Opinion: Why schools must publicly condemn Hamas

You can’t take both sides.
Graphic by Elianna Rothstein
Graphic by Elianna Rothstein

More alarming than the horrific terrorist attack on October 7th, 2023, was the deafening silence all over the world. High schools in particular, where our youth is supposedly learning values like morals and justice, are remaining silent during these terrible times. Schools need to take a stance on terrorism and vocally condemn Hamas. 

Seattle’s very own Roosevelt High School sent out a bleak email on October 12th: 

“Many in our community are directly affected by the violence in Israel and Gaza. The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) community represents many races, ethnicities, and backgrounds – including families with cultural ties to Israel and Palestine. The situation is complex. It is emotionally and politically charged. It is critical we continue to create a safe and welcoming educational environment for our students. It is acceptable that we as individuals hold different opinions about the conflict and complex history of Israel and Palestine, but Antisemitic or Islamophobic speech or acts will never be tolerated in our district.” 

On October 7th, over 250 people were killed at the Supernova music festival in Re’im, Israel, by the terrorist group, Hamas. Hamas entered 22 southern Israeli locations and proceeded to kidnap, murder, burn, rape, and behead citizens including children and the elderly. This attack was the cause of thousands of deaths and is an obvious act of cruelty that had no justification, regardless of differing political perspectives on Israel’s government. 

Roosevelt’s characterization of these heinous acts as merely “complex” is an outrage. A planned slaughter of 250 innocent people at a music festival is not complex, abusing and dragging innocent women through the streets is not complex, burning and beheading infants is not complex, holding hundreds of people hostage in Gaza is far from complex, it is simply cruel and should be condemned. 

The email rightfully addresses anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, but it fails to recognize all of the lives lost in Israel due to the unacceptable terrorist attack where this all stemmed from. While they might fear controversy, it’s crucial to recognize that denouncing Hamas does not equate to generalizing one nation or religion nor does it bash Palestinian people as a whole, but rather condemns barbarism. 

It’s pathetic that Roosevelt’s social media pages are filled with Pride Month, Asian American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, Black Lives Matter posts; and quite literally any “social justice activism” post yet not a single mention about one of the biggest terrorist attacks in recent Jewish history. 

Roosevelt, your social media represents cowardice rather than care. Your activism is selective and means nothing when you can find the courage to stand with all communities except the Jewish community. Roosevelt, your silence is heard loud and clear. 

Jewish students at Roosevelt have expressed feeling isolated and unsafe due to the school’s silence. Mia Mehlman, a junior, shared that aside from one Jewish teacher offering support, the attack and ongoing violence had never been acknowledged in school emails, assemblies or most classes. “I appreciate his efforts to make students feel safe and included but it feels very isolating when nobody else mentions it or seems to care,” said Mehlman. The administration’s priority may be trying not to risk discomfort or controversy. However, their silence perpetuates harm. Failing to condemn violence targeting Jews makes Jewish students feel uncared for during an extremely threatening time. Not only would this benefit Jewish students but it would show other students that the school does not condone terror, in any circumstances. 

Schools are not only institutions of learning but environments of character and moral development. They play a part in imparting principles, morality, and behavior. Openly condemning acts of terror is a critical component of teaching these values. This also shows that the institution is willing to address difficult issues and provide a safe space for students.

In these challenging times, schools must be safe places with compassion for students. By condemning the massacre on October 7 the school should be able to serve compassion to Jewish students affected while not hurting Muslim/Arab students. Clearly, schools don’t want to receive backlash from students or community members who support Palestine. However, this is not just about politics, it’s about humanity and an attack on innocent Jewish lives. You don’t have to agree with the Israeli government to recognize terrorism. Institutions and other establishments should not be fearful of condemning terror. By taking a stance on a terrible terrorist attack, schools should not be making Muslim students uncomfortable. And if that makes one uncomfortable, then there’s a broader issue at hand: why are students uncomfortable about condemning terrorists? 

Silence is not the correct response to terror. Schools teach their students to stand up for things that are wrong but cannot even demonstrate it themselves. Also evident in the Holocaust, the Nazi regime murdered 6 million Jews while much of the world turned a blind eye. The Holocaust demonstrated the horrors of genocide and the world pledged “never again.” According to Hamas’ statements, they want all Jews dead. And once again, the world continues to stand by. Have we made no progress from 1944? 

“Never again,” is now. We cannot let humanity be bystanders again. Schools, please stand on the right side of history.

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Elianna Rothstein, Digital Editor

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