An Israeli student dismissed from his foreign exchange program after reportedly writing an anti-American phrase on a Niceville High School classroom board was sent home Friday evening.Sure. Why when I see "Death to Americans" I always take it in light-hearted comical fashion. So easy to see how this is all just a misunderstanding. Of course if some kids wrote "Death to Muslims" on the blackboard we'd never hear the end of it.
The student boarded an airplane back to Israel, said Cynthia Harris, who is engaged to the son of the student’s host family.
She and other family members say the student should not have been sent home.
“His story’s got to come out,” Harris said only moments after putting the teenager on the airplane. “There should have been a better way to handle this.”
The 15-year-old student is accused of writing “Death to Americans” in Arabic on a classroom board during a discussion with classmates.
Harris said the teenager wrote the words on the board when interacting with another foreign exchange student an American student during a class at the school.
The student’s father, Khaled Kasab Mahameed, said the phrase was not written as a threat or with any malicious intent.
“No one wants to help. No one wants to listen,” said Mahameed early Friday. “This is horrible. This is a 15-year-old kid.”Really, what have we become when something so innocuous as "Death to Americans" is considered offensive? We must be more forward-thinking.
Mahameed, who asked that his son’s name not be used in this article, had hoped to stop the exchange program from sending his son back to Israel.
Students at Niceville High School, including one who witnessed the incident, said the teenager meant no harm when he wrote the phrase.
“He didn’t do it to offend anyone,” said junior Mwajuma Teague, who was there when the student wrote the words. “It wasn’t derogatory.”
Mahameed’s son was studying at Niceville High as part of the Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) through AYUSA Global Youth Exchange. YES was created in 2003 through a grant to AYUSA from the United Stated Department of State to “build bridges of understanding between the United States and countries with significant Muslim populations,” according to its website.
Mahameed said the message of understanding between cultures is one that his son has advocated, no matter how difficult for himself, since he was about nine years old. The teenager’s family members are Muslim Arab Palestinians forced, Mahameed said, to leave their homeland a generation ago. They now travel and teach other Muslims and Arabs about the Jews as they advocate a message of peace.
Mahameed has been featured in a number of news articles for his work, including a piece in Time Magazine.
“Tomorrow I lecture 50 students in the West Bank and tell (them) about how American values have to be implemented in all the world,” Mahameed said. “What do we get in return? We get that we are described as terrorists. I am shocked.”