February 22, 2024

The US media reported early Sunday morning that hundreds of students at Hillcrest High School in New York’s Jamaica, Queens “rampaged through the halls” of their school for nearly two hours last week after they discovered that a teacher had participated in a pro-Israel rally. The unrest began when students found the teacher’s profile photo on Facebook showing her at an October 9 demonstration mourning the victims of Hamas’s massacre of Israeli civilians. The teacher was holding a poster that read, “I stand with Israel.” Anti-Israel students then created a group chat, according to a senior at the school quoted in the report. “Hundreds of kids” then “flooded into hallways,…chanting, jumping, shouting, and waving Palestinian flags or banners.” Students filmed the events and posted them on TikTok.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent about 25 officers to the scene, according to Hillcrest’s principal, Scott Milczewski. They arrived at the scene around 11:20 am and rushed the teacher into an office and locked the door. According to a New York City Councilman, the department also contacted its counterterrorism bureau. Police returned to the school the following day and arrested an 18-year-old student, whom they charged with aggravated harassment.

Late Sunday night, New York City Mayor Eric Adams shared the New York Post report on X, commenting that “The vile show of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School was motivated by ignorance-fueled hatred, plain and simple, and it will not be tolerated in any of our schools, let alone anywhere in our city.” David Weprin, a New York assemblyman representing part of Queens, called the incident “unacceptable and the very definition of antisemitism!” David Banks, the chancellor of New York’s public school system, stated that “No form of hate, whether it be antisemitism, Islamophobia, or other form (sic) of bigotry will be tolerated in our schools.”

The incident was exceptional, but it was also reminiscent of other events, including those at universities and college campuses, since Hamas invaded Israel’s south on October 7, killing about 1,200 Israelis, including 900 civilians, and kidnapping about 240 people. In late October, a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Cooper Union College in New York City posed enough of a threat to a group of Orthodox Jewish students that campus security chose to lock them inside the school library for their protection. The events also recall scenes of global unrest, such as the riot at a Dagestan airport when locals heard that a plane had arrived carrying passengers from Israel. These events have been part of a global surge in antisemitic hate crimes since the October 7 attack and subsequent war in Gaza, with antisemitic incidents in the United States spiking nearly 400% in the first few weeks of the war.