Principal hits back at writer who said pupils anti-Jewish
PUPILS at an Irish secondary school have been caught up in a diplomatic storm after being accused of anti-Semitism by a prominent Israeli journalist.
Sarah Honig, a columnist with the 'Jerusalem Post' who also writes a blog, claimed in an article last Thursday that pupils from Colaiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, made anti-Jewish remarks when she questioned them on why they had "Free Palestine" signs.
She said when she asked them from whom Palestine should be freed, she was told "The Jews" and "Jews were evil" because they "crucified Our Lord".
School principal John O'Connor said he was shocked when he read the article. He said the students and the teacher who accompanied them "vehemently deny" the accusations.
Mr O'Connor said Ms Honig had done a "great disservice" to the school and had acted "irresponsibly" in publishing photos of the pupils without consent.
Ms Honig said the incident happened during a trip to Cahersiveen before Christmas when she was solicited by the pupils on Church Street for a donation for Trocaire, the Catholic overseas development agency.
When she made further inquiries she was told the money was for olive trees for displaced Palestinian families. She then asked the students how they could be sure the money wouldn't fund "terrorists and murderers".
She wrote in her article: "Their retort threw me for a loop: 'What do you have against Palestinians? What have they done to you? They are only against Jews. Jews are evil'."
Last night, she stood firmly over what she had written, saying it was her "duty as a journalist" to publish the pictures as proof of her story.
She said the students were not toddlers but teenagers engaged in "political activity in the public domain".
Mr O'Connor said: "We try to teach our students to be critical thinkers, to examine both sides of an issue. We may not always be satisfied with the conclusions and can only to set them right when they go wrong."