Op-Ed

School board member: Activist groups in Miami-Dade could hide anti-Israel agendas

A 10-year-old student took part in a pro-immigrant student vote during a Miami-Dade school board meeting last month. She was there with the help of the American Friends Service Committee. School Board member Martin Karp disagrees with the group’s anti-Israel stance.
A 10-year-old student took part in a pro-immigrant student vote during a Miami-Dade school board meeting last month. She was there with the help of the American Friends Service Committee. School Board member Martin Karp disagrees with the group’s anti-Israel stance. Florida Migrant Coalition Website

At a recent Miami-Dade County School Board meeting, a 10-year-old student sat in the superintendent’s chair. The discussion focused on the importance of keeping families together, noting that many children whose parents entered the United States illegally live in fear and are worried about their immediate future.

Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and my colleagues on the School Board are caring, sensitive and compassionate people. They understand the stresses children are under and show deep concern for their welfare.

Increasingly, organizations are sharing their views in public and on various media platforms advocating for greater protections for undocumented immigrants. However, if you dig deeper, there are often hidden motives behind some of these advocacy efforts. Members become involved in a cause — in this case immigration — but then they are introduced and exposed to other social and political biases espoused by an organization’s leaders. Groups with hidden agendas gain credibility by connecting with popular causes.

When some individuals spoke on behalf of undocumented immigrants at the Board meeting, the focus was placed squarely on immigration. Other speakers noted a group affiliation. I did a quick search online about these organizations and saw that the vision included a goal of empowering immigrant and other oppressed communities.

When I see references to oppressed communities, my experience tells me to look at whose viewpoint is being represented. Too many times, sadly, I have seen how the word “oppressed” morphs into a conversation riddled with anti-Israel rhetoric.

I found this was the case with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which describes its work in addressing the challenges of immigrants through grassroots community organizing and political education. What is meant by political education? Online, I found one-sided position statements against Israel. I found articles written by some group members in support of Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS), a movement that targets Israel for criticism and whose founders have repeatedly called for its destruction.

So, here is this student, 10, sitting on the dais at a School Board meeting who identifies as a member of AFSC and whose mother is affiliated with this group. She is learning about activism and the importance of speaking out. Yet at some point down the road, she will probably hear lies about Israel. This is happening on many college and university campuses around the country where people are connecting to organizations that they believe are helping society, but whose real agenda is to demonize Israel.

I worry that in eight short years, this student will be on a college campus speaking out against Israel because she was indoctrinated by a group at a young age — a group she became indebted to since they advocated on her behalf.

Today, organizations operate openly under the guise of one issue, and once the hook is in they introduce the rest of their agenda against Israel, based on lies. They choose euphemistic names and gain acceptance.

And then there’s Black Lives Matter. Only a racist bigot would say black people’s lives don’t matter. But when you look at the Black Lives Matter platform, the group describes Israel as an apartheid state and refers to a genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. Not only is that false, but I have to ask: What does that have to do with caring about black lives.

To be clear, many American Friends Service Committee and Black Lives Matter members may have no interest or awareness of issues related to Israel. We rely on them to research their groups’ platforms and reject anti-Israel components.

Our students should ask questions and research the affiliations of different groups to know who they are aligned with and to understand their sources of funding. I never thought about doing a search on speakers’ organizations while they were addressing the Board. Now, it is a process I consistently will follow.

Martin Karp is a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board

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