I’ve been reading your ongoing coverage of the shameful incident at last month’s Wheatley School commencement ceremony, and I think there are a few things worth pointing out.
Firstly, the bigoted, unhinged behavior of some students’ relatives who attended the ceremony was inexcusable and should be unconditionally condemned. This is not a situation where frayed nerves caused a temporary lapse in judgment, nor is this a “both sides” situation.
Regarding speaker Huda Ayaz’s reference to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, I believe her choice of language was appropriate. I also believe that had she used a more generic term like “plight” or “treatment” rather than “ethnic cleansing,” the reaction of some in the crowd would have been equally vitriolic.
Unfortunately, we’ve come to the point where even recognizing Palestinians’ cultural identity or using the term “Palestinian” is met with unbridled hostility and any criticism of the Israeli state is reflexively branded anti-Semitic. That’s why Wheatley School administrators have treated the victim as the villain in this case. That’s why not a single local politician has publicly spoken in her defense.
In fact, just days after the ceremony, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran issued an executive order adopting a controversial definition of anti-Semitism routinely used by bad-faith actors to chill criticism of the Israeli government. I suspect this timing was not coincidental.
While I often find myself a critic of your organization’s local coverage, I have to say that you’ve reported on this terrible episode fairly and comprehensively and other than our disagreement over the speaker’s choice of words, I applaud your July 2 editorial. I only wish Ayaz’s school administrators and elected representatives displayed similar integrity.
New Hyde Park