Israel, Politics

High School Presentation on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Tears Andover, MA Apart

The Boston Globe reports,

The social studies teachers say they merely wanted to provide their students different perspectives about conflict in the Middle East when they invited a group with a history of condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to speak at Andover High School.
The teachers never expected that their invitation to the group Wheels of Justice would set off the firestorm that has ensued, pitting student against student, teacher against teacher, and rabbi against minister in this affluent suburb north of Boston.
The climate at the high school has grown hostile, students say, as friends argue over how to balance the right to hear all views with sensitivity to individual beliefs. One Jewish teacher said two colleagues harassed her when she refused to sign a petition to bring in the Wisconsin-based group. Many parents are supporting the teachers who invited the group, which spoke to social studies classes on Friday. But more than 50 others who opposed the group’s appearance formed a “Committee Against Hate Speech in School.”
The debate highlights the struggle faced by school systems to teach students to think critically about explosive world events without alienating the communities they serve.
“This is an issue that is surrounded by emotion, and it’s easy to lose sight of some aspect of what the event might actually be,” said Peter Anderson, principal of Andover High. “In this day and age, the most important thing we do is to teach students to be intelligently critical.”

Full story.

6 thoughts on “High School Presentation on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Tears Andover, MA Apart

  1. I’ve been following this story for two reasons. 1. A friend works with Jewish teens in Andover and 2. Wheels of Justice appeared at the high school where my mother works, and there was a similar fall-out. I have a hard time understanding why respectful dialog is so hard.
    Apparently, The David Project came to the community and made a presentation after the fact, as well.

  2. Judging by the language used in their review of the event, their name does not deserve to use the word “justice.” I’m sick of people using the word Zionist like it’s a weapon. And that’s only a word. Mostly I’m sick of people like this wheels of Justice, and undoubtedly some of the parents that argued against them, though there is no evidence against them. The charge though is oversimplification. People need to stop making one side right and the other wrong. When we realize that everyone is right and everyone is wrong at the same time, then we can resolve this issue. This day in age, that is even harder than it used to be, though it was never easy. There is no way to honestly blame one side only, and no matter how horrendous the next act of violence from either side is, that doesn’t change anything. People, quit with the damn politics. It’s just BS. I’m tired of groups like this, and people, not seeing the complexities of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. GRRRR!

  3. I, too, am sick of words such as ‘Zionist’ being tossed around; I’d prefer that all its uses be expunged, except for historical context.
    The crazed (and I’m speaking literally and from personal knowledge) zealots of the ZOA have made the word ‘zionism’ so trefah, that many Israeli activists, progressive Jews, two-state solution Palestinians, AND actual anti-semites have joined in using it as invective…
    Anyone notice the similarity between this article, and the attacks on Carter’s book? In neither case, is actual substance addressed. No attack is made on the truth, but circuitous circumstances surrounding the truth.
    I’m quite sick, too. of this fucking orwellianism.

  4. In a slightly more complicated version of this story, it might be important to know that Wheels of Justice was brought to Andover by high school teacher Ron Francis, leader of the Somerville Divestment Project. You can check their website for a taste of their rhetoric, I find it fairly incendiary. Mr. Francis bills himself as an advocate for Palestinian rights, but he is kind of a pathological demonizer of Israel, Israelis and Zionism.
    I have encountered Mr. Francis on the street in Somerville holding up a sign that said: Israeli/Zionist Idea of Peace Process: Murder, Rape, Torture, Murder of Children, Ethnic Cleansing, Genocide…etc. I’m not exactly sure why he left blood libel off the list, an oversight perhaps.
    Somerville has been a testing ground for the divestment issue and it’s been divisive, hyperbolic, shrill, condemnatory and not at all constructive. Divestment advocates actually scream at Somerville residents on the street if one indicates one is disinclined to sign their petitions. If the Jewish community in Andover was distressed about Wheels of Justice coming to their school, it might be important to consider that for years now they have been exposed to Mr. Francis and the Somerville Divestment Project’s vitriol and feel a bit suspicious of the motives of any group connected with him. There is little chance of respectful dialogue with these folks. Really.

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