The call by inner-city Melbourne teachers for a “Week of Action” in support of Palestinians is divisive and inflammatory, says the Minister, Ben Carroll.
The inner-city branch of the Australian Education Union has asked teachers to wear keffiyah, Palestine badges or t-shirts to class as part of a “Week of Action” in solidarity with Palestine.
Teachers are also encouraged to host activities such as inviting Palestinian advocates into schools and playing a video of Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadeh focused on the young people of Gaza.
Flyers distributed to teachers asking them to participate in the action refer to Israel’s bombing and siege of Gaza but make no mention of the October 7 terrorist attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas which started the war, nor of the rocket campaign by Hamas against Israeli civilians.
Education Minister Ben Carroll told a press conference on Monday that he condemned the action, which comes in the days after a school strike for Palestine.
He said about 20 to 25 teachers from some government schools in the Flemington, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Princes Hill areas supported the motion, which was not endorsed by the rest of the union.
“This action is inflammatory, it’s divisive, and only sows more seeds of disharmony in our community,” Carroll said. “We’re calling on all teachers that hold a privileged position to teach the curriculum in the classroom not to invite strangers or political activists into the classroom.
“I reiterate, this action is divisive and inflammatory, and I condemn it.”
Carroll said it was a matter for the Department of Education whether there were consequences for those who participated, and said he hoped it did not get to the point of sacking teachers. He was getting advice on whether the department could instruct teachers and staff not to wear specific attire, such as a badge or keffiyeh.
The union is justifying the campaign as a human rights campaign. “We teach Human Rights. As teachers, we teach history so that mistakes are not repeated, we teach human rights that are meant to apply to all human beings. We teach our students to be responsible, respectful and to tell the truth. We have students with family in Gaza. If we can be tough on mobile phones, but silent on genocide as it happens, there is something awry with the moral compass of our schools,” the union said in the flyer.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) expressed grave concern that that school staff may use their positions of authority and trust to disseminate messages of hate and misinformation.
JCCV President Philip Zajac said: “Students should feel safe in school, it is a place for education and growth. The call to visibly show support for Palestine, to allow for politics and the potential for hate and misinformation in the classroom is unacceptable. We have voiced our concerns to the Department of Education and have been receiving updates on how they are addressing this campaign.”
Zajac said he was worried Jewish students could face a divisive environment as a result of the action and encouraged parents with concerns to contact the JCCV office.
Last week, NSW Premier Chris Minns put a stop to an attempt by a group called Teachers for Palestine to light up schools in support of Palestine. The Premier told Sky News Australia there was no place for political action in schools.
“The rules are very clear in place for NSW public education and political speech from the workforce is not allowed and that is for a very good reason and that is public education is for everybody,” Mr Minns said.
The Israel-Hamas war has sparked turmoil in Victorian councils (SMH)
Heated debates over the Israel-Hamas war have increased tensions within Victorian councils, with one banning calls for a ceasefire, another considering backflipping on a motion of solidarity with Gaza and, at another council, death threats have been made against a councillor.
A four-day truce between Israel and Hamas was condemned by speakers at a pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne on Sunday and described as falling short of addressing the long-running plight of Palestinians living under occupation in Gaza.
Hamas’s incursion into Israel within a fortnight of Allan taking the top job has forced the Premier to wade into the highly contested international issue, however uncomfortable it makes her.
Image: Composite illustrating a teacher wearing a keffiyah (Plus61J)