A Virginia high school teacher went on a 12-minute rant saying the United States is funding a “genocide” in Gaza while attempting to convince children to become activists for the cause, according to an audio recording obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Catherine Massalha, a history teacher at Deep Run High School in Henrico County, Virginia, just outside Richmond, claimed the warfighting in the region is a “holocaust” against Palestinians, calling Israel an “occupying” regime and members of the terrorist group Hamas “resistance fighters.”
“It is a resistance to the occupation,” Massalha said, according to the recording.
In the audio, recorded by a student in a freshman history class, the teacher can be heard accusing Israel of committing war crimes. The student’s father sent the audio to the education advocacy organization Defense of Freedom Institute.
“There’s only one [unintelligible] hospital still standing right now. The rest have been destroyed. Did you know that destroying hospitals in war is called a war crime? Killing innocent civilians is a war crime,” Massalha said in the December talk. “This is not even a war because Gaza has no army. Gaza does not have aircraft, they do not have navies, they do not have any of that. They don’t have tanks — any weapons they have, they literally got from Israel. It’s really important to understand that. This isn’t a war. It didn’t start on Oct. 7. It started before.”
“But what’s happening right now, we started funding. After Oct. 7, our government gave even more money to Israel, and weapons, to attack Gaza,” she continued. “So, your taxpayer money is going to attack Gaza right now. It’s going to destroy those hospitals.”
The recording comes as school districts across the country grapple with a yearslong reckoning over the left-leaning themes they teach in the classroom. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attack on civilians in Israel, a growing disdain for the Jewish state, and in some cases a rise in antisemitism, has stirred controversy on college campuses.
Massalha, who said her family is Palestinian, said it was her duty to tell the students about the conflict because of her view of Henrico County Public Schools’s status as a “system of equity,” one that should use “culturally responsive education” and “anti-racist” practices. Those terms are often used by activists to refer to the ideology behind critical race theory.
The school district downplayed concerns about Massalha’s speech in a comment to the Washington Examiner, characterizing the teacher’s overt call to action as simply normal classroom discussion.
“Current events are often used as real-world learning opportunities for students, especially in history and civics classes. Age-appropriate discussions generally include ties to previous learning and opportunities for students to consider personal — and differing — perspectives on local, national, and global issues,”the school district said. “At all times, students and teachers are encouraged to be respectful and tolerant of varying viewpoints.”
In a conversation with the father of the student, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from the school and surrounding community, the Washington Examiner was told that the student knew to start recording because Massalha frequently attempts to push her ideology on the students in her classes and that this has been going on for several years.
The father went on to say that the school and school district, which are consistently ranked highly for academics both in Virginia and nationally, are both left-wing and that he knew he could not bring the issue to the principal of Deep Run or any member of the school board because they would “bury it.”
“They’re not going to do a doggone thing about this. They don’t care how antisemitic she is,” he said. “This woman is calling this terrorist organization a humanitarian effort, and she’s a sympathizer.”
“She’s doing this job because it’s a way of indoctrinating these children,” the father claimed, explaining that this kind of discussion is what fuels antisemitic sentiment on college campuses once students reach that stage in their education. “This is just one example of an extreme case of teacher who’s just gone completely rogue. I don’t want you to teach my kids your opinion. I want you to teach them history.”
In the recording, Massalha can be heard making emotional pleas, seemingly on the verge of tears, and telling the children they will not have to feel guilty in the future if they act now.
“This is a holocaust. It’s happening to Gazan people. And you need to think about what are you going to do because your government is doing the wrong stuff. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to stand by and say, ‘It’s not my problem. I can’t. I can’t do anything’? I’m going to tell you: You can do something,” she said. “Kids do things. You can send letters to your congressman. All you’ve got to do is look it up: ‘How do I contact my congressman?’ ‘Ceasefire now’: Look it up. It’ll tell you to sign this petition, go on a march, tell people, make people aware, just educate yourself and others.”
A Defense of Freedom Institute spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that Massalha “took advantage of having a captive audience to spread antisemitic hate,” criticizing the school system and saying the Department of Education may need to get involved.
“Schools have not just a moral obligation, but also a legal one, to protect their students from anti-Semitic discrimination, and when schools fall down on this responsibility, the U.S. Department of Education needs to investigate,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “If this student and parent had not both stepped up to call out wrongdoing, very few people would ever know it had happened.”
While the school did not respond to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner, Massalha defended her speech, saying, “I have never had a pro-Hamas discussion in or out of my classroom, and there is nothing pro-Hamas in the transcript of the recording you sent in the email.”
“The discussion was on my concerns about what was happening to the Palestinian people,” she continued. “My concerns about the ethnic [cleansings] and forced displacement of thousands of innocent people is valid. If this discussion was about the people of Ukraine and advocating for their safety and right to exist, would you have been concerned or have written this email or article? I think not.”