National Education Association reaffirms ceasefire demand in war on Gaza
Betsy Pringle with Palestinian teacher in Ramallah in the West Bank last year.

WASHINGTON—Stressing the conflict’s profound impact on Palestinian and Israeli schoolkids, and others worldwide fearfully eyeing the war, the National Education Association’s board reaffirmed the union’s prior demand for a total cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The February 10 statement by the nation’s largest union thus reminds watchers that it’s part of a growing cease-fire trend in the U.S. labor movement, a key part of the Democratic coalition.

That trend embraces both NEA and the other big teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, the Communications Workers, National Nurses United,  the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees, the Auto Workers, the Postal Workers, the National Writers Union and growing numbers of union locals and sectors, and tens of thousands of individual unionists.

And the White House is apparently taking notice. Even Democratic President Joe Biden is changing his words on the war, calling Israel’s response to Hamas’s October 7 invasion “over the top” and a danger to innocent Palestinian women and children.

Biden has changed his words, but not his policy of more arms aid to Israel. He seeks $15 billion in the latest military aid measure. And while some union locals and at least one sector, UAW District 9, demand a cutoff of the aid, most of the national unions—including NEA—haven’t taken that step.

What NEA’s new resolution does is urge its three million members to lobby lawmakers for an immediate ceasefire and resumption of humanitarian aid to the 2.2 million Gazans, as well as Hamas release of the remaining 100+ hostages it seized in its October 7 invasion.

That air-sea-ground assault killed 1,200 people and took almost 240 hostages. Since then, the Israeli army has killed almost 30,000 Gazan civilians and wounded double that many.

The union also pledges not just to lobby for a ceasefire but to join a like-minded coalition of civil rights, religious, labor, and civic groups in doing so. That includes Jewish and Muslim groups. And it will work for that same goal with foreign unions through Education International, their organization.

“All people, no matter their religion, the language they speak, or their place of birth, have a fundamental right to live free of violence and war,” union President Becky Pringle, a Philadelphia science teacher, said. Pringle traveled to both Israel and the occupied West Bank a year ago as part of a delegation of educators. They met officials, teachers, and students in both Israel and Ramallah, currently the Palestinian West Bank capital.

“As educators, we believe strongly in our professional and moral responsibility to teach and model inclusion and respect for differences. We must speak out against injustices and violence towards innocent people, especially children. Many educators feel a deep connection to children in Israel and Palestine. We know our children are watching, hurting, and in need of a lasting peace.”

Besides reiterating the union’s call for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid to the Gazans, the union board said “NEA must expand its efforts to influence U.S. officials and international leaders “ and have the coalition “draw upon our greater collective power and help influence an end to this conflict and humanitarian crisis.’

That means lobbying lawmakers for both a ceasefire and “increased U.S. and international aid that effectively meets the scale of the humanitarian crisis for those in Gaza and those displaced from Gaza as a result of this war,” the hostage release and “diplomacy measures that support a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians can each have safe places to call home.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.