Massachusetts Teachers Union Hosts Webinar By Professor Who Praised Hamas, Enraging Membership

'They are looking to train teachers with dangerous material that will indoctrinate our students to be anti-Semitic," teacher warns
TOPSHOT - Children listen to their teacher as they sit in a classroom on the first day of the start of the school year, at the Chaptal elementary school in Paris, on September 2, 2019. In France some 12.4 million students crossed the doors of elementary schools (6.7 million), secondary school (3.4 million) and high schools (2.3 million) on September 2, 2019. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

A Massachusetts teachers union representing 117,000 teachers and faculty members at public schools and universities across the state is under fire for hosting a webinar that featured a professor who praised the “courage” of Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel on October 7. 

The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) webinar titled, “The Struggle Against Anti-Palestinian Racism,” featured three professors from the University of Massachusetts Boston, all of whom are anti-Israel activists. One of them, Leila Farsakh, penned an op-ed two weeks after Hamas’ attack praising its terrorists that raped, killed, and beheaded Israeli civilians.

“The courage of those who broke through the barbed wire, sailed by boat to return to their ancestral homes, or flew with their hang-gliders over the wall of the largest open-air prison has shown that Palestinians will continue to defy the gravity of settler colonialism to be free, whatever the cost,” Farsakh wrote.

“The facts unfolding on the ground have made it clear who the perpetrator is and who the victim is,” she added, referring to Israel as the perpetrator, before Israel entered Gaza in an attempt to find its hundreds of civilians taken hostage.

The webinar is the latest radical anti-Israel action by the union in the months since Hamas terrorists massacred more than 1,000 people in Israel. The MTA late last year passed a resolution accusing the United States of being complicit in a “genocidal assault.”

The webinar was crafted in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Semitic organization that blamed Israel for Hamas’ attack while it was still ongoing and stepped up its anti-Israel activism afterward, including storming the U.S. Capitol.

Prior to the webinar, participants were asked if they felt supported by their schools when “teaching anti-Zionist narratives about Palestine,” according to a survey obtained by The Daily Wire.

Survey sent out ahead of MTA’s webinar on anti-Palestinian racism.

At the webinar, presenters made it a focus to convince the audience that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have no correlation. 

“How do we counter this unfair and misleading propaganda?” Gender Studies professor Heike Schotten said with a slide stating, “One of the biggest, most common, painful, and offensive ways this propaganda works is by attacking anyone who speaks out against Zionism as anti-Semitic.”

“Well, you know, all of us in the Zoom room are educators,” said Schotten, who according to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement’s website, has been active in anti-Israel activism since 2006. “Education is and has always been central to movements for liberation and justice… and when we do this together, when we learn and teach and know about Zionism, both as settler colonialism and as a very well-funded propaganda effort, we realize that these claims about anti-Semitism are lies.”

Following the event, the Anti-Defamation League New England released a statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the framing” of the webinar. 

“By expressly rejecting anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism and invoking frameworks of ‘colonialism and imperialism’ in a discussion regarding Israel/Palestine, this programming reinforces anti-Semitic and anti-Israel falsehoods.”

“Educational programming on topics such as Zionism and anti-Zionism, particularly where a stated goal is to better prepare educators for discussions in the classroom, must be subject to at least the same rigorous standards we would expect of any curriculum intended to be taught to our children,” the ADL added in its statement.

Jeremy Burton, the CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, accused members of the MTA of using “pernicious and inflammatory rhetoric” and said messaging from the MTA in recent months played into “dehumanizing anti-Semitic tropes.”

Burton added that he took issue with the webinar “coupling concerns for anti-Palestinian racism with a campaign of anti-Zionism in classrooms.”

The webinar’s promotional materials stated that “anti-Palestinian racism too often goes unnoticed” because many teachers do not feel confident to speak about the complex topic of “Palestine” in classrooms.

Massachusetts Teachers Association’s promotional material for its “The Struggle Against Anti-Palestinian Racism” webinar.

Brigitte Karns, a teacher and MTA dues-paying member, said she fears the school’s curriculum will be infused with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel teachings.

“We have major concerns that the end goal for the MTA is to implement this type of curriculum into classrooms across Massachusetts,” Karns told The Daily Wire. “They are looking to train teachers with dangerous material that will indoctrinate our students to be anti-Semitic.”

“The MTA should not be involved in geopolitical issues,” she added. “There have been many in the past with the same groups and they did not get involved.  Ukraine/Russia and they did not get involved.”

The MTA president defended the webinar as an opportunity for dialogue and noted that it plans to host an upcoming event on anti-Semitism.

“I expect that there will be members in attendance who will agree wholeheartedly with what is presented; there will be members in attendance who could not disagree more,” Max Page said. “The particular viewpoints expressed in these individual workshops do not represent the official views of the MTA.”

Page added that he lost 18 family members during the Holocaust and that it has been difficult to be accused of anti-Semitism in recent months.

Arielle Kingsbury, who is an occupational therapist in a public school in the Greater Boston area and dues paying member of MTA, called the webinar “abhorrent.”

Kingsbury took issue with Schotten making the claim that Israel rules with “Jewish supremacy.”

The webinar was biased and contradictory,” Kingsbury said. “They spoke about the history of the conflict but neglected to mention a lot of historical fact.”

MTA’s board of directors passed a resolution in December that accused Israel of committing genocide and the U.S. of being complicit, the Daily Wire previously reported.

“As an educators’ union, we must take a stand with our union siblings, and promote peace and justice in the region by calling for an end to our government’s complicity with Israel’s genocidal assault on the people of Gaza and intent to take over their territory,” the statement reads. “How many deaths, how many more children must die, before we take a stand? Silence is complicity,” it adds.

The ADL at the time, accused the resolution of camouflaging “an ill-founded attack on Israel.”

“At a minimum, the statement’s failure to explicitly and unconditionally condemn the Hamas attack call for the return of all remaining hostages or demand that any ceasefire include a commitment to remove Hamas — whose officials have reportedly vowed to repeat terrorist attacks like the one on October 7th until Israel is destroyed — as a controlling actor in Gaza is revealing,”  ADL chapter’s director, Dr. Jonah C. Steinberg said.

More than 57,000 Massachusetts teachers, students, and parents signed a counter petition to the resolution which demanded a public apology, a statement noting that only 34 MTA members voted in favor, and a motion to rescind the proposal. 

In the wake of the controversies, MTA’s board of directors was invited to a Lappin Foundation seminar this April about countering anti-Semitism in schools. Board member Joe Herosy rejected the invitation, claiming the foundation is part of the “Israel lobby.”

Herosy has been pushing anti-Israel rhetoric on his social media in recent months, including sharing a cartoon of Hamas terrorists bulldozing into Israel just a day after the attack. 

UMass Boston and Joe Herosy did not respond to a request for comment.

Got a tip worth investigating?

Your information could be the missing piece to an important story. Submit your tip today and make a difference.

Submit Tip
Download Daily Wire Plus

Don't miss anything

Download our App

Stay up-to-date on the latest
news, podcasts, and more.

Download on the app storeGet it on Google Play
The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Massachusetts Teachers Union Hosts Webinar By Professor Who Praised Hamas, Enraging Membership