USA: Department of Education investigates complaints of anti

JTA – US Department of Education to Investigate Anti-Semitism Complaints Filed by Zionist Organization of America [ZOA, acronyme anglais] concerning a public school district located in Northern Virginia.

This case has been followed by the ZOA for over a year now.

The Federal Department’s Civil Rights Office wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to the ZOA that it would investigate whether public schools in Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., had or not taken action on possible acts of harassment, including Hitler salutes and Holocaust jokes made by students.

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The ministry clarified that the opening of the investigation did not mean that the ZOA’s request was justified, but that it fell within its jurisdiction.

He has also refused to investigate one of the ZOA’s main complaints, namely Twitter posts about Israel by a school board member in 2021, which the ZOA equates to anti-Semitic discrimination.

The ministry explained its decision, saying too much time had passed since the tweets. However, this is a major setback for pro-Israel organisations, which successfully use complaints lodged with the Ministry of Education to denounce what they describe as deliberately anti-Israeli discourse in schools and schools. universities.

The leaders of the ZOA nevertheless welcomed the opening of the investigation.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, at the American Zionist Movement Forum in Washington, December 12, 2018. (Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images via JTA)

Group president Morton Klein said in a statement, “We are pleased that the OCR is investigating Fairfax County public schools and their failure to respond appropriately to long-standing issues of anti-Semitism.” in the district. »

The conservative Fairfax organization had hinted that it intended to make these tweets about Israel, published for more than a year by the – Muslim – member of the Fairfax council, the central element of its legal strategy.

Letters had already been sent to the district superintendent and the school board, accusing Abrar Omeish of anti-Semitism.

Omeish had indeed written on Twitter, in May 2021, to support the Palestinians during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, that he wished them a happy Eid, adding: “It hurts me to celebrate [cette fête] even as Israel kills Palestinians and desecrates the Holy Land. Apartheid and colonization are mistakes that still persist today. »

Facing widespread criticism and calls for resignation at a Fairfax school board meeting, Omeish later posted a message promising “strong and empathetic engagement with Jewish leaders.”

At that same meeting, the council read a statement condemning both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and opposing “any act of violence and hatred committed against any person or group within the community.” .

A month later, members of the Fairfax County Board of Trustees were the target of anti-Semitic tracts, ostensibly from a white supremacist organization, calling the board “evil sex creatures inspired by Jews, Communists and queer”.

The leaflets, which were deemed outside the purview of the Department of Education, were not mentioned in the civil rights complaint and did not appear to be related to the Israel controversy.

The rest of the complaint is very similar to a column published by the washington postwritten by Anna Stolley Persky, Jewish mother of three Fairfax students.

Persky, who was once a member of the Jewish Community Center in Pozez, N. Virginia, wrote that “it was extremely difficult to raise Jewish children in the public schools of Fairfax County,” referring to the Hitler salutes given by students or the organization of tests and other school events during major Jewish holidays.

Persky’s text in the washington post was published in March 2021, before the outbreak of violence in Israel and Omeish’s tweets.

The Department of Education declined jurisdiction — and refused to investigate — over the issue of the district hosting school events on Jewish holidays.

The local Jewish community at the time made common cause with Omeish to add Jewish, Muslim and Hindu holidays to the school calendar.

Jewish leaders said when it was posted on Twitter that his remarks were all the more painful because they had also allied themselves.

The local Jewish Community Council had then given up acknowledging Omeish for his action.

The Fairfax case is reminiscent of another case, in which a school district in Arizona was found guilty of failing to act following repeated acts of anti-Semitic harassment against a student.

The district had reached an agreement with the civil rights office to review its harassment reporting process, schedule discrimination awareness sessions, investigate its staff, post an anti-harassment statement throughout the district, and audit its harassment handling procedures.

USA: Department of Education investigates complaints of anti-Semitism