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Anti-Israel Rally Won't Be Held at Teachers Union

October 06, 2006|Mitchell Landsberg | Times Staff Writer

After an outcry by Jewish organizations, the Los Angeles teachers union revoked plans Thursday by one of its committees to hold a pro-Palestinian rally at union headquarters.

The Human Rights Committee of United Teachers Los Angeles had announced it would be a co-host of the rally at UTLA headquarters a week from Saturday, and support a boycott against Israel. After meeting with committee members, union President A.J. Duffy issued a statement saying the meeting could not take place at the union's building.

"While as educators and union members we encourage a respectful debate on the important issues of the day, this event has provoked very sharp feelings among our members and concerns that this meeting is inappropriate," Duffy said.

It was not immediately clear whether the committee would participate in the campaign against Israeli policies or whether the rally would be moved to another site.

Earlier, Duffy, who is Jewish, had taken an announcement of the rally off the UTLA website but said the committee was free to express its opposition to Israel. "This is a democratic union in a democratic nation and I will not sponsor censorship," he wrote on the website.

The rally and boycott were being organized by the Movement for a Democratic Society. According to a website for the group, it is affiliated with Students for a Democratic Society, a descendant of the 1960s-era antiwar group.

An e-mail from the Human Rights Committee said it is supporting "the Palestinian people in their decades-long struggle against Israeli aggression, dispossession and oppression." It called for a boycott against Israeli products and companies, and against U.S. companies with investments in Israel.

That position elicited a strong reaction from some Jewish teachers and organizations.

"What am I spending my union dues for? For this?" asked Roslyn Riboh, a counselor at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors.

The teachers union, she said, should be "doing things for kids," not dabbling in international politics.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, issued a statement saying his organization was "deeply disturbed" by the committee's position, which he characterized as anti-Semitic, and urging Duffy to condemn it.

The Anti-Defamation League also issued a statement criticizing the committee for its "deplorable and offensive" action.

"While the ADL is a strong supporter of everyone's right to free speech, we are concerned that hateful rhetoric will not be productive for anyone during these troubled times," said the statement by Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL.

A representative of the Human Rights Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

mitchell.landsberg

@latimes.com

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