By: TRICIA RIVERA – JOURNALIST
Jewish teachers fearful of anti-Israel activism in classrooms have been urged to ditch mainstream education unions and report incidents of anti-Semitism in their workplaces.
As the school year begins, Australian Jewish Association chief executive Robert Gregory is concerned radical political activism will worsen in 2024.
He said growing union support for the Palestinian cause had pushed Jewish teachers to terminate their memberships. “Jewish teachers are concerned with the introduction of anti-Israel activism into the classroom, and with the failure of established teachers’ unions to intervene and oppose it,” he told The Australian.
“We’ve heard concerns from teachers and pupils that instead of learning important information, the classroom (will) be turned into a charged political environment.”
In the past few months, advocacy groups in Victoria and NSW have orq•anised weeks of solidarity with Palestine. The action, endorsed by some branches of the AEU, encouraged teachers to invite Palestinian advocates into campuses.
While the AIA has engaged with mainstream unions, Mr Gregory said he did not believe the groups would be receptive to its concerns. “I think these unions have morphed far from their original role,” he said.
“We would have expected after the October 7 attacks increased support for Jewish teachers, unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. We are shocked.”
A Jewish high school teacher, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, recently quit her membership of the NSW Teachers Federation over concerns it was growing too political.
“I felt it was kind of moving out of what I joined a union to be doing for me and to have legal coverage. The legal coverage I’d need would be around people showing up with keffiyehs or a Hamas T-shirt and now there’s no way they’re going to help me out with that stress,” she said.
“They’ve made it divisive.”
The reports of anti-Semitic incidents have prompted the AIA to recommend teachers who have left or are wanting to leave their union to join the Teachers Professional Association of Australia.
The TPAA is marketing itself as a low-cost alternative, with its spokesman, Edward Schuller, saying it will support Australia’s ally.