The world map poster that once hung in George Washington Hall was removed after the flag of the State of Israel was colored over, and the word “Israel” was replaced with “Palestine’.” Linda Carter Griffith, Associate Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness, sent out an email condemning the act for its violation of the school’s principles of tolerance and inclusion. She was not available for an interview with The Phillipian.
After the incident, the administration privately reached out to Marah Quran ’22, a Palestinian student. The email sent to her apologized for the campus-wide email sent out just before.
“[They were] reaching out after the email was sent, apologizing about the email, talking about how it wasn’t very inclusive–[it] only showed one side to the whole situation. They were just kind of apologizing for their ignorance, basically, and not really being super educated about it. And sending that email out of haste without really thinking it through, just as soon as they heard complaints, they sent out an email,” explained Quran.
Despite being appreciative of the school’s efforts, Quran commented that the email was harmful and exclusive of their own identity. She argued that the actions of the school were contradictory to its values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“[Andover] picks and chooses where [diversity, equity, and inclusion] applies. In the case of Palestine, and everything that happened, I think it was just too uncomfortable of a topic to talk about. Also, just the very inclusion of Palestine, just the inclusion of a Palestinian student, and just being aware that there is a Palestinian student to begin with; just recognizing Palestine in and of itself, including it is a big topic of debate. It’s very controversial, which is just the inclusion of a specific place. So I think yeah, [Andover’s actions] go against [diversity, equity, and inclusion]. It’s excluding a specific group of people. But it’s also in fear of including a specific group of people, because in this case the inclusion of somebody kind of contributes to the exclusion of another,” said Quran.
Although Quran is trying to be understanding of the situation and the administration’s efforts in addressing the conflict, she explained that invalidation of her identity has been a common trend during her time at Andover. She expressed her disappointment in the administration, claiming that their reactions towards her identity consistently goes against the school’s values.
She said, “I [never blamed] the faculty for not stepping up because I always felt guilty for expecting anything out of them politically, anything that would affect their position at the school. But then again, just out of human decency, if you see something going on that’s wrong you are meant to stand up against it no matter what. Because if something is going on that’s wrong– that’s another value that Andover teaches– if something is wrong, someone is being hurt, we should be bringing it up. No matter how afraid we are of the consequences.”
Ethan Weinstein ’23, president of the Jewish Student Union (JSU) on campus, offered a brief statement regarding the lasting effect of the vandalization. He believes that the act seemed more harmful than beneficial.
“The vandalization of the Israeli flag was addressed as a community concern and, due to the nature of the issue, I don’t want to politicize it by speaking on it as the president of the JSU. I can, however, tell you that as a member of the Jewish community, it felt more destructive than productive,” wrote Weinstein in an email to The Phillipian.
Quran thinks that the vandalization shined light on longstanding tensions between Zionist and Palestinian students. She recognizes that the situation created tension, but believes that the tension shows that there are Palestinian voices being heard.
“You can’t eliminate tension like this when the issue is still standing. And, honestly, the tension may be bad, maybe for the administration and for the school and whatever. But for me, tension in this certain situation, it’s a positive thing. And it just like proves to me that there is the Palestinian voice. If there is a tension, there are two sides and the Palestinian voices present,” said Quran.
JSU board member Isa Matloff ’24 saw the situation as an opportunity to begin discussions surrounding Israel and Palestine. She explained that Andover should foster such conversations, given the diversity in perspectives within the community.
“Our Andover community benefits from a vast number of varied perspectives and experiences. I feel that gives us a huge opportunity to have discussions around difficult topics such as this. It also gives us a chance to better understand each other. I hope we have and embrace those discussions,” said Matloff.
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