The group says members raised a post expressing solidarity with Palestine with EIS president Paula McEwan and general secretary Andrea Bradley, on the day after a Hamas incursion into Israel left several hundred civilians dead, with the Jewish Teachers Network (Scotland) having felt it was “incredibly offensive and insensitive towards the Jewish community” and that her posts “felt anti-semitic in nature”.
The group felt that their concerns were not adequately addressed, and allege that the content of the social media posts was determined not to be anti-semitic without engaging the EIS’s Jewish members.
Jewish Teachers Network (Scotland) further expressed its concern over the EIS releasing a statement calling for a ceasefire which focused on the impact of the conflict on educators in Gaza but not in Israel, and the attendance of a pro-Palestine demo by senior members of the union when “members have not been consulted on their presence at this protest”.
The group also expressed concern about the language used in a resource on Israel and Palestine released by the union, stating that it “fails to show that Judaism shares some of the characteristics of a nation, an ethnicity, a religion, and a culture” and that a section which states “Palestinians have lived on the land for thousands of years. There has been a Jewish presence in Palestine for thousands of years” is “biased in approach”.
A statement released by the Jewish Teachers’ Network said: “We are hugely concerned by the bias shown by our largest teaching union and the impact that this is having on our Jewish educators throughout Scotland.
“We are seeing educators across social media using the words genocide and apartheid whilst discussing Israel, no matter how flawed their government is, but are using measured and apologetic language around Hamas, a terrorist organisation whose charter clearly states their intent to kill Jews.”
The Hamas charter was originally issued on 18 August 1988 and represents the identity and aims of the group, which has been designated a terrorist organisation in the UK.
The document stated “the day of judgement will not come until Muslims fight the Jews” and that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad”. It set out the belief that the land of Palestine is God-granted to the Muslim people and “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it”.
In 2017 the group released an updated charter which said it “rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds” and that “its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion”.
In response the Israeli government said Hamas was “attempting to fool the world” with its updated charter, which offered to support a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders but without recognising Israel or giving up claim on the land within its borders.
The statement continues: “We’ve seen them (EIS) post pained responses about the tragic loss of life in Gaza but failing to acknowledge those who were killed in the terrorist attack or who remain missing. It’s dangerous and damaging.
“The voice of our Jewish educators is just as important as everyone else but at the moment we seem to have no voice. We desperately want organisations and people who represent us to acknowledge our concerns and work with us to create a fairer society for everyone; no matter their religion or race.”
An EIS spokesperson said: “The EIS was surprised and concerned to see the content of the recent press statement by the Jewish Teachers Network (Scotland), which contains a number of serious allegations about the EIS. The EIS wholly refutes the allegations made in the JTN statement.
“The JTN is not an organisation of which the EIS has been aware until recent weeks and then only as a result of the organisation being referenced in a very small number of emails received by the EIS. We have had no formal contact or correspondence with the JTN.
“The EIS represents around 65,000 teaching professionals across Scotland and continues to work to promote the best interests of all of its members, who come from a diverse range of personal backgrounds.
“We have responded to a very small number of emails received from members with differing views in relation to the current situation in Israel and Gaza, and continue to engage directly with members in relation to the issues they have raised.
“The EIS supports a peaceful resolution to the Israel / Palestine conflict while believing that this can only come through dialogue. In recent public statements, the EIS has reiterated its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace that is consistent with international law and is based on a two-state solution, and security for both Palestine and Israel which promotes democracy, equality and respect for human and labour rights.
“EIS policy with regard to the Israel / Palestine conflict has been determined through the democratic structures and processes of the Institute, in which all members have the opportunity to have their say in determining that policy. All public statements, and any attendance at events promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict, are based on the agreed policy of the Institute, as constituted through its democratic processes.
“EIS policy with regards to tackling prejudice and discrimination against religious minorities, including anti-Jewish prejudice, is also determined through the democratic structures and processes of the Institute.
“In recent years, the EIS has been an active supporter of Holocaust Memorial / Education activity and initiatives, which is reflected in our attendance and speeches made at various Memorial events; decisions to fund numerous of our members’ participation over the past few years in the University of the West of Scotland’s Citizenship and Holocaust Education Masters Level Distance Learning module; provision of Holocaust Education EIS professional learning for our members; financial donations of several thousand pounds to various Holocaust Education initiatives, including £10000 to the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre in 2021; and coverage on the national EIS website, social media and in our members’ magazine.
“The specific demonstration cited in the JTN statement was organised by the Stop the War Coalition, details of which were shared by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to its affiliated unions. Attendance at this demonstration was consistent with EIS policy supporting a peaceful resolution to the Israel / Palestine conflict.
“Statements published on EIS national social media channels are based on, and consistent with, established EIS policies which are agreed through the democratic process of the Institute. The EIS does not police, nor does it propose to police, personal statements made by any individuals on their own private social media accounts.
“The EIS continues to be appalled and deeply concerned by the escalation of violence against civilians in Palestine and Israel, and at the deepening humanitarian crisis that the latest development in the conflict has prompted.
“We stand with the wider trade union movement across the UK in support of the UN call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and for the UK government and the international community to show leadership in promoting efforts to uphold the principles of international law, secure peace and protect civilians.
“The EIS reiterates its previous unequivocal condemnation of the attacks by Hamas and its brutal murders of civilians in Israel in this recent escalation of violence. We also repeat our call for the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages unharmed.
“Neither the killing of Israeli civilians nor what the UN has described as the collective punishment, illegal under the Geneva Convention, of the people of Gaza, will bring about peace.
“The EIS resource, ‘Palestine and Israel, Understanding the Conflict’ is not a new resource, having been published in 2019 following longstanding collaboration with various partners, including Education Scotland, local authority education departments and Scottish universities. The EIS believes that in a turbulent world with many conflicts, it is essential that pupils are equipped to navigate contested topics, evaluate evidence and arrive at their own conclusions. These materials are designed to facilitate this process and can be adapted by teachers to suit the needs of learners as appropriate.
“We extend our condolences to those who have lost family and friends to violence. And we stand full-square with those who oppose efforts to fuel anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Scotland and the wider UK as a result of these events.”