Students entering Mesa College
Students entering Mesa College, one of the schools represented by AFT Guild Local 1931. Courtesy San Diego Community College District

A national Jewish organization said condemnation of Israel by the American Federation of Teachers local at San Diego community colleges could cause Jewish students to feel isolated and lead to anti-Semitic violence.

Tammy Gillies, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, said the resolution will isolate students and staff who are supportive of Israel and “for whom a connection to Israel is part of their Jewish identity.”

“This resolution could have implications in the classroom, and we fear that when people demonize Israel, denigrate its government, negate its fundamental legitimacy, and hold it to double standards, it can be anti-Semitic and can spawn anti-Jewish violence,” said Gilles in a statement on Monday.

AFT Guild Local 1931, which represents teachers and staff at the San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca community college districts, approved a resolution earlier this month condemning Israel and questioning the Jewish state’s right to exist.

The resolution criticizes Israel for “its 73-year occupation of this land” and calls for Palestinians to be returned to areas they left after the United Nations’ creation of Israel in 1948

Randi Weingarten, president of the national union, expressed concerns Tuesday about the San Diego local’s resolution

“Our locals have broad latitude and autonomy to express their opinions, and many members have strong feelings when it comes to the rights of Palestinians and of Israelis,” she told Times of San Diego. “But I’m troubled by aspects of this resolution, which I have already conveyed to the local leadership, including its refusal to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist or to defend itself.”

“The national union advocates for the right to self-determination and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples. This resolution falls far short of that commitment,” she said.

Officials with the local union have declined to respond to questions about how the resolution might affect Jewish students and how it supports the labor objectives of community college teachers in San Diego County.

Gillies acknowledged the need to hold Israel to high standards and encourage open discussion, but said the resolution “will not foster fair treatment for all” on San Diego community college campuses.

“There are strong feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we respect the rights of all to express their opinion, but we believe this resolution is not only unconstructive, but potentially detrimental to San Diego-area students, parents, faculty, and administrators,” she said.

Many American college campuses are facing calls from the BDS movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, and San Diego State University recently teamed with the local ADL chapter to address the growing concerns of Jewish students.

Updated at 2:15 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.