “shap[ing] the future of education for the benefit of teachers, support staff, and pupils.”

Yvonne Greene, a business studies high school teacher, was one of several Jewish teachers who resigned from the union last year, saying it has become “increasingly obsessed” over Israel.

“Any union should be concentrating on educational issues, not supporting an organization that calls for academic boycotts and the suppression of free speech,” she told The JC in response to the BDS motion.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, charged that “tackling antisemitism is relegated to tokenism while anti-Israel obsessives are indulged. The NEU fails to understand that convenient and selective anti-racism is no anti-racism at all.”

The NEU denied the charge, saying through its spokesperson, “The NEU denies any suggestion our work on antisemitism is tokenism. We take our work in challenging and tackling antisemitism extremely seriously and it is a year-round commitment.”

The group “has, and will, always publicly and roundly challenge and condemn any such statements or behavior.”

NEU head Kevin Courtney, who was the main speaker at an anti-racism rally in March, vilified Israel in a speech at a pro-Palestinian rally in May last year at the tail end of the country’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, which retaliated against Hamas’s firing of some 4,000 missiles into the Jewish state.

Courtney also backed the current vote, quoting the anti-Israel UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who blamed Israel for the “disastrous” state of Palestinian human rights in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The NEU also supported the Amnesty International report categorizing Israel as an apartheid state earlier this year, saying that it would publicize the report on its website.

The National Union of Teachers, which is a large part of the NEU, adopted a motion in 2014 to “boycott the goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall.”