Debbie does denial- 'Intifada Dhabah' Khalil Gibran's dumped principal blames opponents for her pro violence remarks
August 14, 2007
Debbie in Denial
August 14, 2007 -- It's now clear why the Department of Education refused to release the text of Debbie Almontaser's letter of resig nation as principal of the nascent Khalil Gibran International Academy.
The letter turns out to have been an intemperate and thoroughly disingenuous broadside against "a small group of highly misguided individuals" out to get Almontaser "because of my religion."
She doesn't name names, but it's no secret that this page has profound reservations about the Gibran Academy, to say nothing of Almontaser's fitness to lead it - so we guess she was referring to us, among others.
So, let us note for the record: Now that the Department of Education has named one Danielle Salzberg, who is Jewish, to head Gibran in place of Almontaser, who is Muslim, we continue to question the efficacy of the academy.
That is to say, religion per se has nothing to do with it.
Our problem with Almontaser was her refusal to condemn, reflexively and unequivocally, the sale of T-shirts bearing the slogan "Intifada NYC," which were being peddled by a group that shares office space with an organization on whose board she sits.
Guilt by association? Not at all.
Instead of acknowledging what "intifada" means to anyone who's read newspapers for the past 10 years - terroristic assault and murder, undertaken by Palestinians against Jews in the Middle East - she pandered.
"Intifada," in the original Arabic, means "shaking off," she said. That, along with some other malarkey, added up to an unavoidable conclusion: Debbie Almontaser is an unfit custodian for young minds.
The fact that, in her letter, she blamed "a small group of fear-mongers" for her fate - rather than her own feckless effort to redefine reality - simply underscores the obvious.
So let's be clear here.
Tolerance is a two-way street.
It would behoove Almontaser and her supporters to recognize that "intifada" is an incendiary word in New York City - with its large Jewish population, and with its singular understanding of just where Islamist extremism can lead.
New Yorkers put up with a lot in the free-speech department - and that's a good thing. But they have a right to be concerned when any educator, let alone a public-school principal, seems so tone-deaf on this topic.
The fact is, a non-Muslim principal who expressed sympathy for an intifada would have gotten just as much heat - and rightly so.
And we like to think that a Muslim leader who forthrightly condemned the T-shirts would have been praised. (None have, so far as we are aware; thus it's hard to say for sure.)
The bottom line is that Debbie Almontser was the architect of her own predicament. Blaming anonymous bigots for her personal outcome may make her feel better, but it changes nothing.
The fate of the Khalil Gibran Academy itself is a fit topic for another day.