The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues to roil the Central Bucks School District.

Jewish parents and students concerned about antisemitism spoke at a May 22 committee meeting. Several mentioned Central Bucks High School West Spanish teacher Youssef Abdelwahab and the Muslim Student Association, which are both the subject of a U.S. Department of Education Title VI civil rights investigation.

Abdelwahab reportedly apologized for some of the club’s posts.

After listening to lengthy public comments, the committee leaned toward Board Member Dr. Miriam Mahmud’s suggestion to form a task force to develop a social media policy for the district’s many student clubs.

Adam Wright, a Plumstead resident and a principal who was formerly a history teacher, said a recent student’s social media post of a swastika over a star of David should not be allowed.

“As a statement of fact, someone who is a history teacher, there has never been an independent state of Palestine,” said Wright. “The name Syria Palestina was first coined after the Romans concurred Judea after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE as a means of disconnecting the indigenous Jewish population from their ancestral homeland. Most historians believe this was done during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.”

The name “Israel” dates to what was written in ancient Egypt in 1320 B.C.E., he said.

School Board Member James Pepper

“The phrase ‘Free Palestine’ has no meaning,” said Wright. “If our desire is to conduct and maintain productive dialogue among students and community, then we need to ensure that we maintain accuracy in the information and the language that we’re using.”

A former student said that classmates called him a “Christ killer” in the 6th grade.

He had pennies thrown at him on the school bus in middle school and was the victim of a hate crime in high school, he said.

“Something must be done to combat the use of social media for bigotry and hate,” he said.

Inna Pyatetsky said, “The board must include policy language regarding the use of social media. Content of the post must be restricted to the club’s mission.” The board must also put enforcement and consequences in place, she said.

“This board was elected to make sure that kids in marginalized groups felt safe in our schools,” she said. “It is time to acknowledge you have failed to include one ethnic minority in your organizational framework of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion): the Jewish student. There should have been unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism on its own, affirming that any form of any form of Jew-hatred, including social media posts, will never be tolerated.”

Fania Karlitsky said while some students object to changing the policies governing social media, “I would like to argue that our existing policies as they sit may actually be deemed hateful, as they’re the ones that allowed the MSA club to post over Easter weekend begging their God to deal with ‘the usurping Jews and treacherous Zionists’ with no consequences. Yet efforts to update the policy to prevent such content are being labeled hateful by students.”

“Just a few days ago, there was yet another post made by a student. This time, they intertwined an image of a Jewish star and a swastika and wrote, ‘The irony of becoming what you once hated.’ For those of you who needed an explanation, the implication was Jews are Nazis.”

“I saw today the board is implementing DEI principles in schools as a remedy…I believe the teaching of DEI principles has fueled a significant amount of hatred toward Jews. It’s important to note that existing DEI policies have overlooked the experiences and concerns of Jewish individuals, leaving Jews completely out of its programs.  There have been many instances where DEI initiatives have perpetuated the misconception that all white individuals are privileged and oppressive, leading to resentment and discrimination.”

A high school student said, “The Jewish kids are not OK. Because of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, Mr. A. posted stories and pictures on his social media that make his classroom no longer a safe space or welcome. When you compare Zionism and Nazis, how can it be a safe space and welcoming?

“I am an Israeli Jewish student who believes Israel has the right to exist. The amount of propaganda spread by both Mr. A. and the MSA club about my homeland and my religion feels like an attack against me personally. Again, this doesn’t create a safe space.”

He thanked board member James Pepper for a statement Pepper read at the May school board meeting. However, two women wearing hijabs called on Pepper to resign.

At the May 4 meeting, Pepper held a small Israeli flag and said, “Mark Twain is reported to have said, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.’ On April 25, 1933, Nazi Germany passed legislation that limited Jewish enrollment at universities to 1.5 percent of the student body.

“Over the last several weeks, Jewish students in our country were prevented from going to class at universities across this country. They were hounded, and they were threatened because they were Jewish. Can you hear the rhyming?

“Nazi Germany slaughtered over six million Jews during the holocaust. On Oct. 7, a homicidal genocidal death cult slaughtered over 1300 men, women, children and babies and kidnapped 230 men, women, children and babies. Like the Nazis, today’s homicidal genocidal death cult will not stop.

“If given a chance to repeat the atrocities of Oct. 7, this homicidal genocidal death cult will do it again and again and again and again until every Jew is either killed or expelled from Israel. This homicidal, genocidal death cult has said as much, like the Nazis, Hamas will not stop unless it is stopped.”

Pepper added CBSD could have condemned antisemitism and “chose not to.”

“Instead of condemning virulent antisemitism, we got a healthy dose of unrelated Whataboutism,” he said.

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