Teachers to discuss backing PalestiniansDebbie Andalo
Thursday March 13, 2008
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is due to discuss a motion at its Easter conference that takes a pro-Palestinian stance on the occupation. It calls on its union to buy educational material produced by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for use by students in schools.
The motion, which marks the 60th anniversary of the "unresolved injustice" of the "banishment of 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands", says that the campaign material "promotes an understanding of the history of this most protracted dispute in the Middle East".
It also wants the union to fund the publication of curriculum learning materials around peace and militarisation.
The motion goes on to urge members to stop promoting in schools career opportunities in the armed forces and to support any teachers who face "victimisation or other professional difficulties" in implementing the policy.
The motion, which comes from NUT members in Croydon, south London, is due to be debated at the conference in Manchester, which starts next Friday (21). It could trigger the same divisions in the union that split the University and College Union (UCU) last year.
The general secretary of the NUT, Steve Sinnott, said this afternoon that the motion was a matter for debate and that no decisions had been taken.
But he said it was important that children had access to a range of different educational materials which expressed a range of opinion.
He said: "You can't use material in schools which is partisan. What the executive is seeking is do is to seek to produce materials for schools but in order to do that we need support from a range of organisations - not just one."
He said the union had raised concerns about an educational fact sheet, produced by the Ministry of Defence, on the war in Iraq which he said was "selective" about the information it presented.
He said: "It was a one-sided position and didn't deal with issues to do with the war's legality or any decisions about the war at the UN.
"What I don't want is for the MoD to be targeting young and vulnerable children... and placing misleading information before them."
The controversial motion, which also calls for the union to reaffirm existing policy to oppose the war in Iraq, comes 10 months after the UCU provoked global condemnation after its national conference decided to take steps towards a vote on introducing an academic boycott of Israeli universities.
The ensuing row dragged on for four months and involved academics from across the world - especially in the US and Israel - sparking criticism from Jewish leaders, university vice-chancellors and the government.
In September last year the union cancelled the schedule of regional meetings organised for members to discuss the "moral implications " of existing links with Israel", which had included invitations to speakers from Palestinian trade unions living under Israeli occupation who had originally urged the union protest.
The union's U-turn followed advice from its lawyers that a boycott call ran the risk of infringing discrimination legislation and was also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the union.
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