Oakland teachers union calls Israel 'apartheid' and 'genocidal'
Union leadership shared curriculum resources it encouraged educators to employ in their classrooms.
Leaders of the Oakland Education Association in Oakland, California, called on school leaders to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and demanded a ceasefire as tensions between the terrorist organization Hamas and Israel continue to increase.
The union’s leadership shared curriculum resources it encouraged educators to employ in their classrooms, which accuse Israel of carrying out genocide and ethnic cleansing, something a Jewish parent said is concerning for her family as antisemitism is on the rise.
Megan Bacigalupi, a Jewish parent of students who attend schools in the Oakland Unified School District, said the union leaders’ statement is concerning given the increase in antisemitic incidents nationwide and in the area, including graffiti and the removal of hostage posters for Israelis taken to Gaza.
“We, the members of OEA, express our unequivocal support for Palestinian liberation and self-determination. We condemn the genocidal and apartheid state of Israel,” the now-deleted post on Instagram read, according to a screenshot of the post taken by Bacigalupi.
Bacigalupi, co-founder of California Parent Power, called the post antisemitic and said its position was not welcoming to the Jewish students or teachers in the district. She said it’s especially concerning, given the broader context of increasing antisemitism.
“Within our own community, we’ve seen these instances of antisemitism,” Bacigalupi told Chalkboard in an interview. “To then see the teachers union issue a statement which says really inflammatory things against Jewish people and particularly Jewish people in Israel, it was scary for me to see given the context we’re living in the world right now for Jews.”
The union that represents almost 3,000 educators and school staff said in a Facebook post Friday that its members “unequivocally condemn the 75-year-long illegal military occupation of Palestine.”
“The Israeli government created an apartheid state, and the Israeli government leaders have espoused genocidal rhetoric and policies against the people of Palestine,” the statement reads. “Our conscience demands that we say clearly that OEA calls for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestine.”
Israel’s statehood was announced 75 years ago, in May of 1948. The White House said last week that a ceasefire in the region would only benefit Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist organization.
The union’s leadership said educators have “the academic freedom” to teach about Palestine based on its contract with the school district “and the responsibility to teach young people about the realities of the world we live in.”
The statement encouraged teachers to use resources compiled by OEA educators in Google Drive and that the union would back teachers who face disciplinary actions. Some of those resources describe a “genocide” committed by Israel and ask students to consider how Palestinians’ “human rights are being infringed upon.”
A resource sheet in Google Drive says educators can take action by calling Congress to “stop the genocide” and “write a letter to Congress for an immediate ceasefire.” A “Free Palestine” slideshow from the union’s leaders said, “The US helps fund Israel’s Genocide.”
“If you haven’t spent time educating yourself on the 75-year ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine, please don’t teach this and educate yourself first, then learn to teach this,” the slideshow said. It did not mention the Oct. 7 terrorist attack carried out against Israel.
“It’s really troubling,” Bacigalupi said. “If you are teaching about this, you have to be accurate and allow them to be critical thinkers and not persuaded by false or misinformation.”
The OEA statement also recommends teachers utilize TeachPalestine.org, which it calls a “great resource for classroom materials.”
A document linked prominently on that website called “Gaza on the Eighth Day of Israeli Aggression” supposedly “tells the story of the destruction of Gaza and the loss of life through numbers and statistics.” That document calls dead Palestinians “martyrs.”
TeachPalestine.org also links to a website called the Middle East Monitor as a purported source for news and updates on the conflict. The director of the publication, Daud Abdullah, was condemned in 2009 for signing a public statement of support for Hamas militarism while he served on the Muslim Council of Britain, according to The Guardian.
Another website listed as a resource by Teach Palestine, Jadaliyya, published a piece about the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that praised terrorist organizations’ “resourcefulness.”
“That Hamas and Islamic Jihad were under these circumstances able to plan and prepare an operation of such scale, scope, and sophistication, a process that will have consumed many months at the least, and will have required extensive communications among leaders, cadres, and operatives, is an astonishing achievement and testament to the legendary resourcefulness of Gaza’s Palestinians,” wrote Mouin Rabbani, a Dutch-Palestinian researcher.
When Hamas terrorists entered Israel on Oct. 7, they killed over 1,400 civilians and took hundreds of hostages back to Gaza. Israel has retaliated with air strikes, which a Hamas-run health agency reportedly says has resulted in over 8,000 casualties.
The Oakland Education Association called on school leaders to allow students to protest and to take a stand to support peace and the Palestinian people.
The union also said it would participate in an event on Saturday called the International Day of Solidarity: Free Palestine Bay Area. The Oakland Education Association is listed on an event posting.
The event calls for “no more U.S. aid to Israel,” “lift the siege on Gaza,” and that “the people demand a ceasefire.”
Students have walked out of class in a number of California districts in solidarity with Palestinians, which has led to Jewish parents asking administrators to keep San Francisco students safe.