This article by Bob Audette originally appeared May 8 in the Brattleboro Reformer.
BRATTLEBORO — A recent presentation at local schools on having difficult discussions has stirred the ire of some members of the local Jewish community.
“The plan was to have an assembly about having difficult discussions, to set the tone for future assemblies to go into whatever the conflict or social justice topic was under discussion,” said Keith Lyman, principal at Brattleboro Area Middle School.
However, said Lyman, one of the speakers, a Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp, “went off topic. He gave a little bit of his perspective on the history of Israel and Palestine from his experience. That was not something that was expected of this assembly.”
Zeiad Shamrouch, a Palestinian from the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance, and Jody Sokolower, the founder of Rethinking Education, were the presenters.
At least one observer to the BAMS presentation took it as an attack on Jews and the legitimacy of Israel as a nation.
Marjorie Pivar took notes, which were forwarded to the Reformer. According to Pivar, lies told during the presentation included the statement that the Palestinians are the only indigenous people of Palestine; that Jewish colonizers stole Palestinian land and forced the native Palestinians into refugee camps, where they are contained like prisoners; and Israel arrests 13-year-olds and tortures them in prison for playing in the street.
Pivar said she was disappointed by the message presented by the speakers, because it’s at odds with what the community is known for.
“We pride ourselves on teaching non-violence and respecting each other,” she said. She was concerned that the children were presented with two role models, one who is what she calls a genuine peacemaker and the other who calls for violence in service of the Palestinian cause.
“To present her to our children as a peacemaker is irresponsible,” said Pivar.
“Not only was this program one-sided, presenting a skewed, biased perspective, but apparently unauthorized by at least one school’s principal all the while overlooking to inform two Jewish teachers about the program,” wrote Stephan Brandstatter and Laura Berkowitz, co-presidents of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, in a letter to the editor of the Reformer. “When they found out about it and did attend, they witnessed and were appalled by what they saw children being exposed to — a slanted anti-Semitic presentation of Jews as ‘bad people’ while skirting a balanced view about Palestinians.”
Read full story at the Brattleboro Reformer.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)