Britain’s biggest teachers’ union has admitted it made “an error” after it appeared to endorse a boycott of Israeli businesses in its official magazine.
In its January/February edition, the National Education Union (NEU) published a letter by member Ian Davies condemning an advert for Israeli company SodaStream that had run in the previous issue.
@NEUnion @JewishChron @jewishteacher @JewishNewsUK Not really sure how necessary this letter was to be printed in the Jan/Feb issue of NEU’s teaching magazine. As a Jewish teacher, I will be cancelling my long standing membership after the holidays. Shocked that this was printed. pic.twitter.com/fTPSIANL4j— Melanie Golding (@mel4813) December 22, 2018
Mr Davies, from Edinburgh, wrote “I cannot understand" why the NEU accepted "advertisement revenue from an Israeli company".
“As a responsible union seeking social justice and equality, the NEU should be supporting the international, Palestine-led campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel," he wrote, adding it should reject adverts “from Israel-based companies in future.”
In a written response published next to Mr Davies’s letter, the editor promised to stop running SodaStream adverts, before appearing to signal the union’s support for BDS by directing readers towards the campaign’s official website.
But Dr Mary Bousted, the joint-general secretary of the NEU, confirmed BDS was not official policy – because the union “has not yet developed policy in this area”.
Dr Bousted tweeted it was not the union's “policy to ban adverts from Israeli companies in our union magazine. The response to the letter was made in error.”
Until 2015, SodaStream controversially manufactured most of its products in a factory in Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
The plant was closed in 2015 following international outrage, and manufacturing was transferred to Lehavim, in Israel's Negev region.
Melanie Golding, a teacher at Clore Tikva Primary School in Redbridge, North East London, initially flagged up the magazine's endorsement of BDS, saying that she would cancel her union membership over it.
Ms Golding, who is Jewish, told the JC: “I was just shocked to see that in [the NEU’s] official magazine. It’s supposed to be a responsible outlet.
“Why did they print it – and whose decision was it? Someone put it down, and you would think it’s gone past a number of people, and then sent to thousands of teachers up and down the country.
“It seemed to say that all teachers should boycott Israeli goods. It was unnecessary and inappropriate.”
More than 450,000 school teachers, further education lecturers, education support staff and teaching assistants are NEU members – making it the largest education trade union in the UK.
It was created in September 2017, after the National Union of Teachers (NUT) merged with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).