The United Educators of San Francisco executive board voted on November 1 to recommend that the UESF delegate assembly endorse a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The delegate assembly, a large policy-making body, will meet on November 15 to vote on the resolution “calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and for aid to Israel to be re-directed toward public education and social services.”
The resolution was submitted to the UESF executive board for review and recommendation by 23 rank-and-file union members. The two most important sentences of the resolution read:
Therefore, be it resolved, that the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a resolution to the ongoing violence, with the goal of ceasefire, the end of killing innocent civilians, suffering, and trauma for the people of Gaza; and the sharply escalating settler colonial violence in the occupied West Bank, and
Therefore, be it further resolved, that UESF again calls on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to stop aid to Israel, to give humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and to demand an immediate ceasefire.
How will UESF assembly delegates, elected representatives from union building committees at each of about 130 San Francisco Unified School District work sites, respond to this resolution? I hope that they will accept the recommendation of the union executive board and endorse the call for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. aid to Israel.
The condition of Palestinians is one of the great ethical problems of our time. The conditions of apartheid that exist across all of historic Palestine are wrong. The Military occupation of the West Bank is wrong. The repression and suppression experienced by diasporic Palestinians around the world is also wrong and these conditions do indeed touch the lives of students and educators in San Francisco. Furthermore, the ongoing siege and assault on Gaza is abominable. Genocidal levels of violence directed at one of the most densely populated places on Earth make this problem truly urgent.
The condition of Palestinians is also one of the great political problems of our time. Why are U.S. institutions so committed to providing material and moral support to Israel, despite the growing unpopularity among the U.S. public? Readers may have seen the results of a poll of Arab Americans that showed that their support for the re-election of President Joe Biden in 2024 has dropped from 59 percent to 17 percent. Biden may lose the election battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania because of his emphatic support for the ongoing assault on Gaza. U.S. politicians’ support for Israel cannot be explained as electioneering. Instead, it is because of the role Israel plays as an enforcer of U.S. and European interests in a strategic region.
The urgent and deeply rooted nature of these problems compels UESF members to consider intently the questions that they pose. The perspectives of our peer educators in Palestine should carry great weight in these considerations. Informed of efforts to draft a ceasefire resolution by UESF members, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) made a statement on October 16 to share with us and other supporters of the labor movement. The GUPT statement makes repeated reference to violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinians, including
war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Palestinian territories, especially in Gaza, which included killings, bombings, and destruction of homes, residential towers, civil and media institutions, in addition to preventing the entry of fuel and goods, and the cutoff of water, electricity and fuel for Gaza.
The statement continues:
The continuous attacks by the Israeli army with warplanes, heavy weaponry, and various types of genocide weapons against our people in Gaza constitute a war crime, while the Israeli government and its leaders, as the occupying power, should hold legal responsibility to ensure the protection Palestinian civilians in times of war. …
The occupation forces imposed forced displacement of about more than one million citizens, pushing them to flee to other unsafe and inadequate places, such as [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] schools and open squares. …
The targeting of the Israeli occupation forces of ambulances, hospitals, health facilities, media offices, news agencies, and journalists, constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, rising to the level of war crimes, especially that is paralleled with the preventing of the entry of basic medical needs and supplies and emergency aid necessary to shelter the displaced and ensure their lives. …
Closure of the West Bank, the limitation of the operation of the only international border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, and the closure of various illegal checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, which leads to isolating entire cities and villages from the rest of the Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, is another example on the systematic violations of Palestinian rights to freedom of movement, which forms an internationally prohibited practice of collective punishment. the occupation authorities grant settlers in the West Bank freedom of movement and travel, which indicates the implementation of the two-level legal system of apartheid. They even encourage and provide protection for settlers to carry out attacks against Palestinians. …
We call on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli occupying and apartheid state to comply with international law stipulated in the Geneva Conventions, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which focuses on protecting civilians during conflicts and occupation. In addition, we stress the need to immediately stop organized attacks on holy places, release all Palestinian prisoners, and hand over the bodies of Palestinian martyrs to their families.
The GUPT statement also explicitly condemns the support of the U.S. and European states for the apartheid conditions, military occupation, and extreme violence faced by Palestinians:
We consider the explicit and unconditional support provided by American and European officials to the “Israeli” occupation entity and ignoring the plight of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, as participation in the “Israeli” violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, including the crime of apartheid. We condemn the involvement of some states and their partnership in the aggression against our people, especially the United States, Germany, France, Britain, and Italy, with the occupying entity under the pretext of the right to self-defense. Also, we note the failure of the international community to hold the occupying entity accountable for its crimes and its impunity, and we consider it the reason for the current situation.
Finally, the GUPT statement asserts a positive vision of the rights of Palestinians:
We affirm the right of the Palestinians to resist the occupation and confront its attacks and violations of Palestinian national rights, and we believe that it is the duty of peoples with living consciences around the world to intensify their efforts to immediately stop the aggression, protect the Palestinians, end the occupation, and guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to obtain their freedom and rights, foremost of which is their right to return, self-determination, and establishment of an independent state on its national land.
Our union educator siblings in Palestine have called on us to show solidarity with them, and we have a responsibility to heed the call. UESF assembly delegates should endorse the ceasefire resolution when it is presented to them with the recommendation of the UESF executive board on November 15. However, calling for a ceasefire is only a beginning. The genocidal violence in Gaza needs to stop, but even if it does, the conditions of apartheid, occupation, siege, and repression will remain. UESF and other unions that have recently spoken in favor of Palestinian rights, including the Oakland Education Association, Chicago Teachers Union, Starbucks Workers United, United Electrical Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), IBEW Local 520, and others, also need to take action. We need political education on the issue of Palestine directed at union members, labor contingents at pro-Palestine demonstrations, and organizational support for the Palestinian campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against apartheid Israel.
Featured image credit: Rafaël Vinot; modified by Tempest.
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Alex Schmaus is a special education instructional aide at a public middle school in San Francisco. They are a member of the United Educators of San Francisco executive board, the San Francisco Movement Of Rank and File Educators, and the Tempest Collective.