I moved from Andover, Massachusetts to Israel over five years ago, so the day-to-day happenings in my hometown are largely off my radar screen. However, Andover High School (AHS) physics teacher Ron Francis, a former teacher of mine, first caught my attention when I saw an article he wrote in February of 2006. The article was entitled “Media Bias Against Hamas,” and was written in an attempt to support the Palestinian terror group Hamas and to demonize Israel. Francis never once condemned Hamas’ terror tactics or its anti-Semitic ideology, and he even discussed the “silver lining” of Hamas’ victory. Francis challenged Israel’s right to exist in the article by complaining that “the question of the validity of a Jewish-priviledge state is never raised.” (It is interesting that a public school teacher apparently does not know how to correctly spell “privilege”).
Francis’ article was posted on the Website of the “Somerville Divestment Project” (SDP), a group he founded in Somerville, Massachusetts several years ago (Francis teaches in Andover but lives in Somerville). The SDP has been trying unsuccessfully for years to convince the city of Somerville to divest “from Israel bonds and military companies tied to Israel's occupation.” Needless to say, the SDP advocates boycott and divestment of one country in the entire world – the Jewish country of Israel.
The SDP’s Website is filled with hateful propaganda against Israel, and contains articles suggesting that the recent war in Iraq was fought because a cabal of powerful Jews manipulated the U.S. government. One section of the SDP’s Website is entitled, “Iraq: A War for Israel?”This section contains the following quotation from Pat Buchanan: “We charge them [neo-cons] with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords… (They) harbor a ‘passionate attachment’ to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what's good for Israel is good for America."
Francis is not content to merely provide quotations of others bashing Israel and Jews. He has also perpetuated the anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews manipulate political process in America and control the media (although he is very careful to always write “zionists” – with a lowercase “z” to show his lack of respect – instead of “Jews”):
"Another strategy that the zionists use is to buy out elected officials. They are also very good at this - witness US congressional votes - no further comment needed!
"A third strategy is to control the discourse in the media about zionism. They are also very good at this...,” wrote Francis.
Despite always claiming to be a human rights activist, Francis was also quoted in the Andover Townsman newspaper as supporting Palestinian suicide bombers: "I do not condemn the Palestinian people because the actions they are taking, given the circumstances they face, (are) completely understandable and within the bounds of normal human behavior. I have to ask myself, would I be any different?"
In the same article in the Townsman, it was noted that Francis was an “informal adviser” for an after-school student group at AHS called Students for Middle East Justice (SMEJ), that the majority of the students in the SMEJ came from Francis’ physics classroom, and that some of these students were paid to canvass for Francis’ SDP in Somerville. Francis paid Andover public school students from his classroom to support his bigoted organization’s attempt to demonize Israel, and yet Andover remained largely silent.
The Townsman, which did not publish a single article or letter regarding Francis’ political activities until it published a letter I wrote last April, still has not published even one editorial condemning Francis’ anti-Semitic comments and his mixing of politics into the classroom. Not a single teacher at AHS has publicly condemned Francis or his views.
In fact, Andover Teachers’ Union President Tommy Meyers wrote a letter to the Townsman praising Francis. Meyers defended the propriety of Francis’ actions as well as his beliefs: “Francis should be commended as a courageous defender of human rights. He continues to work on behalf of people who have been disfranchised from their rights as well as removed from their land,” wrote Meyers.
Meanwhile, when it was revealed last school year that Francis had paid AHS students to advance his political goals, the Townsman noted that, “There is no investigation by the administration into Francis' involvement with the after-school group SMEJ, and the community is not asking for one, said Superintendent Claudia Bach.”
Sadly, Superintendent Bach appears to be correct. Francis has recently started yet another school year at AHS, and his SDP recently embarked upon another attempt to force Somerville to divest from Israel. Will Francis once again involve his physics students in his anti-Semitic efforts? Will he pay them? Will he continue to slander Jews and Israelis? It seems that most people in apathetic Andover do not care about the answers to these questions. I expect more than silence in the face of hatred from my hometown.