Jewish teachers quit union over chief’s Palestine rally speech
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Jewish teachers quit union over chief’s Palestine rally speech

EXCLUSIVE: Dozens more are considering resigning, citing a long record of anti- Israel action by the National Education Union.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) . Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) . Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

Dozens of Jewish teachers and school staff have resigned or are threatening to quit the major educational trade union in protest at its one-side stance on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said he was “proud” to speak at last Saturday’s pro-Palestinian rally in central London – at which antisemitic chants were made and inflammatory anti-Israel banners held aloft.

The NEU’s most recent statement on the conflict failed to condemn Hamas for firing thousands of rockets into Israel and instead said “we recognise that the recent conflict was sparked by the unlawful evictions of Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and the attacks by Israeli forces on the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

His appearance was the final straw for numerous Jewish members of the union who confirmed to Jewish News that they had resigned this week.

Dozens more said they were considering resigning, citing a long record of anti- Israel action by the union.

Jewish News understands that up to 80 teachers and school staff members have voiced anger at the union’s position on Israel in private forums in recent weeks.

There has even been informal talk of attempting to relaunch a Jewish teaching union.

Ronit Loewenstern, an NEU member, confirmed she had now resigned from the union because the General Secretary did not represent her views around Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.

“Kevin Courtney, gave a speech in support of the Palestinians outside the Israeli Embassy,” she said.  “How dare he!

“We pay our subs. We are members of this union. He does not represent our views. He should be called to account.”

Loewenstern revealed she is in contact with a group of Jewish members of the union who were all taking similar action.

Messages placed on a community Facebook group also revealed the depth of anger amongst Jewish teachers about their union’s stance.

One post read:”I resigned yesterday after the awful anti Israel and antisemitic articles and adverts in their magazine. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Another wrote:”I’ve just cancelled my NEU membership and joined NASWT.”

NEU chief Courtney, who congratulated two Leicester City players for raising the Palestinian flag after they won the FA Cup Final last weekend, has previously failed to condemn the Israel boycott movement.

Two years ago the NEU blamed an error after Jewish members reacted furiously when it appeared to endorse a boycott of Israeli businesses in its official magazine.

The NEU has some 500,000 members after it merged with two other bodies, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Asked to comment on the departure of Jewish members an NEU spokesperson said:”The UK marches and rallies were attended by thousands of trade unionists from across the spectrum of TUC unions.

“The NEU Joint General Secretary was one of several speakers at the London march/rally from UK unions. In addition to his NEU role, Kevin Courtney is the international spokesperson for the General Council of the TUC.

“Both the NEU and the TUC have issued statements about the evictions at Sheik Jarrah and subsequent developments, as have many other unions. The UN has also voiced concerns.

“The NEU speaks out against all forms of racism including antisemitism.

“Policy in support of affiliation to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been agreed democratically at annual NEU conferences and at TUC Congress.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments