Calling for a Bilateral Cease-Fire in Gaza and Promoting a Two-State Solution and an End to the Weaponization of Hate
The war in Gaza must end, and diplomacy that creates two states for two peoples must start. Far too many Palestinians and Israelis have perished, and far too many Palestinians and Israelis have had their lives shattered and destroyed. As educators, healthcare professionals and public service professionals, we are sick at heart over the toll this war has taken on thousands of innocent people, particularly innocent children.
We have long recognized the right of Israel to protect its citizens against crimes of war and aggression. The horrific slaughter of Israeli civilians perpetrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others on Oct. 7 was the largest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. To this day, Israeli civilians taken as hostages on Oct. 7 are still in captivity in Gaza.
The ongoing war in Gaza—its terrible toll of tens of thousands of civilian Palestinian deaths and its widespread destruction—has created a humanitarian tragedy that must end.
Further shedding of blood in Gaza and the infliction of more pain and anguish will not bring peace and security to either Palestinians or Israelis. Cycles of violence and retribution in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the better part of a century cannot be broken with more of the same. Moreover, there is real danger of the expansion of the current war in Gaza to other nations in the Middle East and beyond.
For all these reasons and more, the American Federation of Teachers supports a negotiated bilateral cease-fire, agreed to by both sides in this war and guaranteed by the international community. A cease-fire agreement must include humanitarian aid for the immediate provision of desperately needed food, water, medical care, clothing and emergency shelter to Palestinians and the release of all hostages taken on Oct. 7.
The AFT reaffirms its support for a two-state solution, with true self-determination for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine. Both peoples have deep roots in that land and the right to live there in peace and with freedom. A bilateral cease-fire is necessary to start the process of negotiating a lasting agreement that ends the decades of conflict and bloodshed by recognizing the rights of both peoples and providing each with its own government—two states for two peoples.
The Palestinian people of Gaza have suffered under the dictatorial rule of Hamas, which has brutally repressed and eliminated its Palestinian opponents. Hamas declares its intent to destroy the state of Israel and has a massive terrorist infrastructure. Hamas is not a partner for peace, security or a two-state solution; that is why the peace initiative organized by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states does not include Hamas in its proposals for the future governance of Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are a major obstacle to achieving lasting peace, freedom and security. He has opposed a two-state solution while enabling numerous illegal settlements on the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu’s government has stood idle in the face of violence and land theft that extremist settlers have waged against Palestinians in these territories. Netanyahu has an interest in prolonging the war to escape the public scrutiny of his colossal failure to protect Israeli citizens, and to escape his ongoing trials. Despite the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling against his effort to override that very court, he continues to undermine Israel’s democracy. It is time for another election in Israel so that Israelis can elect leaders who truly believe in democracy, security and a peace process.
We support those forces in Israel and in Palestine that seek a different future for themselves—a democratic future where Israelis and Palestinians both can live in dignity and with self-determination and security for all.
Meanwhile, the war has also unleashed a wave of hate and incitement to violence in the United States, with appalling demonstrations of antisemitism and Islamophobia. The AFT reiterates our long-standing and uncompromising opposition to antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate and incitement to violence. We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring our work and teaching environments are safe and welcoming for the people we represent and those we serve, and to promoting a democratic education that builds understanding and mutual acceptance across different religions, races and ethnic groups. Whatever one’s view of the war and the issues raised by it, there is no justification for using it to spread hate and intolerance.
The weaponization of incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia in campaigns to censor dissenting views of the war and the underlying conflict between Israel and Palestine is also deeply disturbing. These campaigns are particularly troubling in education, where they strike at the heart of the freedom to have unfettered, intellectually honest and respectful discussion and to freely debate ideas, even controversial ideas. That is the hallmark of both American education and American democracy. We will defend the rights of educators and their students to participate in intellectually honest discussions, to articulate and rally around their views, including the underlying conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Moreover, we will not tolerate the weaponization of academic discourse to be used in political attacks on American colleges and universities, and as a pretext for attacks on efforts to increase diversity, promote equity and advance inclusion.
Our campuses must be places of dialogue for the furtherance of understanding in a pluralistic society. Teachers and students must be free to express different views on the burning issues of the day, without fear of loss of position and retaliation, and without intimidation and threats of violence.
As a union deeply committed to teaching, to healthcare and to defending democracy, we pledge to continue our advocacy for democracy at home and abroad, as we support the principles of dignity and freedom for all.