The principal of one of Kerry’s biggest secondary schools, Coláiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen, has rejected claims by an Israeli journalist of anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian bias in the school.
Principal John O’Connor said students and teachers always acted on a “humanitarian basis” and, far from indoctrination, the school instilled critical thinking.
Journalist Sarah Honig related in a column in the Jerusalem Post, an English-language daily newspaper, how she encountered remarks that “Jews are evil” during a school-backed Trócaire fundraising event to help Palestinians buy olive trees.
Her article included photographs of teenagers holding “Save Palestine” banners and Palestinian flags.
Headed “Another tack: that unwitting indecency”, Honig’s column, published last Friday, focuses on the fundraising event in Cahersiveen, with Kerry teenagers telling her Jews had killed Jesus. A teacher accompanying the teenagers had also expressed bias, she wrote.
“The squawk was all about rights, but distinctly not about the rights of Jews , which are excluded from the official curriculum. The violated rights are those of Palestinian Arabs and the violators are Israeli Jews. And all this is crudely imparted under the auspices of a state’s school system,” she wrote.
“The Cahersiveen youngsters will surely grow into charming decent adults, but ingrained in their psyches from a young age will be the vague notion of Jewish villains and Palestinian martyrs. Indoctrination of impressionable minds . . . creates biased adults,” she added.
The article said Ireland has “a history of anti-Semitism without having ever had a sizable Jewish population” and refers to the 1904 Limerick pogrom and former taoiseach Eamon de Valera’s message of condolence to Germany after Adolf Hitler’s death in 1945.
“The bottom line for Cahersiveen’s juvenile fund-raisers, without one redeeming exception, was that the Israelis are the tyrants and the Palestinians the sainted victims. It’s black and white, with no grays, no depth, no background. There was no qualm about who deserves the unstinting sympathy of decent folks.”
Mr O’Connor issued a statement yesterday saying he was shocked by the claims in the article. “The students and teacher vehemently deny the remarks attributed to them. Part of our mission statement states that we are committed to developing people who are fair, caring, assertive,” he said.
Trócaire said in a statement: “We know the school and the teacher well and we are surprised as they are about this report. The school principal, as we understand, has investigated the matter and has denied these remarks were made.”
When contacted by The Irish Times last night, Honig that she had been visiting Ireland and was not on assignment.
“I have nothing against beautiful Kerry or against Ireland, which the founding fathers of the modern Jewish state admired unstintingly,” she added.
The incident would not put her off visiting Ireland again and she said she rejected calls for a boycott of Ireland.
The article can be found on jpost.com/Opinion