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Arab Students Dance with Israelis, Sparking School Strife

An Arab principal in the city of Qalqiliya has been shunned for allowing his students to dance with Israelis on a beach in Yaffo.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 6/1/2012, 10:08 AM

dancing on beach
dancing on beach
Reuters

An Arab principal in the Palestinian Authority-run city of Qalqiliya has been shunned for allowing his students to dance with Israelis on a beach in Yafo during a school trip, Gulf News reported Friday.

Principal Mohammad Abu Samra, 33, of the Al Salam Secondary School, was transferred after he organized a picnic outing for his 11th and 12th grade students.

“Those Israelis and a child joined us on the dance floor and I could not object or ask them to leave. It was purely unintentional and that has affected my future,” explained Abu Samra.

The students have been up in arms over the Ministry of Education’s decision to transfer the principal to a school more than 30km away from his current area of residence and have organized several demonstrations demanding that he be reinstated.

Abu Samra asserted that each student who went on the picnic had to provide parental approval, agreeing that the student could join the organized school trip. “It is illogical and unfair for me to be punished,” he said.

Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Samra said the students were around 17 to 20 years old and noted that it was difficult to control them on the beach.

“It is true that in keeping with the regulations of the Ministry of Education the pupils were not allowed to swim, but how could I have controlled them once they were there?” he asked.

When Abu Samra instructed his students to get back on the bus, they saw a group of Israeli men and women preparing a dance floor with a DJ.

“On our way to the bus, my pupils were attracted to the music and I could not say no to them,” he said. “My pupils started dancing and I also joined them at the beginning to let them have fun,” he said.

“Volunteers shot a video and took a couple of still photos and forwarded them to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, with a complaint that the incident would imply that there was normalisation of ties with Israel and it exposed the young generation of Palestinians to Israel’s illicit code of conduct,” he said.

“I was thereafter given two choices: either be downgraded to the position of a teacher with a final warning or voluntarily seek transfer to a far-away school,” he said.

A senior official from the Ministry of Education said that Abu Samra should not have allowed his students to dance in the first place and that the fact that Israeli women were also seen on the dance floor further complicates the issue.

The official stressed that Abu Samra had committed several administrative mistakes during the outing. Although the picnic was licensed by the Ministry, mixing with Israelis on the beach should not have been allowed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This issue has serious social and political ramifications and trips such as this should be planned and executed in a more conservative way,” the official added.