Where will KNEA, Sharice Davids land on NEA accusations of Israeli “genocide”

 Top officials in the Kansas National Education Association teachers union and its endorsed congresswoman Sharice Davids are keeping quiet about a plan by the national NEA that may accuse Israel of genocide at a meeting in Philadelphia this week.

The National Review reported Wednesday on documents it obtained that revealed the NEA, which claims to represent 3 million teachers nationwide, will vote on several anti-Israel resolutions at the union’s “Representative Assembly” in Philadelphia which began July 4th. That agenda includes the adoption of an official position holding that Israel is conducting a “genocide” in Gaza and that opposing the Jewish state’s existence is not anti-Semitic.

KNEA President Sherri Schwanz

Kansas NEA is one of 50 NEA affiliates in the U.S. KNEA celebrated its 160th anniversary last year. In a Topeka Capital Journal article in 2013 the state organization claimed to have 25,000 members across Kansas, but the organization’s website does not cite current membership. A link to the Representative Assembly from the KNEA site was not functional Thursday.

A meeting agenda was not available to the Kansas Informer on the Representative Assembly website and was restricted to NEA members only. The Informer emailed Kansas NEA president Sherri Schwanz and communications director Marcus Baltzell to determine if Kansas delegates to the meeting would support the anti-Israel motions. We also contacted the office of Kansas 3rd District Congresswoman Sharice Davids, who has the regular endorsement of NEA. As of this post we have received no replies.

CNN reported two rallies were held Wednesday outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, one by the Educators for Palestine group – which is made up of NEA members – and a counter rally by StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel advocacy organization. Although the proposed agenda items are typically confidential before being voted on at the Representative Assembly, Educators for Palestine have outlined several in their call to vote yes. CNN said it has not seen the proposed agenda items, and the NEA did not respond to the network’s request for information regarding the Israel-related reolutions.

Kansas 3rd District Representative Sharice Davids is endorsed by the NEA/KCUR photo

Zach Kessel, writing for The National Review, said two items on the meeting agenda would have the NEA ‘use existing digital communication tools to educate members about the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.’

Kessel’s article said the resolutions claim that the two are often erroneously conflated, characterizing antisemitism as “bias or action against Jewish people” in one document and “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” in another. Union members describe anti-Zionism as “a political stance” in the first resolution and “the opposition to any Jewish state in the Middle East” which entails opposing “the existence of the modern state of Israel.”

The NR story said in order for an item of business to reach the floor, it must be sponsored by at least 50 of the 6,000 delegates present at the convention. If passed, the resolutions direct the NEA to abide by their provisions for a year, provided that the resolution does not violate existing NEA policy.

Multiple resolutions set to be discussed at the assembly would have the NEA use its resources to promote efforts to end ties between the United States and Israel. One such campaign is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, explaining to members the connection between BDS and “the broader labor movement” as well as addressing “legislative efforts to restrict speech in relation to BDS” and “NEA members’ participation in the movement.”

Kessel said another resolution would allocate NEA resources toward communicating “the Palestinian Trade Union call to action to ‘End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel’ to NEA members,” while one more resolution would use the union’s media channels to publicize its “opposition to spending billions of dollars in Federal funds to send weapons to the Israeli military that are used in genocide in Gaza.”

Neither KNEA nor NEA websites detail the relevance of international affairs to improving education in U.S. schools. 

Dane Hicks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He is the author of novels "The Skinning Tree" and "A Whisper For Help." As publisher of the Anderson County Review in Garnett, KS., he is a recipient of the Kansas Press Association's Boyd Community Service Award as well as more than 60 awards for excellence in news, editorial and photography.