A Michigan high school is apologizing after it invited a speaker to its Diversity Assembly who labeled Israel an “oppressor.”
The speaker, Huwaida Arraf, is Palestinian-American who fell short in a bid for the 2022 Democratic nomination representing Michigan’s 10th Congressional District. She also co-founded the International Solidarity Movement, which describes itself as a “Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched and systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population.”
Arraf spoke at a Diversity Assembly at Bloomfield Hills High School and called Israel an oppressor, according to Detroit’s WDIV Channel 4.
The school said in a note to parents that Arraf went off script.
“At the diversity assembly for the 10th graders, one of the speakers deviated from the prompts,” the note said. “Without prior knowledge of any of the organizers, the speaker discussed the conflict in Gaza from their own personal political perspective and experience. This discussion was outside of the parameters of the assembly and was addressed by the high school administration immediately after the speaker left the stage.
“We denounce any speech that targets individuals or groups based on religion,” the note to parents said. “We are sorry for the harm that was caused to our community as a result of this speaker’s message. We acknowledge that our work towards an equitable school community is always ongoing, and we still have more work to do.”
Arraf said she stands by her words.
“My message addressed the harms caused by racism and discrimination, and denying others the same rights that you seek for yourself; rights that all people deserve,” Arraf said. “To the extent that anyone was upset to hear about what is happening to Palestinians, they should be. But, it seems to me that their problem is with the policies of the state of Israel, not with me.”
Meanwhile, the Jewish Community Relations Council released a statement saying the school never should have invited Arraf. The council said Arraf also called Israel an apartheid state.
“We are disappointed that Bloomfield Hills High School sent out a letter with no mention of the subjects so many of our community members are hurt by,” the Jewish Community Relations Council said. “Neither Jewish nor Israel appeared in the letter. We are in contact with school administrators and looking forward to a constructive dialogue to turn this into a teachable moment.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Luke Franzen
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.