Minneapolis teachers union backs off Israel-Hamas statement

In a vote late Wednesday, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers walked back a resolution on the Israel-Hamas war after acknowledging that the statement was harmful to Jewish members and students.

The union’s initial resolution that passed Oct. 25 condemned U.S. support for “Israeli occupation and apartheid” and expressed support for the “BDS” movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.

MFT member Anne Silverman, a school district social worker, collaborated with the Jewish Community Relations Council to write a new resolution that she said reaffirms the federation's original purpose.

"Our main focus should be on providing a quality educational experience for our students and a good and safe learning environment for our students, and this is distracting us from that purpose,” Silverman said Thursday in an interview with MPR News.

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Silverman also noted that the initial resolution made no mention of students and was passed at a sparsely attended meeting without being placed on the agenda. She also criticized union leaders for wading into international matters that are outside the union’s purview.

“I think they’re interested in making political statements,” Silverman said. “I think they want to be a political force, and they’re weighing in to heavily on geopolitical issues.”

The resolution that passed Wednesday won the approval of 60 percent of the union members who voted during an online meeting.

It reads in part: “While it was not MFT members’ intent, the ‘Israel-Palestine’ resolution passed at our October 25 meeting harmed many Jewish members, students and families while causing unnecessary division within our union. We regret this.”

Members later rejected a third resolution from the education support professionals division of the union that had language similar to the controversial statement approved in October, but they tabled a resolution to rescind the original statement amid confusion about parliamentary procedure.

Marcia Howard, the union’s acting president, supported the initial resolution, which also called for a ceasefire and rejected “violence against all civilians whether Israeli or Palestinian.”

“This additional resolution attempts to heal a wound perceived by our Jewish members and students and families who felt that way,” Howard said in an interview with MPR News on Wednesday. “They did what they were supposed to do: they organized, they showed up and they passed it.”