UPDATE April 28, 2023: Bloomfield Hills High School Principal Lawrence Stroughter has resigned in the wake of a diversity assembly last month that parents and students say has created fear and intimidation; more here.
*** *** ***
A Michigan high school principal apologized for featuring an anti-Israel activist at a “student-led diversity assembly” but didn’t mention Israel or Jewish people in the apology.
Anti-Israel activist and failed Democratic congressional candidate Huwaida Arraf “deviated from the prompts” at a Bloomfield Hills High School “diversity assembly” Tuesday for 10th-grade students and went on a rant against Israel and the Jewish people.
Arraf, who lost the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 10th district that ultimately went to GOP Rep. John James, is known for being a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an anti-Israel group that was investigated by the FBI for possible ties to terrorists.
On Tuesday night, Principal Lawrence Stroughter apologized to parents, students, staff, and the community for Arraf’s off-script rant targeting Jewish people and Israel, noting the “diversity assembly” was a “student-led” event.
However, in the lengthy apology, Stroughter never mentioned the Jewish people or Israel.
“Today, a BHHS student-led diversity assembly was held for all BHHS students. In preparation for this assembly, our student organizers and administrators met with each speaker to discuss the intent of the assembly and the prompts,” the principal wrote.
“At the diversity assembly for the 10th graders, one of the speakers deviated from the prompts,” Stroughter added. “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.”
Stroughter said the school denounces “any speech that targets individuals or groups based on religion” and that school officials “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,” Stroughter said.
The principal added that the goal of the “student organizers was to help students understand how discrimination affects people of differing religions, races, abilities, and sexualities and to build empathy within our community.”
The principal also shared several quotes “to convey a few of the positive messages” from the event speakers but did not denote which speakers made which comments.
Arraf and fellow ISM co-founder Adam Shapiro penned an article that promoted using nonviolent resistance against Israelis in tandem with violence — regardless of their ties to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
“The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics — both nonviolent and violent,” the article states. “But, most importantly, it must develop a strategy involving both aspects.”
NGO StopAntisemitism, the leading watchdog reporting on antisemitism around the nation, shared the school’s inadequate apology to their followers on Twitter.
“No other successful nonviolent movement was able to achieve what it did without a concurrent violent movement. In India, militants attacked British outposts and interests while Gandhi conducted his campaign, while the Black Panther Movement and its earlier incarnations existed side-by-side with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States,” the ISM co-founders added.
Additionally, the ISM leaders detailed the use of “violent” resistance to achieve goals.
“Violent resistance is when an armed Palestinian fighter shoots an Israeli who is oppressing him,” they wrote,
They did not specify Israeli soldiers, but rather “any Israeli deemed to be ‘oppressing’ a Palestinian.”
“When Palestinian radical Huwaida Arraf went off script at a Bloomfield [Hills] High School diversity assembly, school administrators should have stepped in and immediately stopped the event,” Liora Rez, executive director of antisemitism watchdog StopAntisemitism, told Fox News Digital.
“Instead, they allowed her to finish her radical anti-Zionist remarks, subjecting her heavily Jewish audience of 15- and 16-year-olds to hate, and later issued an unacceptably anodyne apology to parents that failed to mention Jews or Israel.
“Ms. Arraf, a prominent BDS supporter who falsely refers to Israel as an apartheid state, should have been properly vetted by the event’s faculty sponsor,” Rez added. “StopAntisemitism calls on Bloomfield High to issue a proper apology that acknowledges the pain Ms. Arraf caused through their negligence and to review their procedures for vetting future speakers.”
Rep. James, who won the House seat over the Democrat who defeated Arraf in the primary, told Fox News Digital he’s “always said we must stand by our allies.”
“That includes leaving no public space between the United States and our friends in Israel,” James said. “We must dispel any hint of hate, racism, and antisemitism in our ranks.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, school officials apologized again for hosting Arraf and said they were “deeply regretful” for the negative impact caused to the community by the assembly.
A spokesperson for Bloomfield Hills High School also said the school had been working with the Anti-defamation League (ADL) “No Place for Hate” for two years and planned the assembly as part of that work.
“At Bloomfield Hills Schools, a safe, supportive, and inclusive student experience is at the center of our educational mission. The high school planned a diversity assembly with the goal of creating equity, awareness, and space for all students,” the spokesperson said.
“During this assembly, one of the external guest speakers went outside of our agreed-upon parameters and discussed their personal political perspective. This caused harm to many of our students. We apologize and are deeply regretful that our students, staff, and community were negatively impacted by this assembly.
“As a school community, we are collaborating with our ADL partners and religious leaders. Our administrators, counselors, and social workers are available to talk to students and staff. We are actively listening to the concerns of our students, families, and community.
“Equity and inclusion will continue to be a top priority for Bloomfield Hills Schools, as it has for the past several years. The district will emerge stronger and better as a result of these conversations, undeterred from its commitment to all students and to foster a school environment of safety and support for all our students.”
In 2010, Arraf’s ISM was regarded by the ADL as one of the top 10 anti-Israel organizations in the country. The FBI has also investigated ISM for possible links to terrorists, but FBI documents The Intercept reported on in 2020 did not detail any charges levied.
ISM was also criticized by the ADL in 2014 for the group’s response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. ISM said the teens were “missing” and dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attribution of the murders to the internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas.
As an ISM co-founder, the former Democratic congressional candidate also assisted in the organization of the 2010 Gaza Strip flotilla that the Israeli military pushed back against.
Arraf told Fox News Digital in a Wednesday statement that she “was honored to take part in BHHS’s Diversity Assembly — a wonderful program that was organized primarily by students (mainly young women) of color.”
“I was warmly welcomed by students, staff, and the administration alike, and thanked for sharing my experiences. 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.”
“It’s unfortunate that certain interest groups are now harassing the BHHS administration and student organizers over my participation. These groups do a great disservice to our students’ education. These are the same forces that have been working to shut down Palestinian voices for decades, enabling Israel’s human rights abuses. They are the same forces that try to paint the issue as one of Jews vs. Palestinians. It’s not. It’s one of freedom, human rights, and equality vs. occupation, colonization, and oppression, and tens of thousands of Jews stand together with Palestinians on the side of freedom, human rights, and equality. I’ve had the privilege to work with many of them, something that I also spoke about at the assembly.”
What is happening to Palestinians is a crime against humanity, and we — Jews, Palestinians, and all people of conscience — will not be silenced,” she added.