I need to talk about Israel — Including some resources for your classroom

Simon Lewis
7 min readJun 1, 2024

As someone that was brought up in the Jewish faith, I was always taught that bad things happen when good people do nothing. It was the only way to explain the Holocaust. I have spent the last number of years trying to understand how the Israel that I grew up with, one under Yitzchak Rabin, could move from a place where there was relative peace and a plan for a two-State solution to one where the Israeli government has essentially lost any form of humanity.

When people speak to me about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how I feel as someone raised in the Jewish faith but also as an Irish person, given the overwhelming support of a Palestinian State in this country, they often ask me if I feel safe anymore. Before I go on, I recognise the irony of this questioning when my safety is overwhelmingly dwarfed when compared to the thousands of Palestinian families who may never ever feel safe again.

Growing up, I never remember much anti-Semitism bar the odd remark. In fact, being Jewish made me feel a little bit exotic. There wasn’t that much about me that was interesting so my faith background, in a country that was predominantly Christian, was something to talk about.

Since the War in Gaza began in October 2023, I now receive at least one anti-Semitic remark a week.

As much as it makes me feel less safe, my entire blame for the anti-Semitic comments lies with the Israeli government who are relentlessly murdering thousands of people, supposedly, “in my name.”

They have single-handedly turned a terrorist group that nobody would have supported a few years ago into legitimate revolutionaries.

Hamas’ 1988 charter states:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp)

The charter mentions Jews twelve separate times. Not Israelis. Jews.

To me, in this war, there are no goodies and baddies; there are simply victims.

Unfortunately, when one oppresses a nation of people, one can only expect that nation to rise up. Ireland knows this from their own history. I share Ireland’s recognition of the State of Palestine. I hope it will lead to convincing more powerful nations to support a peaceful outcome to this devastating crisis. However, we need to remember that peace will not happen when either Netanyahu’s government or Hamas are in charge.

Some people ask me if I wonder about “why only Israel?” This is the argument that there are genocides and wars and humanitarian crises happening all over the world so why do Irish organisations and politicians and media seem to only focus on Israel. They follow the logic that this is down to anti-Semitism. I disagree.

Right now, there are untold massacres going on in Yemen, China, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Iran, Afghanistan and so on, and yet we hear little of them. In fact, people point to the fact that the Taoiseach met and shook hands with the Chinese premier very recently. We also have the Russian invasion of Ukraine going on now with little focus anymore. In fact, there is a growing animosity to Ukrainian refugees in Ireland thanks to the growing right-wing rhetoric that is infecting our island.

I genuinely don’t believe that Ireland’s stance against Israel as opposed to the other countries has anything to do with Judaism. Israel is supposed to be a western democracy whereas the others are not. When a western democracy behaves unlike a western democracy, it is only natural that we hold them to a higher account than we would do a country that is an autocracy. I think we still consider democracy to be one of the most important assets we have in western civilisation and when it is being abused in the way it currently is, we stand against it. Whether that is a Christian State, a Muslim State or a Jewish State, if they state they are democracies, they need to behave like one.

I hear many Irish people discussing an Apartheid system when speaking about Israel, and they are absolutely correct. In 2018, Israel enacted the Nation State laws which effectively makes all people in Israel that are not Jewish, second-class citizens. This was the last straw for me when it came to any support I had for Zionism as a cause. In my view, no country should favour any citizen any more than another.

It is why I continuously campaign against our own “apartheid” in our primary education system. I understand that people only care about apartheid systems when people are being killed, but an apartheid system where citizens are treated differently because of their ethnicity or race, doesn’t have to become intolerable only when people are killed.

Our primary education system is an apartheid one where in the vast majority of cases, one faith is promoted over all others in 96% of schools. We dress it up with propaganda, announcing that we are “inclusive” because we “allow” children of all faiths and none into the schools. However, these children are expected to either accept the doctrine being taught in schools or to sit at the backs of classrooms, second class citizens in their own local classrooms.

For example, the primary teacher’s union, the INTO, has a Palestinian Solidarity group and they are asking their members to have a solidarity day in their schools on Tuesday, 5th June. They ask schools to designate themselves as Apartheid Free Zones. To me, it is ironic.

Politicising schools is a very dangerous endeavour. While I completely agree that as citizens, we should stand up against injustice, and we should teach children about injustice and human rights, we need to be careful.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine took place, we were advised strongly to ensure we were very careful to ensure that our Russian pupils were as protected as our Ukrainian pupils. In fact, over the last twenty years since Irish schools have been welcoming refugees from countries around the world, it has always been important to ensure that all children are protected from alienation. Israeli children have no part in this war, no more than Russian children had in Ukraine, and it is incumbent that we don’t forget that. It is important we don’t avoid discussing the horrors of war but we need to remember that war is much more complicated than goodies and baddies.

There were many many good Germans in the Second World War that tried against hope to help Jewish people to escape Europe to safety. There are many Israelis (and Jews) who are demanding the war on Palestine stops. When it comes to any ongoing war, in schools, we need to look for solutions, not to take sides.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some resources that you might think about using in your classrooms.

This 3-point guide to the conflict in Gaza is the first place you should start as a guide. Though it is already 6 months old, it is still relevant for discussing the ongoing war.

Trocaire is not an organisation I usually recommend because I have some issue with their denominational aspect, but their school resources are generally excellent. The Tree of Justice is a fantastic resource.


Another Irish resource that may be useful is from the National Youth Council of Ireland to discuss war with young people:

The British Red Cross have a good resource about their own humanitarian work. While aimed at primary, it is a complicated lesson but worth a look.

Another Catholic agency, this time in the UK, has proced a good resource for 5th/6th class.

Another UK resource with some excellent links to lots of different perspectives is also worth looking at.

However, the best thing you can probably do is outside of your classroom. Attend protests, solidarity marches and campaign for peace in the region. Give money to humanitarian causes, where real help can be offered to families who are suffering the most appalling of conditions. Learn about the history of how we got to this terrible place where Zionism has now been weaponised to legitimise the massacre of thousands and thousands of people and try and help people understand that Zionism and Judaism are not the same thing. Help people understand that Hamas and Palestinians are not the same thing. There are enough victims in this war without making correlations that will cause even more harm.



Simon Lewis

Primary school principal, podcaster and poet. 👨🏼‍🏫 Writes about the Irish primary education system. Tweets from @simonmlewis