Teaching union tweet backs demo against EcoStream

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By Sandy Rashty, May 2, 2014
Follow Sandy on Twitter @sandyrashty

A British teaching union has been condemned for backing a planned picket of an Israeli-owned store in Brighton this weekend.

A representative of Brighton and Hove National Union of Teachers used Twitter to alert members of the boycott, led by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), outside Israeli softdrinks shop EcoStream.

A tweet from the Brighton & Hove NUT read: “Brighton PSC ask trade unionists to bring banners & join the demo outside Ecostream”.

Simon Cobbs, co-founder of Sussex Friends of Israel, was “staggered” by the decision to publicise an anti-Israel event to teachers.

“You can’t take the BDS [Israel boycott] message to the classroom,” he said.

But Paddy Marshall, NUT regional secretary of the south east region, defended Brighton & Hove NUT.

He said: “Some of our divisions are affiliated with the PSC. Our members can make informed decisions whether they choose to engage [with the PSC] or not.

“There is a distinction between what teachers do in the union, and acting in the classroom.

“We believe our members will act appropriately and respectfully in their undertaking as teachers in a classroom with pupils.”
However, Fiona Sharpe, an SFI member and mother-of-two, was not satisfied by the response.

She said: “Jewish students could walk past the shop — on the main shopping street in Brighton — and see their teachers waving those very offensive banners and posters that call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state.

“It’s intimidating. The student — Jewish or Christian who has grown up in a pro-Israel home — will not be able to separate the teacher they see at the weekend from the one in the classroom on Monday morning.

“As a parent, I would complain to the head-teacher.

“It’s a concern whether or not the teacher takes it directly into the classroom — there are certain professions where [BDS activity] has implications. It’s problematic.

“I don’t want a teacher inflicting that on my child.”

A Brighton & Hove NUT spokesman did not respond to a request for comment by the time the JC went to press.