As you prepare to teach about this topic, it is important to learn about how antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Anti-Arab sentiments may arise in your school and community in response to violence in Israel and Palestine. For example, an Axios report documented the following instances of antisemitism and Islamophobia after the conflict in Gaza in 2021:
In Los Angeles [in May 2021], people in a convoy of cars flying Palestinian flags harassed and physically assaulted patrons sitting outside a [kosher] restaurant. A witness told the Los Angeles Times: "They were chanting, 'Death to Jews' and 'Free Palestine.'"
Investigators found anti-Palestinian graffiti — which reportedly said "Death to Palestine" — spray-painted on the front door of an Islamic center in Brooklyn, New York [in May 2021].
Antisemitic and Islamophobic violence can result when people conflate the actions of individuals, a group, or a government with everyone who is perceived to share that same identity. Some people protesting against the conflict in Israel and Palestine do so using Islamophobic and/or antisemitic tropes, ideas, and language. This is, in part, because Islamophobes and antisemites exploit the situation, using it to further anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment. It is also due to the widespread circulation of antisemitic and Islamophobic tropes and conspiracy narratives. The degree to which these tropes and false narratives have been deeply embedded into our society can lead to people who don't have antisemitic or Islamophobic prejudices using such tropes unknowingly when talking about the conflict.
You should be aware that students may see increased antisemitism/anti-Judaism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiments online, in their communities, or in your school.
Avoiding Antisemitic and Islamophobic Tropes in Discussing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Here are some points to keep in mind for how to avoid antisemitic and Islamophobic tropes when discussing conflict in Israel and Palestine, which are reproduced with light edits from the UK organization Solutions Not Sides:
- Be clear about what you mean when you use labels:
- Palestinian and Israeli are national identities.
- Zionism is the belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ should not be used as a term of abuse.
- Arab is a grouping of people whose mother tongue is Arabic, and there is great diversity across the Arab World.
- Do not hold Jews responsible for the decisions of the Israeli leaders, or Muslims responsible for the decisions of the Palestinian leaders.
- Do not demand that Jews or Muslims take a certain political position on the history, activities, or policies related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Do not assume that all Palestinians or Israelis support the actions of their governments.
- Do not state that Muslims should leave Palestine because they have the rest of the Middle East or that Israeli Jews should “go back to where they came from.”
- Israel is not conspiring to take over the Middle East or the world, and Palestine is not conspiring to enforce a Caliphate on Israel/the world. These are two national identities who both want to exist in the same piece of land.
- Israelis and Palestinians are human beings. Therefore, celebrating their suffering and death is not acceptable.
- Be sensitive towards people who are pro-Israel and/or pro-Palestine at this time. They may have friends/family involved in the situation, or Israel/Palestine may represent something important to them, such as their own sense of struggle or oppression, or a place of safety in times of persecution. Solidarity with one side or the other is not a crime; people can be pro-Israel/pro-Palestine and still be pro-solution.