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LONDON: The recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has inspired a trend for pro-Palestinian protests in British schools, with controversy surrounding the response of some teachers after students were unfairly accused of anti-Semitism and a principal describing the Palestinian flag as a “call to the arms.”
Mike Roper, Principal of Allerton Grange High School in the city of Leeds, apologized following a backlash after asserting at a school assembly that the flag could be seen as a ‘message of support for the anti-Semitism ”.
Roper’s speech, which was posted online, quickly went viral and inspired protests, with additional police officers to be stationed outside the school.
The school said the assembly aimed to resolve tensions within its multicultural student body that had been sparked by the conflict.
In other schools and colleges, concerns have been expressed about children being disciplined for their support of Palestine.
At the Clapton Girls’ Academy in London, the students refused to return to their classes and chanted “Free Palestine”.
A student at the protest said they decided to conduct a sit-in after teachers removed posters about the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Loreto College in the city of Manchester has been closed after staff were told of a planned protest.
Some 200 students gathered near the gates waving Palestinian flags, with other members of the public joining their assembly.
In Allerton Grange, before Roper’s speech, some students said the Palestinian flag cords they were wearing had been confiscated.
He said he spoke to 20 students, urging them not to adopt Palestinian symbols as some students and staff might “feel threatened and in danger” at the sight of the flag.
“This flag is seen as a call to arms and as a message of support for anti-Semitism,” he added.
After the video speech, Roper said he was “deeply sorry that a particular example I have used in this assembly, referring to the Palestinian flag, has caused such upheaval”, and promised to engage in a dialogue with the community. local on the responses he had received.
Scottish Parliament Green Party member Ross Greer said: “Imagine being a Palestinian kid in school like this, being told that your national flag is inherently hateful. Absolutely outrageous.
Ilyas Nagdee, a former head of black students at the National Students Union who works on racial equality in education, told The Guardian newspaper he had received nearly 100 reports of students being punished for expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people.
These incidents included baseless accusations of anti-Semitism, expulsions from schools and threats to report to the UK anti-radicalization agenda.
“At a time when young people are politicizing and taking civil action, we see some school leaders doing everything possible to prevent them and prevent them from developing politically,” he said.
Alexandra Wright, senior rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in North West London, said freedom of speech is crucial and young people should be free to express themselves in an educated and nuanced way.
“All forms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia must be condemned, and young people must be educated to understand the difference between their criticism of policies that belong to particular rulers and governments, on the one hand, and targeting Jews or Muslims who are not citizens of them. countries they are protesting against, on the other, ”she said.