These two letters were provided by a young Arab teacher who works in a school in London. One is addressed to her students, the other to her colleagues. She has been extremely emotionally dejected by the response of the school’s leadership to the organic solidarity students are showing towards Palestine. The administration has encouraged teachers at the school, including the author, to report ‘suspicious’ behaviour to Prevent – ostensibly a government anti-terrorism programme – have cancelled non-uniform days to pre-empt students wearing Palestinian flag colours and have taken other worrying measures against the students, outlined in the testimonials below. This is indicative of a broader trend of student suppression in the UK that should not go unnoticed.
My Dearest Students,
In the time of monsters, you are the light.
You are the light because in this time of intense and violent suppression of free speech you are making an active choice to publicly and loudly support your Palestinian brothers and sisters. You have been taking every opportunity possible at school to make your position clear: from hanging up protest posters, to writing about Palestine in your assignments, to pointing to the necklace I wear every day and saying “Free Palestine!” or “From the River to the Sea, Miss!” .
You are the light because when you were told not to wear your Palestine flag pins, you came back the next day with even more, and came early to school to pass them out. When you were told to take off your stickers, you put them all around the school; poles, doors, and hallways, notebooks, and even the clocks. When teachers attempted to ignore the genocide happening in Gaza and thought that they could whizz through classes, business as usual, with no comment whatsoever, you used discomfort as a tool and brought it to the forefront of classroom discussions. When you were lectured insensitively about neutrality and ‘making space for both sides’ you all rallied for Palestinians and our beloved Gaza.
You are the light, because for the past month your voices have been echoing the halls with whispers about the freedom of Palestine and the intricacies of the day to day updates. To hear you speak with such fervent conviction and steadfastness about Palestine and its inevitable freedom has given me hope and courage. My dear students, I am not the one who is teaching you, you are the ones who are teaching me everyday that despair is simply not an option.
You do not know this, but we had a teacher? meeting to discuss what to do about the ‘Israel-Hamas War’ (*side-eye*). In this meeting we were instructed on how to speak to you about the genocide; we were told to remain neutral, to present both sides of the “conflict”, to go back and check the Prevent guidelines for school and report anything or anyone we find suspicious. Muslim teachers were strongly advised to shut down the conversation completely because Muslims have ‘certain biases’. I left that meeting and called my flatmate in tears saying that I wanted to quit, move back to California, and leave the profession altogether. I was defeated.
But then I remembered all of you.
I remembered the first day I wore my Palestine necklace to school and you all rushed to me at the start of every period saying ‘Miss, I love your necklace!’ ‘Miss, you support Palestine just like us!’ ‘Miss, Palestine will win! We’ll pray in al-Aqsa!’. In a school where pupils like you exist, defeat is not an option. You are the light, and I am following and protecting you.
Dear Teachers – especially those who are NEU members,
We cannot fight for our rights and higher wages and support the Zionist death cult of Israel. The UK is the largest weapons manufacturer for Israel. Companies like Elbit Systems, BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin design and export weapons en masse to Israel helping it fulfil its racist genocidal agenda in Gaza and the West Bank. If you think that our struggle is separated from this, it isn’t. Just look at where our government is putting OUR money! Just look at what’s being done in OUR names! These weapons have (so far) bombed 212 schools in Gaza and have murdered countless students and teachers. How can we conscientiously fight for a better life and in the same breath support the genocide of Palestinian students and teachers in Gaza? What makes their lives less worthy than ours?
Maybe the ‘English values’ we are required to teach in our curriculum has led you to believe that being in Britain means that your humanity is of greater value than others. But don't you forget that England, and especially London, is propped up by a colonial past and present. So when you feel safe in your classroom and gleefully ignore the genocide in Gaza, or if you are a happy Zionist teacher I hope you know that your comfort is built on blood. I hope you know that a great majority of your students are appalled by your support for Israel. I hope you know that you are now a teacher we need to protect students from. Your humanity is not worth more than that of any Palestinian’s.
I repeat: We cannot support the death cult of Zionism and ask for a better life and higher wages.
We cannot as teachers and union members support Israel in any way. We cannot move forward with our demands for a better livelihood if that life is built on the genocide of Palestinians. We must oppose our government's involvement with the genocidal state of Israel. No more neutrality, no more ‘both sides’ statements. We, as teachers in Britain, need to unabashedly support Palestinians in Gaza in their current call for a ceasefire (now!), and continue our steady support for a free Palestine, from the river to the sea! Our students at this school have already set the tone for us.
Speaking of our students, I feel some of you have decided to work as full-time cops, not teachers – let’s talk about Prevent. We already knew that Prevent is a racist and Islamophobic tool created and utilised to silence students, but we haven’t paid much attention to how it’s a tool of Zionism in our schools. Some of you Zionist teachers have been citing Braverman, saying that expressing solidarity with Palestine isn’t just antisemitic, but that it’s also an act of terrorism and extremism because it means our students are pro-Hamas. You have said that the Palestine marches that our students, their families and even other teachers are attending are supporting terrorism and are against English culture and the civilised world. You have said that you are Zionists and that you believe that the illegal settlers that occupy Palestine should be armed to ‘protect themselves’, and that the only way to keep our schools and our societies ‘safe’ is to report any ‘pro-Hamas’ incident to Prevent! Let’s look at what you have decided is ‘pro-Hamas’ and therefore indicative of ‘terrorist sympathies’:
- Students saying “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea”
- Students wearing Palestine flag pins
- Students talking about going to the PSC Palestine marches and inviting other students to come with them
- Students saying they want to free al-Aqsa mosque and pray in it
- Students saying that what is happening in Gaza is a genocide
- Students having a silent march for their Palestinian brothers and sisters who were martyred
At this rate, you might as well report every single one of our year 9, 10, and 11 students… Report me with them as well – wouldn’t that just make things easier? Our students are conscious of the atrocities that are happening in the world, and our Muslim students take this personally because they are seeing other Muslims in Gaza get wiped out by Israel. Our students are angry, and heartbroken, and mobilised… that your response to their righteous moral and political conscience is to report them to Prevent for extremism amounts to betrayal.
We are going to see a rise in Zionist teachers reporting their mainly Muslim, black, and brown students to Prevent for being openly pro-Palestine. Prevent and Zionism reinforce one another in silencing and policing our students. To protect our students, we must be fearlessly pro-Palestine. We must understand that our rights are intertwined with Palestinian liberation, and recognize that Zionist teachers who vilify their students are the real threat amongst us.
Free Palestine, from the River to the Sea.
Read Testimonial 7 in our Palestine Uncensored series →