In “Students tried to host a Palestinian culture event. Then a local eatery stepped in” (1/23/24), The Washington Post tells the story of a 15-year-old Palestinian American girl who “wants her school to talk about the [Israeli/Hamas] conflict”. At her home, there is constant conversation about the conflict, “but at her high school in Northwest Washington, it seems no one will touch it.” The article goes on to say, “Teachers seem afraid to discuss it, she said, and students’ attempts to talk about the news have been thwarted by the principal.”
So why are some schools hesitant to broach the Israeli/Hamas conflict? One reason is that there is such polarization on this issue. To some, it would seem inconceivable to side with a group that takes Americans hostage, murders babies and toddlers, and formulated a charter that includes exterminating Jews worldwide. But to others, that side’s view is perfectly reasonable. Often, they deny what Hamas has done and simply claim that through the lens of what they insist is resistance – anything goes. One side chants “gas the Jews” at their rallies and the other side sings about peace.
Another reason to avoid the topic is that Jews are feeling and being threatened in classrooms. This has been documented numerous times including situations in which Jews are being forced to hide in libraries or attics – like Jews did during the worst days of antisemitism. Jewish students are warned to hide their Jewishness by concealing Jewish necklaces and Jewish head coverings (kippahs).
There is also a lot of misinformation out there. This Washington Post article itself had the temerity to compare how the school is “navigating tensions” by postponing scheduled readings on books about the Holocaust – the systematic murder of six million Jews – to the screening of a movie about “a documentary that critiques Western media’s portrayal of the conflict,” which the Post admits “has been accused of antisemitism.” There is no comparison. Hamas started this war by slaughtering 1200 Jews including infants. Israel responded militarily to ensure that it never happens again. Hamas is hiding beneath and behind their civilians and casualties are occurring. It is extremely unfortunate but entirely the fault of Hamas. The ratio of Gazan casualties to combatants is the lowest rate ever recorded in warfare due to Israel’s precautions to save non-combatants. By contrast, the Holocaust was a deliberate extermination of a civilian population whose only ‘crime’ was that of being Jewish. The annihilation killed two thirds of the European Jewish population. The world population still hasn’t recovered the number of Jews lost in 1945 – almost eighty years later.
These are tendentious times and society does need to reconcile its polarized views on this, and admittedly other, contentious issues. But it seems plainly clear – this will require time.