John O’Connor, principal at Coláiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen, said students and teachers always acted on “humanitarian basis”, and, far from indoctrination, the school instilled critical thinking.
A column by Sarah Honig in Israel’s English language daily, the Jerusalem Post, on Jan 25 tells of encountering antisemitic remarks and overwhelming bias towards Palestine during a school-backed fundraising event to help Palestinians buy olive trees (ultimately a Trócaire project) in Cahersiveen.
The claims provoked strong reaction among readers in Israel and the US, including calls for a boycott of Ireland as a tourist destination.
In the article, Ms Honig wrote about what she had encountered in “outlying County Kerry”, claiming Kerry teenagers told her “Jews are evil” and had killed Jesus.
Banners held up by the teenagers called on the public to “Save Palestine” and there were posters of the Palestinian flag.
A teacher accompanying the teenagers had also expressed bias, she claimed. “The squawk was all about rights, but distinctly not about the rights of Jews, which are excluded from the official curriculum,” Ms Honig wrote. “The violated rights are those of Palestinian Arabs and the violators are Israeli Jews. And all this is crudely imparted under the auspices of a state’s school system.
“The bottom line for Cahersiveen’s juvenile fundraisers, without one redeeming exception, was that the Israelis are the tyrants and the Palestinians the sainted victims. It’s black and white, with no grays [sic], no depth, no background. There was no qualm about who deserves the unstinting sympathy of decent folks.”
Mr O’Connor said he is shocked by the claims.
“The students and teacher vehemently deny the remarks attributed to them. Part of our mission statement states that we are committed to developing people who are fair, caring, assertive... and we are,” he said.
“Coláiste na Sceilge has worked with Trócaire human rights projects for the last number of years,” Mr O’Connor said, adding that, as part of this project, his school had raised money for HIV clinics in Uganda and housing in Honduras.
According to the Trócaire website on the project, “the olive tree is a symbol of the Palestinians’ deep-rooted connection to their land. Ancient olive groves in the West Bank have been destroyed by the Israeli occupation, and many olive farmers no longer have access to their traditional lands.”
Last night, a spokesperson from Trócaire said: “We know the school and the teacher well and we are as surprised as they are about this report.
“The school principal, as we understand, has investigated the matter and has denied these remarks were made.”
On Jan 27 in The Jerusalem Post, in a letter entitled “Irish oys”, Naftali Bertram said: “We Israelis must choose our vacation destinations more carefully.
“Let’s spend our converted shekels in countries that are more friendly to Israel and Jews,” he advised.