To the editor:
(re: “Teacher’s criticism of Israel leads to dismissal,” Jan. 16)
I live next to the Fieldston School, but otherwise have no connection to it, so I cannot pass judgment on its firing of J.B. Brager. However, your entire story clearly adopted the narrative of Brager’s supporters, framing the controversy in their terms, and giving only token coverage to Brager’s critics. This may be because the story’s author is not familiar with the issue behind the controversy.
The story, as well as other reports I have seen, quote Brager as referring to “settler colonialism.” This is the language used by people advocating for the killing of Jews living in Israel from before Israel became independent — and long before the occupation began. In other words, it is hate speech, and must never be acceptable when used by a teacher.
The story also quotes Brager as declaring they support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel). The story then says that “the BDS movement … seeks to pressure Israel to leave its occupied territories and grant full rights to the Palestinians.”
That is not correct. The BDS movement started as soon as Israel became independent — 19 years before occupation began — and does not distinguish between the occupied territories and Israel proper. Its aim is the destruction of Israel and its people. That is why “the (BDS) movement has been accused of being anti-Semitic” — because it is.
Just because a person identifies as Jewish does not mean they cannot be anti-Semitic. In fact, Jewish anti-Semitism has a long history. In medieval Europe, many massacres of Jews began after an apostate Jew spread false accusations against Jews. The difference is that, today, one does not have to formally convert to join the Jews’ enemies.
Just as America’s history of racism means that educators must be mindful of attitudes and expressions that have been used to justify violence against African Americans, so too Jews who are connected to their heritage and sensitive to attitudes and expressions that have historically been used to justify violence against them.
It is the responsibility of educators to be empathetic, maintain open minds, and do whatever they can to ensure that no child in their school feels threatened because of their heritage.