OpinionSchools & Higher Education

The Philadelphia story of Jew-hatred

The city school district is under attack by vicious antisemites.

An illustrative image of the Philadelphia skyline. Source: DeepAI.
An illustrative image of the Philadelphia skyline. Source: DeepAI.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the Legal Director of the Deborah Project, a public interest law firm asserting and defending the civil rights of Jews in educational settings.

Attacks on the Jewish state and the people committed to it are hardly new. However, a series of rants at School District of Philadelphia (SDP) public meetings present a new twist on an old illness.

The latest effort to attack Jews is to shout the demand that the haters of Jews have the “right” to teach “facts” about a conflict halfway around the globe about which they know virtually nothing other than that they hate Zionism, hate what they think it stands for and are convinced that Jews are the personification of evil “white” America.

A ringside seat in this arena of blame and shame can be found at every recent SDP board meeting, during which speakers—primarily current and former SDP teachers known as “Educators for Palestine”—espouse passionate proclamations of “facts” about which no debate is to be permitted. These are “facts” like the claim that all Jews who believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state and the right to self-defense against existential threats, are despicable and violent racists cruelly advocating for the murder of innocent people of color. 

This, of course, is the mantra of Hamas, the terrorist organization that butchered, incinerated and raped to death more than a thousand innocents in southern Israel on Oct. 7, but who now claim that Israel is the guilty party. According to the Hamas supporters lecturing at SDP board meetings since Oct. 7, anyone who disagrees with their narrative has no right to be heard in public schools and no right to complain to authorities about the harassment of their children. These Hamasists insist that Philly students must be indoctrinated with their smears and lies about Jews and that anyone who disagrees is a racist.

Philly Educators for Palestine monopolized virtually every speaker slot during the May 30 and June 6 SDP board hearings. They accused Philadelphia’s Jewish teachers, parents and students, and the SDP Jewish Family Association of being “outside agitators” from the “right-wing.” They handed out Marxist propaganda celebrating Ebrahim Raisi, the “Butcher of Iran,” at their rally preceding the board meeting. They demanded that the Board acquiesce in their defiance of rules, procedure and order.

Parent and university professor Adeem Suhail invoked his status as an educator to justify his claim that “the occupation of Palestine at the hands of the State of Israel has long been a textbook example of racist and violent settler-colonialism.” Suhail’s distorted and mythical claims assume as “fact” that Jews have no connection to the Land of Israel, never had a Temple there, were never exiled and never yearned to return—and that all Jews are white oppressors.

Suhail insisted the School Board “allow our students and our teachers their right to learn and teach historical facts”—but he was talking about his facts, not the actual facts about the Children of Israel or the Land of Israel. He and his co-ideologues certainly don’t want Philadelphia students to learn the facts about Hamas’s murderous terrorism; its taking and raping of hostages; its use of hospitals as military command centers; or its theft of billions of dollars in international aid to fund the purchase of weapons and the construction of military tunnels in which no Arab civilians are permitted shelter.

Promoting hatred between the citizens and students of Philadelphia, teacher Khalid Bilal charged that “white supremacy drives Zionism”—even though most Israeli Jews are people of color.  Even the anti-Israel United Nations conclusively rejected the “Zionism is racism” attack on Jewish liberation back in 1991.

Parent Ahmed Moor baselessly charged Jewish children and families of propagating a race war, stating, “We can’t have white women calling the police … on children of color anymore.”

Teacher Keziah Ridgeway of Northeast High School charged the district with “becoming Florida” because it dared to prohibit antisemitic words and images at school events. Ridgeway also repeatedly slammed a Jewish teacher by name, falsely accusing her of revealing confidential information about a student because, according to Ridgeway, the teacher allegedly shared on social media a school presentation that had already been seen by thousands and Ridgeway herself publicly posted. How confidential could that presentation be?

All of this antisemitic hatred is not only on display at SDP board meetings while the Board remains silent throughout. The people espousing these lying rants want their hatred to become School District policy. They want to carve this hate into the curriculum and thus engrave it on the minds of Philadelphia’s children.

Here are some actual facts: Denying Jewish history, denying the deep connection between the children of Israel and the Land of Israel, denying the Jewish commitment to Zion and denying the Jewish right to national liberation are all antisemitism because they are lies about Jews, lies about history and denials of the rights of Jews as Jews.

People understand that Holocaust denial is antisemitic. In the same way, denial of the grotesque Oct. 7 atrocities or justifying is also antisemitism. By all means, let’s teach facts. We can start with those.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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