Seattle Teachers Stand with Palestine

Members of the Seattle Education Association rally in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. (Photo: Darrin Hoop)

By Emma Klein & Cameron Payne

In response to the ongoing Israeli colonization, occupation and bombardment of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021, Seattle Education Association (SEA) Representatives passed a New Business Item (NBI) in solidarity with the People of Palestine.

Rooted in the principles of justice, human rights, and equality, the recommendation endorses the Palestinian call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Israel, and the End the Deadly Exchange Seattle campaign. The NBI passed by a 90% yes vote of the Representative Assembly. As Palestinian and Jewish educators and members of SEA, we stand in strong support of this monumental recommendation.

Palestinians are enduring a brutal Israeli occupation that has crushed the lives of millions of Palestinians and expelled hundreds of thousands from their homes. This issue may feel far away, but it is anything but. U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Seattle Police Department, have participated in exchanges with the Israeli Defense Force, training with them on policies such as surveillance, restrictions of movement, repression of social movements, torture and violence.

We see these tactics carried out by the SPD in the horrific murders of Charleena Lyles, Terry Carver, Derek Hayden, Damarius Butts, Isaiah Obet, Tommy Le, Eugene Nelson, Robert J. Lightfeather, and countless others who have lost their lives at the hands of the SPD.

As Palestinian and Jewish teachers, we must speak out against Israel’s calculated attack on Palestinian education.  Gazan students are unable to secure study permits to access educational opportunities in the West Bank, let alone internationally, forcing many students to drop out of school and repressing the academic output of Gaza.  Roadblocks and curfews across the occupied territories lead to school closures for months at a time.

The Israeli detention of Palestinian minors without charge and accountability disrupts Palestinian youth from accessing education and leads to deep trauma. In Seattle, we see trauma at the hands of SPD and the school-to-prison pipeline. We know BIPOC children and families are disproportionately targeted by police and incarcerated.  As an academic institution that claims educational justice for all, it is crucial that Seattle Public Schools stand with our students and families denied their right to education from Seattle to Palestine.

We understand that it is a common reflex to look at “both sides” of an issue that feels so complicated but that sentiment mirrors the call for “All Lives Matter.” This is not complicated at all. We cannot continue obscuring the power dynamics and systemic racism at play, and equating state violence with the retaliation of the powerless. Calling for justice and holding Israel accountable for its behavior, a country that has been accused of systemic apartheid by international and Israeli human rights organizations is not anti-Semitic.

In the last year, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) released two official statements in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. BLM unequivocally stands for an end to incarceration, borders, racism, ethnic cleansing and police brutality. Israel is mobilized by incarceration, borders, racism, ethnic cleansing and police brutality. To stand with the BLM movement here is to stand with the principles of the BLM movement in a global context.

The same way the United States systemically oppresses Black Lives and people of color, Israel is systematically oppressing Palestinians, Afro-Palestinians as well as Jews of color. Israel is doing this with $4 billion dollars in aid, per year from the U.S. Those who identify as Zionists cannot stand for Black Lives Matter. These two things cannot exist at the same time. Historically, some of the most iconic activists for Black Lives have irrefutably stood with Palestine and expressed the importance of Palestinian liberation.

The SEA resolution is not an isolated action.  Educators and institutions from around the world have come forward, as part of a vibrant and growing international movement in opposition to Israeli colonization and apartheid.  Weeks ago, the United Educators of San Francisco and chapter chairs of the United Teachers of Los Angeles passed similar resolutions in solidarity with Palestinians.

As SEA members and educators, we are proud to stand with Palestinian families, faculty, employees and students of Seattle Public Schools. We will work to ensure that our recommendation is upheld and we call on brave individuals and institutions like our own to join us.  With each step, our movement’s strength is growing.

This Op-Ed is written by rank-and-file members of the Seattle Education Association and has not been approved by union leadership. The article was originally published in Mondoweiss.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)