SWC Letter to UTLA President, A.J. Duffy

October 4, 2006


Mr. A.J. Duffy, President
UTLA
3303 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Dear Mr. Duffy:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is deeply concerned by reports of two UTLA-sponsored activities.

1) The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will offer an in-service course on the Middle East on October 14-17 at UTLA District headquarters.  The AFSC has long been associated with anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian causes, hardly a source for objective information or balanced perspective.

In these trying times, the UTLA can and must do better.  Teaching complex issues calls for special efforts to maintain objectivity.  There are few issues more volatile and controversial than the Middle East.  The way it is presented in Los Angeles’ schools directly impacts on its Jewish American and Arab American school children.  At a time of continuing terrorism and violence, our social studies teachers could certainly benefit from hearing the competing narratives concerning Israelis and Palestinians, and it would not be difficult for the UTLA to put together an effective and balanced curriculum.  Leaving any such accredited course in the hands of a politicized, agendized group as the AFSC, however, is unconscionable. If the UTLA seeks to put together a course on the Middle East reflecting the concerns of all the people of the Holy Land, we would be happy to offer our input, along with other concerned educators. If that is not UTLA’s intention, we urge you to cancel this course.

2) On October 14, the LA chapter of the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) has apparently scheduled a meeting at UTLA Headquarters to launch a BDS program against Israel.  BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) is an acronym used by the most extreme opponents of Israel. MDS’s memo drips with the venom of the worst enemies seeking Israel’s demise. 

It is distressing that there are individuals whom the community entrusts with our children, who are so willing to turn a blind eye to Arab terrorists targeting Israeli kids, their families and schools, and who present Israelis only as kidnappers, oppressors, racists, and perpetrators of apartheid.  These are the charges that appear in MDS’s brief memo heralding their meeting at the UTLA Human Rights Committee (sic). In the world in which we live today, such extreme anti-Israel demonization often leads to outright antisemitism-in word and deed.

It will simply not do to claim that UTLA exercises no control over activities on the committee level.  It has a responsibility to its constituency and our city to flag such flagrant provocations. We urge you as the top leader of UTLA to openly condemn this initiative and to urge the rank- and -file to reject such a biased move. We acknowledge and appreciate your commitment to determine whether UTLA has legal recourse to stop or move the meeting, but  beyond any legal moves, your timely public leadership against these anti-peace efforts is desperately needed.
 

If there is additional information that would be useful for our community to know about these concerns please call us as soon as possible at 310-772-2450.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Abraham Cooper    
Associate Dean          

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein 
Director, Interfaith Affairs