AFT joins Education International to affirm peace in Israel and Palestine

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Delegates at Education International’s 7th World Congress in Ottawa, Canada, this July unanimously agreed to a “Statement on Israel and Palestine” that reinforces and expands on EI’s earlier positions affirming that all people of the region have the right to live in peace, within secure borders, under a two-state solution, where both Israel and Palestine will coexist—neighboring, sovereign, independent, viable and democratic.

Unlike the resolutions and proclamations of other global union federations, the International Trade Union Confederation, and other labor organizations, EI has effectively said “no” to negative boycotts and sanctions, and “yes” to a process of negotiation where civil society organizations, including teachers unions, will work toward peace and equality.

The policy statement, proposed to the World Congress by EI’s executive board, is the culmination of three years of work by the EI Advisory Committee on the Middle East. The committee is composed of leaders of the American Federation of Teachers, the United Kingdom’s National Union of Teachers, the Union of Education Norway, Germany’s Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, and, most importantly, the largest teachers’ unions in Palestine and Israel. AFT President Randi Weingarten was actively engaged in the entire process, making several trips to the region for consultations and bringing the unions and other relevant stakeholders to the table to create a policy that addresses divisive issues in the spirit of mutual respect and inclusiveness. 

The EI policy unequivocally condemns acts of intolerance and hatred, and rejects violence as counterproductive for achieving political ends. 

Knowing that securing peace for future generations depends on what children learn today, EI also calls for education for all children using curricula that can teach the next generations to live in peace with acceptance of each other. Teachers, education support workers, their unions and their communities will answer the call and be leaders in this education reform.

EI also acknowledges that moving forward will mean building a stronger Palestinian society and economy, one that addresses the region’s needs for human development, where workers and families are free to move and pursue their dreams, not constrained by separation barriers and harsh travel restrictions.

Education International calls on its affiliates to:

  • Urge leaders of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to enter into good-faith negotiations in order to lay the groundwork for a negotiated settlement;
  • Reaffirm that education—free from textbooks and teaching materials that incite hatred—is the fundamental right of all children and a bridge between people for better, more peaceful lives; and
  • Advocate and lobby for the recognition that long-term prospects for peace will depend on a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace and equality.

This EI policy is a powerful witness to peace in place of conflict. It is unique in its rejection of boycotts and sanctions that only serve to move us further from our shared goals for peace. Instead, it draws its strength from international law, United Nations resolutions and the authentic participation of key stakeholders who denounce violence and extremism, call for humanitarian and economic development, and make paramount that all students benefit from an education that teaches tolerance, mutual understanding and peace.