Analysis: Failed History — N.O. teacher union trashes Israel in call for ceasefire

Weapons found by the Israel Defense Forces at a Kindergarten in Gaza on Dec. 23. IDF Twitter.

United Teachers of New Orleans, the union of teachers and school employees in New Orleans, issued a statement on Jan. 10 calling for a cease fire in Gaza, putting the entire blame for the conflict on Israel and justifying Palestinian violence.

The statement bemoaned the destruction of schools in Gaza, saying the Palestinian “liberation movement” has the right of “armed struggle” against “colonizing occupier” Israel, which it referred to as committing genocide.

An earlier statement by the union’s executive council, released on Jan. 5, did condemn the Hamas attack of Oct. 7, mentioning the deaths of over 1,200 Israelis, mainly civilians, and called for the release of Israeli hostages and the cessation of Hamas rocket fire into Israel. It also rejected “all forms of hate, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

All those sections were removed in the revised statement by the general membership, leaving a statement that condemns Israel’s existence and justifies Palestinian attacks.

In announcing the revised statement, the union said “we prioritize democratic decision making and member leadership,” and the statement was revised to remove anything sympathetic to Israel “following further discussion at our general membership meeting.”

The revised statement was announced online with a graphic of a watermelon, which has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Since the watermelon shares the colors of the Palestinian flag, it is said to have become a Palestinian symbol when the display of Palestinian flags was banned.

The revised statement does not name Hamas at all. The Hamas attack of Oct. 7 is unmentioned, and reference to Oct. 7 is in the context of how that date wasn’t the beginning of the conflict, but that it goes back to the 19th century “inception of the right-wing ideology of Zionism.”

Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their historic homeland. References to colonialism, occupation or, as the statement claims, “Western Imperialism,” erases Jewish historic ties to the land and casts Israel as a foreign presence in a land to which it has no claim.

The statement begins with a call for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of Gaza, and to allow for peace talks for a permanent ceasefire. Though unmentioned in the statement, that would leave Hamas in power, and Hamas has vowed to repeat the Oct. 7 attack as often as needed to drive the Israelis out of the region.

Currently, hundreds of aid trucks are making it into Gaza daily, and Israel is pausing all military operations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily to facilitate the movement of aid. There is plenty of video of armed Hamas operatives commandeering aid trucks as they arrive, and a lot of the humanitarian aid that is supposed to be distributed for free has been seen for sale in Gaza markets at inflated prices. That also includes tents sent as humanitarian aid being sold to refugees.

The statement makes no mention of releasing the Israeli hostages, either before or as part of a ceasefire.

The statement also asserts that 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, citing United Nations figures — which come from Hamas ministries and do not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

According to the union, the 625,000 students in Gaza have no access to education, since 70 percent of school buildings have been damaged or destroyed. “As educators, we are deeply troubled by these attacks against schools, which U.N. human rights experts have described as crimes against humanity.”

Unmentioned is how the schools, run by the United Nations, were often storage centers for weapons, itself a war crime, and makes them a legitimate military target. Rockets have been routinely fired into Israel from school property, and Israel has released a lot of video showing United Nations duffle bags filled with Hamas weapons. A youth scouting building was recently discovered to have a battery of rocket launchers. Many of the Hamas “terror tunnels” have openings inside schools — though not for student safety, as the tunnels are forbidden to those who are not Hamas fighters.

Gaza schools have also come under international criticism for a curriculum teaching that martyrdom is the students’ highest aspiration, and that Israel is a foreign entity that needs to be removed from the region. Numerous countries have pulled funding because of textbooks that teach war against Israel and Jews, instead of coexistence. School skits routinely show students as young as Kindergarten with weapons, play-acting the abduction of Israelis.

This should not be a surprise. A Telegram group of 3,000 U.N. teachers in Gaza was filled with posts celebrating the Oct. 7 massacres and hoping for more.

The union’s statement says that through the establishment of Israel, which it referred to using the Arabic word for “disaster,” Palestinians “have suffered the full brunt of Western Imperialism” and “hundreds of thousands of families were forcibly expelled from their homes to make way for settlers.”

In 1948 the entire Arab population in what became Israel had been around 900,000, of whom over 150,000 remained and became citizens of Israel. While technically 750,000 individuals could be seen as “hundreds of thousands of families,” that phrasing evokes a much larger number of individuals than existed in the area, especially given average family sizes.

Claiming that the displaced Arabs were removed “to make way for settlers” is not only inaccurate as the land was sparsely settled, but it also labels all Israelis going back to 1948 as “settlers.” That is part of a current attempt to delegitimize Israel in its entirety, going back to its founding, not just criticize Israeli control of the post-1967 territories.

It also ignores that studies have shown most Arabs who left in 1948 never encountered a single Israeli soldier — immediately after the war, most blame by refugees for their plight was given not to the Jews but to the Arab armies who told their brethren to get out of their way, so they could get rid of the Zionists and allow the Arabs to return in a few weeks not only to their homes, but to the property of the Jews.

The statement also ignores that at the same time, roughly 190,000 Jews were expelled from Gaza and the soon to be renamed West Bank by Egypt and Jordan when they occupied those territories in 1948, leaving the Jewish population in those areas at zero. Additionally, up to 1 million Jews were uprooted by the Arab countries where they had lived for as much as two millennia, forced to leave at a moment’s notice and leave their property behind. Most were absorbed by Israel.

The Arab refugees, though, were placed in amber, forbidden to resettle elsewhere and build a normal life, and fed a steady diet of being able to return after Israel is destroyed, and improving their situation would be seen as a betrayal of that Quixotic goal. That’s how there can still be Palestinian refugee camps inside areas administered by a Palestinian government, and a whole United Nations agency devoted to maintaining the Palestinians as perpetual refugees, while all other refugees around the world are served by one UN agency that focuses on resettlement and solving refugee crises as quickly as possible.

But the union has an answer to all of the objections listed above: To deny the “facts” put forth in the statement “would be ahistorical and disingenuous to the current resistance and the struggle being waged in Gaza.”

Trust us. We have The Truth, don’t listen to anyone else.

Justifying violence

The statement continues with a paragraph not in the executive council’s original statement, “Indigenous peoples experiencing the violence of occupation have the right to armed struggle,” citing a 1982 United Nations declaration justifying the struggle for independence “by all available means, including armed struggle.”

Jews are clearly not considered by the union to be indigenous to their historical homeland, as the statement concludes with a condemnation of “genocide being perpetuated by the Israeli regime, a colonizing occupier, and affirm(s) support for the Palestinian liberation movement.”

While South Africa has filed suit in the International Court of Justice alleging Israel is perpetrating a genocide in Gaza, many nations have rejected that, with Germany recently announcing it has a special moral obligation to defend Israel from that spurious charge.

Despite Hamas using Gaza’s citizens as human shields in an urban warfare environment, and despite all neighboring countries refusing to allow Gazans to escape the area as is routine in time of war, the civilian to combatant ratio of deaths in Gaza during Israel’s military campaign has been roughly 1.5 to 1, which is seen as remarkably low even under ideal circumstances. By comparison, the Iraq war was 4.5 to 1, and the United Nations says the typical rate in the 20th century was 9 to 1.

Conversely, the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel was launched with the express purpose of killing as many Israeli civilians as possible, and the Hamas charter calls for the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people, a clear call for genocide.

Hamas knows full well that Israel does not target civilians, and uses that to their advantage. Likewise, the rules of war do not forbid civilian casualties as a blanket rule, understanding that there are times when collateral damage is unavoidable when going after a militarily valuable target.

The union’s original statement had called on “all parties involved to cease all hostilities and come to the negotiation table so that a lasting peace may be achieved.” That conclusion was rejected by the membership, in favor of the statement urging Palestinian liberation.

Based on Facebook and union website searches, this is the first time in at least five years that the union has issued an opinion on an overseas issue.

Dave Cash, president of the union, was said to be working on a response to inquiries from this publication, but after four days no response had been received.

The UTNO is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. On Oct. 9, the AFT issued a statement condemning the Hamas attack and standing with the people of Israel. The AFL-CIO on Oct. 11 urged a swift resolution to the conflict, condemning the Hamas attacks and “all terrorism” while expressing concern for the then-“emerging humanitarian crisis.”