RANDI RIPS ‘INTIFADA’ PRINCIPAL
By YOAV GONEN, New York Post
August 9, 2007 — Teachers-union boss Randi Weingarten slammed the principal of a new Arab-themed school in Brooklyn yesterday for not immediately condemning T-shirts linked to her that sport the inflammatory message “Intifada NYC.”
In a conversation yesterday with The Post – and in a letter to the editor – the United Federation of Teachers president said her support for the Khalil Gibran International Academy was shaken this week by Principal Debbie Almontaser’s dismissal of concerns that the shirts were an incendiary call to violence.
Almontaser backtracked the next day, but the damage was done, said Weingarten.
“I’m very concerned about it, and it’s not often that I write as blistering a letter as I wrote, but it’s not OK to explain away ‘intifada,’ ” she said. “Maybe this was just a real error in judgment for which she has now apologized, or maybe, ultimately, she should not be a principal.
“She now has a much higher standard that she has to prove, that this is not the way she’s going to run that school.”
The organization selling the shirts, Arab Women Active in Art and Media, shares office space in Brooklyn with an organization represented by Almontaser.
The academy is slated to open next month as the city’s first Arabic-themed small school, serving grades six through 12. It is designed to teach students of all backgrounds about the Arabic language and culture, devoid of religion – a concept that Weingarten said she backed.
But that support took a significant hit when Almontaser defended the shirts, first reported Monday by The Post, by defining “intifada” as a “shaking off” of oppression rather than acknowledging its widespread association with the call to violence among some Palestinians against Israelis.
“I’m glad she apologized quickly, but this is the kind of thing that you immediately say, ‘No. People shouldn’t have T-shirts like that. That’s warmongering. That’s preaching,’ ” said Weingarten.
“That’s something that ought to be denounced, not be explained away.”
While Weingarten stopped short of calling for Almontaser’s dismissal, she appealed for “extraordinary oversight” of the school and its principal.
Department of Education spokesman David Cantor said Almontaser’s next-day apology should end the matter.
“She fully repudiated those statements,” he said. “We’re satisfied. We’re moving on.”
Ernest Logan, president of the city’s principals union, agreed, saying, “It’s time to focus on educating the children.”
A message left at the academy yesterday afternoon was not answered.