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Pennsylvania Parents Concerned over Teacher’s Antisemitic Tweets

UPDATE May 6, 2024: Central Bucks School District faces a federal investigation over Youssef Abdelwahab’s antisemitism; more here.

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Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s Central Bucks School Board meeting as students spoke in defense of Spanish teacher Youssef “Mr. A” Abdelwahab, and Jewish parents expressed concerns about student indoctrination into antisemitism.

Abdelwahab sponsors the Central Bucks West Muslim Student Association (MSA). He is also a businessman with an online dew-rag and Arab head scarf business. The watchdog group StopAntisemitism has featured his business on StopDontShop, an initiative which aims to make consumers aware of entrepreneurs seeking to do the Jewish people and nation harm.

The parents are concerned with the postings on his Instagram account, which many students follow, and Facebook and business webpage, which include messages like “Zionism = Nazism.”

While teachers and students are “entitled to their beliefs…by having the teacher’s social media handle available in the classroom on the whiteboard, which there is photographic evidence of, this drifts into a problem,” said Mara Witsen. “As well as posting pictures of the students on a business Instagram page held by that person, this goes beyond the scope of a club teacher sponsor.”

Witsen told the board she was speaking for herself and other parents who were afraid to attend the meeting.

“If a Jewish teacher directed students to his pro-Israel Instagram page, I would have the same concerns,” Witsen said. “The posts that students are directed to when they visit that Instagram page that was written on the whiteboard in the classroom is a page that publicly states that Zionism is equal to Nazism. Upwards of 90 percent of the world’s Jews are Zionists. It is disheartening to know that a teacher in our district sees 90 percent of his Jewish students as Nazis. And it is an untenable situation for many students. Should any students request to be removed from the class, I highly suggest you grant that request.”

Another parent, Fania Karlitsky, said Abdelwahab “violated school rules and policies in several ways,” including promoting the suicide of Aaron Bushnell, a mentally ill man who immolated himself outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., on his Instagram account. Students follow that account and are very impressionable, she said.

He “not only shared content on suicide but also implied that acts of violence toward others are justified in the name of resistance,” she said.

“On Oct. 10, 2023, only three days after the tragedy in Israel, he posted content stating, ‘resistance is justified when people are occupied.’

“In this case, the resistance he was talking about was the rape, murder, torture, and other unthinkable acts perpetrated against Israel’s most vulnerable citizens, including the children, the elderly, women and even babies. He shared photographs of others using guns. At a time when high schools nationwide are on edge waiting to see who will be the next school shooter, this is more than irresponsible. It is reprehensible, and it must stop,”  said Karlitsky.

Numerous students defended “Mr. A.”

Senior Mary Ayata, the MSA co-president and founder, noted that Abdelwahab is the only Muslim teacher in the district and claimed accusations against him are rooted in “Islamophobia and racism.”

“Allegations suggesting that a teacher is manipulating the thoughts of myself and my peers are unfounded. As someone from the Middle East, I am fully capable of forming my own opinions on matters pertaining to my region of origin, particularly those in life-threatening conditions.”

“As a representative of MSA, I would like to make it clear we feel targeted and persecuted in this community,” she added.

Lamees Shaat, a sophomore whose parents are Palestinian, claimed that 150 of her family members have died in the Gaza war.

“I should not have to deal with people saying I’m a terrorist when I say I’m Palestinian,” she said. “I should not be uncomfortable around certain teachers when they ask me tone-deaf questions about my country.”

“Dealing with the weight of the deaths of 150 family members has been nearly impossible. The C.B. West MSA and Mr. A have provided me a community to lean on during these traumatic times. That is why these false accusations made against Mr. A are so upsetting. Mr. A has been one of my sources of comfort at school. While I am feeling sad or distressed about everything that’s happening, I can talk to him and the MSA about everything I’m feeling…Mr. A is a beacon of light in the darkness,” Shaat said.

Asiyah Jones of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spoke and offered her organization’s services to train teachers and staff. However, her organization has a troubled reputation regarding links to terrorism and a record of defending Islamist violence.

Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack killing 1,200 Israeli civilians,  CAIR leader Nihad Awad said he was “happy” about the attack and that Israel did not have the right to defend itself, drawing condemnation from the White House.

Acting Superintendent Jim Scanlon told DVJournal district officials investigated Abdelwahab when the allegations were brought to his attention and concluded he had not violated any policies. As for the teacher’s social media handle written on his classroom whiteboard, that was done by students and taken down, said Scanlon. He noted that the Jewish Student Union and the MSA have been meeting to understand each other and plan a joint event “to promote peace.”

And while the MSA wrote letters to protest the state treasurer buying Israeli bonds, the JSU wrote letters in support of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), he said.

https://delawarevalleyjournal.com/pro-palestinian-postings-by-central-bucks-west-teacher-draw-ire/