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Parent accuses planned school strike for Palestine of using students as ‘political pawns’

Neil Mitchell
Article image for Parent accuses planned school strike for Palestine of using students as ‘political pawns’

Glen Eira College parent Stephen has accused the planned school strike for Palestine of using students as “political pawns” to protest something they have “no understanding of”.

Stephen is one of over 6,000 people to sign an open letter to the state government to take a harder stance on the planned strike on Thursday.

“Education is paramount to our students,” Stephen told Neil Mitchell.

Press PLAY to hear his strong stance against the school strike for Palestine 

Premier Jacinta Allan then responded to the open letter when speaking publicly today.

Press PLAY to hear her response 

View the full open letter to the state government down below:

The Hon. Jacinta Allan & The Hon. Ben Carroll MP
As a concerned community member, I respectfully ask you both to take a clear, forceful stance against the School Strike for Palestine rally to be held on 23 November, 2023. The
rally will only heighten conflict in our broader community and increase fear among our youngest Jewish community members, our children.

While the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our democratic society, the involvement of school children in the rally is unacceptable and should be called out as such in clear terms.

Although the Government has communicated its expectation that students attend school in preference to the rally, the messaging to date has been confusing and made more so by media reporting. Although there is a careful balance that needs to be struck between various rights and interests – the health, safety and welfare of students should undoubtedly be the Government’s number one priority in these circumstances. This is particularly so when the organisers target and exploit school children. The right to demonstrate, while fundamental, is not absolute, and must be weighed against other rights including liberty, safety, security, and tolerance. Is the “Free Palestine” rally truly concerned with hearing the voices of school children, or is it about the mass exploitation of children to advance their cause? What effect will this rally have on Jewish school students, especially in the school yard?

We are also extremely troubled about the way in which children are being used by the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist movement through their sloganisation of complex geopolitical issues. Most students in Victorian schools will not have a direct connection or a comprehensive (if any) understanding of the attacks on Israel and war in Gaza. Their exposure to this issue, characterised by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter A Comensoli, as involving “language of hatred and spite, of innuendo and slogan” raises questions about the suitability of children being involved in such rallies.

This sort of rally only leads to “other-ing” and binary positions of “us and them”. This is dangerous both in terms of the potential for physical escalation as recently seen in Caulfield as well as the psychological damage that can be caused through exclusion. Children have enough to deal with, they don’t need to be on the streets protesting an issue so complex that most adults can’t comprehend the nuance. Incidents of racial discrimination in Victorian schools are not new, as exemplified in recent federal court litigation by Jewish students at Brighton Secondary College. There is an even greater need now for the Victorian Department of Education to sensitively and responsibly handle events that could exacerbate feelings of marginalisation among minority students.

Yours respectfully,
Moran Dvir (on behalf of 6359 signatories)

(Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images) 

Neil Mitchell